What They Never Tell You About Being a Developer in Kenya

By Rodgers Gitau, Cohort 7 student

Africa’s Tech Industry is raising. We have all heard the numerous CTO’s give talks about how Kenyan Tech industry is the new niche and how Kenyan developers are making waves in the industry. Personally I have always wanted to be a bad-ass, kicking in the door techie who spends hours in the night fueled by caffeine. I would then resurface with an awesome app that would then mint millions into my bitcoin account as I party till the next genius app idea bug bites me. Thanks to binge watching hours of Betas, Silicon Valley, Mr Robot etc I had always figured with enough work hours, I would eventually become a ninja developer(read hacker) whose might can reach Mt. Olympus and back.

When I finally took the plunge and joined Moringa School, I was all psyched up and spread the word around town that I would emerge in 5 months as the next Bill Gates. After about 7 weeks of being in the program, I have learnt a few hard truths about what developing in Kenya is in reality:

Too much Content

Learning to code is hard work. Unfortunately I happen to live in a digital world so searching for help on the internet yields a ton of information. Most of these tutorials are  biased opinions by other developers. Follow some guy’s opinions and you find yourself even more confused.

My advice read the official documentations then learn by building mini-projects. You don’t have to build a billion dollar idea, just build something that works.

Learning by yourself is suicidal

There are no superheroes in the coding community. Individual work is encouraged but working in teams will provide an even better learning environment. I’ve had to appreciate that struggling and dying like a gladiator is foolish. There always people who have been down the same rabbit-hole and finally figured the path to Wonderland. If you don’t want to to get depressed, consider learning how to disappear completely. As it is said, there is nothing as useless as doing so well something that should not be done in the first place.  Ask for help, trust me,it will save you time and brain cells.

Life happens. It goes on no matter what

While locking myself and emerging in 5 months seemed an awesome idea, I’ve been taught the hard way that you cannot live inside a cocoon. The world is as always was; power fails, internet is still expensive, the landlord will break down your door when rent is missing, insecurity is still real. The technology pace at which the world is growing into is outstanding. Space travel is no longer a movie gimmick any more but a definite trip plan. If you are to survive in this passion fueled industry, you cannot isolate yourself without losing interest.

Have Fun, otherwise what is the use?

Believe and Begin

By: Mark Mwaura, Cohort 7 student

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. I have always wanted to find something that I love doing and use it to improve myself and other people.

About four years ago I wanted to know how an ATM bank account system works so I didn’t have a choice but to go to the university and do a course in information technology. During the degree program I always looked for “that thing” which I liked to do in information technology and also fulfill my goals. It was then that I stumbled upon programming during my library sessions in the evening at Strathmore University. I immediately admired the process and the results of creating software. I also did community work during my break periods in university which served as an eye opener on how I could provide solutions and dedicate my life to solving existing challenges using software.

Over the years I trained myself how to write simple programs, but I always longed to know what the standards in developing a career out of software engineering were. Online tutorials helped but not as much especially with aspects such as working in a team, so I continued looking and hoping. I needed some form of mentorship or simply work as a freelance software engineer.

During the New year period I purposed to actively search for jobs, mentorship opportunities and attend all developer conferences available in Nairobi. This helped a lot as I received several internship opportunities and during the Nairobi Tech Week which was held in late April(this year), I became aware of Moringa school (http://moringaschool.com), a top software developer school in Africa.

I did the interview in May and joined Moringa school full time in early July. Since then  a lot has happened. Some myths that I had earlier on software development have been debunked while some of them have been affirmed. Moringa School program has been crazy for me, especially due to the fact that I have health issues.

The program runs during the week Monday to Friday (8am till 8:30pm) at Ngong Lane Plaza on Ngong road. I used to sleep for long 8 to 9 hours but nowadays I only get at most 6 hours of sleep per day.

The course content has been excellent as I now know a lot about front end development, back-end development and android development which I don’t think I would have known had I not come to Moringa School. No university in Kenya or in the region would provide resources to get me to where I am like Moringa school has done.

The experience is rewarding if one is willing to put in much effort to become a world class application developer. Currently am busy working on projects and debugging applications which I will present at the end of the course. I’m glad to engage myself in understanding how to create proper maintainable applications for people and in this way lose myself in serving others which gives me a great sense of fulfillment. Consistency as an individual is key so am watching that to achieve my goals.

Lessons learnt so far include:

1.Never give up. Always continue pushing.

2.A difficult past doesn’t mean your future will be difficult.

3.Destiny demands diligence.(If you need to get somewhere you need to be honest and committed about it always).

4.To make yourself better always keep on learning.

