Even though mathematics serves as the underlying language of all the other sciences, it is seen in most parts of Africa as having little or no use in the non-academic industry. The quest to change this narrative is what has kept James J. Njong, an AIMS Cameroon and AIMS-ESMT IIP alumnus striving for excellence. James is currently a tutor at AIMS Cameroon, and he shares his story with us in this edition of #AlumoftheWeek.
Q: Tell us about your journey before AIMS
James: I completed a BSc and MSc in Mathematics, where I was mainly exposed to the theoretical foundations of what most will call pure maths. The period of study was exciting and rich. It taught me a lot of transferable skills around computer programming, critical thinking, and general problem-solving.
After about two years into my BSc degree program, I was convinced about the usefulness of Mathematics in every work of life. I equally quickly became aware of the challenge of finding a job in the non-academic industry with a mathematics background. This I attributed to the minimal exposure people have as the value-added of a maths degree.
This was my primary push for further exposure to applied mathematics, particularly mathematics which immediately translated into something usable for the ordinary person.
Q: How would you describe your time at AIMS?
James: My quest for more relatable mathematics or problem-solving skills lead me to AIMS. AIMS promised (and delivered) an understanding of mathematics for the markets, the kind of knowledge that will allow one to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people who had followed a different path into the business world. Remarkably, at AIMS, I started my journey into financial mathematics and have continued to research and build an understanding of finance ever since. The courses and friends to journey with were highly beneficial. Because not only did I discover new things, but I had many other people my age with whom to share this belief, this hope that we too had a place on the table of problem solvers of our communities.
Q: Tell us about the impact AIMS has had on you
James: AIMS, for me, was about discovery. Who am I, what’s my mission, and what can I do with the skill and love for mathematics that will benefit my people? This understanding of the purpose and its ensuing motivation has allowed me to have a short career in software development before returning to help others discover themselves while working as a tutor. The understanding of the fact that I must not do it alone has fueled my passion for mentorship and the campaign to work with businesses around Cameroon. I aim to help them understand the value addition of mathematics and consequently open the market for many whose passion for science will take them down this route we have traveled. Let’s make it easy for the many to come.
Q: What would you describe as your post-AIMS success story?
James: I do not think my AIMS journey has ended yet. I am still at AIMS and very much still under the influence of the system. However, working in Cameroon as a tutor, I have helped the organization reinforce soft skills for students. We continue to work towards aiding an understanding of the value addition of mathematicians by local industries. This, I am passionate about and look to see through.
Q: Which of the SDGs is most important/relevant to you? How do you plan on addressing it in your work?
James: Goals 1 (Zero Hunger) and 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure) are particularly close to my heart. Being a STEM major, the focus as I build my career is to create wealth by formalising the engineering sector in Africa, enhancing business management procedures so that local economies can begin to thrive. By this, innovative local solutions can be quickly scaled to meet global demand and create even more wealth for our continent, which hosts a good number of the world’s poor population.
Q: What is your message to current AIMS students and young people across the continent?
James: AIMS is not a mathematics school, despite its mathematics agenda. The minute you understand this, you can start to take advantage of the opportunities the organisation offers. Also, understand that what AIMS is for your colleagues must not be the same for you. As I said, this is very much not a school, it’s a platform, Africa’s biggest STEM platform, given to you for free, and you must decide what you want to use it for to transform your life and your community.