It is said that luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. For Michael Ombwayo, the Presidential Digitalent Program was the bridge that connected him to the other side of success, after unsuccessfully applying for jobs after his university education.
He is a renown technology expert based in Nairobi and the founder and CEO of Eujim Solutions, one of the most sought-after professional tech companies in Kenya.
From working with Mastercard, multiple government agencies and now working on a project for the Government of Rwanda, Michael is the crème de la crème of all things tech.
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In this interview with WOK, he unpacks the thrills, perks and challenges of starting and running a successful technology company in Kenya.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you began a career in IT
My name is Ombwayo Michael. I am a graduate of the Dedan Kimathi University, where I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Information Technology (IT) in 2014.
After tarmacking and hustling for a while, I joined the Presidential Digitalent program to gain more practical skills and industry experience, after which I joined the ICT Authority as an intern.
After my internship, I made the decision to start my company Eujim Solutions in 2017.
Did you always know that you wanted a career in IT or was it an interest you picked later in life?
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I grew up in the village. Back then, we did not interact with computers in my hometown. My first interaction with a computer was in campus. That is when I developed and interest in IT. However, the decision to learn programming was stemmed from curiosity.
I had a friend who developed websites and introduced me to the world of programming. It took me about a year to learn, and is what motivated me to join the presidential digital program.
How was the transition from hustling to forming your own company?
When I joined the presidential program, I saw it as a game changer. While there, I was able to develop a few systems one of which was formally commissioned by the ICT Permanent Secretary at the time.
The people I interacted with at the time also mentored me a lot. I leaned so much at the time and I used that as a platform to improve my presentation and negotiation skills.
After a year working as an intern there, I left the program without getting a job, something that was greatly demoralizing. After a while of unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I decided to use my skills to make money. Through my experience and contacts from my previous engagements, I was able get a few jobs when I formed the company with a few other partners.
How has the journey been for you so far?
At the beginning it was not easy. I remember going separate ways with my partners shortly after I starting my first company. That was a setback, because I was now the only person running the company.
Like every other business, it is very challenging initially, because you are everything in your company. I was the CEO, the IT guy, the financial person and the manager. It involved a lot of research for financial management, etc. That is how I have been able to manage to this point.
What products and services do you offer at Eujim Solutions?
The company initially started as a software development company. We have now evolved to digital marketing, general IT consultancy and digital training services.
Who would you say has been your biggest client?
All of them. To me, there is no small client or big client. I offer similar services to all my clients. When I get a client, I ask myself what value I can add to a particular client. We involve the client from start to end and advice them on the best upgrades or features to add to their websites, etc. That is how we have been able to retain clients and get referrals as well.
Speaking of clients, tell us some of the companies you have worked with
We have an impressive portfolio of clients including the Federation for East African Fright Forwarders, Mastercard, Bandari Maritime Academy, Kenya Institute of Bankers, ICT Authority, Engineers Board of Kenya, and many more. We are also consulting for a project with the Government of Rwanda.
What sets your company, Eujim Solutions, apart from other companies in the same industry?
Our execution of services is very different from many other companies out here. Instead of just doing the tasks laid on paper, we sit down with the client and try to get as much information as possible on their vision and requirements outside the tasks written on paper.
We also give expert opinion on designs, layouts. For example, after developing a website, we advise on marketing, maintenance and upgrading over time. In a nutshell we try to give our clients the absolute value for their money.
What are some of the challenges you face as an entrepreneur in this space?
For a start-up such as ours, there are many existing challenges including licence requirements and taxing. However, the biggest challenge for me I would say is dealing with very sophisticated clients who expect the same quality of products that big and established companies have.
Luckily for me, when I have an all-rounded team that is aligned to my vision. My engagement with my employees is shares-based. This makes them feel as part of the company, and motivates them to get more clients, which translates for more resources for the company.
What is your advice for people looking to start a similar business?
Starting and running a company is not easy. My advice for them is consistency, diligence and investing in marketing your company. Building credibility by offering quality services will also go a long way in attracting big clients.
Budding entrepreneurs should also manage their expectations when it comes to making record-breaking returns. Patience and dedication are a must, because a successful company is not built in a day.
What is the future of Eujim Solutions?
We are planning to grow our innovation hub that is going to be an incubation program for young techies. We have a few innovations pending approval, which we feel will revolutionize the cab business in Kenya.
In two or so years Eujim Solutions will be a big innovation centre for new ideas. We are also re-modelling our training bit to more of CSR. With this we intend to teach tech skills for children in Children Homes so they are able to monetize their skills when they leave those homes.
Where can we find you online?
Our website is www.eujimsolutions.co.ke, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram are EUJIM Solutions. Clients can also reach us through our official number 0718 099 959.