If you have been around the tech space in Uganda for some time, his name is not new to you. He is usually among the people either presenting hard facts or asking the hard questions in a soft yet stern tone that you cannot miss his point.
What draws many to his presentations and questions is the detail embedded in them. He is one of the few people who speak from reality. In Uganda speak, we say “is on ground”. Michael Niyitegeka knows his stuff. Having spent 12 years as a don at Makerere University, Michael was able to highlight the challenges in the tech space in Uganda. A non-tech trained practitioner, he had a thirst to teach business strategy to the young IT Professionals whose innovations were detached from the real world. The ICT College was big on pushing for innovations which never made it on the market.
With his background in business, Michael camped at the ICT College and while there, he attempted to introduce a number of initiatives largely focusing on working with industry but there was limited traction for these ideas.
Around 2014, he had an idea. He thought of designing a program that would enable innovators and tech enthusiasts to plug into developing for the realities of the job market without bothering about academic excellence. He wanted a merger between tech and business minus academics. Most of the learners at university would abandon their projects so they could concentrate on their degrees.
The worst case scenario is that upon graduation, majority of the tech students could not find jobs. They were not employable. There was something with what was happening. The university programme was only aligned to the academics side and not the industry. There was an urgent need to prepare for the market. The degrees were in plenty but the skills were lacking. There was need for soft skills. With this past exposure, he had seen tech work and tech fail. He needed to create something real.
It was on these premises that Refactory was born. It was founded on the basis of creating employable tech professionals. Together with his team, Michael partnered with Laboremus. The goal was to make professionals more employable. That is why Refactory was opened to people beyond tech. “Our education system conscribes us to believe in a certain way. You must have a degree. Which is wrong.”
Today, at Refactory, no one needs a degree to enroll. All one needs is interest. It is now after seeing the quality of students that academics have come to appreciate the approach.
Refactory is here to disrupt. Michael believes that in a crowd of 100 there will be a one believer who will buy into their work. At the end of the first training of 9 months, the learners come out as junior developers. In case they wish to carry on, they enroll for the Bootcamp which is also 9 months. With Refactory, one comes as a learner, they leave as an earner. For the last four years thy have been fully running, they have seen 93% of their students find employment in the first six months.
For Michael, the future is here. And the future is Refactory. His wish is that in the near future, to say I went to Refactory should be enough to earn one the access they want anywhere in the world.
Read about the experiences of those who have gone through Refactory here.