Dr. Akash Pooransingh, UWI Lecturer in Computer Sciences expressed his gratitude to the Hacker Hostel team for choosing to host the programme in Trinidad, saying, “This was the first time such an event was done in Trinidad and Tobago.” He went on to explain that the programme targeted recent Electrical & Computer Engineering and Computer Sciences graduates who were ready to hit the job market. The Hacker Hostel initiative defined for these students what they were capable of doing and gave them some real issues to work with. Each team had one month dedicated to solving a single problem. Dr. Pooransingh emphasized the importance of programmes like these for the creation of the tech-ecosystemneeded to drive the ICT industry in Trinidad and Tobago and commended the support that was provided by corporate entities such as InvesTT.
President of InvesTT, Mr. Christopher Lewis shared that in 2017 a US client requested background data on software development skills available in Trinidad and Tobago. In response, InvesTT conducted a survey to source the data.
“What we found was a gap in the knowledge set in terms of what international software developers were looking for and what was available locally. Hacker Hostel’s Summer programme is the type of intervention needed in Trinidad and Tobago to bridge this perceived gap,” said Mr. Christopher Lewis.
The Demo Day allowed the three teams of participants the opportunity to pitch their prototypes to the business audience with the aim of commencing partnerships for their pilot projects. The projects included a mixture of software applications, web platforms and sensory based software tools which sought to provide solutions for real issues such as sourcing local fruits readily, maintaining fitness levels, and detecting security risks.
Along with the well-deserved accolades from the audience, the teams were also grateful for the rigorous feedback received from the audience on ways in which they could refine and strengthen their product offerings.
“There’s nothing like this programme offered at the University.” This was the profound statement made by current second year Computer Sciences major Gabriela Sewdhan when asked about her participation in the Hacker Hostel Summer Solutions Programme. Michael Ali, her fellow teammate, also a Computer Sciences major indicated that the field of solutions development for business was definitely a viable option going forward as a career. Together they formed Kinetic Solutions, one of the three teams coming out of the first ever run of the Programme in Trinidad and Tobago.
The four weeks of intense training took these students from being Software Engineers to being able to apply their expertise to develop solutions for real problems in the Trinidad and Tobago business environment.
“The teams accomplished a lot within the four weeks as they came into the programme with only technical knowledge and were able to develop business solutions within that short space of time,” stated Wilkins.
Within its fourteen months since start-up, Hacker Hostel has trained 46 software engineer business entrepreneurs in the Caribbean. Their ultimate goal is to train software engineers and have them employed at Caribbean Technology Parks.
“This programme is key to getting there,” stated Mr. Wilkins, who urged the corporate sector to .“support programmes like this”, given its direct relevance to solving real-world business problems.