E15S10 A Career in Tech for Impact and Global Health as a Generalist

Summary & Key Takeways

Ever thought about diving into a tech career focused on tech and social impact?

You're at the right place to start. Check out Episode 15, Season 10 of the Social Change Career podcast with tech innovator Sam Wilks. Sam has significant expertise at creating a social impact, especially when it comes to the mix of health, tech, and startups in Africa and beyond

In this episode he shares rich insights from his time working with leading impact startups. Sam walks us through the hiring process and stresses how important it is to work on your own projects and contribute to open-source ones.

He also highlights the opportunities and challenges of working at the intersection of tech and social impact as well as working across cultures.

We dig into the nitty-gritty too, discussing the challenges that can make it tough for locals trying to launch their own initiatives and the importance of centering and supporting people on the ground building solutions to regional and global challenges.

And we dive into the exciting tech scene in East Africa, like the super popular MPesa mobile money app. He believes there's a big chance this region could get ahead of developed markets in areas such the use of electronic medical records and AI.

We wrap up discussing the growing demand for tech skills, how useful it is to know about coding and AI, and how coding boot camps could help professionals potentially gain these skills. It's an episode full of real-world experiences, useful insights, and practical advice for anyone eager to use tech to make the world a better place.

This episode covers a variety of topics with depth and clarity. Here are the highlights:

  • Introduction to Maisha Meds and Ilara Health: We explore the digitization of small pharmacies in East Africa, their implementation of a voucher program for medicine access, and the evolution of their business models.
  • Potential of Startups with CropConex: Discussion about aiding coffee farmers to reach international markets and the exciting opportunities of working at startups, from business exposure to potential financial upside.
  • Insights into Tech and Social Impact: We touch on the pros and cons of startups, including potential financial upsides, chaotic environments, and work-life balance issues. The importance of choosing a good senior team is also highlighted.
  • Finding Social Impact Jobs: Tips on building a network, having meaningful conversations with people in the field, and the significance of personal projects and contributing to open-source projects.
  • The Hiring Process and Skills Evaluation: We delve into the various stages of the hiring process and the value of giving applicants an opportunity to showcase their skills.
  • Advancing Sustainable Change and Measuring Impact: We talk about methods of measuring change, using stories, data, growth, revenue, and user metrics.
  • Effects of COVID-19 on East Africa's Tech Sector: Discussion about the economic setbacks post-COVID, the impressive growth of learning platforms and coding boot camps, and concerns about wage disparity between tech and non-tech employees.
  • Tech Ecosystem in Canada and the US: We discuss the contractions and refocusing on fundamentals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Systemic Inequities and Support for Local Founders: We discuss the challenges faced by local founders in raising capital and employees in landing senior positions, as well as the increasing support for locally-led organizations.
  • Mobile Money and Tech in East Africa: We touch on the impact of M Pesa on the Kenyan economy, opportunities in the gig economy and solar power sector, and the potential for advancement in electronic medical records.
  • The Importance of Technical Skills and AI: Finally, we discuss the high demand for tech skills in early-stage startups, and the critical role of AI understanding in today's tech environment.

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