Monday, August 18, 2014

Reasons why to Intern at iHub

When I did the series about Getting to iHub, I mentioned that I may do a post on why it’s such an awesome place to intern. This is that post. This is how I would convince any student in this country to come work for us, the reasons I’d give them. 

1. The Dress Code

The first thing is that you get to come to work dressed in whatever fashion suits you; for me that is jeans, t-shirt and sneakers. I remember when I came for my first day I asked my supervisor, who was dressed in jeans, sneakers and a sweater, whether there was a dress code and he chuckled saying that I was free to come in anything I was comfortable in. Of course I would have noticed if I had been paying more attention to the environment while I was there for the interview, but I was completely focused on not letting my nervousness overcome me. 

2. The Cool Workspaces

iHub has several cool workspaces to work out of. Research, where I work, has a miniature golf course where you can play some mini golf to relax or just clear your mind to think of unlikely solutions to your problems. There’s the Kumbaya area, that features a couch where you can put your feet up to relax a little or have a meeting (it was where my interview was conducted). The other areas of iHub are cool too: the UX Lab has the coolest floor in the building; and the community space has a fantastic view from the fourth floor balcony. Best thing of all? You can do your work from any of these spaces if you feel like.
[Editor's Note: Apparently they also just Sinzia wakiwaza Code or Something]
3. The Amazing People

Working at iHub lets you meet a lot of cool people and get to learn from them. The 4th floor gets most of the traffic because it’s the community space and therefore the main, and public facing, part of the iHub. But even at Research you get to meet a lot of people. We have researchers from all over the world coming through and you get to work and interact with them. I’ve meet people from Microsoft, Google and Intel (not just the local branches) and several local startups and companies. The diversity of nationalities too has been fascinating: United States, Canada, Egypt, Pakistan, Uganda, Australia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Nigeria to mention a few.
Just guys having a chill session
4. The Awesome Events

As a member of iHub, you get to attend all the awesome events that the organization gets involved in, and as the epicenter of technology in Kenya, there are a quite a number. In addition to this, because you’re part of the network, you get to hear about a lot of the other events being held by other tech hubs. I’ve attended several: from user experience training, to interacting with students from MIT’s Media lab, to Pivot East hosted by the MLab. This point is kinda related to the previous one because these events wouldn’t be awesome without all the cool people. Of course there’s also the benefit of the free snacks/food provided ;). 

5. The Free Drinks

We drink at the office: wine, vodka, brandy, whiskey, beer; there’s nothing I’ve not had. The first 6 Fridays I worked here somehow there was always booze that would appear around 4 pm. The 7th Friday I was mildly surprised when one didn’t magically appear. It appears for various reasons: it’s someone’s birthday (there’s cake and ice-cream for these too), it’s Friday and consulting is marking some milestone, someone just bought one for the team, we’re having an event and the office buys some booze, we’re having an event and Absolute Vodka are co-sponsors, someone was thirsty and bought a few cans, or like today people are working late and to motivate people they bought 5 liters of wine. Yes, as I’m writing this I’m sipping some red wine, I’ve already had 3 glasses.
Some Drinks and some Foosball
6. The Monetary Appreciation

Most interns in this country don’t get paid and so I thought I’d mention it. I’m finding this doesn’t matter as much to me as all the other reasons I’ve already mentioned or what comes next. This is mostly just a nice bonus on all the other things I’ve mentioned. Though I should mention more money will always be nice mostly for reasons beyond the scope of this post.

Finally, here are the 3 most important reasons to come intern here. 

7. The Brilliant Team

You work with a lot of brilliant people. I should stop here because that one statement is enough. As one of the most innovative companies in the world (number 38, number one in Africa in case you were curious) [Editor's Note: where is the data, show us the data!- here] the caliber of people the iHub attracts and hire are the best of best (explains why I’m here :D) and working with such people can only serve to expand your mind and horizons. And they’re super friendly too. The people that work here are so good at what they do that sometimes I wonder why I’m here and if I even have the chops to match up. Which brings me to my next point. 

