(More Kenya notes)

On November 13th, I met with two representatives of SpaceYaTech at the Jacaranda, in Nairobi – Sharon Jebitok and Pamela Kendy – and one other, Hudson Obai, joined us online.

SpaceYaTech – A space for tech – started in April 2022 as a Twitter space for discussion and networking. It rapidly grew into a larger community, who has since moved to Slack and discord. They are largely focused on mentoring in software development, devops, and the open source community.

Out of this discussion has grown a number of projects on Github, which facilitate discussion and mentoring.

The projects include a content management system which will be used to build their website, a forum where the discussion can land, and a web application for coordinating mentors. They now have more than 300 developers working on these three projects. These specific projects were chosen, so that the people working on them were also using them, creating a feedback loop for quality, but also for the satisfaction of seeing one’s work in production.

Pamela was one of the students who received mentoring via SpaceYaTech, and from being a complete beginner at first, has now become an experienced UX designer.

One of the things we discussed was the fact that her formal education was in psychology, not computer science, but far from being hindering, this diversity of expertise enhances UX design, since it gives her insight into how people think, and also helps her work with users/customers to improve user experience, and build personas around the various user types.

Related to that, I’ve had several conversations here in Kenya about the fact that the Kenya government recently passed legislation that required anyone working in tech to have a computer science degree or certification. This has since been overturned, which I think is sensible, since what makes tech interesting is not the technology itself, but the diverse ways it is applied, and a diversity of backgrounds is what makes that possible. Furthermore, the majority of people I have ever worked with in technology have degrees in something else, and are self-taught in the actual technical aspects. (This includes me.)

As the group has grown over the past few months, from a small group of enthusiasts on Twitter to a more formal organization, they have encountered some growing pains. These challenges include, among other things, a lack of funds (they are all volunteers), a lack of mentors (they have had a huge influx of people looking for mentoring) and a lack of computing resources for CI, testing, and deployment of their projects. They also want broader visibility on social media so that more people can benefit from what they’re doing.

If you are interested in mentoring young, brilliant developers in East Africa, please do have a look, and reach out to Sharon or Hudson.

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