In Conversation:Tlotlo Kgotlafela (Software Developer)

A chat with software developer Tlotlo Kgotlafela about the beginnings of his career journey in tech, the impactful projects he has been a part of, his long-term goals for his career, and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Tlotlo Kgotlafela is

I'm a tech enthusiast from Hukuntsi. I did my BGCSE at Mater Spei College from 2013-2014, from there I graduated from the University of Botswana with BSc in Computing with Finance in 2020. Most people say that at university we are taught theory only but in contradiction, that’s where I discovered what my interests in tech are. I was introduced to different companies or organizations like Huawei and IBM where I learned a lot about recent trends in technology. In my spare time, I enjoy watching movies, especially from the MCU and DC comics.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

Through my degree in Computing with Finance, I studied  Object-oriented programming, Algorithms, Computer Security, Web Development, Mathematics(Calculus), Finance, Economics, and Statistics.

My interest in Mathematics from junior and senior school persuaded me to study math-related subjects, surprisingly I got introduced to coding or programming at university and I accepted that I'm learning something new. With dedication, I did not have difficulties in programming even though it was my first time experiencing it.

Third-year of my degree program, during my industrial attachment period I was a Web developer at the Computer Science department at the University of Botswana. We build a web application using a Python framework, Django. I learned the web development cycle and other web development frameworks and methodologies through that time which broadened my mind on learning other software development topics line mobile application development.

Currently, I work as a Mobile Developer in a tech startup focusing on building mobile applications.

What inspired you to pursue a tech career?

In my junior and senior school time, I studied optional subjects that were considered to be difficult, and my endurance taught me to do something that may seem complicated and new. That motivated me to study programming since it was my first time being introduced to the subject. Self-motivation helps me to move up the career ladder and helps me identify and focus on my goals.

Please tell us what your job entails

As a mobile developer, my responsibility is to build user-friendly applications. I collaborate with the internal team to develop functional mobile applications. Essentially, I contribute to the design, testing, releasing, and support of the application developed for the clients.

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

Through the whole software development process, the most interesting process is to build applications pre-designed with design tools like Adobe xd and to make sure that the working application is precisely the same as the design.

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

I have worked on a few important projects throughout my career. At the start what is crucial for me is to get very clear on the goals and create milestones. I also typically break down large tasks into smaller chunks, so that it is easier to know where to start. Detailed planning is very important to ensure an important project goes smoothly.

I built a Motshelo mobile application for my final year project. The objective of the application was to create an assistant to help manage motshelo groups. The challenging part of the project was that I was using new technology to build the project, the new technology I was using was Flutter. Flutter is Google's free and open-source UI framework for creating native mobile applications. The challenge did not hinder me from completing the project. I learned the framework while building the application.

The second exciting project which I'm currently working on with my team is Blue Waters The objective of the application is to monitor of water quality/quantity of major water sources in Botswana. My role in the project is to build the water quality and quantity dashboard. You can access the dashboard here The project was submitted to IBM Call for Code Global challenge last year, and we were one of the chosen regional finalists from Africa( Since ecosystems can function at various levels of integrity and the need to protect water ecosystems, this makes room for the need to develop a monitoring system that influences decision-making with respect to water resources. The application is built using Node Red, an IBM cloud service, and The Weather Company technologies. The platform will provide water quality of streams or rivers that flow into Botswana Dams. It will also provide a solution to tackle climate change by ensuring that we are aware of the quality of water in our dams to understand the risks that may be brought by the water toxins found in our rivers.

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

Participating in hackathons helps me keep up with changing tech trends. The current project (Blue Waters) was a hackathon project and we are planning to expand and continue on improving the project. Attending webinars, online tech events, and online courses ensure that my skill set remains relevant.

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

I participated in the Huawei ICT Competition in 2019 and emerged third on the networking track at the National level. I received a Huawei Certificate and Huawei phone. I also participated in the Call for Code University Spot Challenge and emerged position 3 in the Water Sustainability category. We built a Node Red application to track toxicity and safety of streams/rivers that flow into Botswana dams and our team won $500. I was happy because it shows that Botswana youth has the potential to compete with the rest of the world.

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

Building mobile apps. I started mobile development in my final year at university and I wish I knew more about it and could have started on it during my first years of university.

Since mobile apps are dominating the market, it is crucial for a developer to be able to create a tool for businesses that will offer awareness and recognition of the brand to the customers for enhanced communication.

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

During my final year at university, I wanted to build an application using PHP, and my supervisor advised me to use a technology stack that’s trending on the market. That helped me a lot because  I landed my first job as a Mobile developer creating applications with the tech stack I used on my final year project.

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

In 10 years, I hope to advance in my role as much as possible. I love this industry and think it is the right choice for me long term. And also working on projects that will have an impact on improving the lives of people.

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

Go for it! Once you start, be self-motivated and this is achieved by getting help when stuck and offering it also. Don't forget that practice makes perfect.

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




NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity

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