David Lemayian is the Lead Technologist of Code for Africa and ICFJ Knight Fellow.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
My colleague and founder of Code for Africa, Justin Arenstein, asked if I’d want to work together. He has an investigative journalism background and ran his own media house. At the time I was juggling getting my own mobile apps startup off the ground while building civic technology apps because I saw a gap in information citizens had on what their government was doing with their money. I immediately knew that building ecosystems for media houses to use data and civic tech would have a wider reach than a small tech startup doing it on the side.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
A typical day is spent in meetings coordinating the work we do across the continent. In the afternoon I’ll respond to e-mails, Slack conversations, and look at Github notifications. In the evenings I’ll work on software for the projects we support.
WHAT DOES YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE? (YOUR APPS, PRODUCTIVITY TOOLS, ETC.)
Slack is our primary communication tool. We use Google Drive to manage all our documents and Github for all our source code repositories. We also heavily rely on gCal for scheduling meetings. For coding, I primarily use Sublime Text, and to take notes I use Simple Note.
WHAT DO YOU DO TO GET INSPIRED?
I talk to people but conferences have also been big sources of inspiration. Watching people present their ideas always seems to spark some in my work.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
Too many to choose from but I’d have to say; “What is honored in a place is cultivated there,” read it in Eric Weiner’s The Geography of Genius. The quote is probably by Plato or someone else.
WHAT IS THE MOST INTERESTING/INNOVATIVE THING YOU HAVE SEEN ON ANOTHER OUTLET OTHER THAN YOUR OWN?
The standards set out by ProPublica in their “Nerd Guide.” It’s not just enough to build apps, I believe setting out process and templates has further reaching impact.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM THAT YOU’RE PASSIONATELY TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Setting out standards, guides, and templates for all our work for others to replicate and contribute to easily. By making it easier for people to engage with the mechanics of how we do things, we will be making it easier to grow the ecosystem faster.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE JUST STARTING OUT?
Hire outside your comfort zone (the person doesn’t have to be senior) and then train the hell out of them. Send them to conferences and have them meet with people from other organizations you admire. Also get your developers/techies out of the basement and into the newsroom (The IT Crowd reference here), because they’re eager to contribute.