Graduate Spotlight: Amen Gemeda – From medicine to computer science: A story of passion and innovation

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“Imagine starting a prestigious course like Medicine, not because it was your passion, but simply because you had a full scholarship opportunity. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me in Ethiopia, just after I completed my secondary school education. I embarked on a seven-month journey in the medical field, but deep down, I knew it wasn’t my true calling. The thought of relying on others for job offers didn’t sit well with me, and I yearned for something more. ( Hint; I love/d maths but I didn’t exactly know what courses I could do.) 

Little did I know that my true love was waiting for me in the world of mathematics. It all started when I stumbled upon # SU advertisement on YouTube, for a math contest offering a scholarship. Without a second thought, I clicked on it and applied. It was a chance to escape the path I had reluctantly taken in medicine. To my surprise, I was accepted, and the contest was held at Radisson Blu.

Leaving behind the vast potential of a medical career puzzled many, including my parents. But they had instilled in me the importance of doing things out of love rather than obligation. With their support, I convinced them to allow me to pursue Computer Science in Strathmore University, Kenya, a field that aligned with my passion for math.

Arriving at the University, my first experience was nothing short of a culture shock. The transition from medicine to computer science left me bewildered in my initial classes. I felt like a fish out of water, struggling to comprehend the fundamental concepts that others seemed to grasp effortlessly.  I remember the first class of fundamental to computer, where I felt lost as everyone confidently raised their hands. Honestly speaking, I had a steep learning curve. I wasn’t one to back down from a challenge. I was determined to rise to the challenge and determined to catch up, I immersed myself in my studies and embraced the opportunity to learn something entirely new.

The shock didn’t end in the classroom. I vividly remember my first encounter with Ugali, a traditional Kenyan dish. Mistaking it for a similar dish from my home country, I added salt to it, much to the amusement of everyone around the dining table. It was a humbling experience, but it was also the start of my journey towards embracing a new culture.

The pandemic unexpectedly hit, forcing everyone to retreat to their homes. However, for me, it felt like a paradise. I remained in the university hostel, providing me with ample time to enroll in online courses in Coursera and expand my knowledge in areas like machine learning and mathematics. It was a silver lining in an otherwise challenging time.

As the time went by, I began to find my footing. Hybrid classes allowed me to apply the knowledge I had acquired, and I excelled in my studies.Together with my friend Jafer, we pushed boundaries and introduced QR codes to the university, revolutionizing student identification and feedback. Oir innovation didn’t stop there. We developed a mobile app that streamlined access to schools, eliminating the need for physical ID cards, and even tracked Covid-19 data by capturing screening responses and temperatures. We were making an impact through technology.

Academic achievements continued to come my way. I co-authored and published my first research paper in IEEE, presenting an IoT-based web application for tracking and managing COVID-19-related data. The paper was showcased at the IST-Africa 2022 Conference and later published in IEEE journal.

The entrepreneurial spirit took hold, and I found myself co-founding two startups. Carata, a delivery company, connected customers with their desired products through our innovative app. Fotabyte, a software development company, created the Alumni gift shop platform. These ventures allowed us to showcase our skills, challenge ourselves, and make a difference in the world of technology.

The Strathmore experience went beyond personal growth and innovation. It was about building connections and giving back. Engaging with the vibrant Silicon Savannah community, I mentored passionate students and fostered a supportive ecosystem for those dreaming of a career in data and big tech companies. Together, we aimed to make a lasting impact.The recognition for our innovative contributions grew as we won a competition organised by Microsoft. Our efforts were acknowledged, and we were awarded free vouchers while also being invited as guests to the launch of a new office in Kenya.

After my third year of studies,  I embarked on a transformative Work-Based Learning journey at the Prime Minister’s Office in Ethiopia. Under the National ID Ethiopia program, I gained invaluable experience and contributed to a project similar to the Huduma number system. It was an enlightening experience, allowing me to combine my skills and knowledge to serve the community.

Outside of academia, I discovered the power of laughter and the ability to find humor in everyday situations. IT-related jokes became a source of joy for me, they still are… and I never missed an opportunity to share a good laugh with my friends.

As I await to have my degree and graduation certificate, aka my #DegreeKwaMfuko, I reflect  my time at Strathmore with a sense of gratitude. The university has transformed me from a boy with uncertain aspirations to a confident young man ready to make an impact on the world. From using ” a magic card”  during meals time, – (scanning my staff card for meals) to the interactions with the Strathmore community, every aspect has shaped me into who I am today.

While I’ll miss the familiarity of being a student at #Strathmore, I’m excited about the future that lies ahead. Germany awaits me, where I have been offered a position as a software engineer at Amazon. It’s an opportunity to put my skills to use on a global scale, but my ultimate goal remains anchored in the world.

After gaining valuable experience at companies like Amazon, I plan to return to Ethiopia and focus on making an impact in the field of data science. I want to leverage my knowledge to bring positive change and contribute to the development of my nation. It’s not about the money; it’s about leaving a lasting legacy.

Looking back, I realize that true greatness lies in being exceptional at one thing rather than being average in everything. My dedication to becoming the best in my chosen field will shape my path and ensure that I leave a mark on the world.

As I bid farewell to Strathmore University, I carry with me the memories, the friendships, and the invaluable lessons that have shaped my journey. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunities that have come my way and the unwavering support of my loved ones.

So here’s to new beginnings, to embracing challenges, and to making a difference in the world—one algorithm, one innovation, and one laughter at a time. The adventure continues, and I’m ready to seize it with all the passion and determination in my heart.”

PS: Remember that your journey  is unique, and it’s never too late to embark on a new adventure. Embrace the challenges, seize the opportunities and always stay true to yourself. Let your passion light the way! 

Wishing you all the best in your own extraordinary journey.

This article was written by Rachael Wangui Wanjohi, a fourth year Communications student.

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu

What’s your story? We’d like to hear it. Contact us via communications@strathmore.edu

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