Tales From Graduate School?

I know, it has been long since I posted anything here, let alone something related to ‘tales from graduate school’. I chose the tagline since I’m now doing my masters but I doubt I want to share details of my classes with you; the inattention during classes, the joys(?) and pains of commuting to school everyday, the assignments that lie forgotten, the pending CATS that need to be read for, the notes online that will be downloaded on the night before the CAT, the thesis whose topic I have not begun to think of, the projects due as deadlines loom etc. These are what marks graduate school. However, I do have a life out of school! So here are a few updates:

1. On Operation Smile

So you remember me saying someone came forward to help out with operation smile? I’m sure you are wondering who. I asked him if I could blog about it, and he didn’t really care if I did or I did not! To start with, I had to find the company that sells the plates needed and other medical supplies, Amiken Ltd. AS a Ninja(ress), I never ask for direction when I have Google maps on my Galaxy S II.

View Larger Map

The only problem is, Amiken Ltd is mapped inside D.O.D. I went to D.O.D and at the gate, told them I was going to Amiken Ltd. They told me there is no place like that and directed me to Lenana Road! Anyone reading this who can edit Google maps? This place is on Lenana road!

At the clinic, they gave me the invoice for the mandibular plates (artificial jaw) and I called one Fredrick Afune, who is the programme director for Royal Media Services. He is the hero of this operation smile 🙂

To cut the long story short, I went to his office and picked the cheque he wrote for Amiken Ltd. I called Amiken to confirm if they take cheques.

“hallo!, hallooo! ” this is me calling in excitement

“Hallo. Amiken blah blah how may I-”

“Do you take cheques?” I cut her off.

“You want implants?” – I paused here. Do I want implants? Stood straight and looked at my chest and couldn’t see the floor. Definitely no need for implants.

“No, I am asking if you take cheques.”

“Yes, but you have to wait for four days for the cheque to clear before you can pick the implants.”

Anyway, Gilbert Maoga who needs his smile back is now seeing his doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital. He should be scheduled for surgery later this week or early next week. Once the bill from KNH is presented, Mr. Afune has also promised to settle it. All I can say is, thank you! Thank you all who helped with Operation Smile!

2. The KPL and AFC Leopards

I spend my weekends watching football. Most of my team’s matches (AFC Leopards, 2012 KPL champions) are held at Nyayo National Stadium. I usually go early, swim in the olympic-sized pool for Kshs. 150 bob per person for the day. After swimming, I’ll meet my fellow fans at the poolside restaurant for lunch, then at 3pm get into the stadium for the match.

AFC Leopards is currently second in the KPL standings, having drawn 0-0 on our first match against Chemelil Sugar; and this past Sunday we won 2-0 against Mathare United. We now have a total of 4 points. Our current squad is on form, and here they are below doing a jig for the cameras (and the fans) after Bagaye scored the first goal. Mang’oli scored the second goal!

For more on AFC, check out the fan blog.

These are the men that make my weekends 🙂

Anyway, in addition to work (I recently started on a short-term contract job), I have the mobile web East Africa conference to attend on Wednesday and Thursday. Not forgetting, I have CAT on Thursday evening, and an assignment to present on Friday evening, as well as a game to attend on Saturday. Amongst many other things on my to-do list.

Keep reading.

A Visit to Craft Silicon

This past Friday, we took time off our busy schedule and got into the Strathmore bus to visit the Craft Silicon Campus. Craft Silicon is said to be the biggest Kenyan IT company. Started over 10 years by the CEO Kamal, they now export software to over 40 countries, mostly Asia, Middle East and some countries in Europe/Africa. (P.S. I was trying to look for Kamal’s second name, and when I checked out their About us–>Management, it is under construction! Let’s check it next week and see if that’s the situation! Hmm.. anyway, Google tells me it’s Budhabatti.)

Craft Silicon’s core business is providing software solutions for the banking industry. These include banks, micro-finance institutions etc.

