One Semester at MEST: Time Flies When You’re Super Busy and Having Fun!

MEST, Tuesday February 3rd 2015

I still can't believe 2014 is over and we're already done with January 2015! It's a little over four months since I started on this amazing journey, and I'm having the best time of my life. I'm already a few weeks into my second semester at MEST and here are a few highlights of my first semester:

The Almighty Capstone

Although we, the 2016 EITs, have been spectators in the capstones so far, I have seen the 2015 EITs pitch their capstone projects twice since I got here. While we study and groom our skills, the 2015 EITs are out in the real world working on validating business ideas and building products which they work on for 6-8 weeks and pitch to all the MEST community, panelists and guests from all over Africa and Silicon Valley. I particularly like the caliber of panelists and their honest feedback. I'm looking forward to my first capstone pitch in June 2015.

[Tweet "When you put smart Ghanaian and Nigerian youths together with the right resources, they thrive."]

Currently we are learning JavaScript and MeteorJS. It looks like our main languages are Rails and JavaScript. Exciting right? I’ve also learnt how to build a Chrome Extension using JavaScript and I’ve got a few exciting tinkering to do on my favorite web apps. So far, we've learned:

  1. Java: I built a restaurant simulator running on my linux terminal :)

  2. Android: I built a mock weather app for Accra.

  3. Ruby on Rails: I built and (hosted on Heroku) an easy to use electricity monitoring web app using the data supplied by the Electricity Commission of Ghana. I had crazy plans for this baby, but ECG has stopped releasing their schedule :(

Yes, a lot has gone down in 4 months. My goal for the first half of 2015 is to work on a couple pet projects using all I’ve learnt, so help me God.

[Tweet "Nigerian EIT, Esther Olatunde (@MsEOlatunde) recounts her experience at MEST so far."]


After 2 months of lectures on Market Sizing, Value Proposition and Go-To-Market Strategy, my team and I conducted a market research on the South African Market, with a focus on the advertising industry and wrote a business proposal on why AdsBrook (a MINC Company) should or should not expand into the South African market. We presented our proposal in five minutes to the CEO of AdsBrook and MINC Head of Operations. Although stressful and tiring, I loved this exercise.

“The problem is not the lack of the solution!” In our Problem Statement and Hypothesis class, I learned that you should be able to clearly define the problem you aim to solve without saying anything about how you plan to solve it. When you’ve come up with a problem statement, you can question it to get to the root cause using the 5Ws (What, Who, When, Why and Where), and even dig deeper using the 5 Whys...just don’t get stuck in an infinite loop. I think it is extremely important to put our ideas/hypothesis through this because it brings clarity and will help us see the big picture.

Now, imagine you were Drew Houston back in 2010, would you have made the same decisions he made? What would you have done differently? How would you have handled the product strategy dilemma of whether you should continue offering a single product for diverse users or segment Dropbox to cater to regular users and business users separately? Then imagine a group of young techies doing just that and arguing why their decisions would have been better. Yes, we all know how it turned out and hindsight is always 20/20, but I enjoyed the case studies we’ve done so far because of the insights you get into what the billion dollar companies of today were going through 5-10 years ago.

[Tweet "I’ve lost count of the number of presentations I’ve done since we started at MEST."]

I’ve lost count of the number of presentations I’ve done since we started at MEST. Although I’m not there yet with my presentation skills, I’m still pushing through and getting better everyday. Our darling Comms Fellow is so awesome.

Oh, I love buzz topics! You get asked impromptu random questions like: “What would you say to President Obama if you have one minute with him?” or “Would you like 48 hours in the future or 48 hours in the past and why?” and you only have a few seconds to think of a response that is not more than a minute and less than 2 minutes. It’s amazing how you lose track of your thoughts because you’re under pressure, but immediately you’re back on your seat, you think of ten ways you could have answered better.

One more thing

The EITs either don't sleep or only sleep for an average of three hours daily! This is not because there's an examination or a grade at the end semester, but I think when you put smart and highly ambitious Ghanaian and Nigerian youths in an environment with resources to make them achieve more and become better, they will thrive and work really hard to maximise the opportunity.

I also like to look at it from this perspective: we are all working towards building our dreams. At least that’s what drives me, and I look forward to the rest of this journey with a dreamer’s eye.