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Alumni Spotlight: Using Software for Good

Utilizing software to reduce barriers to education, expand healthcare delivery and assist social welfare is Masdar Institute alumnus Abdul Fattah Popoola’s passion.

Popoola – a Class of 2013 MSc in Computing and Information Science alumnus– was attracted to the creativity of software engineering and its profound potential to drastically improve people’s lives.

“Software development simultaneously offers an intellectually challenging and stimulating experience while also allowing engineers to be artistic in their composition of tools; it also comes with the added advantage of building tools that make life better for all,” Popoola said.

In his spare time, the young Nigerian works to improve his software skills to leverage data in creative ways, hoping to develop innovative software tools that may make lives easier. He also hones his skills at his day job at Microsoft, where he is working to make lives easier in a different way; through architecting easy-to-use dashboard systems that will help businesses owners better manage their data.

Popoola has been working at the US-based tech giant for the last 3 years since his graduation from Masdar Institute. He has consistently progressed in his role, from a software development test engineer to his current position of Software Engineer II for Microsoft’s PowerBI Dashboards and Reports Team.

“In my current role I am responsible for building features that help users meet their goals while also contributing to an improved engineering system and software delivery process,” Popoola explained. “I work with a great team of individuals, and we each add value to the team through our varying strengths. I really enjoy contributing by bringing in new ideas and also learning from the deep knowledge and expertise of my colleagues.”

While at Microsoft, Popoola has worked on teams that shipped highly-demanding features to users, organized recurring training sessions, helped with the adoption of a new control system, and delivered new helper tools. The expert software developer also participates in code reviews and in promoting best practices across the organization.

Popoola credits MI for instilling in him not only a wide range of computing skills in critical areas like machine learning, artificial intelligence, game theory, algorithms, distributed systems and software engineering, but also the leadership skills that he leverages every day within his Microsoft team and his wider community of family and friends.

One such MI project that helped inculcate in Popoola teamwork and leadership skills that he has been able to transfer to the workplace was a team engineering project on bitcoins, a form of digital currency that is created from an open-source software.

“Participating in the software project on bitcoins was a really good exercise – it showed glimpses of what commercial software engineering across large teams would be like,” he explained.

During his graduate studies at MI, Popoola was able to follow his passion and research a topic close to his heart – how to improve communications during a natural disaster. With support from faculty, classmates, and an international team of collaborators, Popoola developed a prototype information verification web platform based on crowd-sourcing that was able to verify the validity, or truthfulness, of information provided by people on social media during a time of crisis in a city.

Popoola’s innovative thesis research (which was published in a conference proceeding for the 22nd International World Wide Web Conference in 2013) led to the creation of an open-source framework for analyzing road networks of cities, which can be used by city planners to conduct city complexity modelling, map analysis and information dissemination prediction.

Another way in which Popoola gives back to his community is through his blog, called “CodeKraft,” which he maintains to make software development and programming languages interesting and relatable to his readers at https://abdulapopoola.com.

Although his research was not all smooth sailing, as the development of new software-based systems rarely are, he greatly appreciates the valuable life lessons imparted through these challenges.

“Masdar Institute helped me come to appreciate the value of grit, determination and perseverance while working towards a goal. My time at MI taught me not to ever give up, even if all appears to be lost,” he shared.

Popoola says he looks forward to further improving his technical skills, deepening his computer science knowledge and participating in some high-impact projects inside and outside of his workplace.

 

Erica Solomon
News and Features Writer
12 December 2016

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