David Mulongo is registered with the Engineers Board of Kenya (EBK) as a Professional Engineer. He holds a Masters in Business Management (Strategic Management) from the University of Nairobi in 2009, and a First degree in B.Tech. Electrical and Communication Engineering (1996) Moi University. Eng. Mulongo’s career in Telecommunication spans many years, he has done consultancy services in ICT and is a Certified Energy Manager (CEM). Additionally, he is one of the founding directors of Viscar Industrial Capacity. Eng. Mulongo pursued electrical and communication engineering out of passion and interest on how electronics work.
Q: Give a summary of your engineering path/journey?
A: After graduating, I got my first job at Systems Reliability. Here I worked as a Customer Engineer to service and repair after clients IT equipment from computer hardware and software to networking. In 1998, I was a project /systems engineer at Systems Radio Communication Kenya where I was tasked to design telecoms network, install and maintain networks. Later towards the end of 2000, SR Kenya seconded me to work with Kencell as a transmission engineer in setting up its network in various towns across the country and lastly I joined Safaricom in 2001 to serve in the same capacity but majored mostly as telecommunications engineer.
Q: What does Viscar do and for how long has it been in operation?
A: Viscar Industrial Capacity was established and incorporated in 2008. VIscar is an acronym for VISion for CAReers. The firm was started with the aim of bridging the gap between engineers and the industry as well as to usher fresh graduates into the industry. Viscar was started due to the lack of a training center based on competency training in engineering technology. The company focuses on three major sectors Training, Resourcing and Consultancy. Viscar’s vision is to be the leader in Engineering Technology, Consultancy and Training in East and Central Africa.
Q: What distinguishes Viscar from other companies in engineering training and consultancy?
A:While setting up Viscar we didn’t look at competition, we knew what we wanted to offer. Something that we do different from our competitors is optimizing organizational performance by providing training and consultancy in engineering technology. Also, what makes Viscar different is its approach to training. We have adopted Business, Technology and People (BTP) methodology in training. The message we are portraying is that engineering doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it is there to serve businesses and people in a bid to achieve optimal performance. For instance, we can pick a technology on fiber and train participants but we have to bring out the business aspect of fiber.
Secondly, we strictly focus on the applications of engineering, as engineering training without applications doesn’t make or bring impact to a business or community. Thirdly our process of conducting consultancy and training is different. Our approach begins from identifying clients’ needs through various tools like a pre training questionnaires addressed to participants of the training. This aids Viscar to customize training needs according to client’s requests. After the training period, we conduct a post training evaluation that entails interacting with the participants of the training at their workplaces to assess the impact of the training to their productivity at work.
Q: What are some of your significant milestones for Viscar?
A: To impact the career growth of about 300 graduates means a lot to us. In the area of telecommunications engineering, we’ve had our graduates work for blue chip companies like Safaricom and occupying senior positions, that is a milestone for us. Another milestone is that we have been able to provide skilled resources through the rolling out of some big projects through our product known as resourcing. In 2013, we were contracted by Ericson to provide skilled resources to carry out Safaricom’s digital city project.
Other than that we have reached a level where corporate companies like Mabati Rolling Mills, Safaricom, KenGen and Telkom Orange have approached us to design for them solutions to address their training needs.
Moreover, through joint ventures, we have been able to deliver some of the key consultancies services for Kenya. In 2015, Viscar and Information Professionals for Africa won a tender to develop ICT strategic road maps for 23 counties, a World Bank funded project under Information Communication and Technology Authority (ICTA). Viscar in partnership with a Canadian firm, Intelecon Research and Consultancy Limited undertook a study to identify remote areas without voice and data services. To this end, the Communications Authority of Kenya and the government have subsidized the cost of rolling out the services so that investors can get returns on investment from marginalized areas.
Q: As a trainer, how best do you think engineering professionals should differentiate themselves?
A: We need to have a structured way of growing the engineering profession and unfortunately this is not in place. Engineers seem to lack a structured way of skills acquisition and combining these skills to solve problems. We need to have a clear path which engineers follow after graduating hence the industry, academia and government need to set or have clear grounds like an incubation program, which prepares fresh engineers for the industry.
Q: How best do you think an engineer should organize his or her continuous professional development?
A:The continuous professional development should be organized in a way that there are specific courses or training that are lined up or identified for an engineer to take up part time. In my view, if the issue of linking academia with industry is addressed and have specific courses that are mandatory to undertake, this would better the engineering profession.
Q: Tell us about your engineering graduate development programme, who runs it, who does it target and what do you wish to achieve with it?
A: The Engineering Graduate Development Programme (EGDP) involves fresh engineering graduates going through a three month programme in the field of ICT, manufacturing, energy, building and construction sectors. Currently, we have been able to roll out programmes on ICT and manufacturing. The Programme is run by corporate sponsors who finance the programs.
At the moment, Viscar has already interviewed and recruited 15 students from different universities to begin a programme on introduction to telecommunication systems engineering. This is suited for students who have interest in working in the telecommunication sector. EGDP seeks to map knowledge to skills required by industry.
Q: What are your aspirations as Viscar, where do you see yourselves in the next few years?
A:Our vision is to be the leading training and consultancy firm in engineering and technology in East and Central Africa by 2020. Presently, we have presence in Tanzania where we are offering training and resourcing services. Further, we have registered in Uganda and Rwanda with a view to commencing operations in the near future. Before this, we intend to launch a fully equipped laboratory to enable us offer our services optimally.