Often times, these days, we share some mobile apps and computer software and we don’t know the brains behind them. Truth is some of those apps are programmed by this ‘software guy’ we will be talking to today. His name is Sham Mesfn, 25, and lives in Asmara. He develops apps and software for breakfast! “I take on several projects at the same time” Sham says. Here follows more about this young man.
- -For starters, tell me about you.
Computer people normally tend to explain a lot, but I’ll keep it short, I am Sham Mesfn, 25 years old and I work in RCC.
- -How did you get into your actual profession? I know that it was a childhood passion turned to profession.
It is. At a young age I was fond of computers. There was an old desktop computer in my father’s office. I used to look at it and observe how it’s made… the whole day! I would spend hours and hours in front of a computer without realizing time had gone by. Then one day, before junior started, I decided to take vocational training on electricity. I learned computer maintenance, computer graphics and some few other things. However, I was not satisfied. In a sense I was pleased that I got to learn something extremely useful, but not content at all because I felt there was something else I wanted to learn… I just didn’t know exactly what.
- -So when did you actually find out?
In 9th grade. I was in someone’s office, walking up and down in the office’s premises, when I noticed a book under the desk. An old, big and dusty book. Sadly, the book was serving as one of the desk’s legs as one leg was broken. I pulled it out and found my inspiration. The book was of early 80’s and it was about computer programming. I hastily turned the first few pages and had my revelation; that missing thing which I longed for, therefore, was computer programming!
I decided to learn programming. I started searching for schools offering such courses right away. It was hard because of my age; people didn’t think I would be able to pull off a programming class. I finally got admitted to Erina Training Center and sat for class. Some weeks later, though, classes stopped as there was no one to teach the class, and also because the students were few in number. Although, I couldn’t learn programming in class anymore I was positive about my passion. I thought I could learn on my own because I had enough materials.
- -Did you take the magical book?
No I didn’t.
- -Why not?
It wasn’t mine. You know, children are taught not to look, desire nor take things that don’t belong to them! The book was not mine, so I didn’t take it. But it opened my eyes!
- -And so you carried on with a positive attitude and created your first software in summer of grade 9.
Not my first, but yes, I did present one software at the Festival of Eritrea. My school had an IT department and we used to take computer classes. Then, for the school fair I presented my project and won. Afterwards, at the High Schools’ Festival at regional level, my project represented my school and, again, won first place. Thereafter, the same thing happened at national level. Which is why a spot was reserved at the Festival of Eritrea to showcase my project. The encouragement I received from people, then, was incredible. I was finally firm that it was going to be my occupation when I grow up.
- -What was this admired software that you’re talking about?
It was a big hit and it was a Student Database Management software. It was one of the four educational softwares I programmed in 9th grade; next to that of the Online Examination, the Biology Puzzle software and the Chemistry Kit software. They were all educational softwares focusing on backing students’ education.
- -You’re telling me that in less than a year a high school student programmed different softwares; impressive but also unlikely given the fact that our society is relatively new to such advancements, and well, you were just so young. How did you manage? Is it that easy?
It is easy now, but it wasn’t easy back then. I had to work hard and make sure not to let go of my passion impelled by difficulties. I had to convince myself that I could carry on and do what I like despite certain difficulties. That is how you grow.
- -Still on the topic, how do you feel about developing software, when only young people know about it?
It doesn’t upset me at all. Young people know and use tons of software and apps in their daily lives. As for the older generations, I am grateful because they make my job interesting. Because every time I work, I work thinking of making my software easy, understandable and universally usable. And here I am not talking only about my society but other societies as well. What did Paul McCartney say? … “Think globally, act locally”. That is my favorite quote and my life moto. Generation’s difference can be tricky and interesting as well. Technology makes things just so accessible.
- -Okay. What happened next to the 9th grade recognition?
The following two years I decided to focus on my studies and get good marks for the high school leaving exams. I went to Sawa, had a bounty time there, I got my Zagre and returned to Asmara to see where to head next.
I knew I wanted to enroll in the Department of Computer Engineering in EIT. But then again, people’s opinions kept rumbling in my head. I had enough scores to get in whatever college I wanted. Friends and family wanted me to apply for the “popular” departments, maybe med school or civil engineering. I finally resolved to follow my wishes and signed up for the department of computer engineering. I joyfully graduated five years later! And now I am working in RCC.
- -Tell me about the apps and software you build for breakfast.
(Laughs) it is true I take on several projects at the same time. In the 2nd year of college in collaboration with Filtet Elementary School and my friend, Jack, we programmed a commercialized software. It was called Grade 1 Tigrigna. The reception was great, parents were happy and it came handy to students. Then my friend and I took on a second project –as a continuation of the first one; we programmed a Math software for elementary students. That one too was extremely encouraging because we made sure it was educational and entertaining at the same time so we included math games and quizzes. It was also programmed in form of mobile app urging me to develop more mobile applications.
After that I programmed different mobile apps, like that one of the Habesha Series which include: Habesha jokes, Habesha Cartoons, Habesha food and more.
- -Tell me Sham, why is it that you love your profession so much?
Software is about life; making people’s lives easy. I like contributing towards that end. I hope this explains it all.
- -Any future plans?
Plenty. I like to travel, so I hope I can travel more. Professionally speaking traveling does widen my horizon. And more importantly I’d like to connect with the rest of the world through my profession.
- -Author’snote: Zagre is the award presented to outstanding students in the 12th grade matriculation in Sawa Educational Training. — EIT stands for the Eritrean Institute of Technology, commonly known as, Mai Nefhi College. — RCC stands for Eritrea’s Resource Coordinating Center.