Date: Wednesday, 15 January 2020
Meet Tesfalem Belay, an IT expert. Impressed by the idea and concept of the new field that was just showing face in the country, Information Technology (IT), the young graduate of Physics began to want to learn more about IT and everything related to it.
Even though he was familiar with the subject and took it as a minor, Tesfalem understood he needed to work much harder to value himself as IT proficient. In addition to reading and researching, he managed to get online courses which earned him several certificates regarding the field. Tesfalem Belay has worked with many organizations over the years and is here with Q&A to share his experience.
Even though I majored in physics, I did my minor in computer science which gave me an insight about IT. But that wasn’t the only thing that stimulated me to become a computer programmer. We are talking about a time when Information Technology wasn’t popular in Eritrea; people barely knew about it and had little interest. However, in talks I had with friends I wanted to know more about IT and started to do a little digging.
Challenging as it was, it was hard to find the right books and right materials, especially if you want to teach yourself. But I had big desires to educate myself about IT and everything connected to it. So, I read books and magazines besides searching the net. Even the internet wasn’t fast enough to do all the searches I wanted to do, but I had to manage. I asked one of the friends to give me training and documents to study and finally I was able to have a base in web designing. Nonetheless, the society’s lack of awareness at the time was one of the biggest challenges for me. Not many people understood IT and it was hard to communicate with anyone. At times it took me months to convince individuals to design websites for them.
While working on designing different webs, I knew that I needed to be officially certified to become professional. That is why I took online courses to get my certificates on Web Development (HTML, PHP, MYSQL , Java Script , CSS), Network A+, Cyber Security and Android Mobile App Development. I was also enrolled at an Australian freelance website, Freelancer.com, which offered jobs. Joining the website has shaped me in many ways. There, I had the opportunity of working with many other nationalities. I was the first Eritrean to ever work on the website and working with the programmers was a great experience. I learned how to communicate, the importance of giving priority to the profession not money and, most of all, how to upgrade myself as a professional.
One of the many things I learned on the website is that I needed to have partners. I also wanted to share my experience with others and started teaching students. Not long after, I partnered up with individuals and started to work on various projects which , for some reason , have failed. One of the projects is designing a website for an online shopping we planned with the National Union of Eritrean Women.
Working as a team has its benefits. Though it would have made the job easier, I couldn’t find people with the same interest as myself. Which is one of the reasons I needed to upgrade my knowledge to do the job all by myself. For instance, I had to study all the things needed to design a website, including graphics, and I worked on many websites for various institutions.
On the way, I met with a team of IT people by the name, Orange Computer Center, and started working as a sub-contractor. I did many things with them, including installing Enterprise Resource Planning for ZAER Textile Company. It is an internal system that controls every activity of the company. While working for the company, I realized that there are many things I needed to know, one of which was accounting. Everything is connected; as a result, I got my diploma in accounting from SMAP Institute.
So far, digital libraries, hotel management systems, restaurant management systems, point of sale systems, tour and travel management, inventory management are some of the organizations for whom I have developed systems. Softwares do exist on the internet and other countries, but having them locally done makes them more efficient and comfortable to use.
Over four years ago, I partnered up with Ebtisam Hussien, a Computer Science graduate, and together we decided to work on various phone apps since they are related with the web system. However, we wanted to do more with the Apps, and finally decided to come up with three Apps which we thought can be helpful to the public. After a year and half research, we came up with three Apps which people can use without the need to connect with the internet. A driving lesson App in Tigrigna language with a form of test to know your level after studying the signs was one of the Award winning Apps. Another was a yellow page App, which shows different institutions, hotels, bars and their information. The third one was an online shopping App which we are thinking to make as Asmazone. Those three Apps were presented as a package at the 2018 festival and won first prize. Even though we haven’t still launched them officially, people were impressed. We are thinking about launching them officially soon.
At a time when technology has dominated the world, I think we are far behind. Of course, the younger generations are interested in the different types of technologies and everyone uses the net, but we should put all the energy into good use. It took a long time to introduce IT, but now the technology is changing faster, and we need to cope with the change. We need to upgrade our selves. There is always a bad thing for every good thing. IT can have a bad side as well but we need to work hard on how to benefit from it.