Musa Jabbaaru Ntege is a software engineer who lives in and works from Kampala, Uganda. After Microverse, Musa landed a job working remotely for DigiSure, an insurance company based in San Francisco with a team distributed around the world. “This is my dream job,” Musa says, noting how just a few years ago the idea of working for a US company while living in Uganda seemed impossible. “I assumed I’d have to relocate, so to secure a remote job for an international company was incredible for me.”
Musa has always had a passion for coding, first picking it up after high school, and then going on to study Computer Science at college. After he graduated he started creating and marketing small projects, but found it was hard to make a living out of it. Seeking to improve his skills, he looked for a program to help and discovered Microverse. He admits it was a hard-sell for his parents initially.
“They were worried about how I’d pay back the tuition, and if I’d be able to get a job right away. But I knew two things: I was passionate about software engineering, and I needed to upskill to make a career out of it. With that drive, I joined Microverse.”
Musa started the program with vigour in March 2019. He was conscious that whoever he was paired with would impact his experience of the program, so he was grateful to work with coding partners who matched his enthusiasm. “Kingsley [his coding partner] and I had the same drive. We didn’t skip a day, we didn’t compromise on anything, if we needed to do extra hours—we did them.”
This is especially admirable when you consider the common roadblock that Musa and other Microverse students who live in Africa often face: unreliable internet and power supplies. “In Uganda, the power supply isn’t stable. I had to find a way around this, and sometimes that meant leaving the house to find an office space where there was power. It was crazy.” Luckily, by this time Musa had the full support of his parents, who were understanding and able to invest in an inverter to stabilise the electricity supply.
This challenge is something we are keenly aware of at Microverse, and we’re in the early stages of looking at how we can provide stipends so our students can pay for a better internet connection. This is essential, not only in order for students to complete the program, but also to ensure that when they’re invited for a job interview at a specific time, internet access won’t be a problem.
Passion Plus Focus Equals Success
While Musa’s passion for coding wasn’t ever in question, he admits that staying focused was a challenge for him before he joined Microverse.
“I’d start projects and abandon them midway. But you can’t do that in the program. You have to be there every day.”
Interestingly, when we asked Musa what the most important thing was that he learned at Microverse, he doesn’t list Ruby or any of the other coding languages he learnt. “The course taught me consistency, accountability and discipline—and that’s what’s brought me to where I am today.”
Dealing with Rejection
Musa’s discipline was really put to the test when it came to applying for jobs—something he started to do before he even finished the program. FYI: we don’t recommend this! We advise that our students wait until they’ve completed the technical program before job-hunting because it’s a process that can be very distracting—not to mention discouraging.
Nevertheless, Musa made sure he used his working days for completing the curriculum, and his evenings for job applications. He still had to deal with the inevitable rejections he received, but he reflects on this experience as a positive one which paved the way to securing his job at DigiSure.
“You have to realise that when you apply for a job, most of the time you won’t even get an interview—so when you do, recognise this as an opportunity. I had dozens of unsuccessful interviews, but I viewed them all with gratitude because there was a lesson in each one—whether it was about my confidence, or my coding skills. I stopped counting how many rejections I had and instead viewed them as opportunities which guided my learning, and my research.”
Whenever we interview alumni—or anyone working in the engineering industry—we ask about their experiences with imposter syndrome. Even though Musa had been coding for seven years when he started at DigiSure, he admits he felt some apprehension and doubt in his skills. “There was so much to learn in terms of the technology, and I definitely felt like I didn’t know enough. I had to adapt quickly.” It helped that there’s a strong culture of support at DigiSure, and an onboarding process which allowed him to settle in with basic tasks before moving on to more complicated projects.
In terms of coding languages, Musa is using some of the languages he learnt at Microverse, in particular Ruby, and others, like Python and Vue, that he’s needed to learn while working there. He understands it can be overwhelming for those at the start of their careers who might think they need to know every language in order to land a great job. “There are so many languages out there. You can’t learn them all at once, and companies understand that. To be honest, DigiSure employed me because I know Ruby and that’s the main stack we use, but they expected me to learn the other languages on the job, and with their support, I did.”
It helped that Musa himself didn’t shy away from asking questions. “I asked and asked and asked!” he tells us, “and in return I received as much help as I could possibly need.” Musa’s experience supports something we hear at Microverse very often from employers: asking questions is never a sign of weakness, in fact, it’s a key part of working successfully as a software engineer.
Musa’s Words of Advice
Wherever you are in your career, and however you choose to learn how to code—whether you go to college or enrol in a program like Microverse, Musa advises that passion is the key ingredient you require.
“It always comes back to passion. You need to love what you’re doing because that’s what keeps you coming back to it, day after day. And remind yourself there’s no limit to learning. Even though I’m no longer studying, I’m always learning.”
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** Please note, Musa's answers have been edited for clarity. To learn more about Musa and his experience with Microverse, view the full Webinar here.