In Conversation: Oaitse Tseleng (Software Developer & Blockchain Enthusiast)

Having recently completed a course on Blockchain technology with the Blockchain Institute, Oaitse is looking forward to using the knowledge he attained to put Batswana on this trailblazing technology that is the talk of tech circles. In this interview, he talks more about how he plans on imparting this knowledge and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Oaitse Tseleng is?

I am a Software Developer and have been working on small to medium projects for a year now. I like to think of myself as full-stack as I can do both, but prefer working more on backend tasks. I am a recent graduate of the University of Botswana where I pursued my Bachelor's Degree in Science specializing in Information Technology. Other than coding I enjoy watching and playing basketball or football, as well as gaming.

Briefly take us through your journey to a career in tech

I started working with computers from a very early age. By the time I was doing Standard 3 or 4, I could pretty much work my way around a computer with ease, as well as type documents. When I got to high school, I learned new tricks such as breaking past Windows Vista sign-in, changing bios settings, and basics of Linux and its commands. When I got to University, that is when things took an unexpected turn. I thought I would go into security and sysadmin but I grew passionate about writing code. And that is how I ended up a software developer. I have now worked on projects ranging from mobile applications, Web applications, and System Applications.

What inspired you to pursue a career in tech?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family and go to schools where technology was used often and more often than not, against my father's wishes, I would surf the internet and try to experiment with the computer at home. Over time, I believed I had “mastered” Windows and its applications. But around Form 2 or 3, I met an IT teacher who introduced me to Linux and showed me a few tricks on Windows and Linux. After my Form 5, I knew I wanted to work with computers. At that time I didn't even think of programming. I just wanted to know how a computer worked and I believe that the thirst for computer knowledge led me to where I am today

Please tell us what your job entails

Eat, Sleep, Code is the general joke we tell ourselves in the software development department. But it is more than that. Typically in smaller companies, you are the business analyst, the designer, the developer, and the project manager. So we combine all those in my daily life. My job is to research, plan, and produce a working application that does what it is meant to. Right now I am a Junior Developer at Dottess (Pty) Ltd and work primarily with Java. As there are Business Analysts present, my job is a little easier now. I simply code the requirements Business Analysts have laid out. 

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

Easy question. Not knowing something. There are many ways to get things done and eventually you will run into a problem you don't know how to solve at that moment. Then comes the learning which I guess is the part I enjoy most. Thankfully I have worked with brilliant and more experienced minds that guide me in the right direction, but I can also figure things out on my own.

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

A year in and I have been on great projects it is difficult to choose one. Unfortunately, I can not go into detail due to NDA’s on all of them. I have worked on a mobile application using Flutter Framework that was basically a food ordering app. I have also worked in the SIAS II Resilience Project under Dr. Motshegwa at the University of Botswana where we built a platform to help SMME’s in Botswana overcome difficulties they face. I think what I am working on now at Dottess is also very interesting but can not share right now. When it comes to challenges, they all have their unique problems and bumps that occur. For the Food ordering app, it was a language barrier and time zones since it involved a lot of people from various parts of the world, while for the SMME platform it was learning Drupal.

You were recently selected by Stanbic Bank for sponsorship to pursue BlockChain studies with the BlockChain Institute. Please tell us more about that

Stanbic was generous enough to have sponsorship for the Blockchain course. I saw the advert on Moodle while I was still a student. I had a keen interest in Blockchain and at that time, I knew it was just a technology that is used for cryptocurrencies and didn't have any more idea on it. But it was and still is a hot topic, so I decided it was important to learn more about it. Stanbic then offered me the course, and of course, was ecstatic to be selected. I mainly dealt with Bone Golekanye who was an awesome help. We broke down the modules into smaller sections that are manageable while attending school. The course itself is offered by the Blockchain Council Institute, which has many other courses that look into Blockchain-related content, such as NFT’s, cryptos, smart contracts, and so forth. The course I was doing was Certified Blockchain Developer(CBD). The course aims to give the student the tools necessary to create and implement solutions from a vendor-neutral perspective. I got to experience using Bitcoin COre, Ethereum platform, R3 Corda, Hyperledger, and Interplanetary File System which are blockchain platforms that are used. I learned how to build different projects on top of these platforms as they essentially have different strengths. 

