Personal Diary: 5 things MEST taught me besides Tech, Business and Communications

MEST, Friday January 29th 2016

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Six months ago, I got THE NOD! to be an Entrepreneur-in-Training at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology(MEST) with no tech background. Today, I sit in class with young talented Africans, and a team of experienced and brilliant tutors, and challenged to provide solutions to real life problems daily. The journey so far has been awesome. Currently, I code in Ruby and Java languages. My business acumen has been sharply developed and I am a better speaker than before. I have worked on tech cum business projects, built a web app with Rails with the help of my team, built an android app, designed a couple of websites and given numerous presentations. Aside all the world class skills I’ve acquired, I’ve gained a wealth of wisdom and experience worth sharing.

1. Ask for Help
During my early days at MEST, a friend kept telling me, “the answer is always ‘no’ until you ask”, and with an ambitious and aggressive curriculum such as what MEST offers, asking for help seemed like a daunting task for me in my early days. Later, I accepted that I had to first admit I needed help and then be humble enough to ask. Although some of the help I have received is direct and solves the problem upfront, others were hints for me to search deeper. One of our core values of this community is the act of generosity; but I learnt the hard way that even generous people don’t read minds; so I ask for help whenever necessary. I allow other people into my business to help find solutions. I am more open now than ever and ever ready to also offer help.
2. Standards cannot be localized
Mediocrity cannot change the world, it cannot shift destinies, it doesn’t provide lasting solutions and neither does it mend broken things permanently; however, world-class standards do! Inferior products cannot compete with superiors, it will be defeated by its competitors. Build world class solutions even if it is to solve local problems. Be the finest entrepreneur whose products do not only evolve but upgrades himself constantly. Mediocrity is unacceptable.
Optimism is a must
The journey of the entrepreneur is made up of several lessons, detours and unforeseen occurrences. Optimism is key, staying positive keeps your mind and sanity when the going gets tough. Optimism makes you pick up your code again after hours of trying to debug it. Optimism means trying again after several failed attempts with your enthusiasm intact, with the hope of nailing it the next time around. I don’t expect an easy journey, I just know I have to be optimistic to the end.
Take action now
I used to be over analytical and to make a move, I had to be 110% convinced before I could do anything. I have learnt to live life on the edge. That’s how entrepreneurs live. I don’t mean to say they make reckless deals and take un-calculated risks; entrepreneurs take action and try their best to minimize risk. For the most startups I've encountered so far, the process is iterative just like the lean startup methodology counsels. I realized that at the core of wanting to be void of all uncertainty is the fear of failure. The fear of failure eats us up and stops us from realising our potential. As much as possible, I learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences. It doesn’t shield me completely from failure, but most importantly, I’ve learned that it is better to take action now and fail than ignore and regret later.
Geography Matters
Socialization by your environment and the people you interact with occurs daily and is inevitable. The best you can do for yourself is to be strategically positioned in a place of growth and success. I have seen the power of staying in a community of like-minded people. People who believe in the impossible, who challenge your thought pattern, who have the right brains to pick on, who see the best in you, who are willing to learn from you. People in the MEST community challenge you to be better, spur you on to greater heights and inspire you. Talent is evident and empathy is preached. It is the perfect hub to grow as a tech entrepreneur in Africa. MEST presented me with the perfect combination of people I need at this stage of my life to grow. For the very first time, I find myself in a challenging environment where titles do not matter but works and where young adults are passionate about rewriting the story of Africa.
In the end …
My goal is to release a better version of myself each day. I am glad I have the most amazing people and tools to achieve that.