Article by Nancy Momanyi
Graduation is coming up, and such a momentous occasion calls for reflection. Betty who is one of the students from the graduating class says 6 months ago she had no idea how the Moringa School experience was going to be. Here she was, fresh out of campus about to undertake a coding boot camp with no idea of what to expect. 6 months down the line, she can comfortably state that it has been one of the best decisions she has ever made!
At Moringa, she learnt more than just programming . She learnt how to be part of a team, to take part in building something awesome through combined efforts, interacting with other developers on both a professional and personal level and to grow her developer skills as well as interpersonal skills.
It has been a truly wonderful experience that I’d recommend to anyone, she says.
Andrew who is excited to finally achieve his dream of being a software developer says his experience in Moringa has been exhilarating, having gone through university in Kenya he says this has been a great stepping stone towards joining the employment world. The technical training in Moringa has provided him with sufficient confidence in his skills to take on any technical challenge. He has greatly improved his interpersonal skills which is often a challenge to developers. He would highly recommend the program to anyone looking for a career in tech.
Newton who is the class representative of the class says he looks back on the past five months and is left with nothing but wonder. Wonder at how much he has grown. Not only has he advanced his knowledge in programming but he has learnt to become a problem solver. For his final project he is working on developing a software called Kid zone. This is a software that is used to teach kids how to program. It has a built in text editor and a very basic curriculum that is easy for young children to be able to learn how to code.
Our last interview was with Dennis who joined Moringa School with a dream of becoming Kenya’s best Software Developer. He says that he hopes to join Andela after completing the program. He mentions that the best part about Moringa is that he not only learnt how to become a good programmer but also got a chance to work with the brightest minds. Moringa School is vibrant, humongous and diverse. Both the students and the staff are working to make it a top-ranked developer institution . Its located in the heart of Nairobi and offers endless opportunities to experience different cultures.
Through these interviews we got to learn that all the students in the class acknowledge that their technical mentors have played a big role in getting them this far. We as the Moringa School community are so proud of them and wish them the best in their journey.
Facebook Developers Circle is a community that is free to join by any developer. The aim of the group is to enable information sharing between developers and create a positive impact within the developer community within a particular country. The group is open to anyone who is interested in learning about the newest technologies from Facebook. The group is headed by a tech industry leader in a local community. The Kenyan team is spearheaded by Anthony Nandaa who is an Engineering team lead at Andela. The group is open to everyone, be it a student learning how to program or an experienced developer looking to turn an idea into reality. The community enables developers both to learn and network with others in the industry.
This program has been launched only in a few cities across the globe. We are privileged to have this program in Kenya since March 2017. Moringa school and Facebook Developers Circle hold the meetup monthly for the Nairobi group. In addition to the monthly meetups, there are events, conferences and hackathons. To organize for this there is a Facebook group where members can share code, links and videos. The last meetup’s topic was conversational bots.
Chat bots are computer programs designed to simulate human conversations especially over the internet. The average person has at least three messaging apps on their phones. This has led to the development of chat bots. This is a new concept in artificial intelligence and brands are planning to use chatbots more in the future but with a more customer centered approach with hope to gain more customer insights, personalizing their brand and improving the general user experience. According to Thomas Nyambati, there are two types of Bot models. To begin with there are the generative models that generate responses from scratch primarily based on deep learning models and they mainly depend on the ability of a bot to gain more information as time goes by. There are also retrieval based models that generate responses from predefined responses. This model can incorporate machine learning to understand different contexts and is the one employed.
The developers in attendance were taken through the steps they require to develop and implement chat bots. Moringa Core 5 students were particularly interested in knowing how these bots can be developed from scratch using languages like Python. Depending on the time, nature and channel different methods can be used. The panel discussion ended with the developers interested told to create videos showing how their bot works and submit it to the Facebook group for review.
In addition to fostering online and offline community and collaboration, Facebook
developer circles wants to help developers gain new skills. The group is partnering with Udacity, one of the largest online training platforms in the world, to launch custom Facebook training programs for our Developer Circles community, which will be available via Developer Circles Facebook groups across the globe. The Developer Circles meetup is also a chance for developers to network and get opportunities as well as learn about coding boot camps like Moringa School. The Moringa school community is glad to partner with Facebook Developers circle to create a large community of developers in Nairobi.
