Wesley Kambale
Wesley Kambale

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Wesley Kambale

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The Highs and Lows of 2022

The Highs and Lows of 2022

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Wesley Kambale
·Jan 3, 2023·

12 min read

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Hey there! I'm using Hashnode.

Well, I didn't write anything in 2022. I have about 4 drafts, and unless they are to back up my good deeds on Judgment day, they will never see the light of day. So allow me to talk about what actually happened in 2022.

January

Wait, wait, wait, hold on, back up, back up! It all starts in December 2021. On December 17, 2021, I handed in my undergrad dissertation as the final requirement for a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science from Mbarara University. I was free to now pursue my passion for tech community building outside the university setting.

I applied for a GDG Cloud community in Mbarara to back up the old and existing GDG Mbarara community and bring back the vibrance of the young, but steadily growing community in western Uganda. I envy Kampala, so, this was my attempt at getting back at them. What is good for the goose is good for the gander, so they say.

Her Highness Kolokodess (Princess Ada of She Code Africa, and our Community Manager in charge of the GDG program in sub-Saharan Africa at Google) went backpacking before I could do an interview with her.

On January 21, 2022, I had an interview with Ada. It was a friendly and lively one. She realized I had previously been part of the Google Developer Student Clubs program with Uncle Auwal, the Jollof blackbelt master. And I had told Auwal I was gonna apply to the GDG program. This made it easy for us to conduct the interview, which was really a conversation about how I was gonna run things.

On January 24, 2022, I got that email, and violà, I was the Organizer of the newest baby in SSA, GDG Cloud Mbarara. I was overjoyed but also reserved, knowing there was a lot of work to be done. But I had chosen a great Co-Organizer, my buddy, Andrew Okello who had served with me as the GDSC Co-Lead at Mbarara University. Auwal texted me on WhatsApp quoting the message in which I had assured him I would get into the GDG program.

I also managed to get on a project under the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at Makerere University. I was to handle data collection and develop a machine-learning model to monitor environmental degradation and restoration in the R. Rwizi basin. I was joining hands with Moses Eteku, a colleague and founder at Shamos Tech Solutions.

February

February is to some a month of love, believe me, I forgot about Valentine's day and I was not even mad at myself. I was busy preparing and planning for the maiden event for our new community. There was no need for an Info Session. We kicked off with "Getting Started With Google Cloud" facilitated by Benjamin Otim, the DevOps and Cloud enthusiast I know in Mbarara. We got 33 attendees. This was huge for us because the community isn't as big as people would assume. We promised to build on this and do better.

Meanwhile, the data collection drive for the Makerere project (as we came to fondly call it) was on and I had my boys put on gumboots and take an exhausting tour of Mbarara to capture close to 8,000 images of key features identified to act as params for the model.

March

The month of women, yes. In the Google Developer program corridors, March is a month to celebrate our women for the immense work they do in the tech industry. So, naturally, at GDG Cloud Mbarara (with an absence of a Women Techmakers community) we had to organize for IWD (International Women's Day) Mbarara 2022. Now, one of the things I have to deal with in the few years of building tech communities is women.

Mbarara having a sizeable tech community means there are countable ladies involved and interested in the activities of the community. Most, through reading for tech-related programs at university, do not follow up on tech as a career and passion. One or two stick around. Inevitably, IWD Mbarara 2022 was a bit of a disaster. We got about 15 attendees. But that's not what one would expect. I had convinced Madam Nuriat (as we often call her) of CAMTech Uganda to be our guest speaker to share her wide experience as a successful woman in tech.

Meanwhile, my former GDSC Lead counterpart, Tabitha Namwone, had eaten her transport money (pun) and couldn't travel to Mbarara. She spoke to us virtually. But I think the ladies loved her presentation. She has great presentation skills for a little Mugisu (as she famously calls herself on Twitter). Can we get done with March? Don't wanna relive that dreaded month. But Tabitha has promised me she will take a bombardier to Mbarara for IWD Mbarara 2023, so, buckle up. We gonna be in the presence of Mt. Elgon's greatness.

Luckily for me, I transitioned from the Rotaract Club of Mbarara University to the Rotaract Club of Mbarara City to help me continue offering Service Above Self. I was received by Rtn. Edward Lukyamuzi aka Professor Omuto.

