Tag Archives: MySkills4Afrika

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 10

All Good Things Must Come To An End

Well, I hope that isn’t the case.  Today is my last work day in Kenya and my flight leaves tomorrow, Saturday, night around 10:30p.  I have made a few great relationships that I hope will last forever… and, I would absolutely love to visit Kenya again.  More on that later.

For Friday, I have a few things that I need to do and the coordination needs to be 100% in sync; or, I will probably let someone down as I won’t be at the right place at the right time.

image 8:00a – Joram and my ride show up at my hotel to take me to USIU (United States International University).  The Microsoft team has had in place for several weeks a day long event titled “Microsoft connection and Dev Camp Event.”

It was a day long event with special focus on devices, development, and our the introduction of our DreamSpark program – where students can use their software access cards for FREE genuine Software for Development.  More info on DreamSpark can be found here.

image At first, the event was slow to start as the students trickled in… but, I would guess we had 50 or more in attendance between students and faculty.

I presented first as I needed to leave shortly after to make it back to the Microsoft Kenya office for an internal conference call.  At USIU, it was a great opportunity to showcase the diversity of Windows-based tablet devices and phones and discussing how the single device could be both a Tablet and PC/Laptop replacement.  Overall, the attendees were excited to see the new form factors that are being made available… and a few already had Windows Phones (Windows Phones in Kenya has about 11.4% adoption).

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Off I go…

Mariam arranged for a taxi at 11a to rush me to the Microsoft Office.  I was the key speaker for their monthly call and I had huge shoes to fill.  My introduction for the team that was sent a few days ago listed “Become the Ultimate Device Seller – we are delighted to announce that the session will be delivered by an award-winning guest speaker, Stephen Legler.”  I had to see if I knew this guy so I looked over my shoulder.  What an introduction… and an honor.

The call has Microsoft attendees from the West, East and Central African markets.  There are normally 100+ attendees that join this call.  Today, we had about 60-65… I trust that the attendance was a little light because it is the last month of our fiscal year… and not the speaker, me.

I think the call went well and I truly enjoyed meeting (at least virtually) the many Microsoft employees that support Africa.  The world is BIG and SMALL… we all have many of the same challenges and opportunities that we can rally around.

After the call, I had a quick meeting with Kunle, the Country Manager for Kenya.  We spent several minutes going over the last two weeks and I hope I was worth his team’s time and resources.  I know it was an experience I will never forget.

I then caught a taxi back to the hotel arriving around 4p… thinking that’s it.  That is the last time I will see my Kenya colleagues… maybe forever or maybe for several months or years.

At the hotel, I began to tidy up a few things so packing tomorrow wouldn’t be such a big exercise.  Around 7p, I went downstairs and had my final meal at the Fairmont Hotel – a nice Ribeye Steak and Garlic Mash Potatoes.  Near the end of the meal I noticed I missed 4 calls on my cell phone because the volume was turned off… it was Andrew (my “handler”).

I went back to my room and was ready to settle down for the evening but called Andrew to see if he needed anything urgently.  He let me know that majority of the Microsoft Kenya office was having dinner at the Fairview hotel and I was invited to join them.

I did.

Not only was it a good time hanging with the team in a more casual setting, I was able to get a picture with all of the wonderful people I worked with throughout the week (missing from this photo are Andrew, Winnie, Mary, James, Robert at the very least).

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It is now around 10:30p and I need to get up at 4a to squeeze in ONE MORE tourist activity – Sweeetwaters.  You might think that I’m a wise person and would head back to the hotel… but, I didn’t.  Three of the Microsofties wanted to go to a local bar/pub (or whatever you guys call it) and I was invited to go.  WHY NOT I say. 

I ended up leaving the late night get-together around 12:30a… arrived at my hotel around 1a (with my kidneys intact – inside joke w/ my Kenyan colleagues) and finally dozed off to sleep at 2a.  My morning call at 4a is something I’m not looking forward to… I guess I’ll sleep on the plane or back at home.

