Year In Review 2019

It’s the end of 2019, another year another review of what went down and what went up. To be honest I really don’t want to write this review, I just want to easy into the coming one without the pressure of beating the previous one. Yet I made the promise of writing one each year, so here I am in a restaurant — listening to “ A Time of Wonder” by Alexis Ffrench and ready to list down the highlights of this year.

Work — Changes and More Changes

In April came with new changes and one of the major one was moving away from BongoHive to The ZIG. Joining The ZIG has brought a lot of exciting opportunities — in the last nine months I have been there, I have had the opportunity to work with some incredibly smart and talented people using the very best of technologies and tools to build meaningful products for really large entreprises in the U.S.

Apart from the tech side, there has been alot of opportunities given to help shape the culture of the company at its foundation owing to the fact that we are still a startup and we are still figuring out things as we move along. This means that work is ever dull at any moment — if you top it off with the fact that we are a globally distributed team operating from the US, UK and Zambia.

Another huge opportunities have been around moving from just developing software to managing people after becoming a Senior Software Engineer. To be honest it hasn’t been the easiest of transitions — I have made a lot of mistakes — still making them If I am being honest but I learning to take things slow and rely on the team as much as they rely on me.

One thing that I absolutely like about being at The ZIG, is that Chris ( the Boss) gives us a lot of guidance on how to best go about our work and that he makes us all feel like the company is not just his baby but ours aswell through an initiative we call the CXO — which requires that every person who joins the team is responsible for something beyond their job description— be it helping out with office interior design to managing the internet. The CXO initiative is a living example of the words: “ This is Now Your Company” .

Life — Being Lost for A While & Relearning To Breathe

Part of me wants to skip this part really, yet if I am to write a complete year review I believe this is a cardinal part of it. Last year, I embarked of living honestly meaning that I would be more open about my own struggles with anxiety and depression. In a way I thought that maybe it would go away and I would be better simply cause I spoke openly about it and stuff — well 2019 taught me otherwise.

I went through periods that were I couldn’t find meaning in the very things that I loved like Tech Community work and other things. There were days when waking up was a burden and I would lie in bed just staring at nothing — lost in my own thoughts of inadequecy, self doubt and having disappointed some really important people. Most people didn’t know cause the thing about people like myself is that we are good at putting on masks.

In all this I am thankful to a number of people, who provided the necessary support that made it possible to start finding meaning in things. My friends George, Joe,Taaza, Pendo, Cynthia, Gertie, Elsis, Lontia & Griff have been those people that provided a space where I can share my battles and I am grateful to each one of them this year.

Adventures Around Africa

Accra, Ghana : Icon of Change

August brought a huge surprise, I got invited by Facebook to attend the Icons of Change two day summit in Ghana. The summit was celebrating 40 young people from across Sub Saharan Africa that have made impact in their respective communities as part of the UN’s Youth day. Being at the event made me realize just how far Africa as come in raising a generation of people that are not just standing by — waiting for someone to solve the problems that they have seen in their communities. The level of dedication and passion within each person would make even the highest of doubters about the bright future of continent start to believing and I am grateful to having considered amongst these set of people.

Being in Accra was another reminder of the equalising power of technology — this was evident when we took a trip to Maamobi compound. Here we met some of the most inspiring set of girls. These girls having been learning how to write simple computer programs. Interacting with them you could see that for them, this knowledge gives them the power to dream, to see themselves beyond the walls of compound and a chance to play at the level as the rest of the world. My friend Emmanuel from Developer Circles Lagos, Nigeria captured the feeling of seeing them beautifully when he said that they changed the narrative that was said about the compound when he first heard about it.

In retrospect, Accra was part of series of moments that helped me to recapture the faith that was almost lost in the things that mattered to me and I am thank ful to Chimdindu Aneke for the recognition.

Nairobi,Kenya: Developer Circles Lead Summit & Facebook ID8

Going to Nairobi after while felt like a homecoming for two reasons, first if you know me you would just how much I love that city. Second it was that time of the year when I get to meet my friends at the Lead Summit. It is strange how for people that I only get to see for once or twice in a year, it felt seeing them always like we were just continuing our conversations from the previous day(s). During the summit we heard from the Developer Circles Team about the direction the program was going to take and how we all should be prepared for success in 2020.

