Angella Muboka Mwangale

INTERESTS: Reading, traveling, programming, politics, debating and trying out new restaurants.

Where are you from?

I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, to two very loving parents. My mom is a lawyer, politician, and farmer, my dad was a politician. When I was 17, I got a chance to go to a good school. I moved to Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland) to attend The United World College of Southern Africa, which was the first multiracial school during apartheid. I was there for two years, and I had to decide between coming to the US, Canada or England.

What did you do before 42?

I applied to a school in Idaho and got a full scholarship, so I decided to attend and stayed in Idaho for 3 years. While I was in Idaho I took International Political Economy and Mathematics, with minors in Pre-Law and Asian Studies. I was managing everything okay in college until 2015 when my brother passed away. I needed some time off but ended up missing his funeral because of school politics. So, I moved to California with no plan whatsoever. I went to a school in So Cal, while trying to figure out how to mourn this major loss. I was severely depressed and unhealthy while trying to cope.

Did you have any programming experience before 42?

I had zero experience, none. Retrospectively, I wish I had some.

How did you hear about 42?

While I was talking to a friend of mine he mentioned that 42 would be a good opportunity for me. He advised me to attempt the logic tests. Initially, I procrastinated on taking the tests, because I didn’t have a lot of confidence in myself then. In September I took the test and I passed it and decided to join the October piscine. After that, I started to get my confidence back because I was achieving something.

What did your family think about your decision to attend 42?

My family was excited for me, they knew where I was mentally, and what I was capable of. My mom knew I always wanted to go into STEM or politics, so she understood that it was a good opportunity because she researched the school. Overall my family was ecstatic.

What was the piscine like?

The piscine was hell at first. It was an interesting experience because I have never been one to ask people for help. At first, it was bad because I didn’t know all the resources that were available to me, but I kept on working and pushing and staying up all night. My hours were insane. All I wanted to do was learn. It stopped being about good grades or systematic education. I needed to keep on pushing and work in groups and be disciplined. There was so much I learned from the piscine, I knew I HAD to come back.

What was it like when you received your post-piscine decision email?

A few days after the piscine I got my acceptance letter which was extremely exciting. My whole family was elated about this new path.

How does the 42 Cadet Program differ from the piscine?

The cadet program is more laid back because you can work fewer hours and your deadlines are longer. In the piscine, you feel the pressure because you have a new project every day. As a cadet, you need to get through one project and two exams per month and 40 hours per week. In the piscine, you do 70-80 hours per week. You carry forward a lot of what you learn from piscine failures to your work as a cadet.

How do you find help with your projects?

I ask my roommate and other friends, I use Google, I watch YouTube videos, I go on GitHub, I read books… pretty much all the resources. I have a lot of C programming books and they help a lot.

What do you like best about 42?

My favorite thing about 42 is that I get to work at night; I am a night owl. Once I found out that other people in the piscine were doing the night shift, it was easier for me. So overall, my favorite thing is the flexibility, however unconventional it is.

What is the most challenging aspect?

I think the most challenging thing is being an individual; setting your own targets and your own pace. It’s something you must keep on reminding yourself-you aren’t competing with anyone. You aren’t being left behind. There will always be a better coder than you. It’s about doing your best, that is what matters. I learned that during the piscine where I was working at what I thought was my full potential but still knew I could do more. It’s about you competing with yourself.

What do you like to do in the Bay Area?

I like being a tourist. Whenever I move to a new area I am either being a tourist or trying out new restaurants. San Francisco has great restaurants and its overall aura is nice.

What is your dream job?

I intend to integrate politics and technology in Kenya. Nairobi is considered the Silicon Valley of Africa and I’d love to become the Head of the Ministry of Information, Communications, and Technology in Kenya eventually.

What is your favorite quote?

“Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.” – Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz is my inspiration when it comes to amalgamating politics and technology. I recently watched the documentary, “The Internet’s Own Boy” and I couldn’t help but think that that’s what I want to do; give people access to information.

Connect with Angella on LinkedIn

Photos by 42’s in-house photographer, Priscilla Vongdara

Interview by: Stacey Faucett