Studies have shown that young girls are less interested in studying fields dominated by their male counterparts due to negative stereotypes of their abilities and lack of female role models in that area. This is why women in technology movements have a big role to play in changing the the perception that young women have about technology.
Last week we were privileged to have Vivian Opondo, a Moringa School alumni come to to give a talk on how to increase the number of Women in tech. If you are a woman in the tech industry in Africa you may find it a little bit isolated. This is what most of the young women who attended the event thought. After giving various women from the panel a chance to speak we came up with the reasons why most girls that join tech related careers always seem to fall off along the way. We came up with some of the ways we can encourage more girls not only to join tech but also to keep the momentum once they join.
Jill who is a curriculum engineer at Moringa School noted that a number of the girls drop out of the program after a few weeks. The reasons vary but it is mainly because that they feel that the field is not diverse, creative and exciting. This is a myth because there are so many sectors in the tech industry that require you to use your creativity to solve problems. There are also so many exciting new opportunities in the tech sector as we are in a digital era.
Vivian who was leading the discussion took us through various ways she thinks that we can make the tech journey for most of these young women more engaging. We decided on having forums where we could learn code and after a few sessions plan for a hackathon. We also needed to have various key players in the industry to come and talk to these girls. It is important for them to have mentors in their journey so that they can hear various people talk about how they got into tech and how it has changed their way of thinking.
In an article on Quora, Dolly Sighn answered a question someone asked on the advice seasoned women in tech would give younger girls trying to make a career in tech. She said that growing up in the heart of silicon valley she had always avoided the idea of a career in tech because she generally enjoyed her humanity classes more than her math classes. She thought that the only way to work in tech was to get a degree in computer science which was not the case. Even with no background in a tech related course you can easily learn programming,design and any other area of tech.
The other issue that was pointed out by Lucy who is a former Moringa School student is that most of the tech events that were held were attended by mostly male developers. This made the female participants feel left out of a male dominated field. A few of the other younger girls currently in the program stated that they would feel more comfortable attending the tech events together with their female counterparts. We concluded that having such women tech groups was important because we could then attend events together as a team and slowly grow the number of women in these events.
We hope to continue to grow our Women in tech community and to reach out to girls and women who are joining tech or to those already in the industry. We will involve new women in tech, already experienced developers and key industry players so that everyone can have someone to mentor them. We encourage anyone that is interested in being a part of the Moringa School Women in Tech group to join us and grow our community.
By Nancy Momanyi,
Moringa School Staff
The Moringa community is definitely different from any normal school environment. It does not only provide growth for the students but for the entire society as well. What sets it apart from anywhere else is the diverse culture that both the students and the staff come from. Everyone feels accepted from the first day and you can not easily tell the difference between a student and a technical mentor. Technical mentors are there to guide the students through the course work.
This past week as the Moringa Prep Students were headed for their graduation we took the time to ask a few students and technical mentors what they thought of the five week program. The kind of responses I got gave me a different perspective to the entire program. Esther from the class pointed out the best thing she had gotten from the whole program is the art of becoming an Autodidact. An autodidact is someone who learns something in a particular field without the benefit of formal education.
This particular student captured my attention because I had always wondered why so many people in the tech industry prefer not to go through formal learning methods. She mentioned that at Moringa School she had managed to learn various programming concepts in a very short period of time because of the self learning approach were they taught themselves new concepts and worked with their peers to solve projects that they were given. The Moringa Prep program taught her that even without having a formal classroom environment she could learn about any subject matter within a very short period of time.
Philip Weru pointed out that peer learning is a skill that he intended to use later in his programming career. The program taught him that although he was an independent learner he would need help from team mates if he was to get tasks done on time. He learnt how to troubleshoot various coding problems and use platforms like stack overflow to see if other programmers had experienced similar problems. Stalk overflow is a platform where you can ask any tech related question mostly about programming and get various solutions from different programmers.
The last person that was interviewed was Moses Okemwa, a technical mentor who mentioned that the main thing that he has learnt being at Moringa school is the importance of community. He even mentioned about how they recently had a talk on diversity and inclusion. The Moringa school community generally encourages everyone to treat others with respect even if they are different from you which is clearly seen in by how the students and staff interact with each other.
It might have been the end of the program for the Moringa prep students but it definitely was not the end their journey. This program was an eye opener for most of them who learnt how to self learn and use their skills to solve real life problems.