After the two day leads summit ended, the last event on the program was the Facebook ID8 conference Nairobi. It was a chance to hear from the Facebook team on what kind of new products and services that developers and entrepreneuers can leverage on. I also did an interview at the conference which you can watch here:

Time Off — Turn of That Phone and See The World

Diani,Kenya: Vacation

I had always wanted to do a personal trip since the end of 2018, and this year I got the chance to do so. I decided to extend my stay in Kenya for a few extra days and headed to the beautiful coastal town of Diani on the East coast of Kenya near the Indian Ocean.

To get to Diani, I had to fly for 54 minutes from Nairobi on Jambo Jet Airlines to Ukunda Airstrip. At first I was quite afraid being on all alone in foreign country but thinking back, it is was necessary that I did this alone. After getting to Ukunda Strip, I got into a Cab and drove to Diani Backpackers, where I would stay for three nights.

The first day of my stay in Diani started with an hour drive to Shimoni, driving through the town you learn that it is a town whose identy is strongly connected with the Ocean. The air, food, activities and all that defines a place spoke of being one with the sea. After a hour of driving we finally got to Shimoni and got the boat for our six hours on the Indian Ocean. We went from Dolphin to having lunch on Wasini Island through those hours but my favorite SCUBA diving.

At first the idea of SCUBA diving was scary but seeing the blue waters of Kisite Mpunguti Marina Park and the fear of not being able to do this again, I went for it. Being under water — well being in the ocean gave me a sense of just how alien the world can be. You see all these creatures fully at home in this world, where the water is salty and blue and yet it is what they call home.

At first I kept panicking, I wanted to breath in my natural way but to survive in this world I had to breathe like these creatures in a way. As we explored the ocean floor you could see brightly colored fish pass by and sea urchins gracefully sitting on the white sand. What mostly struck me was seeing just how most of the coral is dead, it was a realization I couldn’t shake off and it made the rest of the exploration feel like you are walking through a massive grave of coral. I later asked our guide and he said it was from global warming — the coral is quite sensitive to water temperatures.

Overall being in Diani and Kenya itself was a much needed time off away from what I had known, I am grateful to everyone that made sure that I had the time of my life being there.

Community — The Pains of Not Managing Change

For this year, Developer Circles Lusaka grew from 1K to over 2.3K members online officially making the community arguably the biggest and most active online community for Developers in Zambia. This feat is no small thing for us because it reminds that lots of people are attracted to the works that the community is doing. As partof the highlights from the commuity we also had Wilfred Mulenga, Pendo Manjele and Cynthia Mulenga M. represent as at this year’s F8 conference. Cynthia Mulenga M. and Wilfred Mulenga took it up a notch by speaking at the conference and taking part in the hackathon respectively — you guys made us all proud.

In terms of the number of meetups we hosted this year — we hosted eight meetups which mostly comprised of hands-on sessions in Building with technologies like Docker, SMS, USSD and Mobile Money. We also hosted two Women focused meetups; one was our annual Women In Tech Meetup in April which falls in line with the International Womens Day celebrations and the other was an introduction to Web Development — where we taught the basics of web developments. All these are part of our efforts in increasing the number of women taking part in Software Development careers which is still a huge problem.

I wouldn’t be wise not to paint the idea that all was rosy for community this year — for example we saw a significant reduction in the number of events we hosted when compared to last year. We also so decline in the engagement within our online group. Within ourselves a the leads, there was a lack of working as team especially after April. Part of the reason for this disconnect was of the fact that I wasn’t fully there when the team needed me, I was still in my shell that rob me of the joy of doing what was needed, so the community suffered as well.

Looking back, I think this one of the things we need to work on within ourselves — removing the over dependency on the leads for the community to succeed and going we going to have to be deliberate in making sure that we have the right people in place to support us in our duties — people we can mold into being the ones who will carry the responsibility of making sure that Developer Circles Lusaka lives beyond us. This the challenge that I think will define my time leading the community this year and I am glad that there is already a set of people we can call upon.

To me, 2019 was a year where I started exploring things beyond the realms of work. Unlike the previous years — I spent much of time building more of my personal side, I went to more social events than work or tech related ones. I engage more in conversations with people beyond my usual crowd.

Doing so allowed me to have many honest conversations with people and to start working on things that I had broken or sidelined because I was too busy building a career.

In retrospect I am glad that I had people who allowed me to explore that side of myself and this is something that I would like to continue with next year but this time in equal measure with my work side. This is my main wish for 2020 — balance.

Thanks for reading and wishing you a happy new year!

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Mbuyu Makayi

Mbuyu Makayi

Software Engineer at Chipper Cash| ex-Facebook Developer Circle:Lusaka Community Lead | F1 Fan