A chat with Ikram Babs-Lawal about being a machine learning engineer, and co-founder at 14

Omoleye Omoruyi
“I am still in the exploring phase,” Ikram says…
Ikram Babs-Lawal

Ikram Babs-Lawal starts her story with her titles, including her experience as a Machine Learning Engineer, and co-founder of Yoable. She explains what Yoable is about, but we will get to that later.

Ikram, 14, says her earliest encounter with tech was when her father bought her sister a PC and a phone and “I got jealous because I always fancy devices.” She made a request, and her dad got her the toy equivalent of the devices. This was about nine years ago, in 2013/14.

But, she would eventually get bored of the toys, even though she was just about six years old. “I could not do anything apart from playing games.” At this point, her inquisitive nature began to expand in scope, and her mom’s phone was the tool for personal growth.

It was the same games she played on her mom’s phone, but she began to develop an interest in how the games were made.

I started googling how to make apps and games. And after a few days of research, Google recommended a platform where I could make apps without coding.

Ikram Babs-Lawal

In contrast to other teens in tech who want to learn to code, she was not interested. Yet, she was able to build a gallery app just to check pictures, and her interest grew to how to code from this.

If you are a millennial or were born in the early years from when the Gen Z era began to count, you would be reminded every now and then that ‘coding’ was not exactly in any school curriculum. And, the call ‘learn how to code here’ was not usually a Google or Facebook ad.

Read also: Meet James Udotong, a 20-year-old student, developer, designer and co-founder of Skibble

But, Ikram kept seeing ads that persuaded her to learn to code. Indeed, those ads can be quite persuasive, and your time on the internet can be annoying if you do not use an ad blocker.

“My curiosity sparked again. So, I mistakenly clicked on one of the ads, and I saw the backend way of building the app.”

She started with JAVA but did not learn so much about it. But, she became even more interested, and with her brother’s help, she signed up for freeCodeCamp – a non-profit organisation that consists of an interactive learning web platform, an online community forum, chat rooms, online publications and local organisations that intend to make learning web development accessible to anyone.

Ikram Babs-Lawal
Ikram Babs-Lawal

Ikram Babs-Lawal is an explorer

“I am still in the exploring phase,” Ikram says, almost wondering why she was asked about her work experience. She adds that she has been exploring for the last three years and is not ready to work.

She says later that she is not rushing as “I still have a long way to go.” Besides, there is school, and she is “putting the priority in the right place. I mean, if I don’t go to school, I would not even understand tech.”

As for coding, she keeps building bridges.

I started with Machine Learning, then went to app/web development and UI/UX. I have not been learning as much, just exploring.

Ikram Babs-Lawal

However, Ikram has built a chat box using javascript and a machine learning project that “predicted correctly” – her two most exciting projects.

The Yoable project

To answer this, Ikram is excited and tells us that Yoable is a non-profit organisation, and its objective is to “empower, inspire, and connect youths, ambitious youths.” So, if you want to acquire valuable skills to become an entrepreneur or a player in the tech space, Ikram recommends Yoable.

Unsurprisingly, she references the labour market and the lack of adequate skills in the country. “We want to reduce the skills deficit, especially as the ones who have the skills are emigrating.”

But sustainability seems to be an issue here. However, to solve this, Ikram says the team is looking for sponsorships and partnerships to keep the ball rolling.

To corroborate the importance of networking, she says she has spent less on Yoable because she had built a network and were people who were interested in the idea when she sold it to them.

Words on marble

Tech is not for everyone, especially coding. So, if you are getting into tech [anything], do thorough research first. Open Google, and learn to research - Ikram Babs-Lawal. 

Besides, she adds, tech is mostly research. “If there’s a bug in a code, you go to Google to check how others solved the problem.”

The fountain of knowledge never dries.

Ikram Babs-Lawal

To people who want to play in the tech space too, she goes back to the research conversation, saying using the right keywords is one great way of getting to the right resources. Yet, she recommends reading a lot of articles on the field of interest, using YouTube, following the right people on Twitter, taking courses on Udemy, and reading other people’s stories on how they started.

Other ways include signing up on the 14G Network, and “if you are looking for a free internship that will help you to hone your skills, try Hotels.ng.”

Also, there is more to tech than just coding.

Ikram Babs-Lawal is also a community manager at GenZTechies.

Watch the full interview on YouTube:

YouTube player

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