Moringa School: Changes and Looking Forward

August 17, 2016

Over the past few years, Moringa School has grown to become known as the premier developer bootcamp in Africa. We were founded in April 2014 by Frank Tamre and Audrey Cheng with the goal of transforming technical education in Africa. Today, after over 2 years, we are publicly announcing that Frank has decided to transition from the company. Post-Moringa, Frank will be heads down in game development – a passion he has always held – and will take the opportunity to spend more time on spiritual growth and reflection before he decides how he will continue contributing to the tech sector in Kenya.

While this decision may come as a surprise, we – Audrey and Frank – have spent numerous hours chatting together about the future of Moringa since February of this year. We are both wholly invested in the future of Moringa School, but could not come to agreement on the direction we wanted to take the company. As entrepreneurs who are constantly learning, we spent hours reflecting on ourselves and learned an extremely valuable lesson:  that co-foundership is truly like a marriage. And before a marriage, we needed to have certain conversations to ensure that we set expectations for one another before we took the leap of faith. We didn’t have those conversations in the beginning, which is why a year into operations we were stumped when we couldn’t agree on our future.

Frank leaving Moringa School has not been an easy decision for either of us. We both decided that we were not the right co-founder team to lead Moringa School, so we talked about what Moringa School would look like if either of us left the company. In the end, Frank decided to leave Moringa because it seemed to be an opportune time to pursue other passions and Audrey had already built a strong pipeline of partners across Africa for scale. We both put the company and its mission’s interest ahead of our own to make this decision. While the shift has been challenging to us and our team, we are both confident that we made the right decision for the success of Moringa School.

As Moringa School moves forward, we are both incredibly grateful to have learned as much as we did with each other and will continue to support each other in our next steps. In the next week, Audrey will be writing a blog post about the new direction that Moringa School is heading into to scale high-quality, technical education across the continent. This will be one step closer to our goal of transforming higher education and the workforce in Africa.

Moringa School’s co-founders will always be both of us – for without one or the other, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Entrepreneurship is a challenging and exciting journey, and we would love to share our lessons along the way with new or existing entrepreneurs. So please feel free to reach out to either of us! To grow is to succeed, and neither of us can deny how much we’ve grown since we started Moringa School. In Moringa School 2.0, our education is going to become even more high-quality, personalized and matched to the needs of our modern world. We can’t wait to share with you updates along the way.

Sincerely and with love,

Audrey and Frank

Silicon Savannah: Government Subsidized Innovation

Nairobi’s Ngong Road has become a sort of Wall Street or concentrated Palos Altos. Start-ups and IT labs have situated themselves up and down the area. It is no wonder Nairobi has been nicknamed “Silicon Savannah.” In a country known for its safaris, tea and coffee, Kenya’s technological hub is beginning to parallel its Western counterparts. In 2010, technology exports were at 360 million dollars, shattering the $16 million from eight years prior. The country boasts about having the most popular mobile pay app (M-Pesa), as well as other very valuable applications that help with everyday life: iCow teaches farmers how to take care of their livestock, while mFarm permits farmers to have a direct influence on the market and direct prices. Huduma warrants a direct interaction between the government and the people: citizens relay maintenance issues with public services (ex: potholes) and can track the time it takes for a problem to be resolved.

The Economist cites Bitange Ndemo*, the former permanent secretary to the ministry of information and communication technology (ICT), as a major cause and motivator in the technological turnaround. He was elected in 2005. Erik Hersman, a tech guru in Nairobi, speaks highly of Ndemo, viewing him as an instigator of major governmental and citizen support for the technological revolution.

Ndemo opened governmental data to the public, put government money into the IT research and incubators found on Ngong Road, and made high-speed Internet a reality. Prior to his election, Internet depended on satellites and was very expensive. At the time (2008-2009), twenty-three of the fifty-four countries in Africa were all using the same fiber-optic cable for high-speed Internet. Ndemo linked up with a cable from the United Arab Emirates- the first of four, underwater Internet cables. As of 2015, almost 70% of Kenyans have Internet access.

Others note that the success of Kenya is its good education system, which rivals its successful counterpart- South Africa. Ndemo subsidized the Internet access for schools, making sure universities got unlimited Internet facility.

Ndemo states “We have so many problems that can also be opportunities,” to explain the technological boom. When looking at their most successful applications- mPesa, mFarm, iCow- we see them all as direct solutions to a larger problem. MPesa got many Kenyans into using banks, mFarm got farmers in control of their business, while iCow increased success rates. By supporting technology, the government is able to support local businessmen and coordinate subsidized benefits.

