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How I became a techie: Guy Kayombya

“I’ve always liked creating things that are autonomous; it’s like giving life to this thing that’s going to interact with its environment.” — Guy Kayombya

My earliest memory of working with technology is in the fourth grade. I grew up in Nairobi , Kenya, and lucky for me, my school had a computer lab. I remember being drawn to its computers. And then my teacher introduced us to programming. What’s fun about programming is that you get to create things that can then run by themselves.

I’ve always liked creating things that are autonomous; it’s like giving life to this thing that’s going to interact with its environment. It’s what interests me most about working with computer vision and robotics. I’m helping these robots sense the world around them through cameras. This includes anything from calculating how far away an object is to tracking the robot’s exact position in space. It’s very rewarding — the closest humans get to creating a device that behaves like we do.

Of course, we don’t always get it right. There are going to be ups and downs. The downs come when things aren’t working and you don’t understand what’s wrong with your program, or when you feel something is just too complicated for you to wrap your head around. But if you just keep going and manage to get to the other side, it’s very rewarding.

I was talking to some kids at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering and their perception was that if you don’t like math you can’t be successful in a STEM field. I told them that when you start working on a team in the corporate world, you realize that you don’t have to be the master of everything. Everyone has their strengths. Some people on the team are really good at math. Others are really great programmers. And some excel at debugging. There are people who can help you with what you may not be good at.

Usually, the thing that you are really good at is what you’re most passionate about. So I guess what I’m trying to get to is that if you find your passion, you can find your place and add value on a team.

Guy Kayombya is a senior software engineer at Qualcomm Technologies. After 13 years in the industry, he’s excited to see how close we’re getting to an autonomous world — one of self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.

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