Brain drain in tech won’t stop soon — IT enthusiast
Seyi Ojelabi is a student, robotics and IT enthusiast, and the Chief Executive Officer of Impactech Hub. He tells TOFARATI IGE about his career
What is your educational background?
I had my elementary education at Baptist Nursery and Primary School, Katsina State. I attended Katsina Diocesan Community School, for my secondary education. I am currently a final year student at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State.
When was the first time you were exposed to robotics, and what fascinated you about it?
I was exposed to robotics for the first time at an empowerment programme while in my first year in the university. We had to pay to get exposed to the field. However, since I was a kid, I have always loved computers, and was interested in building physical things such as cars, houses and kites. When I got exposed to robotics, I already knew it was in line with my chosen career path, based on my already existing passion for building hardware.
What training/qualifications do you have in robotics and other allied fields?
I am very keen on robotics and related field such as Internet of Things, embedded systems, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
I have also received certification from AfricaHacks, I-FAIR, Google, Falling Labs, and Globalink.
Do you have a registered company?
Yes, my company, Impactech Hub, is registered with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency.
When did you start the company?
I started the enterprise while I was in my second year in the university, by hosting training sessions on hardware programming.
What services does the company offer?
We train kids, teenagers, and even adults in robotics, IOT, and AI. We also develop prototypes to prove the concepts and ideas of people.
What motivated you to start your own business?
I wanted to be independent. I was motivated by the need to meet my daily needs, put food on my table and that of others, while offering solutions to problems in the field I am in.
How much was your start-up capital, and how did you raise it?
My initial capital was N60,000 and it was raised by my mum. From that amount, I used N20,000 to purchase my first hardware tool kit, while I used the remaining N40,000 to acquire a second-hand laptop.
Your profile states that you work with some organisations and schools as a facilitator on hardware programming— robotics, IOT, embedded systems and artificial intelligence. What does that job entail?
For that of organisations, the job entails speaking before large audiences and enlightening them about hardware programming. I engage them with basic tutorials on developing projects.
For that of schools, the job entails educating students in primary and secondary schools in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The aim of this is to enhance their thinking abilities, sharpen their problem-solving skills, and inspire them to be creative.
You are also a student of Computer Science and Engineering. How do you combine studies with your other activities?
I run my daily activities base on schedule for the day, and what I call my ‘priority list’. These help me to create time for other activities.
What major challenges have you faced in the course of running the business?
The major challenge I face has to do with funding and scaling the business.
How do you advertise the business?
I often post my activities on my social media platforms, and that has attracted people, who in turn gave me some opportunities.
What kind of support did you receive from your family and friends when you started the business?
Coming from a family that is not so well-off; most times, I get prayer support from them. I also enjoy monetary support from close friends who believe in my vision; as well as online friends I have never met in person.
Do you think Nigeria is doing anything right in terms of the study and adaptation of robotics?
Nigeria is not doing the right thing in terms of the study and adaptation of robotics, aside from non-governmental organisations that take it upon themselves to host innovation challenges and competitions to encourage hardware engineers.
Nigeria is experiencing huge brain drain, especially in the tech sector, where many professionals are travelling out of the country to seek greener pastures. What do you think can be done to stem this tide?
The country will keep experiencing brain drain in the tech sector until we learn not to underrate people, but rather, place value on our own.
Many tech professionals who relocate abroad do so out of frustration, lack of support, no resources to scale, and because the country and its people don’t trust Nigerian tech professionals to proffer solutions to issues.
If tech professionals can be trusted with their solutions and skills, and are valued, they will stay and build Nigeria.
If you could talk to the President or other top decision makers in the country, what would you tell them, as a tech person?
I will tell them that Nigeria is not where it is supposed to be technologically. I will also let them know that we cannot compete globally by placing physical jobs at the top, and technology at the bottom.
I strongly believe that we have all it takes to compete with developed counties, if only we get the right support.
Technology has changed the face the world of the world with emerging fields such as robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things at an exponential rate. We really need to wake up.
Some people believe that any young person who works from home on their computer all day is an Internet fraudster. Have you ever been stereotyped in that regard?
On numerous occasions, I have been labelled a ‘yahoo boy’ (Internet fraudster), simply because I spend most of my time working on a laptop.
Truly, there are fraudsters who are always with their computers; but not everybody who spends time on their computers are Internet fraudsters.
There are people who do legitimate work as copywriters, consultants, web administrators, digital marketers, and content creators.