Thursday, October 23, 2008

Interview with Kai Uwe Wulff

Having had the chance to do a magazine for the School of Engineering, I've had a chance chat with some executives in the engineering and telecommunications industry. I have done a couple of interviews and this is a sneak-peak of this month's issue's interview.

Please give us a small background of yourself that is in terms of nationality, education etc...

I am German,(chuckles...) that's why I'm rude... and re-cultivating my German accent. I come from a very small town in South West Germany. I did my A-levels in a Public School in Germany and then went on to join the air-force where I was tasked with strategic planning and was a special forces trainer for a while until my health gave in.
In Germany we have a system where if you are signed as an officer for more than twelve years, you can study at the Universities of the Forces, one in Hamburg or one in Munich. I had the opportunities to study a Masters in Economic Science after doing my Bachelor's in Computer Science. I studied Computer Science because I worked at a computers company when I was fifteen and took it over but later left to the Military. After Military I went back to my company where we set up Novell Networks. (Dr. Wulff also has a commercial pilot license)
Our approach was through business consultancy first where we assessed what you needed first and designed a network and communication solutions for you based on the severity of your needs rather than your seniority. Through these socialistic principles all our customers had the same service level from a student to a company CEO.

In many forums you would be regarded as one of the 'New Generation' CEO's and I'd like to commend you for this and the many accolades you have collected. How would you describe your leadership style?

I lead people to the road of self-exploitation. The principle of managing a successful company is to make people happy. I have to make my suppliers happy, I have to make my employees happy, I have to make my customers happy. If you are loyal to your suppliers and involve them in your processes you grow with them. You put your employees where they want to be. My job as an employer is to know my employees potential and challenge them to exploit their potential.

So what is your day like?

On a normal business day I get up at Five. I have breakfast and do a few e-mails and watch some CNN. I leave the house latest at 6.30 and I'm at the office by 6.45. I then check my e-mails (he gets at least 1300 e-mails a day) and prepare meetings if any. I try to keep my day planned and have time to see what is happening and keep tabs with all staff personally(at least 3-4 times a week). I usually don't have lunch and try to go to the gym 2-3 times a week.(KDN pays gym membership for all their staff). I leave the office at around 8.30pm then go home and have dinner with my wife and sometimes my son... if he's awake. I check e-mails once more before going to bed.

And how do you spend your time when not working?

On weekends normally is when I have more family time and do no appointments. I however do some work from home but call it a day at around 2pm. (He is a confessed work-a-holic.) Once a year I go on holiday to see my mother for about two weeks.

KDN has is a young company with a rather short but impressive history. Tell us something about how it all began and how it has got here.

When I came KDN was more or less a wireless provider to allow ISP's to connect with the end-user on a small scale. So we began by asking where we'd want to end up and what the market requires. This was a real infrastructure rather than doing quick fixes. So we decided on a fibre network across the whole continent with a last mile access for all the users. We found ways to convince the board and came up with the money to start little by little. An important thing is to trust your people. This is how we've managed so far.

Just this morning I was glad to see that the laying of Fibre Optic cables at the UoN is back on track. So how soon are we going to realize the benefits of this? Are we also going to benefit from your wireless services?

UoN will get full Butterfly(read Buttefly article on page). We've been laying the foundation and communication within the campus will be free thus you can do Voip and share information hopefully across campuses.

Are the government and Educational Institutions doing enough to prepare for the arrival of the undersea fibre optic cables?

You have to view your end-product. Apparently nobody has thought to do the last mile access. Where are the Engineers who are going to help us make use of it? What is the business case? The problem is nobody creates local content. It drives me crazy that we host our websites abroad. At least we shouldn't pay to be sold our own content. This is what KDN is encouraging kenyans to do and we are laying the foundation.

Kenya Data Networks in collaboration with and the Youth Entreprenuership Development Fund are spearheading the Digital Village Constituency Cluster which aims at having a VSAT Base Station in every constituencey. How can we as students and The Youth take part in this.
There's ample opportunity on different levels from franchising down to one laptop. We are trying to spread the ICT culture through small incubators. Everybody should have in walking distance someway to have digitalised content, access to the internet and multiple trading platforms. You can participate at the end of the distribution chain (with peripheries involved eg solar panel powering) or on the other side by generating mass-applications to be used by these villages and the third angle would be to have a moderating role by franchising and running these centres.

At the UoN we have a Department of Environmental and Biosystems Engineering. Since companies all over the world are embracing 'Green' Technologies, how viable in your opinion are the opportunities for our Environmental Engineers?
As KDN we are a very environmentally conscious company and we participate in tree planting activities since it does not help to build an infrastructure on a planet that we cannot live in in a few years. If someone takes up environmental engineering they are paying back their C02 debt to society, so to speak.

And lastly, what is your advice to Student Engineers?
Do not assume that at graduation you know what you want to do in life. Make maximum use of 70% of your time and use 30% to discover other fields and how you can be of more use to your family, society and yourself.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

New Kid on the Block

The latest in a series of connectivity products will be unleashed Tuesday next week by Wananchi Online. Rumours are that they'll give broadband from as low as 3000 bob i.e.
256kbps @ 3000/-
512kbps @ 6000/-
1Mbps @ 9000/-
They are yet to load the website but this should be real broadband according to sources. Will keep y'all updated!