How do you plan to utilize the knowledge you will attain from the course to help advance the adoption of blockchain technology in Botswana?

Botswana is still lacking behind in technologies that are vital in first-world countries but I have high hopes for our country. Blockchains are revolutionary and could help Batswana greatly. Being a developer, it is a plus to be able to incorporate blockchain in my solutions. It is very well known that blockchains are used in finance and cryptos mostly, but it has a lot of other uses. Blockchain is a distributed network in which we store transactions and a record of all transactions stored on multiple distributed devices. Essentially anything that can be quantified, whether physical or not, can be stored on a blockchain. I plan to use my knowledge on blockchains in both development and also teaching others on crypto, NFT’s, and other well-known blockchain technologies. Hopefully also host workshops and events where we work on learning how to build applications on top of blockchain platforms.

Despite its fast adoption over the last few years, BlockChain is still a nascent and largely misunderstood field not just in Botswana but worldwide. What advice can you give to people looking to get into the field?

Patience and Research. There isn't much use right now in Blockchains in Botswana, but it will be a part of Batswana very soon. It is just a matter of time. Looking worldwide, I think they are now starting to see the bigger picture with almost all major companies involved in Blockchain in one way or another. Most importantly is research, you need to assess how you wish to get involved in blockchains. You may now not want to be a developer but rather just participate in cryptos and NFTs which are very popular. But if not done right, there are a lot of bad characters involved in Blockchains and it is easy to make a loss if you are too naive. It's always safe to have adequate knowledge before getting involved.

Blockchain technology is constantly and rapidly changing with new concepts being introduced, an example being the current NFT craze. How do you ensure that your skillset always remains relevant and that you are always up to par with the latest trends?

It is a constantly evolving environment, which can be said for most CS branches. There is always something new being discovered. Right now professionally I am not using what I learned in a practical sense other than practice and working on my own personal projects. However, I have not stopped learning. Thankfully the course is also a lifetime access course and I still have access to it so I have revisited material as they have now updated the course and I have restarted it again to keep up. Other than that I find time to practice my smart contract skills by coding in solidity and running a few Virtual Machines on Amazon Web Services or IBM cloud just to configure a small blockchain network. Another great source is social media. Twitter with its new “spaces” platform allows me to listen to live discussions and podcasts on what people think of NFTs and the latest Blockchain trends and get their ideas on how they feel about them. I often enter these conversations to get an insight into what the world has to offer in terms of blockchains.

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

I don’t really have anything I can say I'm 100% proud of so far. I would say getting my Degree, and being able to contribute to socio-economic challenges have positively impacted Batswana. But other than that I think I'm still too early in my career.

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

I think I was prepared well enough for my career right now in its early stages. I listened to a lot of people who have more experience and have guided me so have not encountered anything too drastic. One thing I can say for sure is I'm still shocked at how you can never rest in this field. There is always something to learn every single day.

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

A lot of advice actually, ranging from past lecturers and IT technicians to my friends. But above that, I would say it is to trust the process and just stay the course. It is very tempting in Botswana to change fields as you look for more gains or income but I have not changed my field. I am staying the course as I believe the hard work will pay off.

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

Definitely have to be in charge of my own business. I have a number of great ideas I want to incorporate in Botswana and Africa as a whole in order to help us be very much tech front runners in the world. It is easier to incorporate your vision when you are playing a leading role. For the next 5 years, i will be learning and preparing to ensure my vision is met and in 10 years,I should be working towards that goal. Having a concrete business structure working in Botswana that helps not only livelihoods but improves our general social impact as well.

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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