The biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on

3 years ago, I agreed to stop being a freelancer, and take up the challenge and opportunity to be iHub community manager.

Mugs and Nekesa @MIT

Photo courtesy of @iHub

 

I was a freelance graphic designer who before that had been running projects at not-for-profit organizations; working with (what NGOs like to refer to as ) vulnerable communities; caretakers of orphans (widows), and then youth –  all from informal settlements, essentially as a business coach.

So when the opportunity for the iHub came up, I really did not know exactly what was needed. It took me a while to understand what exactly a community manager was. It was a steep learning curve because I jumped into the deep end immediately. I soon got the gist of it and it turned out to be an excellent opportunity, working with technology innovators wanting to be entrepreneurs, meeting all kinds of people in the innovation space globally, working to build the ecosystem and getting to speak about our work at various conferences and gatherings all over the world.

I got to meet founders of globally known startups (companies) , including Evernote, LinkedIn, Netflix. re:publica, Eventbrite, and personalities like Joi Ito, the MIT Media Lab director, Ban ki Moon UN Secretary General, as just a few of them.

I wrote about my experience here

So when it was time to move on, I joined a startup, Moringa School. It’s a Kenyan, Silicon Valley-style coding school whose main focus is to train developers in an intense 16 week boot camp and ensure they are market ready on exit, to satisfy this growing need in the African market.

Photo courtesy of Moringa School

Photo courtesy of Moringa School

For 3 months, I worked with them to build a community. Facilitating every cohort of outstanding self-driven developers that went through the school, to connect with each other, previous and following cohorts, companies that employ developers (with both immediate and future needs), and of course the ecosystem of developers and other players in the African innovation space.

 

Then I took on the biggest challenge I have ever taken on in my life. I joined OkHi to run operations.

OkHi (pronounced Ok, then Hi)  is a Kenyan startup that’s working to have the 4B people in the world without a physical address “be included” by allowing them to enjoy the benefits of a physical address.

OkHi Mafia

OkHi Mafia

 

A lot of things attracted me to OkHi.

One was the chance to join its stellar founding team ( the OkHi Mafia) which constitutes people who have experience working at  Google, McKinsey, and with diverse experiences and talents coming from different places across the globe.

Investors showed a lot of faith in OkHi. We have a collection of some of the smartest investors in Silicon Valley and in Kenya. From Patrick Pichette to Isis Nyong’o.

OkHi’s lean method of both building product and operations was another big determiner for me. It’s a value that they stay true to. Coming up with hypotheses, running sprints to prove or disprove them, then making decisions that are data driven and user centred. I wanted in on that.

And then of course at the core of my decision, was the reason for OkHi’s being. What OkHi does. Working to give everyone a physical address so that everyone, from every neighborhood  can not only enjoy the option to have something they bought delivered, access emergency services but they can also run an e-commerce business in their country, and easily prove who they are with a dynamic physical address to access finance services. That to me is impact I wanted to be involved with.

I was also attracted to the opportunity to practice UX (user experience) design, which is the particular area in which I want to grow as a designer; essentially my 20% at OkHi.

But to do operations, for a fast paced company that promises to scale very fast, like OkHi, Is the biggest challenge I have ever taken on. This JD spans from admin work (keeping the company running day to day), in-hypo operations (tactical pieces to enable hypothesis sprints) , accounting, HR (especially building onto and maintaining the great culture even as we scale), legal, community engagement and PR. While at the same time contributing to the company’s overall strategy both short term and long term.

OkHi boat 2

Photos courtesy of OkHi

Basically my mandate is to make OkHi the most awesome company to work for in Africa. Easy, right?

@heygeekyness

 

Building and retaining an awesome culture in any organization is a big challenge. Whether you are starting out (at a startup) or doing it in a larger organization. And this is just one of the aspects of operations. I would like this to be the first post in a series of posts where I share different aspects of my work. Hopefully spark off conversations with other people running operations or operations-related stuff.  I would love to hear you feedback in the comments section, on my Twitter, or email me: mugethi@okhi.com

2 years @iHub

The iHub Green Members 2014 onboarding session. Photo courtesy: iHub

The iHub Green Members 2014 onboarding session. Photo courtesy: iHub

It’s a few weeks shy of 2 years since I joined the iHub. When I joined, I wasn’t quite sure what being a Community Manager meant exactly. Or if I would survive in employment after being a freelancer for a whole year before that. But meeting with Jimmy Gitonga (former iHub Hypemaster) and Nekesa “It’s handled” Were who had both been working here for a while, I was convinced that it must be a cool place to work.

