Dr. Chao Mbogo
Head of Computer Science Department at Kenya Methodist University
The most important goal for programmer Dr. Chao Mbogo is accessibility and simplicity. After falling in love with programming in her Computer Science undergraduate degree, she went to Oxford University to pursue her Masters. While there, she had a startling realisation, while her previous education had taught her the relevant technical skills, there had not been as much focus on problem solving. She felt herself struggling to adapt to the new teaching methods at first, but eventually appreciating the new ways in which the education system challenged her. She realised, “this is what education should be.”
In Kenya, she wonders, “Do we do enough to prepare our students for the world?” She suggests that guidance should extend beyond the classroom and not necessarily just be about technical skills. This, she realised, was the importance of mentorship: to allow for young computer scientists to be able to access skills outside of the classroom.
Skills like how to present oneself in a job interview, or how to navigate grant writing or even a problem as simple and as common as how to balance work and the rest of one’s life. She stresses, “Formal learning is important, but role models play a key role in paving the path and showing what is possible.”
To fill the gap, Dr. Mbogo founded KamiLimu, a mentorship program for university students in computer scientist. The strategy is five pronged. One, encouraging personal development, which is everything from mental health to public speaking skills. Two, providing professional development which includes CV, cover letter writing and job interviewing skills. Third, building their innovation skills, which involves pitching ideas and considering how to apply tech skills to real world problems. Fourth, scholarship application and awareness, which imparts information about available grants and scholarships. Lastly, community engagement which encourages the participants to attend constructive and applicable workshops and conferences. Ninety-five students from twelve different universities in Kenya have gone through the program and in February 2019, they expect to welcome forty more.
If her KamiLimu mentorship addresses accessibility, then a recent app that she has created addresses how simple accessibility can be. The app, launching in 2019, takes into consideration potential computer science students who do not have easy access to computers by allowing users to create code on their mobile phones. The possibility that the next generation of coders will come from lower income communities is just one of the ways that Dr. Mbogo is changing the world.