Marc Ngelengwa – Meet Dream Agility’s Newest Team Member
Eight years ago, mathematician Marc Ngelengwa was facing a daily battle. Aged just 15, he was 4,000 miles from his mother – as he had been for the last five years – and had day-to-day responsibility for his younger sister. Here he shares his remarkable journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to being the newest member of the Dream Agility Google Shopping team.
Welcome to Dream Agility, Marc. It’s been quite a journey, hasn’t it?
I was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and I moved here seven years ago, when I was 16. When I arrived here, I didn’t know any English. I had to learn it from scratch and that was one of the hardest moments. People would talk to me and I wouldn’t understand anything they were saying, so I spent a full year learning English from the start. It was a long process, doing it every day and learning something new every time. It was a big personal effort; you can’t just go to college and come back and speak in your native language. My family pushed me to speak in English at home too, even if it was bad. I learned from listening to everyone around me, hearing how people talk and pronounce things.
What brought you here?
Originally, my mum applied for asylum in 2003. My sister and I joined her later on, about six years later. She arrived in 2003, and we arrived in 2009. We didn’t see her during those six years. It was very hard. I had to take care of my sister as well, but we kept in touch with our mum. She and I used to finance my sister at the same time. It was a long process, but we had to go through it.
You’ve joined us as a mathematician. What will your days look like?
To start with, I’m getting familiar with Adwords and Google Analytics, and then I’ll be adding my analytical touch to those platforms. When we talk to customers and clients, we need to give them analytical details – not many people understand that side of things, so I’ll be using my mathematical and analytical skills every day.
How did you get so interested in maths?
Everyone does maths at primary school, and it was the same at secondary school, and then in Congo’s schools you have to make further choices three years before you go to university. I chose a biochemical option, which means more maths, chemistry, biology, and physics compared to other modules.
One of my uncles was a statistician at a railway company in my country, and I used to watch him go through numbers and try to find solutions. He got me interested in the idea of numbers.
My first idea was to do a degree purely in statistics, but when I arrived here I did maths in college and my teachers told me I couldn’t do just statistics – I had to do maths, and would do statistics in modules. Then my mind changed and I went mostly to financial mathematics. Of course, statistics was still a big part of it, and in my second year at Manchester Metropolitan University I realised I should be an analyst.
What gets you excited about this work?
The best thing about maths is finding solutions. At first I thought maths was an exact science and that everything has to be perfect. But then I realised it’s not an exact science at all; in statistics, we’ve got to make predictions and they can or cannot happen depending on circumstances or other factors involved. All of that pushed me to do more to try to understand how things work, find solutions and be as exact as you are when you’re doing simple, primary school maths.
This is my first major job and working in this digital field is very exciting. When you learn something and you really understand it, there’s that feeling that you want to do more and more and more – and I’ve had that feeling since I started here. I really enjoy it.
Finally… how are things in Congo? Do you ever go back to visit friends and family?
It’s slightly more stable at the moment, although there is still war on the east side of the country. But they will have elections at the end of this year, and every time they have elections there are problems. One group will say the president is cheating, the other side will say the opposite. That instability was part of the reason for coming here.
From 1997 to 2006 the country was very, very unstable. It was mostly in the east and north of the country, but you could feel the vibe in the whole country. I lived in the south-east for half my time there, and in the capital in the west as well. It was safe there, so it was OK, but I miss a lot of my friends.
I just talk to them on the phone sometimes, and a few of them have also moved away to other countries. People are leaving. You feel like you want to go back, but if you do that you’re not going to see anyone because they’re moving too. England is my home and I’m British now. It’s been a long journey, but it’s been worth it.