8. The Value of Opinions

Even as an intern your input is taken with as much weight and seriousness as anyone else on the team you work on. I remember my first meeting where I made a point to something someone else was working on and everyone, including the person who was working on it, thought it was a good idea and actually incorporated it with their plan henceforth. I was astounded, my input, even as an intern was being taken as seriously as anyone else on the team, people far more experienced (see above point) than me. Of course I quickly became more comfortable sharing my opinion on even projects I wasn’t involved in – it’s encouraged - which is a great thing. 

9. The Awesome Projects

Finally you get to work on awesome projects. I work with the Datalab team on the Umati project. We are monitoring speech around interesting speech online to get a feel of the how the conversation develops around hate speech; what leads to it and how people respond afterward. Of particular interest to us is instances of counter speech where people counter what hateful things people say, positively or negatively. I'm passionate about this and think what we’re building and the methodologies we’re developing may help make the world a better place. My small contribution to it may one day go on to help countless people. That for me is more important than anything else on this list by like a factor of 10.

There are several other reasons to come work at iHub that I’ve not mentioned. This is by no means and exhaustive list - I may decide to do another post with more reasons - but these are the most compelling for me and hope that I have help convince someone out there to come join us. We get a lot of applications, so I’ve heard I’m not at that rank, but it doesn’t hurt to try don't be discouraged. Be sure to use all the advice I gave in my Getting to iHub series, wouldn’t be here without it. Peace!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Plus 200: The Editor that Is

It’s been more than 4 years since my very first post to this blog and we've reached another milestone with the post before this: 200 published posts on this blog and counting; it is also approximately the 92nd post published since @TheOkelo started as editor here and it’s been a great 2 and half years.

Therefore, with this post, this milestone, I’ve chosen to dedicate it to my editor, Tony. It’ll be a celebration of him and our friendship and I hope I can really do it justice.

I met Tony almost 7 years ago at Maseno School. I remember asking him for directions to where the St. John’s Ambulance club met - at the time I didn’t know anything about him. He told me where they did meet but didn’t mention that he was also heading there, nor that he was a member nor in fact the club leader. I remember feeling so duped - yes I checked the synonyms for that - when he joined us under the tree behind the school chapel. [Editor's Note: I wasn't duping, I was just withholding information ;p]

I was joining the club in the hopes of meeting this girl I had a crush on, who was in another school, at the national first aid competition. Through the club, Tony and I went on to become great friends as he trained us in drills and first aid, trying to make us into the most efficient first aiders and cadets overall. We made it to nationals where we were ranked second but the girl I joined for wasn’t there. I didn’t think much of it, met others on the way ;).

The Maseno St. John Ambulance Dream Team: Tony far Right and Me Center

We bonded over other things: our love for reading, and Harry Potter. We spent a lot of time debating how the 7th book would end (now we talk about its shortcomings). We both read a lot but have different styles/methods of going at it. I like to start a series and read through to the end continuously, and he likes to read several books at the same time: a chapter here, a page there; which can be really annoying when you want to discuss a book in the series he recommended but he's not yet reached that far :(.

Tony has the annoying ability to patiently keep at something, anything really, until he gets perfect at it. He doesn’t give up on the way like I would. I’ve known him to do things over 10 times just to get it right. He’s also the odd combination of engineer and artist. He draws, does photography, writes and composes music and is one hell of a singer (my girlfriend is fond of referring to him as that guy with the voice).

How he joined the blog is well documented here, but I just want to highlight what he does for me now. Because of Tony I can concentrate on the writing and he handles the rest. He chooses the titles for all of my posts, finds links to stuff I refer to in my posts and decides when a post get published. He also vetos some of my more boring posts and finds all the cool pictures for the posts. In fact all I do is write and send it to him and he checks all the grammar, spelling, fact-checking when needed and just posts. This means my job is easier and less stressful.

So now I’m just going to highlight some his work here, be sure to check them out. Some of my favourite titles are KenyanGovernment wants to play Big Brother, Watch out for the boys Little Sister, and of course Ambulating with Confidence.

The very best use of photos so far was in the guest post by Ron, Fool’s Errand, I remember bursting out in laughter when I saw it. Another good example is in the post called Safaricom and its revenueSharing Model, the use of the guy with the sim card blocking his mouth was inspired. Also the lioness and her cubs in For a Mother on her Birthday was really touching.

