I was the child who did things before others

Saturday September 19 2020
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Robert Sebunya is a digital technologis that is sold out to computers and cars. PHOTO/courtesy.

By Joan Salmon

Who was your childhood hero?
My mother was my first autocratic superhero because she was the first person to squash my rebellious and unconventional nature. I was the little child who did things before other children, and sometimes even before other adults.
 
Which books influenced your childhood?
In 1999, at the age of nine, I read a book, ‘The Road Ahead’ by Bill Gates. It was given to me by my sister, who was at Gayaza High school then. The book summarised the implications of a computing revolution and described a future profoundly changed by the arrival of what we see today. Twenty one years later, this book made a huge impact on my life. 
 
What drew you to computers?
I got fascinated by Bill Gates in 1999 and the more I followed his career journey, the more I got to research and read more about computers. When I was 13 years, in 2004, I started learning basic website development. My reading list search history was about computers. I was obsessed that I would choose computers over food. I would dream about computers and often got buried in that fascination. 
 
What has been your career highlight?  
I was the first person in Sub-Saharan Africa to be a Microsoft Certified Professional at the age of 16. I also have a Microsoft top innovator award to my name. I also work for one of the biggest Ad tech companies in the world, undertaking technology projects for some of the biggest brands, governments and advertising agencies in the world at Eskimi DSP. I got my first pay cheque of $1,100 (Shs2m at the time) on my first website task for an Israeli company as a Senior Four vacist. I bought a computer and started my first technology company in 2009 and opened a small office in town. 
 
Any regrets in this field?
There was a time when I was a jack of all trades. I did website development, audio and some motion graphics, computer programming, linux system administration and so many other things and even got internationally certified at most of them. I should have aimed at perfecting one field. 
 
Given a chance, what other career choice would you opt for? Why?
I would still choose computers on any day. Growing up, my parents wanted me to become a doctor, and later my teachers felt I would make a great lawyer. On the other hand, my classmates thought I would make a great writer either as journalist or an author because I was good at writing.  
  
What crazy things have you done for love?
During the peak of the lockdown, I hired a breakdown truck at the peak of the curfew to move me from one part of the city to another to see an ex-girlfriend who had dared me in the dead of the night.
 
What sport gets your adrenaline up? 
My biggest fascination is with Formular 1 and I would love to drive Max Verstappen Red Bull RB13.
 

When you are not doing official work, what else do you do?
I am terrible at work life balance away from the computer. However, I am currently shooting a docu-series with a colleague, about my life before 30 and writing a satire called Heavenly Devils. 
 
Are there books you would recommend a friend to read?
I recommend listening or reading Tiffany Haddish’s, The Last Black Unicorn. It has kept me awake for the last three nights. Besides being hilarious, because she is a comedian, it details her dreams and struggles and how she is using her pain to touch the lives of others.
If you had to change anything about the IT industry in Uganda, what would it be?

I would introduce compulsory scratch programming and robotics for children between four and 18 years.  I would introduce a pre-entry university exam for IT courses, bring up policies that enable a conveyor belt ecosystem interaction between innovators, investors, startups, media and corporate entities. 
In your view, what is the glue that holds a relationship together?
The glue is in the art of compromise even when it might seem like a sign of weakness. This allows you to pay attention to the other person’s feelings and bring you closer as a couple. You cannot always get what you want or want what you get. 

 Are you into movies? What’s your all time favourite movie?

The Pursuit of Happiness by Will Smith is very sentimental and makes me drop a tear whenever I watch it alone. It is based on the story of Chris Gardner, a man who loses everything, but eventually gets everything.
If you had to advise youth, what would you tell them?
Your life is going to be defined by the shoots you take or retake, the relationships you build with the people you meet, and lastly, our generation is about working smart and not hard like the generations before us. 
 
 Which car do you like?        
I am past that stage. I now love car engines instead. I plan to custom build my next car with the right performance parts. But if I am pressed, the Subaru is one of the cars accessible in Kampala, and the Ferrari, if I ever get deep pockets.
What is the best advice you ever got from a woman?
My mother told me that procrastination is a devil. The first calculative movers always make it in life.  

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