Audrey Cheng left the world of journalism in the US to venture into the unknown: starting a tech school in Kenya to equip mobile and web developers with skills to become world-class developers. She shares her story of courage, curiosity and passion with our writer ESTHER KIRAGU and how these have been the ingredients to her success.
At only 23 years, Audrey Cheng is a force to reckon with in the tech-preneur circles. Born and raised in the US, she acquired a degree in journalism and global health at Northwestern University before venturing into a career in tech. Audrey considers herself a constant and willing learner with a curiosity that led her into the world of tech. Her interest in entrepreneurship began in journalism.
“I found that the kind of stories I wrote about were mostly about violence and crime and I realized that instead of writing about problems I wanted to build solutions, “ she says. Cheng’s studies in global health was a main reason how she ended up in Kenya, she explains.
“One of the issues I learned was that a lot of NGOs are unsustainable in many developing countries.” When studying the Haiti earthquake, she “realized the power businesses and companies have in building economies, and wanted to understand if the incubation concept could be brought to emerging countries by building passionate entrepreneurs, offering mentorship, resources and the whole nine yards.”
From journalist to tech-preneur…
Naturally a curious individual, Audrey heard of and sought to work with the Savannah Fund, a seed capital fund that offers funding to early stage tech startups in Africa. “At the time, I was working at CNBC and came across an article on how Savannah Fund was running their first accelerator class. I reached out to the managing partner and offered to assist. I came on board and became involved in some of their projects while in the US for a year, which turned out to be a huge learning opportunity,” she says.
A year later she was invited by the managing partner at Savannah Fund to come to Kenya and work with their second accelerator class. While working with the accelerator class she learned of a large skills gap which prevented top tech companies to find effective software developers.
She went into universities and training programs locally, sat in on some classes and realized the way computer science is taught is very theoretical and outdated, despite how quickly technology changes daily.
“In order for Kenya to truly become that Silicon Savannah, you need that basis of developers building strong products. And hence the need for Moringa School,” she says. Audrey says that when Moringa School had its first class in 2015, there were 120 applications but they only accepted 5 students at the time, because they wanted to focus on quality over quantity.
“We are very focused on an outcomes-driven education because we want all our students who want jobs to be able to get them after going through the training. Over time, the number of students at the school has increased. Last year alone we received over 800 applications,” she says.
The school has various programs such as Junior Moringa School, a two-day practicum course where learners are introduced to coding, and Moringa Prep, a 15-week part-time or five-week full-time intro to programming class targeting both professionals and students.Moringa Core is an immersive, 19-week full-time class where students choose between becoming a mobile or full stack web developer.
Moringa School uses innovative teaching styles, world-class curriculum and strong learning methodologies in order to deliver the highest quality education in Kenya.
A solution provider…
Audrey says the training offered at Moringa School is informed by market trends to provide students with skills applicable to the job market.
“The vision for Moringa School is to transform higher education in Kenya and Africa. Our hope in the next few years is to look at other skill sets we can train on. So far the school has had students not only from Kenya but also from other African countries, including Nigeria, South Sudan and Rwanda among others,” Cheng said.
Moringa School has over 100 graduates who have gone on to get lucrative jobs in leading tech companies such as Safaricom, Barclays, Cellulant and Craft Silicon.
Audrey’s success has been recognised and in May this year, she was selected as one of Africa’s top women innovators in the World Economic Forum on Africa. Additionally, she was named one of the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.
For more information on Moringa School, go to www.moringaschool.com