Sometimes I worry that his editing is getting better faster than my writing…

So what’s next for us? Well we’re looking to win a blogging award. Also we’re looking to move the blog to its own domain soon, so we’re thinking domain names and perhaps even doing a complete rebrand, if you have suggestions for either put them in the comments. Finally we’re just looking to bring you our very best every time we post.

There’s a lot to be said about Tony and I can’t say it all here but if it wasn’t clear, I love him. I’m secure enough in my sexuality to say that. I see us being friends for the rest of our lives and you know what? It’s a good feeling. Peace!!!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Belly that Slaps

[Times art: Brandon Jeffords]
I got slapped on a bus today. I was just there minding my own business, listening to some Lana Del Rey and suddenly something softish smacks me on the side of the face and all I see is this round protrusion sticking out from this guy's jacket.

I couldn't believe it. I stared at him as he proceeded sideways down the narrow center aisle of the bus and people tilted their heads to the side to avoid his marshmallowy tummy as it moved past them.

I've never understood how anyone could allow their tummy to stick so far out like that. I mean it was so large I suspect he uses it as an armrest often. I doubt he can see his feet if he stood up straight. There was absolutely no way that was healthy.

I've always been very disdainful of fat people. I don't think we were naturally meant to have so much fat on us especially around the middle section where it looks particularly disgusting.

My mother has had four kids and doesn't have love handles, where do you, 23 years old(or younger) get off having them? What's your excuse? As young as you still are you should have the energy to exercise. Run, swim, walk or if you can join a gym. Just don't expect me to accept your love handle because I will always, always, always find them disgusting.

I'm just saying. Peace!!!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Of Mikokoteni and Motorcycles

I don't know what to write today. The thing that's on my mind is the passing of a friend of mine but I don't think I'm ready to talk about that yet. So instead I'm going to do a short rant about mikokoteni (push carts) and motor cycles.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https%3A%2F%2Fakwaabaaccra.files.wordpress.com%2F2011%2F04%2Fhelping-push-the-cart.jpg&imgrefurl=https%3A%2F%2Fakwaabaaccra.wordpress.com%2Fcategory%2Funcategorized%2F&h=1944&w=2592&tbnid=pHzjYQgRqCXmKM%3A&zoom=1&docid=n5iAI7-OJNGF5M&ei=Nh7RU93iI63H7AbpyICQAg&tbm=isch&ved=0CCgQMygKMAo&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=2187&page=1&start=0&ndsp=14
[image]
These two classes of vehicles seem to think they don't need to obey traffic rules. Mikokoteni  routinely go up the wrong side of the road causing all kinds of mayhem traffic-wise and even when they're going the right way they are often moving so slow they still cause a minor snare up behind. If you're on foot you're not spared as because their drivers have no scruples getting on the pavement to avoid traffic. Finally I've seen a number of them scratch the side of cars as they try to squeeze through the miniscule spaces or simply because the driver can't control the massive weight they're transporting.

Now let me start on motorbikes. These guys regularly jump lights, weave in and out of traffic indiscriminately without concern for the pedestrians who may be crossing, but the worst thing, the absolute worst thing, is when they use the sidewalks to avoid traffic and have the audacity to get mad at you when you don't get out of the way fast enough or if you're unlucky, just get knocked into like you're completely in the wrong.

I once got tapped by a side mirror or hand bar of one of these things and I can tell you for free it's not a pleasant experience. I remember almost jumping out of my skin and thinking all at once, "What's happening? Am I on the road? What's this thing doing on the sidewalk? Who the fuck does this guy think he is?" I then began looking frantically around me for something to throw because they guy had already sped of without an apology.

I think it's about time the traffic police got way more strict about the rules in regards to these two classes of vehicles. The mkokoteni problem presents an opportunity to entrepreneurs who can figure out a way to transport goods around the city for as cheap or nearly as cheap as a mkokoteni. The motorcycles just need the firm hand of the police to come down hard on them and throw a few of them in prison to serve as a warning for the rest because how they behave is not only dangerous for them but, more importantly for me (and other pedestrians but mostly me) when I'm walking on the streets. Peace!!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Radio Days in Campus

 Back when I was in school, I had a radio show for almost two years. It was one of the most exhilarating activities I engaged in while on campus, right up there with Spoken Heart. It was something I got interested in when one of my friends invited me as a guest on her show, called Universal Vybes, when her guest for that day cancelled. I had a great time. Afterwards, she let me know of just how easy it was to get a show on the station. Infact the head of the station encouraged as many students as possible to apply.