And it has been one exciting journey.

Working with individual iHub members and seeing them grow has particularly been exciting. This heartwarming list includes Jackie and Ondieki of Kleva Solutions who met in the space and have since built a payments solutions business that employs 6 developers, Cynthia who built Ujirani App within her first couple of months at the iHub, has already launched it and is incubated at the Nailab. Ian who builds beautiful functional mobile apps in just 2 days, Kenneth, who runs an international startup and has recently qualified to be one of 5 GDEs (Google Developer Experts) in Africa. Startups like Card Planet; first Kenyan startup to be accepted into Silicon Valley accelerator 500 Startups, and Kidogo ECD that has since received investment and proceeded for incubation at m:lab East Africa, and Twiga Fruits, first African startup to win the overall 1776 Startup Challenge Cup in Washington DC. I have seen real exciting growth.

I have seen more engagement online and offline.

Offline with our current Green and Red Members braving life away from their laptops and engaging more with each other, hanging out together at the iHub for BYOB Friday, and forming impromptu (karaoke) bands together, then coming together and working on startup projects together.

I have seen our social media following grow from 42K to 82.9K today. Increased engagement, courtesy of a kick-ass team.  I have seen the launch and constant improvement of our community portal courtesy of our amazing web team, which has seen iHub take the online engagement of its global community to the next level.

Personal growth

I have had the chance to travel to conferences across the world and speak on behalf of the iHub about the Kenyan tech ecosystem.

I was challenged to start a tech blog, did that despite feeling very un-qualified at the time, and I have found my space in writing about tech.

The 5 year tech bash was a feat in mobilization and the sheer logistics of planning that party required us to become giants overnight. And step up we did. I was involved in coordinating online communication for the bash. This involved putting up content on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and Youtube as well as coordinating the 3 step release of 3000 tickets on Eventbrite. Convening Nairobi’s biggest tech bash and having everyone in one place reaffirmed for me the importance of the work that the iHub does and how critical the tech community in Kenya is for the country’s economic growth. I learnt by interacting with many of you, that to sustain an industry as vibrant as ours, community and collaboration are key. I will carry this lesson with me, always.

I have seen some things go wrong and made some decisions where hindsight swiftly kicked me in the behind. But I’ve seen a lot of things go great! I’ve had a lot of achievements. And many times just stood in awe of my teammates, because the team at iHub is made up of rockstars.

iHub is truly the nexus.

While at the iHub, I have met people I never thought I’d have an opportunity to meet so easily and effortlessly. From Ban Ki Moon, UN Sec Gen, Joi Ito, MIT Media Lab Director to founders of well known global companies, and African Government officials for ICT, to young genius men and women resident at or visiting the iHub.

I have been mentored, advised, and supported by some amazing people including Erik, Juliana, Jimmy and Nekesa who by constantly interacting with, have made me step up my game. Awesome Ninjas like Scott, Mutheu, and Dennis taught me that your next big idea can come from anywhere.

I can say with confidence that if iHub’s resident members are anything to go by, Kenya’s tech community will continue to dazzle the world with endless big innovations. I am inspired everyday by the go-getter attitude here and I will hold the iHub resident members close to my heart.

As I move on to the next chapter of my life, I can only stand in gratitude for what iHub has done for me, and confidence that my vision for the community, seeing them turn their innovations into sustainable, scalable businesses, will be achieved.

Why can no one take a decent “selfie” of me?

Definition: “A selfie is a photo of oneself take by oneself.

In this article, we shall expand the word “selfie” (in quotes) to also include casual photos of oneself not necessarily taken by oneself using a phone camera.

Let us go ahead and exclude professional photographers the caliber of @Truthslinger and @WhiteAfrican from this definition

Now I love photos. Offer me photos of myself when I’m looking halfway decent and we have a deal.
And I love taking photos. I am the one forever taking “selfies” of my friends and they go “niiiice”, then when it’s my turn we do 1 blurry, 1 dark, 1 where I am too far and 1 just plain weird before I give up and take an actual selfie!

So for public service purposes, here are some tips.

Fundamentals of taking a good photo

Composition

Take a photo of something, not of everything. Let’s say you are at a friend’s wedding. Do not try to document everyone who attended in one photo! Not only will you not succeed, this will  also not make for a good photo. Focus on specific things, each photo  should tell a story.

