IBMer Stories

Meet Sandile: An IBM Research Masters Intern and ‘Idols’ South Africa Contestant

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Being an IBMer means pursuing all of your passions, and inspiring others for doing that. Sandile Skosana, is an IBM Research masters intern based in the lab in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has recently been announced as a participant in this year’s ‘Idols’ TV show in South Africa, where he will be singing and playing guitar amongst other talented musicians. We interviewed Sandile to learn more about his experience at IBM, career aspirations and new challenge in the Idols competition show.

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How did you hear about the IBM lab in Johannesburg?
My first time hearing about IBM Research Lab South Africa was through my Honors Research project supervisor, Dr. V Visaya, once a colleague of Dr. Ismail Akhalwaya at the University Of Johannesburg. Dr. Ismail was also my second year applied mathematics lecturer before he joined the lab as a scientist in the AAAI team. He forwarded the call for Masters Interns, and then I applied and went to the interview and everything worked out great from there.

What was your research focus area?
My research focus area for my MSc is Quantum Algorithm for Topological and Geometric Analysis Of Big Data. With the use of IBM’s Q Experience with the two 5 qubits processors and a 16 qubit processor, I hope to run my algorithm and test it in the IBM Q Experience. The algorithm provides an exponential speed up over classical algorithms for topological data analysis.

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After ‘Idols’, do you plan to return to the lab?
I will most definitely return to the lab after ‘Idols’—the environment is good and the researchers are top notch. But first I need to finish my Masters and come back to the lab as a PhD intern and eventually become an IBM Researcher.

What do you think is the significance of the IBM research labs in Africa?
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of the IBM Research Labs in Africa. A lot of people globally, when thinking about Africa, only think about the big five, the late Nelson Mandela and the minerals Africa has, but with the presence of the IBM Labs in South Africa and Kenya, Africa is represented in the global scale in terms of offering innovative solutions. The IBM Africa Labs are leading Africa’s development in driving innovation by developing commercially viable solutions to transform lives of ordinary people and sparking new business opportunities in healthcare and other sectors.

If you win ‘Idols’ do you still want to be a computer engineer?
Yes! Post ‘Idols’ I’ll continue in the journey to became a computer engineer. Music and the AI world are both a big part of my life and that won’t charge regardless of what happens in the ‘Idols’ Season 14 completion.

Tell us more about your act on ‘Idols’ …

‘Idols’ is a pop singing competition hence my act was singing a local artist’s song called Ngamthand’ umuntu by Linda with my acoustic guitar. It has been a long musical journey, as I started singing when I was very young and just about a year ago, I decided to go into a music instrument shop and bought myself a guitar and started playing, learning on my own via a lot of YouTube videos—now everything panned out.

I’m very thankful to the IBM Research lab for giving me the opportunity to work at the lab and for me to learn and have fun and giving me time off for my music when I asked.

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