Terry Karungi, 22, is a third-year student at Makerere University where she is pursuing her first degree in Computer Engineering. When she agrees to an interview, she sends a text message that reads: “Can you come to my place of work at 4.30p.m? Soliz House 4th Floor, Lumumba Avenue Nakasero.”
This 22-year-old has a place of work. At the sign-in, when I write “Outbox” as my destination, the security woman good-naturedly comments that I must be “one of those university kids” because all of the people who go to Outbox, she explains, are students. “We know them,” she says confidently when I prod about her method of deciding who was a student and who just looked young.
At Outbox, the place is impressive and yes, the group looks like students. Karungi is one such student. She is a production manager here and explains that a lot of what they have learnt in their work feeds into their university studies. It makes it easier to pass at school. “By the time we are taught something, we have already used it here in one application or another,” she says.
Making her way into the work world
On joining Makerere University, Karungi was like most students, happy to get a good course, partying it up on free days and managing to go through course unit after course unit with just enough dedication to avoid retakes. Today, Karungi is not an ordinary 22-year-old Mak student. Her journey began in 2011 with a Google Application competition.
Entering into the competition alongside three male contemporaries- Daniel Okalany, Jasper Onono and Acellam Guy- the group created a Game App they called “Matatu” after the popular card game.
She insists that while she is the face of Matatu, she did not create the App alone. At the time of this interview, Matatu had close to 10,000 downloads, 4,800 active players and had been in the top three most played games in Google Play in Uganda. Karungi rattles off these figures effortlessly, like she just looked them up. “Passion,” she explains.
Karungi refuses to subscribe to the belief that technology is a “male-identified” world. She says her class has 90 students and 12 of those are girls. Karungi agrees that as it stands now, technology is a male-dominated world but insists that all a girl needs to be a part of that world is interest and passion. “You know of the top 12 students in my class, 60 per cent are girls,” she says.
Holding her own
The girl-child might not be well-represented in numbers, but she most certainly is doing well here. Working with mostly males, Karungi agrees that they might be a lot of “because she is a girl” decisions made but she is happy to call them out in these times.
She emphasises that although there are more males in the field, there is no need to accept mediocrity from someone just because she is a girl. She says this in relation to app creation and how sometimes a need to have gender-balance would bias. “If your app design looks horrible, it has nothing to do with you as a woman and we shouldn’t just accept the “because she is a girl” excuse”, she says.
She answers with specific details without pausing to look up the information. It might be be=cause she is new to the corporate world, or it might be because she is the detail kind of person.
She may be best known for her role in the creation of Matatu, an addictive game that weaned some Ugandan Android-users off Angry Birds, but she is still young and if her attitude towards achievement and her commitment to Mobile Technology is considered, Karungi is only starting out. She could be a force to be reckoned with in Mobile Technology. If she isn’t already.
Karungi is also a co-founder and production lead at Kola Studios, an App Development and Design Company that specialises in Mobile and Web Games. It is an eight-man company that is, in her words, “a channel to showcase good stuff from here”.