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Young Ghanaians in Tech – Isaac Sesi Sets the Pace

He is a brilliant engineer who has built a robotic sweeping device, clothes dryer, industrial gas detection and alert systems for factories, infrared communication systems and other really cool devices. He is the CEO of Invent Electronics, a company that supplies quality electronic components and provides electronic engineering consultancy services to clients. Aside his love of electronics, he is also a software engineer. He recently co-founded Wires & Bytes, a startup that provides website design, software development and embedded systems solutions for businesses and individuals.

threesixtyGh had the opportunity to interview this young tech entrepreneur. Below are excerpts of the interview.

Who is Isaac Sesi?

Isaac Sesi is the guy who always wants to be the odd one – positively, who wants to greatly impact his generation and who doesn’t want to ever write a job application.

Kindly give us a brief background of yourself.

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I come from a large family with many siblings. I had a regular childhood, like everyone else except that I had the freedom to roam about and explore and get home very late without being spanked. I entered Mfantsipim School in 2007 and graduated in 2011, took a gap year to gain some work experience and entered KNUST in 2012. I’m studying Electrical/Electronic Engineering.

Do you see yourself as an engineer or as a computer scientist?

Well, I currently see myself as both an upcoming electrical engineer and computer scientist though I may end up doing more computer science than engineering eventually. I still have a lot more to learn before I can honestly and confidently call myself an engineer or computer scientist without feeling guilty.

How did you get into computer science?

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Well, since childhood I have had an interest in computers and the internet as a whole. Since I didn’t own a computer I spent most of my free time and money (laughs) at internet cafés just playing around with computers and trying to learn something new. When I got into high school, I met people who were already into programming and web design and other cool computer science stuff and I learnt as much as I could from them. The high school library had a few very old programming books which I really made good use of. I learnt my first programming language, Perl, from my high school library. I had to practice all my coding on paper though since I didn’t have access to a pc.

After high school, I met and befriended a whole bunch of people from other schools who also shared similar interests and knew much more than I did. They pointed me in the right direction, mostly to resources on the internet. Most of us ended up in KNUST and we formed a network of geeks. I learnt most of what I know from the internet and from watching video tutorials and occasionally consulting my roommate who happens to be a full stack developer.

Exactly what aspect of computer science are you involved in?

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I am currently into website design and software development and on my way to being a full stack developer. Full-stack developers are developers who are comfortable working with both back-end and front-end technologies such as databases, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript and everything in-between.

What else do you love doing aside computer science?

A whole bunch of other stuff. I am an electronics enthusiast so I spend some of my free time building electronic circuits and projects and I fix electronic appliances too as a hobby. My other hobbies are playing the piano, reading tech and business articles and occasionally hanging out with a few friends.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

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Mostly from the internet and from the people around me. Anytime I read an article about tech companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Slack and the rest which are making it big time and I find out how they started and how they grew from nothing to being global brands, I am inspired to also do more. I believe the achievements of others are not so far beyond me and that I can also there. My roommate, Peter Adu is also a source of inspiration.

 What’s the hardest part about doing what you do?

For electronics, the hardest part for me is when I have to build a circuit or project that I have very little knowledge about, for a client, within a very short time. Sometimes it gets very frustrating because a lot of times the circuits don’t work on first try and I have absolutely no idea why they aren’t working. Same applies to programming and computer science stuff for me. When I write code which is supposed to work and for some strange reason it doesn’t and I have to spend the whole day on Google, it is very frustrating.

What’s your favourite part about it?

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The fun part about it is that every time I face a challenge with any of my projects, I get to learn new things which I didn’t know before and I am always pushed to my limits. After each project I feel I am much smarter than I was before my previous project and I feel very good anytime I successfully surmount a challenge.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on?

