From Kigali to Colorado

Hannah Diorio-Toth

Jun 15, 2022

Eric Serge Uwimana and Brian Lamtoo grew up one country and about a nine-hour drive away from one another—Uwimana from a small town on the west side of Rwanda, and Lamtoo from Uganda. With different backgrounds, cultures, and languages, they never would have guessed that they would find themselves following the same career path: earning a Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT) degree from Carnegie Mellon University Africa and moving across the world to work in Denver, Colorado in the United States. 

“At CMU-Africa, it was fun to explore different cultures, meet friends from countries you never thought that you’d have a friend from, and travel to places you didn't even expect to go,” says Uwimana.

The two CMU-Africa alumni work as software engineers at Cardinal Peak, a product engineering services company founded by CMU-Africa instructor Mike Perkins. Uwimana and Lamtoo recently traveled to Pittsburgh for commencement as a belated celebration of the degrees they earned in 2020 during the pandemic. While at the Pittsburgh campus, they reflected on their time at CMU-Africa and shared their stories.

Eric Serge Uwimana

Eric Serge Uwimana applied to CMU-Africa to explore the growing field of information technology. As a young student, he had an interest in electronics and telecommunications, although he saw many of his peers pursuing more foundational fields such as mathematics and chemistry. “Most people underestimated technology and engineering. But now, the general mindset is changing. People are starting to understand why engineering is really needed in our society,” says Uwimana. 

At CMU-Africa, he found opportunities to gain different types of experience in information technology. He worked as an intern at Construction Kaiser, a building and civil engineering construction company in Nigeria, where he worked to computerize their processes. He also was part of the Software Engineering Cybersecurity Club.

He says that becoming a student at CMU-Africa was like embracing a family. Because of the small community of students, he was able to get to know everyone. Highlights for Uwimana included participating in events such as Multi-Cultural Day and Giving CMU Day when he could connect with his classmates. He still stays in touch with his fellow alumni, who he says are living all over Africa. In Colorado, he has been able to find a familiar slice of home—the rolling landscape.

“What I like about Colorado is the mountains. Wherever I see the mountains, I am reminded of where I come from. In Rwanda, there are mountains everywhere,” says Uwimana.

At CMU-Africa, it was fun to explore different cultures, meet friends from countries you never thought that you’d have a friend from, and travel to places you didn't even expect to go.

Eric Serge Uwimana, MSIT '20

Brian Lamtoo

Brian Lamtoo has always had an interest in tinkering with electronics and computers. After earning his bachelor’s degree in software engineering, he was excited to receive a scholarship from the Innovators Forward Fellowship Fund (IFFF) and the Government of Rwanda to attend CMU-Africa. While earning his master’s degree in information technology, he was an active student who participated in many activities, including acting as the Vice President of the Student Guild. He also participated in an internship with the Rwanda Revenue Authority, where he gained experience communicating his technical knowledge to those outside his field.

“CMU prepares you to basically solve any problem that comes your way, giving you the idea that you can learn in a very short time span and be able to deliver good results,” says Lamtoo. “For me, that translates directly into the marketplace. Sometimes you're given tasks that you have no idea how to accomplish, but you'll be surprised at how many skills you have just from CMU's experience that you can deliver on a task even when you have no idea you could.”

Although Lamtoo is currently working in the United States, he has plans to return to Uganda and focus on building a startup ecosystem in his home country. With the engineering skills he has gained through his time at CMU-Africa and his work experience, he hopes to have a tangible impact on the tech space in Uganda, and across the continent.