Weekend with the CEO
Gameli, the Kung Fu jedi knighted lord of memesThursday March 23 2023
In the middle of our interview, Dr Bright Gameli Mawudor will get another baby. A girl—Delali—which means God my redeemer.
This is not his first rodeo, thus he is not technically a rookie, but as every parent will tell you, each child is unique in their way.
What is also unique is that, by chance or design, Dr Bright stumbled upon Kung Fu way before he found his true north in cybersecurity.
Luck? Maybe not, because as E.B White (author of Stuart Little) would say, “Luck is not something you mention in the presence of self-made men.”
Bright is a cyber security engineer and researcher. He is also the co-founder of AfricaHackOn, a cyber security collective dedicated to fostering excellence through research, capacity building, and the development of a strong community of experts in Africa.
He got his PhD at 28 (in IT Convergence and Application Engineering from Pukyong National University, South Korea).
In 2022, he joined the EC-Global Advisory Board for Threat intelligence-CTIA to sit right next to his other hat as the Chief Technology Officer at Xetova, a software company.
What takes his breath away, however, is Kung Fu, a Chinese martial art. He has invested his time in it, for 18 years now. He got into Kung Fu because he was asthmatic. Now, he just can’t kick the habit.
Bruce Lee, the ultimate Kung Fu philosopher has a pithy saying: ‘It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.’
Dr Bright too has his bon mot, he summarises kung fu with a little aphorism: “Kung Fu is yoga with a little more combat.”
What's your Kung Fu journey?
I grew up with chronic asthma, spending my days in and out of hospitals. When I started high school [Achimota School in Ghana] my housemaster was a Kung Fu master, and my interest was piqued. He tried to teach me, but then we relocated to Kenya where I joined St. Mary’s School.
Interestingly, I saw someone practising along Nairobi's Rhapta Road and I asked him to train us, and the school gave us a venue.
For a small fee, we started training hard and with time I noticed my asthma dissipating. I have not used an inhaler since high school, around 2005.
At Daystar University, I started teaching other people Kung Fu, graduating to a whole crew; before I left to further my studies in South Korea in 2011 which saw a blip in my training.
That lack of training led to back strains. One time, I was even hospitalised for a few days. It took me about three years to regain fitness.
What has Kung Fu taught you about yourself?
That our bodies are capable of doing lots of things, but we undermine them. The mind is really powerful, you can tell it to do anything and it will do it.
For instance, I used to do two-finger push-ups on both hands. Take that discipline and put it into life and there’s nothing you cannot do. It has changed my perspective of how I see life.
The best part about Kung Fu?
It’s all about speed. And self-defence. That adrenalin rush is on another level. Most people want to learn martial arts for combat or fight, but that’s contrary to its teachings.
If you are not disciplined, you are not going to survive. If you abuse it, you lose everything.
Have you put your skills into ‘real-world’ practice?
Twice. Once in South Korea in a confrontation in a restaurant where I fought my way out. And that other time some guy also tried to rob me on Rhapta Road and I pushed one of them so fast he was bamboozled. They ran away.
But my main aim is not to combat. It is to become healthy, fit and get my mind straight. The discipline and consistency keep me going.
That is the same principle in life, learning how to control your environment and thoughts.
Are you certified in Kung Fu?
Not yet, but I have been taught enough to teach other people, although I am not a certified practitioner. If you asked me to describe it, I would say: Kung Fu is yoga with a little more combat.
How often do you train?
Life has been ‘lifing’ but I stretch every day. I do proper training at least once a week and a few exercises here and there.
Are you looking forward to teaching your daughters?
Yes, I have to! They have to learn how to protect themselves, especially with how the world has become insensitive lately.
Do you have a special Kung Fu memory that lights you up?
I was practising Kung Fu at Daystar (University) and I took a step back and jumped as high as my height. I am 6’3.
Did you foresee this marriage of Kung Fu and cybersecurity?
I did not see that coming. However, the same principles in Kung Fu apply in life.
A few weekends ago we held our AfricaHackOn, a collection of cyber security experts in Kenya and Ghana, where we are nurturing talents and spreading the evangelism of cybersecurity.
Protecting people’s systems and their businesses and creating a ripple effect kicks us. If I can teach one person to teach another person who teaches three more people, the tree keeps growing and closes the gap in cybersecurity in Africa.
How do you find time as a founder to run a business, family, yourself, and everything in between?
I do a lot of delegation. I have a team behind me that helps me to run the company. I also have a lot of volunteers, especially my mentees who have led to the success of AfricaHackOn.
I am very strict with my mentees, I instil the same discipline in them to keep going. Discipline and delegation.
When it is not Kung Fu, what do you indulge in?
People know me as a meme lord. I source and share memes. I look for inspiring videos, listen to a few podcasts—Jordan Peterson and Chris Do especially—and share them with others.
Sometimes I like to write too. I am not too much of a reader, I prefer reading journals about life, and cybersecurity and then I summarise them for other people to read.
You post your memes at 1 am; sometimes at 3 am. Do you have a regular sleep schedule?
Apart from doing all these, I love to watch action-packed detective series. I sleep in intervals, wake up and do a little bit of research.
Or work from 3am to 6am, and so I can go to bed at 5am and wake up at 8am because I have to drop my daughter at school.
When you think of the weekend, what food comes to mind?
Chicken. I cannot go a day without chicken. By the way, I don’t do fries. I have never had fries in my life. It gives me, as children these days would say, the ‘ick.’
What's your weekend wear?
Tee shirt, shorts and slippers. So when I go shopping with my wife and daughters it’s easy to move around. I am not into suits, I prefer kaftans.
Sundays, pews or PJs?
Both. Depends on which Sunday. But my Sunday life changed when babies came into the picture.
What is the last thing you do before the lights go out?
I meditate and reflect on the day. I am a guy who takes short notes and to-do lists. How many things have I accomplished today? How fast?
I take these statistics at the end of the month to see how I am performing. Otherwise, I can easily lag.
What’s a weekend hack that makes your days better?
A lot of people try and do everything they couldn’t accomplish during the week over the weekend. But what if every day was a weekend, would you still work? I try to forget work.
Sunday evenings, I reset completely and try to picture how the new week will be. I’d tell you don’t get drained over the weekend, but this is consummate with who you are. Your weekend should be defined by who you are.