Focus

Focus on something. Photo Credit – @HerGeekyness

 

Rule of thirds

Not everything has to be smack in the middle of  your photo. For awesome photos, employ the rule of thirds. This is where you divide your photo into 3 and place your subject into either the left 1/3 or the right 1/3 of your screen.

Rule of Thirds-2-1024x682

Rule of thirds. Photo credit -@Watumutiz

 

Focus!

Here is the sequence. Aim – focus – shoot. That sequence does not change and is not interchangeable.
It’s amazing how many people do not focus before pressing the shutter. When you aim at your subject, the most phone cameras nowadays will start to focus. Let it! Typically it will be shown by square brackets or a square that will turn green once it has achieved focus. At this point, shoot! After you have shot, hold the phone still for at least 3 seconds (or until you see the photo in the gallery preview) and say goodbye to blurry photos forever ☺

To flash or not to flash (lighting is key)

Most of us acknowledge a Higher Power, who is responsible for nature. The Greatest Artist so to say. It then follows that when you do take a good photo, it should look natural. I’m all for taking out the spots and zits and making faces all sophisticated. But it should look like you.

If your are taking a mirror shot, or a glass shot, turn off your flash (see below)

Glass pic - thou shalt know when to turn off the flash. Photo credit - @Watumutiz

Glass pic – thou shalt know when to turn off the flash. Photo credit – @Watumutiz

 

The photo should be bright, and of good quality when you take it. I never fail to be amazed at people who bring dark, grainy, or blurred photos and ask me to Photoshop it and make it all better. Here’s a newsflash,  (pun intended) the photo needs to be good quality (read high resolution. We are professionals, not miracle workers 😉

Now thee forth and take decent selfies.

-her royal geekyness-

Emoji Discrimination?

image from Yahoo!

image from Yahoo!

If you are an avid texter/IM-er then emoji and smileys are your friend. Then no doubt you have noticed how discriminative most popular IM apps (WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook messenger, Hangouts) are to Africans, especially African woman. Right?

A number of very important emoticons for Any African woman (or man) to express herself are conspicuously missing from the IM apps.

  • Hands on hips  – any self-respecting African Woman, ahem, metro man or really macho man needs this emoticon. This is the ultimate expression of indignation.
  • NKT!  – We all need this one, duh! It is the proper African way of expressing annoyance. No matter how much you like the person you are chatting with, they are bound to annoy you at some point. At this point quickly put in your African click  – NKT!
  • Mscheeew! – Your traditional African sneer right there. It comes accompanied by the appropriate facial expression. This is necessary when you hear something so nonsensical there is no other way to express it.
  • African sassy head shake (not to be confused with the Indian shaking of the head yes. Or just generally shaking their head, LOL)

And the list goes on. Feel free to add more missing emoticons in the comments section.

Excited to learn of the messaging app Telegram which was thrust into the limelight by the acquisition of WhatsApp by the NSA, oops, Facebook. (My bad. You’ve all heard the rumors) And just to give us a taste of what’s coming, we had a couple of hours down time on Saturday 28th Feb. (Things is gonna be different), after someone has spent USD 19B on an app (you know, just USD 7B above Kenya’s entire budget!) nobody expects that’s its going be business as usual.

So Dear Devs

We look to you to work to create plugins for emoji that will capture our imaginations and our hearts and make us feel right at home. We fully expect you will work with UX/UI designers to give it that real authentic feel.  A couple of stern matriarch emoji are necessary to keep everyone online in line.

Let me know.

-her royal geekyness-

Is it cloudy yet? (Adobe Creative Cloud)

image from adobe.com

image from adobe.com

So if you are a visual artist who does it commercially you probably use the Adobe Suite of products. Illustrator (I’m a vectors girl), Photoshop, InDesign, Premiere, the works

A few of us have bought a copy of CS6 (or are using a corporate licence courtesy of their employer).  Based on a statistic that Photoshop CS5.1 is the no. 2 most pirated software I am willing to bet that quite a few people out there are using a cracked copy. That’s right, I used the C word.

In our defence, some of us might have USD 3000. But it’s not for buying software! The rest of us do not have USD 3000. Yet.

So armed with those solid justifications, we comfortably use our alternatively sourced CS6.

 

Enter Adobe Creative cloud.

Ahem

So it’s 50 dollars monthly.

First time I heard that I went, 50 dollars EVERY month? Why??

Granted I as an individual have been having challenges considering software as a tool of my trade. Many artists I know are perfectly happy to spend at least USD 1100 or much more on a MacBook Air, software is a whole other story.

