Mentor Story: Ugi Augustine

We are often asked if men can mentor in Technovation. The answer is yes, because being a Technovation mentor is about supporting young women and their interests in technology and entrepreneurship. Technovation mentors young women develop their confidence and leadership skills as well as their technical skills. It is also helpful for girls to see men and women working together to promote STEM education for girls. We do encourage men who want to volunteer as mentors do so in partnership with a woman.

This week, we would like to introduce you to a male mentor,  Ugi Augustine from Calibar, Nigeria.  We hope that his experience as a male mentor will encourage other men to volunteer. We also asked Ugi how he supports his team.

Why did you want to mentor in an all girl’s program?

The idea of having women develop software moved me into becoming a Technovation mentor. Professionally, I already impact knowledge and urge my employees and team members to achieve the unthinkable, but so far we have no women on our team. I believe that one or all of the ladies we currently mentor would become very good software developers.

Grace Ihejiamaizu had introduced me to team CHARIS and [told me] how they won the Technovation competition.  I volunteered to help them develop their app Discardious (which my team and I are currently still helping them with), and we have not just assisted with development of their app, we are also training them so they get regular classes every week. My hope is that they become outstanding young software engineers and do well, just like their male counterparts.

I mentor a lot of people, not just the girls, but it’s been a difficult process mentoring the ladies. I have actually discovered that they seem not to believe that coding can change them and take them places like the men that come to study with us. Most of the men let go of their chosen careers and adopt software as a way to make it in life–on the other hand, the ladies tend to hold on to the careers they already have. With team CHARIS and team SCEPH, I have seen young ladies who really want to make a difference through technology.

What advice do you have for all mentors?

To mentor the girls, the first thing I did was to make them believe in themselves and their abilities to change their communities with ideas. I also taught them to see failure as a normal thing, and understand that a lot of people fail, but then get better after they try again. I have failed so many times in trying to set my company up, so I use my life experiences to inspire them. As a mentor, my job ends in showing the way, the will is invented by the girls, and this is what I make them clearly understand.

The girls have built confidence in themselves and this is because they have been able to build confidence in me as a mentor, outside tutorials, app inventor, prototyping and their app VICTUAL MART. When we work together we also find time to discuss life, experiences, failures and success and this has helped them realise early that no one gets through life and becomes successful without hard work. Stories of how I started my company have helped to build their confidence and helped them realise that you may start with nothing yet end with everything you need to steer through life. At every new challenge I share an experience with the girls, tell them of a frustration I may have had making a business decision or learning something new. This has kept them inspired and determined to go beyond Technovation and to push for a career in technology.

Tells us about your background

I started my company in 2008 after learning how to code HTML and JavaScript. I actually intended to study medicine but realized I was making a mistake after several failed attempts to gain admission to a medical program. Late in 2008, I realized I was gifted with entrepreneurial skills and ideas and decided to advance my coding skills. I took further coding classes in Java and C#, and later on I settled for PHP.

Settling for business and becoming an entrepreneur were the hardest hurdles, as my parents did not completely approve, could not afford to pay for my training, and saw technology entrepreneurship as a career risk. 

This meant that I had to achieve everything the hard way. I taught Maths, English, sometimes Biology and the Sciences in schools to raise money to further my coding classes, and I started designing small web pages for schools and hotels. Internet access was a luxury — I could barely afford it, so I spent all the money I made surfing the internet from local cyber cafés, reading about basically anyone who had started a business and made it — Bill Gates, Mark, Steve Jobs — anyone I could read about and make reference to I did so just to convince my family that I was on the right track.

By 2011, after graduating from the local computer school, I realised I needed experience. I took a job with a local network company that didn’t pay. I spent my next two years working without a penny but developing my managerial skills. Throughout this I never gave up on my dream of eventually starting my own company. I started working as a consulting software developer for another company in 2013 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and business Information systems from Middlesex University London the same year.

In December of 2015, after five years as a consulting software developer, I was finally ready to start  my own company. I started NUGI TECHNOLOGIES out of my home, and the company rolled out its first product CloudSkul that same year.

Since then I have been able to build an incredible team of industries experts focused on delivering quality solutions coupled with impressive client support. We believe so much in our abilities that we can do anything, we can build anything and we believe we are not limited even in the midst of so many challenges including power, funding, corruption, and a serious lack of belief by the Government for start-ups. We currently develop high-level applications using technologies like PHP, Node, Angular, React, React Native etc and we manage our development using Agile management approach. You can learn more about our products here: www.nugitech.com.

What is your vision for the future?

Our overall vision is to drive solutions for our local communities. We have a plan to connect our city to affordable data/internet services and are currently working on that. For now we open our office (my home) to so many who need resources (such as power or internet access) as well as the inspiration to learn how to code. This is also where the girls take their coding classes.