-Stephen

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MySkills4Afrika – Summary Posts

Legler_4AfrikaAlumni_v3 I still need to complete a few posts as I have recently finished my 2 week engagement in Kenya as part of the MySkills4Afrika.  But, I thought I would go ahead and start creating my 1 Post that will list and highlight my experiences just in case you don’t want to scroll through all of my posts at my website.  As always, thanks for visiting and reading.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 01
A quick summary of the first two days while in Kenya

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 02
A quick summary of my trip to Tanzania (from Kenya) and my silly shopping experience.  Also, a farewell to a new colleague I met while in Kenya.  Plus, visits to Nairobi University and Hillcrest

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 03
My Saturday trip to Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha, and The Rift Valley View Point.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 04
My Sunday trip to the Nairobi View Point, Elephant Orphanage, Giraffe Center, Karen Blixen Museum, Kazuri Ceramic Beads, and Mamba Village.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 05
My quick post titled “A Taste of Home Far, Far Away” where I ate at a local KFC (that’s Kentucky Fried Chicken Y’all).

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 06
My visit to the Nairobi National Park before work on Monday.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 07
My most awesome trip and experience visiting Karirana, The Home of Eden Tea.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 08
A quick post showing the number and location of the web visitors to my blog as a result of my MySkills4Afrika posts.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 09
A post on using my Nokia Lumia 1020 as my ONLY camera for pics and videos during my tourist trips to the Kenyan hotspots.

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 10
All Good Things Must Come To An End… or, do they?  My last work day in Kenya and a special invitation

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 11
Coming Soon… Most likely a post on Safety and Security

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 12
Coming Soon… Most likely a post on People

MySkills4Afrika – Journal 13
Coming Soon… Most likely a post on my Farewell

Thank you for visiting & reading. 

If you haven’t already, please download my very first Windows 8 game – Simple Simon Said.  I have a personal goal of 500+ installs worldwide.  I’m currently at 260 (as of June 3, 2014 –– 2.5 weeks since publishing it to the Windows Store).

Simple Simon Said for ALL Windows 8/8.1 Devices

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MySkills4Afrika–Journal 09

When I started on my journey to Kenya, I packed my bags and packed my devices.  Although I’m here on business, there is no doubt that I wanted to be a tourist as well.  For most that means packing your overly expensive and rather large camera (maybe it is a super sized Nikon) with your telephoto lens so you can make sure you capture that special picture.  Or, maybe you are packing your video camera so you can capture your experience for your family to see in videos.

I do own a very nice Nikon camera and a few expensive lenses that I could take with me on this journey.  However, majority of the time I find it quite bulky and a hassle to take.  For this experience, I opted to only take my Nokia Lumia 1020 Windows Phone.  You may recall that I did a post previously on the Lumia 1020:

How good is the Lumia 1020 for Videos

But, those were other peoples stories.  How does the phone stack up when I need it most?

My story starts at the Detroit airport.  When I was checking in my bags, the attendant saw my phone and asked me if the camera was as good as the commercials say it is.  I put it to the test.  I took a picture of the inside of the airport and then zoomed the picture in to show the attendant.  This is what I initially showed her:

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Like you are probably thinking, she looked at me puzzled as the picture is a little distorted and pixelated.  But, I want to point out a few things about this picture.  You can definitely make out each of the three people that are forward facing in the picture and I would bet that you could pick them out of a line up if needed.  The story doesn’t end there.

I ended up zooming out of the picture and showed her the real picture that I took.

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Based on this knowledge, how does the phone hold up at a Kenyan tourist destination?  Quite well I might suggest.

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Here is the actual picture

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As we were about to leave the park, we ran into this little beauty.

The quality of video in this post isn’t the best, but you can look at all of the High Res photos and High Def videos that I have captured with this camera… um, I mean phone by going to my OneDrive folder – http://1drv.ms/1og5bK7.  Select the “Location Specific” folder (which is where I stored all of the High Resolution Photos).  Once there, select the desired location of interest (i.e. Kenya Nairobi National Park, or Kenya Elephant Orphanage, or the Videos folder).

A few details about the phone.

NUSA-PP-Lumia-1020_EOS_Refresh_Hero_2000x1000_1

Specifications

4.5” Display
41 megapixel camera
Xenon Flash
Dual-core 1.5 GHz
ZEISS optics
Full High-Def 1080p (1920 x 1080)
30 fps Video Frame Rate
6X Video Zoom

You can see all of the tech specs at Nokia’s website

Why carry two devices (a phone and a camera)?  Make the switch to the most awesome Camera Phone on the market.

