The Society of Engineering Students (SES) in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Engineering (JKUAT) has diligently strived to create a community of holistic individuals whose competence, creativity and experience lie not only in the lecture hall, but also in the working world.
As we cleverly put it, “vitu kwa ground ni different”. Over the years this goal has been achieved by creating spaces that fulfil the different needs of our members. With the onslaught of the Corona Virus this year and consequent closing of schools, our forward thinking Society and the Women in Technology (WIT) committee has tapped into its networks to create virtual mentorship events tackling a variety of topics and concerns among our members.
On Friday 6th November 2020, we took a dive into ‘Penetrating the Industry’, what skills and attitudes can us as youth armour ourselves with to make our journey into the Industry smoother?
Our speaker, Brenda Nyaringita ;a Telecommunications Engineer, is currently a back end Engineer at Africa’s Talking where she helps develop and maintain tools that empower and solve problems across Africa. She is also a Mozila Internet Health Open Leader ,which allows her to lead community driven projects on internet health, Kamilimu fellow giving her the opportunity to mentor and educate young career driven ladies across Kenya. She enjoys teaching kids as a Scratch Africa organizer.
This outstanding upcoming leader draws her inspiration from the need to be a part of solutions that drive Africa forward.
“When I see a problem and find a way to crack it, I can then rightly call myself an engineer. I am African and I feel there are problems we need to start seeing and solving from within.”
She began the lively one hour session by outlining her journey to Africa’s and the steps that led her there:
- Experience Campus
Be inquisitive: Campus as you well know is a pool of new experiences, a first peek into the world as an adult. That said, it is important to keep your goals in mind. Be inquisitive as it constantly helps you paint a better and realistic picture of your goals.
Take the initiative and join societies of interest: These give you an avenue to explore yourself outside the classroom, meet new people that slowly grow into your campus family. As a former SES chair, her leadership experience helped her bring ideas organizational skills in addition to her technical skills to the table. This gave her an upper hand during interviews.
The society also gave her opportunities to engage in activities and trainings that gave her internship and leadership opportunities. Engage in as many activities as you can in your given society of club.
- The power of Internships and Networks
Brenda uses her experience as an intern at Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to introduce this point.
Create a network during internships: You will often find yourself getting opportunities through these people. They will recommend you in their own circles and vice versa
Be open minded with internships: Do NOT focus on one main company, for example, Safaricom for Telecommunication Engineers, there are so many areas your skill could be applied! Allow yourself to explore all opportunities that come your way and learn from them.
Do many small coding projects and upload them on Github: Projects are an important part of being an Engineer, It is therefore important to identify skills that you may need in the future and work on improving them through doing several projects from as early as first year. For those in tech related fields, Brenda encourages us to pick a programming language and practice by uploading small projects to your Github account. This not only helps you improve as a programmer, but also gives potential employers a chance to see your work and your programming journey.
Join Teams and work on projects: Whether it is joining the SES Projects Committee, working on a project with friends or helping final year students with projects. Find teams and communities that are working on projects and join them. You create networks in this way as well as give yourself opportunities to learn and grow as a programmer.
- Add spices to your tasks
Add Skills to you CV whether technical or social: Brenda describes a university strike as a golden opportunity for her, she used this period to learn python which she later taught at The Kenya High School. Those school breaks and interruptions can be great opportunities to sharpen your skills in one area or another. With the onslaught of this Corona Virus pandemic, there have been a lot of online platforms offering training in different fields, join them and add a splash of colour to your list of skills.
What you learn in class intertwines with all other skills you learn: Pay attention to it all. School just makes your familiar with your field.
Broaden your options: Develop a yes attitude to all opportunities that come your way even if they aren’t in the direction you were hoping to go, after all, the job market is dynamic and you really never know where you will end up. Brenda expected to go into IOT(Internet of Things) at Africa’s Talking, she however found herself delving into data science and now backend engineering using Scala. It was a steep learning curve but her attitude and drive got her learning new things every day.
Update your CV often
Shoot your shot: Apply for that job, go for that interview and ask for that internship. It never hurts to shoot your shot.
Rest and take Breaks: Engineering is hard and tasking, its important to take breaks where necessary and pace yourself.
And last but not least, she reminds us to HAVE FUN.