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Ibrahim Abdullah’s Journey from Ashesi University to Microsoft Canada

Dwen Hwe Kan, which means ‘think and look ahead’, is the motto of Mfantsipim School, the alma mater of Ibrahim Abdullah, has been the guiding light for his triumphs and wins in life. As one of Ghana’s best Senior High School, Mfantsipim boast of an incredible list of alumni which includes the late Kofi Annan, The Former UN Secretary General.

“While in high school, my parents struggled to pay my schools fees until I was awarded the Mathematics, Science and Technology Scholarship by the Government of Ghana during my second year. Before the scholarship, I always felt the possibility of dropping out of school at some point due to financial difficulties. I was once not allowed to stay in the school at the beginning of the term because my parents could not make part payment of my school fees. My parents also could not afford all the textbooks I needed so I would borrow other students’ textbooks to study. I also used to stay on campus a little longer at the end of the term and go round the academic site of the campus to look for discarded books to study. All of these made it clear to me that my parents were incapable of funding my university education, so my ultimate plan was to do well academically to improve my chance of getting scholarship for my tertiary education” shares Ibrahim.

After high school, Ibrahim took a gap year to work and make money to fund his tertiary education whilst at the same time exploring scholarship opportunities.

“I discovered Ashesi University and the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at this time and so applied to the university. On a visit to the school’s website, I read about student’s projects, available exchange programs and the high employment rate of Ashesi University graduates which were very impressive. I therefore did not hesitate to accept Ashesi University’s admission offer to study Computer Science as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar in 2014. In fact, I delayed accepting an offer from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology to study Petroleum Engineering waiting for Ashesi’s decision on my application.

Life as a Mastercard Foundation Scholar at Ashesi University was not only intellectually stimulating but fun as well. One of my fondest memory as Scholar was during the summer program after freshman year in 2015. I really enjoyed the leadership development sessions, trips to Kokrobite, Cape Coast Castle and Kakum National Park, the dooms we built around campus during the program were my best experiences. Fast forward to 2018, I graduated from Ashesi University with Magna Cum Laude honours in Computer Science.”

Ibrahim spent a year working with the Computer Science Department at Ashesi University as a Teaching Assistant before joining Microsoft as a software engineer. At Microsoft, he works with a team in Vancouver, Canada on test platforms/tools (test framework and systems) for office developers. Vancouver is a typical cosmopolitan city and with the experience of my engagement with students from different part of Africa at Ashesi University, my transition has been quite easy.

Ibrahim (pictured centre) with his work colleagues at the Microsoft Office in Vancouver, Canada

“The liberal arts education I received at Ashesi equipped me with the knowledge needed to kickstart my career at Microsoft. At Ashesi, I learnt more than software engineering but most importantly the ability to solve problems and think critically. In addition to that, the deliberate effort by the university to introduce students to social issues gave me a better understanding of the world beyond my 9-5 job. It worth mentioning that The Mastercard Program at Ashesi University contributed immensely to the development of aforementioned abilities and effective communication through the summer program and organized career and leadership sessions.” Ibrahim, added.

With technological giants like Microsoft and Google establishing footprints and research/engineering offices on the African continent and the prominence of remote work due to Covid-19 pandemic, Ibrahim believes this will prevent the current tech brain drain we see on the African continent and empower local developers to build technologies to address local problems either as part of their daily job or as a passion project.

“I also expect substantial increase in the number of developers from the continent because it is easier now to access resources and acquire software development skills. Also, businesses and governmental organizations will continue to digitize most of the manual processes of doing things which will create more job opportunities in the tech” says Ibrahim.

“To current Scholars and recent graduates, jobs and opportunities are very hard to come by especially in this COVID-19 era, now more than ever, resilience and grit is very much needed. The world is now a global village so do not limit yourself to your country of nationality for job opportunities. You must adopt a lifelong learning mentality to develop the needed skills for whatever job you are interested in to have an edge over other applicants and compete globally. Learning does not end with your bachelor degree and you must remember that lucky are those who are prepared for opportunities!”