-Stephen

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MySkills4Afrika–Journal 08

It’s Friday… my last full day of work in Kenya has been completed.  I still have a few more journal entries I want to write about but it may take me a few days to get them completed and posted.  On Saturday, I will be waking up super early (4:00a) and will be heading to the Sweetwaters Game Reserve (yes, I’m trying to squeeze in 1 more tourist visit while here).  I’m really excited to visit the Chimpanzee Sanctuary. 

Words have a lasting impact.  I guess that is why I’m most excited to see the chimpanzees… my mother used to call me a little monkey when I was younger.  That has always stuck and is the reason for my excitement and love for these animals.

I hope to get back to the hotel around 5:00p, will shower, finish packing, eat my last dinner in Kenya then off to the airport.  My flight leaves around 10:30p Saturday night (3:30p EST on Saturday).  God willing, my plane will land safely in Detroit around 10:30a EST on Sunday (5:30p local Kenya time).

For those of you that have been following along my Kenya journey, I hope you have enjoyed a few of the posts.  I thank you for reading.  This experience that Microsoft has allowed me to do under the #MySkills4Afrika program will always be remembered.

I hope I have done my Kenyan colleagues proud (as well as Microsoft 4Afrika and my team back at home).  I’ve tried to portray Kenya as I have experienced it.  I’ve also tried to ensure that the “real Africa” story gets told; although I will admit that I sorta lived the high life while here – 5 star hotel, all expenses paid (except my tourist visits), taxis and travel all arranged, customer appointments scheduled, above and beyond hospitality from all of my colleagues, etc., etc.  Sure, there are security concerns and living concerns (which I will blog about shortly), but overall the experience has been amazing.

For my colleagues in Kenya, thanks to you my blog posts have reached about 350 views over the last several days.  Hopefully everyone around the world will know Kenya is a great place to visit, do business, and be a tourist.

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If you have considered traveling to Kenya, I would highly recommend it.  It is breathtaking and beautiful.

-Stephen

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MySkills4Afrika–Journal 07

I’m having to skip my Monday customer journal entry as I’m waiting on a few details so I decided to go ahead and post about my Tuesday customer experience.

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Last Friday, I had mentioned that I presented to two groups at the Microsoft Kenya office to showcase the newest Windows-based tablets and phones that are available.  We discussed overall strategy, what’s working, what’s not and I answered several questions from my colleagues.  After those sessions, we scheduled a customer meeting for Tuesday… it was the most excellent experience.  Again, I think I’m learning more than the value that I’m giving.

Tuesday

I arrived at the office around 10a and then Andrew and I geared up, caught a taxi and went to the customer office.  It was a short visit at the headquarters (didn’t even take a seat) because our main contact, Paul, offered to take us on a factory tour of one of their facilities – Karirana, The Home of Eden Tea.

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Karirana tea has a deep history that began in 1903 when the first seedlings were introduced to Kenya and planted in Limuru (about 5 kilometers from Karirana) – known for its high altitude and rich acidic soils which is a natural habitat for tea to flourish.  But, it wasn’t until 1920 when commercial cultivation of tea began in Kenya… and between the years 1925 and 1930 is when two brothers planted the first tea which is now known as Karirana Estates.  Source:  Karirana About Page.

When we arrived at Karirana Tea Factory, Paul introduced us to Steven their Finance Director for a brief introduction.  Steven then made a quick call and arranged for myself and Andrew to do a factory tour.

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I was able to take a few pictures while I was outside of the factory; however, I wasn’t able to take pictures inside.  I wish I was able to share that experience because the experience is worth sharing.  Michael was a very gracious host and tour guide.  He was very patient with us and had a sense of pride and honor as he described the entire process to us.  I was able to understand the process from picking the tea leaves from the tree (what was good and what was not good).  Andrew and I was able to witness the entire processing – from the picking of the tea leaves, to their initial quality testing of the batch, to the drying and processing of the leaf, to the quality assurance through taste testing… all the way up to the selling of the tea (which is another whole process).

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There are acres and acres of trees that produce the tea leaves.  There are several farms and about 800 pickers that call this place home and live on the farm to make a living for themselves and their family.

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Not all of the leaves are picked for consumption.  Only the top leaves are picked and make their way through the processing.  In the picture to the right, you will find a good pick (which is two leaves and a bud) and you will see a bad pick (it’s the darker tea leaf and has a pretty hard texture… comparatively speaking.  The lighter “good pick” leaves are very soft).

