Jackie Ochola joined Andela in July this year after an extensive career as an engineer and a business leader.
Before joining Andela, she was the Country Lead for Nokia/Alcatel-Lucent. She is now tasked with overseeing all Andela activities in the country.
Ochola attended Gayaza High School, Wakiso, the oldest girls school in Uganda founded in 1905 by the church missionary society. She later joined Makerere University for her undergraduate studies.
She has a Bsc in Electrical Engineering from Makerere (1998) and an MCM Telecommunications Management from Coventry University in the United Kingdom (2007).
In her spare time she volunteers for career guidance talks to high school students. She dedicates her time to issues of science and technology, arts and culture, children, economic empowerment, education and human rights.
She says: “In line with this, I am an active old girl of my high school, Gayaza High school. I participate in all programmes that the Old Girls’ Association runs. I do career guidance at the school whenever we have career fairs. I also do career guidance in a number of other schools.
I am dedicated to this because I believe that young people need to know of the existing options out there. In technology especially, the options that would interest people keep growing, through career guidance, you provide options.
“I am also currently part of a team that runs a book project at the Butabika National Mental Referral Hospital. We speak to patients in the recovery unit about self-development, self-value and overcoming personal challenges.”
Andela software engineers are largely employed out of the financial capitals of the world like New York, San Francisco and London. But some East African companies like Safaricom get some of their applications developed by Andela, a company that operates the business process outsourcing model. Most of seed capital comes from Silicon Valley.
What is your off duty passion?
Transformative leadership. I believe that everyone has it in them to achieve great things but are held back by misconceptions, self-limiting ideas, low esteem and self-doubt. So I help such people realise their potential.
But I also love a good laugh and enjoy conversation. I am in the tech world, but I am not a slave to technology. So it is not unusual to find me on a Saturday at 11am having breakfast with friends at a restaurant and chatting up to about 4pm.
What would you have been had you not gone into tech?
A teacher, I believe. When I am older and not as energetic anymore, I will retire into a teaching role or perhaps a human resources management role.
What is your personal style?
Classy, colourful, bright and decent. I prefer comfortably, clothes but I am more into style than comfort, with skirts and dresses above knee length but decent.
How do you manage your wardrobe?
I used to have a shopping programme to upgrade my wardrobe every six months. I had basic business suits and some bits of casual wear for the weekend. Lately, I am more into African wear and I tend to buy clothes whenever I find them. If I like it, I buy it. Currently I go to work in three quarter pants, or jeans and T-shirts because at Andela we are flexible about what people wear. I dress up for meetings though, so my wardrobe is varied, from formal to smart casual.
While in East Africa, where are you likely to spend a Saturday afternoon?
Right now it would be Kampala because of work. But I like Nairobi since it mirrors my impatient personality. Nairobi moves more at my pace. It is also a city of options. If you are looking for a variety of restaurants, or a flight to any destination, Nairobi has a sea of options.
I guess then that your best destination in East Africa would be Nairobi?
Yes. I love Nairobi. Although for a holiday getaway, Zanzibar is my first choice. The island brings out the richness in life with its colours and tastes.
Do you have a must visit list?
Yes. I have done quite a bit of travelling and I have visited about 35 countries already. My bucket list has Italy, Singapore, India and Brazil. Italy for the food and fashion; Singapore for its transformative leadership and how it moved on from being classified as a Third World country in 30 years. And of course India for its monuments, the crowds and the fast economy. Brazil is on my list because I am curious about Samba.
What in your view is East Africa’s greatest strength?
A young and hungry population.
Do you have a best collection?
Books. I love classics. Shakespeare and Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude is a book I reread) are my favourites. I like books that look into the human psyche.
What big read have you finished recently?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by American psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Currently I am reading Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It is about the evolution of humanity through the ages.
What is the most thoughtful gift you have ever received?
A car radio from my sister. It is the kind of gift that keeps giving. I think it was a birthday gift. My car radio was short range FM. Then she got me this long range one with a CD player. I have had it for over a decade now and it is still giving. I don’t know if she thought that much about it, but I have appreciated it so much.
What is the best gift you have ever given?
I receive gifts more than I give. But my younger sister was going to school in Nairobi and before she left, I found that the sweater she had was not warm enough. I told her Nairobi was really cold, and I had to force her to take my warm jumper because she didn’t think it was that bad. She called me when she got to Nairobi and thanked me profusely for saving her life. I think that was the most heartfelt gratitude I have received from one person.
Any film you have watched that impacted your life?
In Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith. It taught me that life can be a struggle and that people that you trust the most can let you down. But just because everything has gone wrong for you doesn’t mean you should do the same to others. That people should strive to make others happy regardless of what is happening in their lives.
How do you stay informed in this fast-paced tech world?
I read a lot and subscribe to a number of newsletters on global trends and participate in different fora. For example, in Uganda we have the ICT association and I am a member of Toastmasters Uganda, where we have a diverse membership from different fields and backgrounds. I watch the news and follow social media keenly, but I also talk to people to know what is happening all over the place.
What item is never missing from your fridge?