I also got the chance to prove that in another world, I could have been Uganda's other Joshua Cheptegei when I participated in the Rotary Club of Mbarara's Safe Motherhood Run to collect funds for the maternity ward at Mbarara Referral Hospital.

April

The reason why the first day of that month is Fool's day is that nothing really ever gets done in that month. You sleep for two hours and it's Good Friday, then go out to buy milk and return after three days (like Jesus Christ of Nazareth) drenched in alcohol and dirty from the spoils of that short holiday.

PS: Dear employers, no employee should ever lie to you that they have any meaningful KPI in April. They lie.

May

The DevRel team, both SSA and Global, were raining I/O and I/O Extended emails but I was not one to listen to any of that. May was the month the Lord had made. I was graduating from university, y'all. I was excited. Due to the ruins of COVID-19, we had not been able to get our official transcripts before graduation like it was before. The only way to get one was to attend the bloody and boring ceremony of being told you are officially unemployed.

I put up I/O Extended Mbarara 2022 on the event platform and let it ride out for itself. It was one of those events I wasn't going to put so much effort into. Plus, the community had been growing and anticipating these events. Tenting the tent (ideally sitting in the Graduands' tent) was the main focus. My dad had ensured throughout all my years of studying that I achieve just this one thing for him: Graduate. In our humble backgrounds, this means everything to the parents and the community (at least not the one supposed to hire you).

On May 28, at the Kihumuro main campus, I was conferred the degree of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Mbarara University. I could later look at my parents, siblings, and friends all happy and sharing in the moment of this milestone. But it never lasts, does it? Because May is just hoping whether the year may or may not be kind to you. So, let's see what happens next, shall we?

June

Having brushed off the numerous emails and lagging on the marketing and general preparation of I/O Extended Mbarara 2023, I swang into action and got a list of 11 speakers with Auwal giving us the keynote speech and having Jochen, the Cloud GDE from Mauritius, take us through latest cloud developments at Google and how techies can jump right in.

We managed to have more than 50 attendees both physically and virtually and it was a great experience for us. But remember I told you that the women in tech in Mbarara are a pearl and rare to come by? Yes, we had only one lady attend physically and two joining virtually. It was mindblowing. It was the "if you don't gerrritt, forget about it" moment. But I knew why and was laying down strategies to change the status quo.

July

In African tradition, and largely due to the weather partners in SSA in July, it's the cursed month. It's generally dry. Nothing much you can do. There's hunger everywhere, all you ever eat is the dust off the incomparably hot season. Why did I even mention this month? Oh, wait! In another world that gets me close to the community, July is the first month of the Rotary year. Under the Imagine Rotary theme of RI President Jennifer Jones, I serve as the Service Projects Chair of the Rotaract Club of Mbarara City.

August

August, just like its predecessor, has nothing much to offer. That's it.

September

It's a new Rotary year and we have to imagine what Rotary can do to improve the lives of people in our community, what do we do? We head to Omungari village in Kazo district, the home district of our current D9215 Governor, Rtn. Peace Taremwa. We did tree planting as part of the Rwamwanja Phase 4 project headed by the Rotaract Club of Bwebajja. Distributed mama kits and held a medical camp at Omungari Health Centre II.

Also, September means that the bells of DevFest are starting to ring within the developer community. We started preparations for DevFest Mbarara 2022 by putting out a call for speakers that later attracted 30 submissions.

October

I started work with Right Click Signs as a Mobile Dev, majorly using Flutter to build mobile applications while consuming internal APIs developed using Laravel. Never truly understand why people still hold on to PHP. It's a sailed boat. Never coming back from the Facebook hype.

Also, preparations for DevFest Mbarara 2022 went into high gear. Had to make sure everything was in place before I got out of the country. Yes, you had that right.

So, as a GDG Organizer, I got the rare opportunity to be invited to the in-person SSA Community Summit 2022 in Nairobi, Kenya fully sponsored by Google. I was running up and down like a restless village cock looking for a passport, a yellow fever card, and a COVID-19 vaccination card.

November

On November 2, I headed to the capital Kampala for my maiden flight to Nairobi on November 3. I had previously been in Nyeri but got into Kenya by road and that was feeling like 20 A.D. This right here was the moment that was going to stick as a memorable one.

