'Establish your career first before going after money'

Daniel Mainye is an accomplished software engineer and an expert in the digital space and technology. He is the Business Manager at Cytonn Investments and vice curator in Global Shapers, a world Forum Initiative mandated with shaping Nairobi into an attractive investment destination and residential environment. He also serves as an advisory council member in the Presidential Digital Talent Programme and executive committee member of the Africa Rising Initiative.

When did the presidential digital talent program start and what is it all about?

When I started working at Seven Seas, it faced difficulties recruiting graduates who could apply the knowledge they had learnt in class.

Not long ago, I had faced the same challenges as these recruits. Most of my studied computer science lectures at the university were theoretical hence; I had faced challenges when transitioning into the job market.

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My employer saw the need to train graduates and even students in learning institutions on how they could become more marketable for the job market. This background made me a suitable candidate to spearhead the presidential digital talent programme.

The ICT Authority realised that for the project to succeed, they (needed) the private sector on board. Government services had gained a reputation of being the slowest and a technology update was going to be a big game changer.

Some of the partners involved included representatives of the Microsoft, SAP skills for Africa program, Google, Oracle, Techno Brain, Dell and Seven Seas who would take in students and run them through their programs before the government absorbed them. The fourth cohort was launched two weeks ago

What are the requirements for students joining the programme?

The potential candidate must have an IT background. They are then taken through a series of vigorous interviews just to determine the best candidates for the one-year internship programme.

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Our first intake received at least 5,000 applications that was narrowed down to a cohort of 100 that included members from marginalised societies from across the country.

The program was divided into two. First, the recruits were first given a month of induction to acquaint them with the ministries they would eventually serve. After that, they were placed in the private sector for three months to also learn its workings.

Part of the programme entailed the students learning about the private sector and implementing (the lessons) in government.

What are some of the challenges facing this initiative?

I remember that 14 recruits from the first cohort fell to the temptation of being employed in jobs that offered more than the Sh20,000 stipend we were offering. As a result, they dropped off before the before the programme was complete.

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Instead of focusing on career, some students focus on money, which I believe, lays the wrong foundation. I think one should establish their career first and gain experience before obsessing over money.

Some would get slight monetary increments and disappear from an opportunity of mentorship from leading decision makers of great companies and certificates of participation.

The other challenge is entitlement. Most youth today want their dream at minimal cost and sweat. In the past, things were different and graduates had the chance to be employed in some of the top organisations based on their intelligence. Presently, with the many educated graduates in the market, one has to prove that they are marketable.

The last challenge was trying to make the students understand the skills gap that is there in the ICT job market. We cannot blame the universities for it as they are there to impart knowledge and not to give skills.

It takes at least two years of training before the graduate can successfully be entrusted with company programs to handle. The first year is usually trial and error. Cytonn, for instance,  have a vigorous three months internship before the recruit can be entrusted to handle small programs that wouldn’t affect the entire system.

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What are some of the successes of the programme?

We managed to increase the numbers from 100 to 400 in the second intake and the government absorbed 30 of those students. Some of the students have also become entrepreneurs. Despite the fact that some are still unemployed, the skills we imparted in them will open any door they require in the market. The programme gave each one of them a feel of how the broad IT market works and gave them an opportunity to choose the area they feel comfortable to work in.

What is the relevance of ICT in the development of the country?

Technology is an enabler, not the solution. The solution lies in so many things like government policies (and) bringing investors to the table. Technology is an enabler that can ensure that kids have better education, connecting farmers to the markets and opening up nations.

What is your advice to firms employing tech savvy millennials?

I would tell them to adapt. Millennials are very creative but they also need space. You have to trust them and stop questioning their every move. You also need to pay them well because some employers tend to milk them and underpay them at the same time. They also need motivation when they do well in the company.

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Cytonn InvestmentsGlobal Shapersinvestment destinationNairobi