In Conversation:Olebogeng Mbedzi (Engineering Lead,Africa Code Academy)

From working on building a robotic exoskeleton for stroke rehabilitation for his postgraduate thesis to being the engineering lead at Africa Code Academy, Olebogeng is a very busy man who puts his impressive coding skills to good use. In this interview, he takes us through how he acquired his impressive software development skills, how he keeps those skills sharp, and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Olebogeng Mbedzi is

I am a problem solver, I like monetizing the process of solving problems through creating products and offering services which better people’s lives and solve their most dire needs. Being a technology person, the knowledge of Software Engineering is like an infinity stone to me. 

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

Well when I finished my Form 5 in 2014, I did not know what I was going to do at varsity. Some of my family members recommended that I do a mining course since mines pay very well. At that time I was obsessed with Mathematics as I was a mathematics presenter at BTV’s Educational broadcasting program. And also having done Additional Mathematics, I was on my path to do pure mathematics. When I went to a career fair, I saw the BIUST poster there with courses in engineering, At that time I just knew Engineering existed and did not know what it entailed. After my Form 5, I developed an interest in programming and did some C++.

At the career fair, I saw a Mechatronics Engineering poster with a humanoid robot. I was surprised to see that that was something I could learn to do. I asked some BIUST lecturer what to choose between that course and Applied Mathematics, he said that there was a lot of Mathematics in the Engineering course. I did some research on it and found out that there was a lot of programming also in the Mechatronics course. It was like a combination of things I liked. So I went on to do the course. I’d definitely say Mechatronics is the epitome of technology as, during my 5-year course, I got introduced to Robotics, Software Engineering, Machine Learning, Deep Learning, Internet of things, Electrical & Electronics Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. 

What inspired you to pursue a tech career?

Rich people in the technology sector like Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates

Please tell us what your job entails

I work as an Engineering Lead at Africa Code Academy. It is more like being an Engineering Manager. I manage a group of developers so that they can be able to get the most out of their abilities and be proud of themselves at the end of our exciting Engineering residency program.

What is your favorite part of the work that you do?

Seeing the growth of the devs as they normally come as novices up to the time when they are market-ready and can negotiate their rates. One of our goals is to promote entrepreneurship. We have a startup week where the devs come up with business ideas after which we critique them. It's amazing to see how people think what problems worth solving look like and raise opportunities to bridge the gap between academia and what's on the ground.

What are the most exciting and challenging projects you have undertaken?

This has to be the challenge that I have long started. For my Masters in Engineering Thesis at BIUST, I am developing a lower-limb robotic exoskeleton for stroke rehabilitation. At some point, I had to deal with device drivers. That really stretched my programming capacity as I had no prior experience. Also working with the Robot Operating system(ROS), a framework which is also used by NASA to create some of their robots like the Robonaut 2, It has one of the steepest learning curves. With the number of stroke patients increasing this becomes a very useful project.

Software development, which is the field you are in, is constantly and rapidly changing. How do you ensure that your skillset remains relevant?

Being part of developer communities and always learning. Reading tech articles. 

What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?

Being part of Africa Code Academy. I like  working at a company where the impact is clearly visible

What’s something you know now that you wish you knew earlier in your career?

You need a team to build a good product.

If any, what is the best advice you have received in your career?

The more you know the more you realize what you do not know hence the need to always keep learning

Career-wise, where do you see Olebogeng in the next 5-10 years?

Selling a product or service where software is one of the core competitive advantages and value adders.

What advice can you give to young people who are interested in pursuing a career in software development?

Build projects. The complexity and the usefulness of your projects will scale with how much you know

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details in case they want to get in touch with you

To interact at a professional level, I am Olebogeng Mbedzi on LinkedIn, and across all other socials 

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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