What do we use at work? This series of posts interviews the Ushahidi staff about their methods for working and the tools they use. A profile of a different employee will be posted twice a week until we make our way through most or all of the staff!


“…there were no mentors to give me insight or expose me to growth opportunities.” – Ahmed Maawy

Ahmed Maawy joined the Ushahidi full-time in 2011 after having worked on the project as a contractor for several months. His primary focus on the applications Sweeper and SwiftMeme.

What’s your day to day at Ushahidi like?

Awesome and interesting. It’s one thing to be a software developer. It’s another to work alongside people who have what it takes to be top-notch developers by world standards. The entire team respects, understands and inspires each other. The flexibility is great. The degree of professionalism from each member of the team is excellent.

Ushahidi is not only a professional team, its a family. It’s not always about “work” but about the “person”.

How did you get involved in the software/tech space?

Personal initiative. I started college having good knowledge of C / C++, Visual Basic, and Borland Delphi. I even used to mentor the senior students on their projects. It is worth noting that from the place I came from, there were no mentors or developers to give me insight or expose me to growth opportunities. I got work before I left college, in which case my first employer, Mr. Mohamed Jaffer from Jafftek Solutions, Mombasa, noticed my talent and poached me. I thank Mr. Mohamed for giving me my first eye opener, out of which I managed to create a professional side of me from my talent by dealing with some rather difficult clients who had no idea about what computers could do for them. I later became an IT Manager for a Textile industry, got back to Software development and later got an opportunity to start work in Nairobi.

My development (mostly web) experience in Nairobi involved mostly online marketing projects as well as airlines reservations and booking engines. This experience gave me a good knowledge of the business and commercial drive behind technology. After that I move to non profit working in the Mobile and Web space on healthcare projects – working as a Software Development Manager for DataDyne.org. This experience made me understand how non-profits operate, which was a shocking difference to me at the begining, having a very strong understanding of the commercial setups in organizations. This is the point in which I learn that apart from free software, there is also free money – money you don’t have to go look for by knocking on the door of each corporate and demonstrating why a solution XYZ could increase their revenue by a good amount – The ROI world of software.

I then moved away from strategy and settled down into what I can do better than many other people. Software Development. I am glad to have joined Ushahidi. Its by far one of the best places any techy can work for.

What are some of your favorite apps for work and how do you use them?

I used to enjoy using Microsoft Visual Studio – under the .Net framework. Not that I don’t at the moment, I still do, but I have very many other applications I use. Although I had good exposure to web design technologies earlier, I tend to work best with code. I have worked mostly in corporate setups integrating enterprise solutions on Microsoft platforms – Sharepoint, Exchange, a bit of Dynamics, thus my initial bias for Visual Studio.

So, apart from Visual Studio .Net, I use IDEs, mostly JetBrains (Rails, PHP, Python), NetBeans, Aptana (for Rails). I do not perfer using plain text editors, not when there are freely available IDEs to do more than what text editors can do. My favourite framework to date is Ruby on Rails, I believe it is the smartest web technology out there (have a look at the case studies you can find for Ruby on Rails deployments – including Rackspace hosting, GitHub, BaseCamp, Groupon, and much more).

What are some cool projects you’re working on at Ushahidi or; What excites you about your work right now?

I mostly major on SwiftRiver and Ushahidi/Swift integration. I have worked on projects such as SwiftMeme, Sweeper and SwiftRiver itsself. I also work work on Android and Ushahidi platform, but am flexible to tackle any of the challenges.

The exciting thing about SwiftRiver is that even if the project is mature, it is still young and there is alot more to come. I like the fact that it is a challenge to transform SwiftRiver into something bigger than what it currently is.

What helps you make it through each day?

To become a person who can transform the society, or to become a person who can influence the society and inspire people to do the right things requires that you go through various stages in your life that can be both pleasant and unpleasant. Unpleasant circumstances may not only be work related, they can be as a result of various other factors. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. What makes me make it through each day is my belief that everything happens for a reason in your life, and how it affects you does not matter. What matters is how you handle the situation.

The one thing you can’t live without?

Very simple – God.