November 3, I was off to Entebbe International Airport to catch my 4 PM (EAT) flight that got delayed because we (together with other GDG Organizers in Uganda: Hassan, Marghi, Nicholas, Rawah, and Immaculate) were boarding Kenya Airways which is notoriously known for delayed flights across Africa.

We touched down at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, JKIA, at about 7 PM (EAT) and met with the team from Juba, Lesotho, and South Africa. Kenya being Kenya, we had to wait for one hour to get our "Uber" to the hotel in Westlands, Nairobi.

A picture of Westlands' night view taken from the 10th floor at Golden Tulip Hotel - Westlands, Nairobi while having breakfast, lunch, and supper for November 3 combined.

Meeting the whole team of GDG Organizers, WTM Ambassadors, GDEs, and Googlers from Eastern, Southern, and Central Africa. We had talks from Ada, Auwal, John Kimani, Fannie Ndlovu (the "very good" man), Georgia, Sodiq FM, and many more on both days of the Summit.

Visited the famous Westgate Mall in Nairobi where I played bowling under the Googlers team comprising all Google employees we had at the Summit. And I beat them all hands down. In fact, Allela owes me a branded bag which she betted if I was to beat her. But we later had dinner at CJ's off Koinange Street that evening. So, I can say, I forgave her.

While in Nairobi, we visited the United States University in Africa where GDG Nairobi and its sister communities hosted DevFest Nairobi 2022. One of the biggest on the African continent this year. I largely kept moving around with Robert John, the Machine Learning GDE, known for carrying with him the Arduino Nano RP2040 Connect boards which he uses to deliver his TinyML talk.

Now, while having these memorable times in Nairobi, the pilots of Kenya Airways laid down their tools and all flights were canceled including ours that was supposed to get take off on Sunday, November 6 at 4:30 PM. Sunday reached with all the uncertainties of whether we would go home or remain behind in Kenya as refugees.

Luckily for us, we connected that night on Uganda Airlines and flew back to Uganda: the Pearl of Africa, landing at 1 AM on Monday, November 7 night. The trip to the land of Githeri and Ugali had come to an end. That night I met my long-time friend and sister, Noeline, who works at Entebbe Airport. It had been a long time since I last saw her. Hugging her felt like home again.

But that's not all that happened in November, is it? Nah. Remember DevFest Mbarara was on the horizon. November 19 was around the corner and we did everything to ensure that we made that day a success.

We had secured the Innovation Village as our venue and our partner. Propel was also on board and sending us the incredible Andie Balbina, who I had met in Nairobi. She was flying down to Mbarara, the land of milk and honey. You don't want to wait to know what happened that night.

Hosting the unarguably second biggest DevFest in Uganda, we attracted more than 18 speakers and more than 150 attendees at my maiden DevFest. It was one of the best highlights of the year. Being able to bring down people from Kabale, Ishaka, Kampala, Nairobi, and even Masaka to a tech event in the small city of Mbarara. The dream to get back at Kampala and show the world that it's possible to build a tech community down here was possible and that every potential sponsor, partner, speaker, and attendee, need not fear coming down here and realizing this grand potential. So, thank you to everyone that made it a success.

December

The major highlight of December was attending DevFest Kampala 2022 to network and connect with the city folks and convince them that they should also take a trip west to Mbarara when the right time comes.

Met with some CodeZoners from the CodeZone WhatsApp group where we mentor newbies in tech at DevFest Kampala.

The next day, we had a luncheon with Auwal who was in Uganda for the first time to give keynote speech. The luncheon was to meet all former and current GDSC Leads, GDG Organizers and WTM Ambassadors that are shaping the tech community of Uganda.

To wrap-up December and 2022, I travelled to Bundibugyo in western Uganda, after Fort Portal and Ntoroko to have a natural time with my other family and also attend the wedding of dear cousin, Hanlord, who have grown up with. Was happy to see him become a family man and wish him the very best with his beautiful wife, Juliet.

So, ladies and gentlemen, that was my 2022 with its highs and lows. I can't wait to see what 2023 has in store for me. But there's one way to find out, isn't it? Stay safe. Stay hungry for knowledge and skills. Adios!

 
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