Thursday, 20 June 2019

PyLadies Night with Isaac Sesi

Isaac Sesi is an entrepreneur, software developer and embedded systems engineer. He is the co-founder of Sesi Technologies, an AgriTech company which develops hardware and software solutions for farmers and agribusinesses in Africa. He has also co-founded 2 other startups in the past; Invent Electronics and GravyCode.

Isaac Sessi


He has a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Isaac is a Tony Elumelu Fellow a Next Einstein Forum finalist and a World Summit Awards National Winner. He was recently selected as one of the 50 most influential young Ghanaians for 2018.

His passion for STEM led him to cofound Nsesa Foundation, a non-profit whose vision is to inspire an Innovation revolution in Africa and get young Africans solving problems using science and technology. Nsesa Foundation's programs have trained hundreds of high school students and have reached over 300,000 people across the world since 2013.

Isaac has had the opportunity to showcase his work to several heads of states including the president and vice president of Ghana, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel and Prince Charles of Wales. In his free time, Isaac writes on entrepreneurship on his blog, isaacsesi.com, hosts The African Entrepreneur Podcast and plays the piano.

From your bio, you have a lot of outstanding achievements. Will you add anymore descriptions?
Err...well outstanding achievements may be a bit overkill. But hey, we are doing our best and trying to make impact. Whatever recognition that comes along the way is only validation of the good work you are doing. So i prefer to focus on the work rather than the fanfare.

When did you decide to go into tech? Was it in Senior High School (SHS), or Junior High School (JHS)? Do you have a sibling in that area of expertise?
Well i have been in tech all my life.   I started destroying radios and stuff very early I built battery powered boats in JHS. I built dishwashers, robots, cloth drying machines, communication systems etc in SHS.
I built apps and websites , and did more  complex embedded systems engineering stuff. After University, I started translating all of these tech and engineering i have been doing into products and devices and making them commercially available to have real impact in the lives of the underprivileged. So yes, I have been in tech for a long time.

Did you use Robots with Arduino NXT/EV3? (P.S : NXT and EV3 are robotics kits used to also teach robotics mostly in JHS and SHS in Ghana)
Well it depends on you. NXT/EV3 is more structured. Easy to follow. Arduino is more freestyle. So it depends on the individual and how they are learning or being taught. Each has their own advantage or disadvantage. Personally i prefer arduino because it allows for more creativity. I wouldnt put one above the other

Your company, Invent Electronics imports hardware components that constitute IoT kits? How and Why did you come up with that?
It was simple. I was in University doing electrical engineering.We needed to do projects and finding components for it was difficult. So i decided to fix that. Invent electronics was born.

I keep seeing a product of Sesi Tech, called Grainmate. What was the inspiration for this?
So GrainMate is a flagship product of my startup, Sesi Technologies. It is an affordable grain moisture which makes it easy for farmers to accurately monitor the moisture content in their grains before storage to help prevent post harvest losses.

What setbacks did you encounter on your journey? Few examples? Was funding a big problem?
Funding: Unlike software where all you need to develop an MVP is a laptop and internet, .developing hardware is expensive. You need money to develop a prototype.

You need equipment to refine your prototype. All of these cost money. You need a larger skill set to successfully develop a hardware prototype. You need a maker (the engineer who designs and prototypes the product.) then you need the software guy who will develop supporting mobile applications.  These do not come cheap. So you need to have the cash to prototype

Technical Know-how: Developing hardware requires a lot of specialized skills. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find people with -that skill set in Africa. Either they are already working somewhere or they are so expensive that you cannot afford them initially if you don’t have funding.

Scaling to mass manufacturing: It is very difficult to scale to mass manufacturing in Africa. Setting up manufacturing processes, getting the right equipment, finding casing/enclosure for your products, etc are some of the challenges you will face when trying to scale your manufacturing

Any links, GitHub account or resources that you’ve used that aids in acquiring some of the skills you have?
well, i learn a lot. I take a bunch of online courses all the time. Almost every point in time, i am taking at least one or two online courses. And my go to places for online courses are coursera.org and udemy.com. I look at where i am going, my career objectives and then i list the skills i need to thrive in those places. The ones i do not have, i go and acquire...

Currently my company is running a number of projects so i am taking a course in Project management. Education has been democratized, thanks to the internet. you don't need to pay so much to learn anything anymore, just grab your laptop, and anything you want to learn, you can find.
I love to read too. Because i am running a company, i love reading a lot about startups, growing your business, fundraising, etc. I have a cache of hundreds of digital books that I read regularly.
Also, I invest a lot in buying books on amazon kindle and audible in areas that are of importance to me. I love LinkedIn too, it helps me connect with people i believe can catalyze my development in other areas.
So hey, whatever resources you need are out there, just google.

Lastly, do you have any contact info or email that anyone can reach you on for project advice , idea contribution, internship ,etc at Sesi Tech?
If it is a personal email unrelated to my work that you want to send, please send it to hello@isaacsesi.com. Also i blog at isaacsesi.com where i write about entrepreneurship, personal development and productivity.

This session was moderated by Abigail Afi Gbadago the current Robotics Lead for PyLadies Ghana.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

GIRLS IN ICT DAY

On the 27th of April, 60 young girls from Nima, Newtown and its environs gathered at the Community Youth Cultural Centre, Kawukudi to celebrate International Girls in ICT Day a program organized by GirlyTech Ghana.

To mark the day, GirlyTech took the young girls through various talks on the need to have more girls in ICT, after which there was an ICT clinic session, where the girls were taken through practical sessions which include scratch programming and the use of ardiuno. I gladly helped some of them debug their codes. After the girls were put into groups, they were made to identify various problems in the society and how they could use technology to solve them.




PyLadiesGhana was invited to the program to give a talk on the topic ‘Starting out as a Newbie in Programming’, and I was privileged to represent the community. I shared with the girls various tips to making their coding journey less stressful and more interesting and I thought readers out there maybe interested too.


First of all, when starting this journey try answering the question ‘why’. Why am I doing this? Do I want to learn a new skill or I want to solve a problem in the society.  Once you find an answer to this question you are good to go. This is because when the going gets tough it’s your why that will keep you going.

Then you move on to finding your interests, in this technology field there are various areas you can venture into. Thus you need to find what interest you most. There is data science, web development, machine learning, artificial intelligence etc, find your area and venture into. For example, one may be fascinated by the use of the data and the power of data thus venturing into data science might be the best for you.
After finding your interest, start making use of online resources. There are tons of resources on the internet which will make this coding journey more practical and understandable. This include UdacityReal Python and freeCodeCamp. If you're finding some difficulty in your code, make use of search engines such as Google.

This journey can be sometimes really stressful, thus there is a need to join tech communities. In these communities you will find like minded people like you which gives you a sense of ‘I am not alone in this’. These communities include people from all ranges, starting from beginners, intermediate and advanced learners all willing to make your journey worth it. Most of these communities have outreaches through meetups, tutorial sessions etc. Also there is a high possibility of finding mentors who will guide you through the journey. PyLadies Ghana is an example of a Tech Community that provides mentorship to women in the open source community.

Also, to make sense out of what you are learning, you have to practice what we call ‘learn while building’. This approach will make you enjoy this journey and make you understand better what you learn. For example, if you are into web development and learn about how to us the <h> tags or how to insert an image in html push yourself to create a simple profile page. This will help you understand and appreciate what you are learning.

Lastly, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. This is the only way you can be a master at what you are learning.




My experience with these young girls was amazing and I hope this piece will also help the newbies out there in their journey of coding.

This blog was written by Vanessa Otchere, a Tech entrepreneur and a Data Enthusiast.