What you need to know:
- His interest in technology and software engineering for social and economic development was inspired by the English physicist and Mathematics professor, Stephen Hawking.
- After university, he got a job as an implementation engineer for Safaricom Home Fibre, a role he held for two years.
Growing up, Fredrick Mwangi longed to be an accountant. He loved Mathematics. However, his primary school teacher convinced him that Computer Science technology would suit him better.
Fredrick’s interest in technology and software engineering for social and economic development was inspired by the English physicist and Mathematics professor, Stephen Hawking.
“I remember one time, my teacher told me a story about Stephen Hawking, who was doing great things in the world of science and research. So I asked myself, why not get involved in something that would better my life in the future? This is considering that I envisioned myself getting involved in interdisciplinary research area like robotics.”
From that time, he says, he started exploring computers.
Fredrick was born with congenital malformation and paralysis of the lower limbs, a condition that has confined him to the wheelchair since childhood. He could see himself in the late scientist.
“In primary school, I had access to one computer, and I remember breaking it severally due to my curiosity. It is that interest that has carried me to where I am today.”
He attended a school for special needs learners.
“It was great since most of the amenities available were designed to suit our needs, especially in aiding movement. The school also offered great opportunities to learn and interact with each other. This inspired and cultivated a winning spirit in me. It made me believe that if anyone can make it, then I too, can,” he adds.
The real world
But this didn’t entirely prepare him to face the real world.
“I encountered the real world while studying at the university, where facilities available were not friendly for use by people with disability. It wasn’t always easy moving from one lecture to another, especially when consecutive classes were on different floors in the opposite direction, as it often happened,” he adds.
His classmates’ willingness to help him move around motivated him.
“Such seemingly difficult experiences teach us to lean on others, but to also not give up hope in the process.”
After university, he got a job as an implementation engineer for Safaricom Home Fibre, a role he held for two years.
“It’s not easy moving around in a wheelchair. Hence, you have to depend on others most of the time. This means that you can only succeed if you create a good rapport with the people around you,” he avers.
Apart from that, he also mentions his employer and colleagues as a great support system in his endeavours.
“From creating a conducive environment to cheering me on to be the best I can be, they expressed their faith in me,” he adds.
When the demand for home fibre shot up, it meant longer working hours for Fredrick. He was forced to get out of his comfort zone.
He would get out of his house, and taking precautions, visit as many of these places that were affected as was necessary. He recalls that during one of the busy weeks, he handled more than 120 calls.
Leaps of faith
“As a person using a wheelchair for mobility, my work does not come by as easy. The need to deliver is always high, and anyway, you are employed for the value you bring to the company. This value has to be earned,” he says.
Together with his colleagues, he says, they came up with a working schedule that would enable him to deliver efficiently in his field and office tasks.
“This involved taking leaps of faith and necessary risks to attain the intended goal. It also meant building and leveraging on my interpersonal skills while working with people,” he adds.
Things have slowed down a bit for Fredrick in the last two months since he took up a new role as the engineer, home automation and architecture optimisation.
But looking back, he says, he has learnt to work under pressure, as well as know when to take that crucial rest which means switching off his work phone during his off days.
His family has been the most significant source of support.
“I have terrific friends. I need them, and I make myself useful to them too. My freedom is aided by them more times than I can count,” he says.