Someone I look up to pointed it out to me that it was not USD 50 compared to nothing, it was compared to USD 3000! (He said a few other things about loving freebies but let’s not go into details) Now that got me thinking.

He then further challenged me by asking me how much I am worth hourly as a designer. I did the math and came to USD 40 hourly. “So what you are saying is that you need to work for 1 hour, 15 minutes, to pay your monthly fee for the cloud?” Aha!

When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound too bad.

So I decided to have a chat with someone who is already using creative cloud – our video and photography guru and find out why anyone would want to pay 50 good ones every month to use software on a cloud.

  • First of all, updates are instant. You don’t have to wait for cs7 to be released for the new features and bug fixes to be done. It’s instant. (Well you know how annoying bugs are). And you don’t have to buy that. It’s a free update.
  • Secondly it’s light on your hardware resources. The whole suite is available to you but you only download what you use. So this guy downloaded Photoshop, InDesign and Premier. While I the vectors girl; can download Illustrator, and Fireworks J
  • Thirdly, You have access to the cloud. Your work will not only be safe and portable, but if you get the team or enterprise package, you can easily collaborate due to the central access
  • To crown it all you will have the peace of mind to know that you are using a legally acquired suite of excellent software (his words, not mine)

So I throw it to you

  • Should you as a visual artist (not) pay for the tools of your trade?
  • Is USD 50 monthly a reasonable amount to expect from a freelancer?
  • Has the time come for us as a community to abandon the culture of “alternative sourcing of software”?

 

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

-her royal geekyness-

From “Just Geeky” to Savvy Entreprenuer

image from www.thefilmthugs.com

image from www.thefilmthugs.com

Your traditional image of a geek overlays comfortably with that of the mad scientist.
Hair unkempt, shabbily groomed, largely introverted and ill at ease in social situations prefers to sit and work away from everyone else, mostly in their bedroom at home. And of course, the compulsory geek glasses.

Your traditional geek (who we shall call Geek. Let’s allow Geek to be a he) is extremely intelligent, comes up with brilliant innovations and products. However, (s) he is largely lacking in social skills, has no idea how to pitch his/her product to a potential investor or partner. Geek has no clue on how to make his product attractive to a client, and is at a loss on how to begin letting people ‘out there’ know that it exists!

Because Geek is brilliant at what he does, he assumes that the market will just gratefully receive his app or e-platform, what with it being the perfect solution to the problems he identified. And tends to get rather easily disillusioned when the client critiques his ‘baby’.

So one day, through referrals, Geek lands his first big client. The down payment is larger than any amount of money he has ever received before! Yes!!! It’s time for Geek to go shopping! It’s time he upgraded from this tired, old computer anyway! A new high-performance smartphone is also necessary. After all, these are the tools of his trade. Connectivity, no?
To Geek’s rude shock, within 3 weeks, (2 weeks before he is done customizing the app for his client), his bank account balance is alarmingly low! Now he has to trudge on with this job, with hardly any of the comfort the down payment was meant to guarantee. Bummer! And who knows when another deal will be closed?

The iHub Jumpstart Series, whose maiden unconference took place on the 4th and 5th September at the iHub, is the answer to Geek’s dilemma.

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

iHub Hypemaster @Afrowave

Conceptualized and by Jimmy Gitonga (@afrowave), Jumpstart consisted of eight sessions in total (4 on each day) that were unconventionally facilitated by an expert and a start-up. They were tailored to address Geek’s questions.

• How do I manage my finances?
• How do I protect my idea?
• How do I go about ideation and testing my prototype?
• How do I brand myself and my product?
• How do I pitch to an investor/partner?
• How do I incorporate a company, and register a business/product name?
• Which business model would work for me?
• Where do I get funding?

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

Bootstrapping 101 with @TheMacharia

The expert addressed the how-to, while the start-up gave their experience on the topic, including challenges and how they overcame them. The participants engaged the speakers in vibrant debates, sometimes having to stop on account of time.

The Branding session by Fadi (@fadzter) of @ARKnative is the expert session that stood out to yours truly. Simple. Clear. I understood not only what a brand is, but I felt I could verbalize the whole vague concept that is branding.

The start-up session that I enjoyed the most was Macharia’s (@TheMacharia) bootstrapping session. A candid poignant narration of his PesaTalk experience.

The iHub jumpstart series shall be a quarterly affair with the next one expected in December.

~Her Royal Geekiness~