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The trucks come into the factory often.  If I understood Michael correctly, the preference is that the tea leaves make it to the factory in about 2 hours after they are picked (4 max).

imageThere is a lot of education that happens for the pickers to ensure they are only picking the best possible leaves… it is the good tea leaves that make the taste of Karirana one of the best teas in the world to drink.  Karirana takes their quality assurance very seriously and randomly selects various bags coming into the factory for testing.  The picker will also be there while this testing is being performed just in case there is a dispute on why a tea leaf may be discarded.

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As I mentioned earlier, I can’t show you the next few process steps which includes withering, cutting, fermentation, drying, packing and quality control.  But the end result of this processing is the great tasting tea that gets produced.

In the end, you might think there is one kind of tea that gets produced.  That is so far from the truth.  Through this process, it looks like 8 different teas are created… not counting the combinations that can be made that range from pure dark tea to a more bitter tasting tea for those that like that (and anywhere in between).

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Near the end of the tour, I actually got to be a quality taste tester… well, I got to taste the tea direct from the processing.  I don’t think I’m skilled enough to be able to pass Karirana’s standards as a taste tester.

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And to be sure everyone is on the same page in their terminology, there is actually a “Tea Tasting Terminology” key to help you.

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After our factory tour at Karirana, I went back to the office where I joined Paul, Steven, Michael, and their IT Manager/Director, John.  For the next 20-30 minutes I got to showcase the various Windows-based Tablets and Phones and discussed Microsoft’s vision around a single device for all of your needs and our strategy on Mobile First, Cloud First.

Then, we left the factory and headed for a late lunch – me, Andrew, and our most gracious host Paul.

I am extremely grateful for being a Microsoft employee and getting to meet the best customers around the world (literally around the world as I type this – 8,100 miles from home as I sit in my hotel in Nairobi, Kenya).

We do have the best customers and I truly enjoy getting to know them more and learning about their business.  This was a special experience for me… getting to learn about tea from the tree leaf to the processing and, of course, the best part – the consumption.

I THANK YOU Paul, Michael, Steven and Karirana for this most amazing experience.  The time I spent with you will always be cherished and I am very grateful for the time you spent with me and sharing your thoughts on business – including the challenges Kenya faces as the country moves more into the mobile workforce.

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Thanks for reading.

Stephen

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MySkills4Afrika–Journal 06

imageIt’s Monday and it is time for me to get back to work.  For most in the United States, people will be off work today because it is a special federal holiday – Memorial Day.  Memorial Day isn’t a time of celebration.  It is a time for all of us to come together and remember the men and women that have died for our freedoms while serving in the country’s armed forces.  The holiday happens every year on the very last Monday of May.  One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear “Happy Memorial Day.”  It’s not a happy day although I am happy when I gather with my friends and family.  May God Bless all of those men and women and their families that serve and that have sacrificed for our freedoms.

Well, back to my Monday as I’m still here in Nairobi Kenya for another full week.  It’s not a holiday here… but, I didn’t have to be in the office until noon.  What to do with my morning free time?  How about wake up at 4:15a and squeeze in the Nairobi National Park before work?

That sounds like a plan to me… I’ll get sleep when I get back home to the states.

Nairobi National Park

I don’t know how anyone works around here?  To have access to this park which is maybe 20-30 kilometers away is a thing of wonder.

I’m not going to post as many pictures or discuss as much because it is comparable to my visit to Lake Nakuru (see MySkills4Afrika – Journal 03).  You can see all of my pictures and videos at: http://1drv.ms/1og5bK7.  Select the “Location Specific” folder and then go to Kenya Nairobi National Park.

imageNairobi National Park was established in 1946 and was Kenya’s first National Park.  The park is about 118 square kilometers (45 square miles) and has a fence to separate it from Nairobi.  There is an open section that does allow the animals to migrate to open space.

imageI was told that I was most lucky today.  During my visit to Lake Nakuru, I did get to see 2 lions (sort of).  They were resting behind a few shrubs under a tree and I could only see their chest and an occasional tail wag in the wind.  Here, I got to see FIVE lions… the first lion I got to see (the king of the jungle) was walking across the flat part of the land.  I was even able to capture a quick video where he is doing a vocal call.

imageShortly after that, I got to see two more lions.  These two lions were resting in the middle of the road and we had to navigate around them.  Once the other two cars moved on, we stayed there for about 10 minutes just watching them.  We were so close and it was very special.  You are so close you just want to hop out the car and pet them… that would be the most foolish mistake I’m sure.

