Our 2022 Hackathon 🚀 | The College Opt-Out: Journey from Silicon Valley to Rwanda
Guest post by Mohammud Hassan
👋🏾 Salaam, we are Somalis in Tech and welcome to our monthly newsletter. Each month we’ll bring you the latest from the community, tech news and a community Q&A.
Somalis in Tech’s Virtual Hackathon: Fintech for Good
October 29th - Short Intro Session
November 4th, 5th & 6th - Hackathon
Ku soo dhawaada (welcome). We’d like to invite you to join us for our third annual Somalis in Tech Hackathon. The Hackathon will be an opportunity to put your skills and expertise to work in a fun, inclusive and collaborative environment.
FinTech for Good seeks to break down barriers and demystify money. Whether it’s promoting financial literacy, or catering to an otherwise underserved market.
We’ll provide your team with some problem statements, a slack channel and a Notion workspace so you can focus on building.
Our Hackathon aims to:
Connect the community 🤝
Develop innovative solutions 💡
Make a difference 🌍
Bring your creativity and ingenuity to what will be an exciting weekend! No contribution is too small and you’ll be part of a multidisciplinary team. If you’d like to know more visit our hackathon page.
For applications click the link below.👇🏾
🗓 Save the date
This year, Somalis in Tech is working with Kayd, to chair an event at UK Somali Week. Details about the event and ticket information are shared below. We look forward to seeing you there!
The Evolution of the Somali Diaspora in Tech 🐪
🗓 Tuesday 25th October
📍Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London E2 6HG
⏰ 6 pm BST
📢 Join our volunteer network
Somalis in Tech is excited to announce the launch of our SIT volunteer network, many of you have reached out to ask how you can get involved to help the community so we've created a channel #sit-volunteer-network where we will post opportunities to help on an ongoing basis, these opportunities can range from supporting us with our SIT digital products e.g. mentoring service or helping out with our in-person events, the opportunities are many!
It’s a chance for you to:
🌱 Help your community
🎒 Learn valuable skills
💪🏾 Build your network and CV
The College Opt-Out: Journey from Silicon Valley to Rwanda
My name is Mohammud and I want to share some insights from my non-traditional way of breaking into tech and the transition from working in Silicon Valley to Rwanda.
How I Broke into Tech
I moved to Silicon Valley originally for school and eventually went on to start my career in marketing/growth. In lieu of formal education, I structured my learning in a way where each year I would do a deep dive into topics that were both interesting to me and were in demand. Once I felt comfortable on the theoretical side, I would switch to practical work to hone my new skills. For growth, the process was learning how to do customer acquisition and then working with small businesses and startups.
After a few years in the agency world, I transitioned to managing growth at startups and the accumulation of skills ranging from analytics, sales and product strategy led me to my most recent role as a Product Manager at a talent marketplace startup in San Francisco. After 2 years and being involved in almost every part of the company, I quit and moved to Rwanda.
Why did you move to Rwanda?
“You’re Somali! Why don’t you go build back home if you’re going to be in Africa?”
After gaining a few years of experience in the Bay Area, I yearned for a different type of experience. I spent about a quarter of my life in Africa and consider it home away from home. The continent will also have the biggest workforce in the world in the next couple of decades. For now, I’m consulting with some promising startups and firms to identify what the pain points are and I plan to launch products and services that can help companies grow exponentially.
My default answer is that the choice was a process of deduction. I knew I wanted to move to Africa so I spent months researching options such as South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and even back home. I went with Rwanda first because it has the infrastructure and stability needed to build startups. I’ve heard it referred to as a “proof of concept” country where you can easily build tech companies before expanding to other countries in the region.
This is something I am really passionate about and I know there are many that are interested in the concept that I call the “Great Return”. Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested.
With that, there are four pieces of advice that have tremendously helped me in my career. The info below is dependent on where you are in your career so I’ll keep it short and potentially dive deeper based on what the community finds most helpful.
Find your interests
I know it sounds cliché but the best thing you can do for your career is to find something you enjoy doing. If you’re early in your career you have a blank canvas and can take your career in any direction. With so many online resources I think the main thing our generation struggles with is choosing one path and focusing. I still struggle with this but I’ve noticed the more I focus on one topic, the more the skill compounds. This isn’t an innovative concept but here’s the sign you’re waiting for to help you stay laser-focused on that one skill set you want to develop. One resource that might be helpful is the Permissionless Apprentice course by Jack Butcher. It’s $ 1 USD and will help you navigate the process of taking your new skills and gaining real-world experience.
I found my interests by reaching out to a network of people from different backgrounds and picked their brains on what they do for a living on a day-to-day basis. From that, I was able to eliminate a few career path options. I finally met a B2B marketer and fell in love with the combination of analytics and creativity. The Breaking into Startups podcast was also invaluable because it did a great job highlighting potential career paths. This PDF they created helped provide context on different tech roles, salary expectations and responsibilities.
Regardless of all the factors of your journey into tech, the one common variable is how much effort you put in. There will be long days and nights that will morph into seasons and eventually years. Effort compounds regardless of how long it takes for you to figure it out. But remember to grind in an impactful manner. Naval has a great framework to use when thinking about how to approach tech labour: “Work like a lion”.
Once I finally broke into tech with my first big role, I was relentless when it came to execution. I built a brand around doing whatever it took to deliver. This was a critical part of being offered the opportunity to move to the product team.
Pause and Reassess
Ok, now you’re the team’s all-star. Hard work met dedication and you should be ecstatic that you figured it out but something feels off. It might be a lack of fulfilment or it could be survivor’s guilt. Or it could be the Somali urge to say “let me drive the boat” and start something of your own.
With the way the startup system works, you’re bombarded with work and you start to drift away from your goals and ambition. I feel this is the perfect time to revisit your intentions and take a break. This could be in the form of a vacation or sabbatical based on what you’re comfortable with. I took the extreme route and outright quit after giving a 1 month's notice but regardless, you have to be your biggest fan, critic and advisor.
To the Qurbajoog (Diaspora):
Take a long look at where you are now in your career/school. Are you being intentional with what you want to achieve? In many of our societies, it’s easy to get tied up in the lifestyle but remember you can always break out of any rut if you focus on yourself and not the acknowledgement from others.
Always be intentional.
Be intentional with everything that you do & watch how your life changes exponentially.
Without intention, your NO’s can feel powerless - so you’ll end up saying YES to everything.
But when you add intention to your NO’s, you will never be manipulated.
To my brothers and sisters on the continent:
I know folks from the west do a great job at glamorizing the lifestyle on social media but you have to realize that the tables are turning, quickly. As you all know, people like myself and many others are starting the Great Return. You are already there and have the opportunity to gain experience so by the time major corporations and tech companies make the move to Africa, you’re in a strategic position to leapfrog into opportunities.
That’s all I have for now! I hope you extracted some form of value from this. I plan to expand on a few of these ideas. If you’re interested, subscribe to my new Substack called the Rafiki Labs Report to follow the journey and hear stories from other builders in Africa. My parting piece of advice comes from a philosopher of our time Nipsey Hussle: “Regardless what you’re into, regardless what you been through,
I feel like I got to tell you you got something to contribute”.
For more, you can follow Mohammud on Twitter and LinkedIn
Ari jir ma kala abaal weydo
— Sheep Herders tend to help each other,
(People in the same domain/profession ought to support one another)
via Mohamed Noor