My MEST Story: "Your Success is your responsibility"

MEST, Monday July 4th 2011

Last month, I was part of the class of budding entrepreneurs that graduated from Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST)’s two-year graduate training program in software development and entrepreneurship.

My colleagues and I have come a long way since we stepped into 'the international territory' (MEST), as we like to call it. We imbibed a lot; our stamina was tested; our minds stretched and most important, our passion for software rejuvenated. However, like any entrepreneurial endeavor, there are many sacrifices to be made if one intends to be successful. The question then is – exactly what makes the two years spent at MEST worthwhile given its rigorous and intensive nature? Here are my takeaways:

Talent alone isn't enough

Talent is talent everywhere, as we often say at MEST. But talent isn’t the only thing ubiquitous, competition also is, and to effectively compete in the software industry, it is essential for entrepreneurs to at least understand:

  • the process of taking an idea from conception through to launch of a product and the basic concepts of software development.

  • Even better, is to know how the underlying technology of your product works and how to at least write code.

For many of us, MEST offered a chance to acquire these skills through technology and business lectures, labs, real-world software projects and “buzzes”. Tech or business buzzes are basically 3-5 minute presentations on interesting developments either in the tech or business world. These buzzes have a double-barreled effect:

  • they pushed us to get smart on industry trends and developments in the software arena from TechCrunch, Mashable, VentureBeat and other industry related news sites.

  • At the same time we enhanced our presentation skills, as we presented on these global tech & business trends each day of the week to our peers and then MEST faculty.

The need to build your network

Another significant benefit of the MEST program is the opportunity to broaden one’s professional network. From senior faculty, teaching fellows, guest lecturers and MBA consultants, the program created an avenue for entrepreneurs-in-training (EIT’s) to network with people from different cultures and with eclectic professional backgrounds.  Additionally, trainees get to participate and network at technology events such as G-Ghana (Google Ghana events), Mobile Monday, BarCamp, Garage48, Coders4Africa etc as some of these were held at MEST and overall gave us the opportunity to network with other non-MEST tech entrepreneurs and enabled us become well-referenced within the industry.

Personal development

Perhaps the greatest value one can derive from the MEST program is immense personal development:

  • Seminar readings and discussions were a great way to develop one’s critical thinking skills, questioning assumptions, respecting others' views etc.

  • Working on capstone projects helped to foster teamwork, decision making and leadership skills.

  • Juggling multiple assignments, labs and projects helped sharpen one’s prioritization skills. The workload at MEST is so intense, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But with good planning, better time management, a little more discipline and proactiveness, a lot was achieved over the two years.

It's up to you!

The above paragraphs might make the MEST program sound like the holy grail of software development training. It isn’t. As in any institution and educational program, there are areas that can be improved over time.  But by taking personal responsibility for your own learning, by proactively seeking assistance from colleagues and faculty if need be and making the most of the library resources and shared documents you’ll come away with a lot. The good news is it’s not all work, work, work as there are some fun times too with bi-semester beach outings, movie nights, etc :).

For these reasons, if you asked me whether the MEST program met my expectations, my answer is: Definitely! and over all, this has been a worthwhile journey!