The government also gains from Internet based applications. As noted, Ndemo put all governmental data up for the public, to counter the notorious corruption that once existed. This being said, there isn’t success without opposition. Many Kenyan officials have been against change. Despite this, Ndemo mapped the road to realization.

       

Citations:

http://www.economist.com/node/21560912

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-19903839

http://afritorial.com/bitange-ndemo/

http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats1.htm

*Moringa School Board Member

ICT Practitioner’s Bill To Destroy Innovation in Kenya

The launch of the recent ICT Practitioner’s Bill has created uproar among the tech community in Kenya. The bill states a number of nonsensical topics, such as how people in IT must be ‘practitioners’ legalized by the government to standardize ICT practice in Kenya. (Read about the problems with this bill here). The focus of the ICT ministry should be on improving the quality of tech education across the country, and not on limiting the genius and talents of Kenyans building tech (who might not have earned a degree in computer science). Needless to say, this bill is quashing innovation and technology as it is today in Kenya. Sign the petition to stop it from passing here.

What is Arduino?

Arduino is a programmable hardware interface that is used for multiple  functions, among them  prototyping and building electronic projects; It is small, almost as long and wide as a credit-card, and cheap too (about ksh 2500 a piece).

Arduino

Adruino

How it Works

How an arduino works is very simple; It takes input from pins, processes it using a program in its memory, and then output results through other pins and or the serial monitor.

Arduino uno for instance is the most famous one in the family and is based on an AVR microcontroller, specifically atmega328 that has a clock speed of 20 Mhz, which is about as much as is needed for common applications. It has program space (RAM) of about 256kb. It is not that much, and so users have to adapt to writing lean codes to save on space.

It has 6 analog input pins and 14 digital input/output pins, 6 of which are capable of PWM (pulse width modulation) output.

Code in C is written and compiled in the arduino IDE, then uploaded to the platform via usb. The arduino is compatible with several electronic components, both digital and analog. for this reason, arduino is majorly used as the primary interface of a wide range of sensors. Apart from simple components, arduino’s functionality can be enhanced greatly by use of ‘shields’.

Shields are  add-ons that can be purchased separately and sit on the arduino, then extends the pin headers for reuse. There is at least a shield for every application area out there, be it networking, display or even sensing.

Apart from the ecosystem of devices and components that can go into an arduino, there is a large and extensive community behind it, so it is very easy for a new user to get on his feet fast. In case of any difficulty or problem, chances are that several others have experienced it too so finding answers and solutions is pretty easy.

 

 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Moringa School:

Are you planning to join Moringa School? Here is a cheat for the do’s and don’ts to ensure your survival during the boot-camp.

liz

Liz Kathure (l), Cohort 6 Student

 

  1. Sleep while you can; once you join you may never enjoy more than 6 hours of sleep again.
  2. Time management; you have 86,400 seconds a day , make each one count by making a to do list every morning.
  3. Google is your friend.
  4. When your code doesn’t work and you can’t figure out why; don’t panic. Take a break, look at something else then come back with a refreshed mind and look for the bug. If you still can’t figure it out, just ask around. It’s probably just a missing semicolon.
  5. As much as possible try to complete all the assignments, unfinished work will most definitely build up and eventually drown you.
  6. Apply yourself; halfhearted work is easily distinguishable from wholehearted work.
  7. Get along with your classmates; you’re stuck with them 12 hours a day, 5 days a week for 16 weeks anyway. So what choice do you have ?
  8. Every once in awhile; take pride in your work. You may not be where you wanted to be but you are definitely not where you used to be.(As far as coding at Moringa School is concerned of course )
  9. At some point; usually around week 7 or 9, you might feel like you are getting accustomed to the pressure, that is the time to work harder and do more , because once you relax you may never regain the momentum. Trust me, I speak from experience.
  10. There’s more than one way to skin a cat; if a tutorial recommended by the instructor isn’t really working for you, go find one that does, people are different some prefer videos others prefer books or blogs. Remember Google is your constant companion.
  11. There’s no “I” in Team; cooperate with your classmates, help each other out, leave no man or lady behind.
  12. Be true to yourself ; as much as you are a team remember that you are different, some people work better at night others really need that beauty sleep. If you compare yourself to others, you may get discouraged or complacent for there always will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
  13. As a man thinketh so is he; believe in yourself, you are capable of accomplishing everything you dream about and so much more. It just comes down to attitude.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s what the Tech Team is there for.
  15. In Moringa School; Bread, coffee and sometimes pizza is your fuel.
  16. Lastly, never ever give up and strive to be happy.  

All in all Moringa School, will change your life significantly, but only if you let it.