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I also got to see two hyena’s and two baby cheetah’s (although I must have done something really foolish because I lost the video of the cheetah’s that I took.  I chose to take a video because they were on the move and it was hard to capture a picture between all of the shrubs and grass).

And just in case you are possibly thinking this is a zoo, think again.  We came across a number of zebras (there are a lot of zebras in this park… maybe thousands) and there was one that obviously avoided being a meal.  If you look close, you will see this huge gash in his leg.  I’m guessing it was 20 inches long and probably 8 inches deep.  He also had another smaller gash on the opposite leg.  He was lucky that day.

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There is also a monument at the park and an ivory burning pit.  The government on direction from the President of Kenya burned 12 tons of ivory on July 18, 1989 as a symbol that the poaching needs to stop.  I tried to do a quick search and if the numbers are accurate, Ivory is going for $150 US per ounce.  Remember that ivory is highly illegal; however, I am curious to know what the government gave up to ensure they make the point that poaching is illegal and you should not do it.

If I do my math correct, there are 32,000 ounces in a ton.  So, the Kenya government burned 384,000 ounces of ivory worth about $57.6M US (or 5 billion Kenya shillings).

Bravo for the Kenya government.  They could have sold that ivory but that would have only encourage more poaching. 

In the 10 years preceding a decision in 1989 by CITES to ban international trade in African elephant ivory, the population of African elephants declined from 1.3 million to around 600,000.  Source: Wikipedia

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To learn more about the Nairobi National Park, visit their website.

Well, I guess I better get into the Microsoft Kenya office.  I have a busy day meeting consumer resellers.

Thanks for reading.

-Stephen

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MySkills4Afrika–Journal 05

A Taste of Home Far, Far Away

After our activities on Sunday (see MySkills4Afrika – Journal 04), David (my transporter) and I were heading to the hotel.  It was about 3:30 and I hadn’t had lunch yet because I ate such a late breakfast before we started on our adventure.  My plan was to just head back to the hotel and grab a bite to eat there.

During our drive, I noticed that we were close to a KFC and had a quick chat with David about KFC.  David hasn’t been to KFC yet so I thought we would pop in and grab a bite to eat.  Most people would think that I’m crazy to eat at an American Fast Food restaurant while I’m in Kenya, but the experience served two purposes:  1) gave me a small taste of home far, far away and 2) it allowed me to buy David lunch for his hospitality throughout the weekend and give him a taste of my hometown as well.

But, would the experience be as it is at home?  When I mention “home,” I’m not referring to the United States where there are thousands of KFCs.  I was born and raised in Louisville, KY so KFC has a bit more of a special feeling.

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There are three things I want to share about my experience with KFC in Kenya:

  1. I would say about half of the people don’t realize that KFC was actually named Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  2. When you order the chicken, you choose between “spicy” and “not spicy.”  Not Spicy is what we call “original” back at home… it’s the original 11 herbs and spices created by Colonel Sanders that make Kentucky Fried Chicken (I mean KFC) stand out.
  3. Back at home, we generally eat the leg/drumstick with our hands but many will grab a fork and knife for the breast and thigh.  Since I had both (a leg and breast) I went back to the counter to see if they had a plastic fork and knife that I could have.  The kind man said “we don’t have them, you just use your hands because it is finger licking good.”  That definitely put a smile on my face.  “Finger Licking Good” is the Kentucky Fried Chicken tagline.

There was an added bonus on my visit.  I was actually wearing my Louisville Cardinals (the mascot for the University in Louisville, KY) polo shirt and it sparked a quick chat with the man behind the counter on my hometown and on the restaurant – Louisville, KY being where KFC was founded.

So, that is it… my slice of home in far, far away Nairobi Kenya.  I’m about 8,300 miles from home.  Since then, I found another KFC in the city area.  Somebody had mentioned there might be 4 KFCs in the area.

If you haven’t yet, please install my very first Windows 8 game – Simple Simon Said.  I’m at about 125 installs against my personal goal of 500.

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