Kamal visited us one time at Strathmore and talked to us about his company.. that’s a story for another day though. He’s a simple guy who doesn’t like dressing up. He told us how the work-place at Craft Silicon is ideal for developers.. the set-up sounded like what Google offices offer. He said how you can even drink at work as long as you deliver (I don’t know if he was joking at this part.. said you can even find beer bottles lying around!). There’s a gym, a basketball court, etc. It’s a free space where you can come in at any time and leave at any time as long as your work is done.

Then he told us we could go visit any time.. we made arrangements, and on Friday, landed at the Craft Silicon Campus. I was impressed.

Situated in Westlands, just near Deloitte, the campus has one big glass building, a parking lot full of cars (every developer there drives?), and a separate building that has a gym. There’s the basketball court and swimming pool. Next to the pool is a coffee bar that looked cozy especially in the current cold Nairobi weather!

The Craft Silicon Campus

The Craft Silicon Campus

Kamal welcomed into a large meeting room, then gave a short presentation about his company and what they do. He then talked about ELMA, which I will blog about later. In short, it’s a mobile application that does almost everything.. from banking transactions to payment of bills to news updates. Download it on your phone from here

We were then given a tour of the place. The first floor is where developers do their thing, the second floor is for non-tech staff and the third (and topmost) floor has an eating space and a kitchen. It’s a very spacious place..

Craft Silicon From Another Angle

The place was very quiet though. We didn’t get to see the techies at work typing away. They must be very disciplined or the work environment is not as free as touted.. I’m believing it’s the latter. The whole time we were there, we hardly saw anyone walk around, shoot a basketball, or swim (ha, not with the cold weather! We should visit on a sunny day!)

The Swimming Pool.. I love swimming! That's the coffee bar in the background

Here’s a picture of the interior of the coffee bar.

The Coffee bar. The staff kindly let me take a pic of them.

All in all, it was a fun visit, and if any of you want to work at CS, check out their careers page.

Strathmore University

I used to think I hate SU. Now I’ve realized I love it. Oh, I still hate the dress code and other ‘behavioural’ rules but I’ve learned to separate the sin from the sinner, if you’re familiar with that expression.

I have been a student here for the past three months, and currently I’m on a two week break. And in these two weeks, I’ve missed SU!

What I miss is the environment. Strathmore University is the best IT school in Kenya, hands down. Their computers are good, the internet is up most of the time, their online learning system actually works, their staff is helpful.. I could go on and on.

I generally don’t interact with students outside my class; in any case we’re usually busy. We’re the first students under iLabAfrica, a research center that was opened just last month. We’re about 30 students taking the daytime classes, being sponsored by the Safaricom Academy. We’re doing the Masters in Telecommunication Innovation and Development, which is supposed to make entrepreneurs out of us. We should come up with technology solutions that will take advantage of the current growth in the telecom sector, solutions that will solve the myriad of problems facing society as well as make us successful business people (read USD millionaires 🙂 )

The Student's Center, where iLab Africa resides. My home for the next two months. Image from strathmore.edu

For these two weeks I’ve been on holiday, I’ve hardly touched my computer in a coding way. If I’m on my laptop, I’m surfing the net or watching movies. It’s not that I don’t have projects I should be working on; I do. So I’m guessing it’s the environment. I think I’m one of those people who work best under pressure(sic).

Anyway, for any developer out there, here’s your chance to get your name heard:

Tandaa Digital Content Grant

The Tandaa Local Digital Content Grant is a grant to support ICT in Kenya. It is like seed funding for companies entering new media and ICT. In particular, the grant seeks to support products and services developed for the Internet and mobile phone.

Deadline: 22nd August, 2011

Orange African Social Venture Prize

The project aims at promoting social innovation for development, thanks to information and communication technologies, through financial and management support to new businesses.

Deadline:September 15th, 2011

Nokia Create For Millions App Competition

Submit your best Series 40 Java or web apps in Nokia’s ‘Create for Millions’ contest to win your share of cash and prizes, worth 1 million euros.

Deadline:Locally, September 1st, 2011