Therefore, the very next semester, I applied for my own show that I called "The Sauce". What was unique about it? Well, the only thing at the time was the type of music I was playing (it consisted of a mix of rock and African hits); but the concept of the show was what you'd find on any of the popular radio stations: talking about issues that affected the youth, and not the deep kind; partying; dating; and sex.

One day as I was doing my show, one of the lecturers from the media department came into the studio while the music was playing and asked me to go back on air so that he could see my routine. I went back on air slightly nervous but confident about my shill - is that the right word, my editor will let me know I'm sure [Editor's Note: Lord knows I have no idea what you are trying to say!!!] - and he sat there listening carefully with his head tilted to the side.

Once I resumed playing some music, he critiqued my performance, talking about things like tone and how the listeners attention was limited and choice limitless and therefore you need to keep them on the line by constantly engaging them in some way, reminding them what and who they were listening to and giving them something to look forward to.

He then looked at the studio screen, where I had a number of articles I was reading and asked my why I wasn't presenting that. It was all tech stuff: Techcrunch, The Verge and the likes. Every show on the station had the same content as mine and it was mostly talked out he said. Or was it that I thought no one was interested in the topic? He then demonstrated, in stunning fashion, just how he would deliver it and I must say it was bloody great.

He told me that since this was what I was interested in it should be what I should do the show on. It doesn't matter if I didn't have as many listeners as before but that I was informing my listeners of things they would/could probably only hear from me.

After that day the concept of the show changed. I would concentrate on one issue or theme in technology that I felt would benefit the listener and I was also interested in: education and technology; autonomous robots; privacy issues in an internet age. I would also throw in a section that would have the tech news of the week. I changed the name of the show to Source Code to reflect it's new focus.

I always had fun in studio but after this change that stuck for the rest of my radio career I can definitely say it was more fulfilling and satisfying.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to tell you about my radio show. Maybe it's cause I'm about to embark on a similar venture (more on this in a future post) or it just seemed like a good story. Or perhaps it was to highlight some of the opportunities to do cool things on campus if you just looked - curious not so many media students wanted to get on radio despite the ridiculously low bar to entry. I don't know. Peace!!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fail Faire

It's been another long day. I seem to be having quite a few of those this week so I'm thanking God the weekend is here. I can't tell you what I've been up to, because it would be boring to mention, only that I'm really tired. And now instead of getting into bed I'm sitting down to write this.

We held a Fail Faire today at the iHub, I only checked in long enough to hear the story of one person and the place was so very packed but it got me thinking of one of my failures.

If you've ever taken time to read my twitter profile you'll see there that I'm editor of Gizcampo. The premise of the site was that my university, Maseno, had a lot of interesting things happening but no one got to know about them. So we hoped to end that, help get content from my university online. Every time people would ask what's it like going to school so far away and I'd answer the same way every time, "It's school, it's like any other university in the country" I wanted to end such questions.

Initially I was just doing movie reviews but got promoted to editor after a month or two. It was such a tiring job.

We had to source for posts for the website and we thought most people would recognise the benefit of having their work out there and how that may help their reputation and their CVs and would write for the website for free. Boy were we wrong.

We had almost 10 writers to cover most of the aspects of campus life and initially everyone was very enthusiastic about writing but soon, people began to slack off. Posts that were supposed to have been written by a certain day would come in several days later. Every week it was us, the editors, frantically texting and calling, begging and cajoling, trying to get people to write. It didn't go too well.

Then for over 4 months there was some random confusion with the owner of the site. Me and the other editor had some how lost our editing privileges. We couldn't add, post, edit or publish any of the pieces coming in. Calls and texts went unanswered. What was particularly frustrating was that there was someone who did have the privileges and her posts were going through. [Editor's Note: Pussy Control...]

I learnt a lot from the experience and I could tell exactly what that was but I'm sleepy and I have an early morning meeting tomorrow. Peace!!!

This is the time that we all feel we need to realise that we are much more than just money bags.