For electronics, quite a number of stuff. In high school, together with my friend, George Boateng, we built a dish washing machine, a multipurpose food cooker, a clothes dryer, a Morse code communication device, a robotic sweeping device and a number of other cool stuff. In the university, I have worked on a number of simple projects for exhibitions including a device which measures height of people using ultrasound, a power bank, automatic light switching systems, security systems based on motion detection and a few other projects. Along the line, I have also been contracted by companies and students to build smart energy meter systems, home automation systems, smart train network systems, industrial gas detection and alert systems for factories, infrared communication systems and a few others. For software I have built quite a number websites for companies and some desktop applications for a few groups.

What has been your biggest project so far? What makes it the biggest (for you)?

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My biggest project so far has been building a smart energy device for a group. The device could measure how much electrical energy a user was consuming in real time and send that info to the user via SMS to his phone. It also could send a monthly bill to the user and the user had the ability to turn his household appliances on or off by just sending an SMS from his phone to the system. It was the biggest for me because it required me to learn how to use a lot of components I previously hadn’t even heard of. I also wrote every single line of code for the system from my head and it was quite challenging. I spent a lot of sleepless nights on it. In the end it worked and I was really proud of myself.

What has been your most fulfilling project so far and why?

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My most fulfilling project has been building an astable multivibrator circuit on PCB in 2013. Don’t be deceived by the name at all because funny enough, that project didn’t even do much. It was just a little circuit made up of just 4 components which causes a light emitting diode to flash on and off. For that project, I designed my PCB in EAGLE software for the first time. A PCB is that green board with electronic components connected to it that you see in computers. I used Ubuntu for the first time to print my circuit on a PCB machine for that project. It was most fulfilling because after more than 30 failed attempts, I finally got it right.  Almost 3 years has passed and now I can close my eyes and build the same circuit in under 1 minute (no kidding!) but I still cherish the moment when I successfully built my first astable multivibrator circuit.

You are in school now. Are you working on any projects presently?

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Yep. Quite a number of them. But I’m gradually gravitating towards more software and less electronics. For electronics I am part of a team building a drone for use in a rural community. Personally I’m working on my own hi-fi sound system and a backup power supply for my room in case of dumsor. For software I recently co-founded a start-up software development company, Wires & Bytes and we are currently working on a number of mega projects targeting over 5 million users in Ghana and Africa. It’s classified so I can’t say much about it now. I’m also part of another team, Adesua, and we are working on a mobile app service which provides a personalized learning experience for students.

What plans do you have for your life after the university?

Like I said initially, I don’t plan on ever writing a job application letter and I am not a big fan of schooling either so after the university I will concentrate more on the projects I am currently working on with my start-up companies and work to achieve my goals and visions.

Where would you want to work and why?

I want to work in my own company. However if I get a really good offer from a tech company outside Ghana, I will accept it and stay just long enough (say a year, maximum) to gain enough experience to manage my own company. Why I want to work in my own company – well, it’s probably part of my nature to always be different. Why struggle to find a job when you can create your own job and be your own boss? I don’t see the point in going to school for many years only to graduate and start searching for a job. I also want to be able to combine my passion for entrepreneurship and business with my skills and I believe a good way to do that will be to start my own business.

What is your perspective on Ghana’s app market?

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I think our app market is growing steadily. A lot of Ghanaian-made apps are coming on the app store and anyone at all who can Google can easily become an app developer because there are so many resources online for anyone who wants to start building apps.

What are your top three words to other young Africans like you who are also hungry for change?

Everything Is Possible.

What are your last words?

I give the credit to God for everything I have achieved and for all the people He has put around me. None of my skills and achievements has been by my might or orchestrations. I am very excited about the great things He has started doing in my life and the greater things to follow. I also want to say that no matter what you want to do, there are many resources available online. All you need is your ability to Google. Dare to be different and pursue your dreams to the max.

Shoutouts to my parents and big sister who have supported me all the way and who gave me the freedom to pursue my dreams; to my special one [name withheld for security reasons LOL], all my geek friends who have inspired me and all the people who laughed at me along the way.

Author: Leslie Akplah, Writer threesixtyGh

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