Sunny afternoon in Alausa Ikeja, my 3 pm appointment is on the Island and I am very excited as this meet promises to be an interesting one. The road is traffic free and we are approaching the Third Mainland Bridge at about 2:15 pm. With the Mainland now behind us and the light traffic on Victoria Island roads bidding us welcome we get past different cars honking at each other and people trooping in and out of office buildings along Victoria Island. Our stop today is the Headquarters of Guaranty Trust Bank's technology arm.
Our journey today is one that puts a female face behind some of the awesome things coming out of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTBank). Eduofon Japhet is the Group Head, Business Solutions Group at GTBank. We bring you her story starting out as a coder to becoming a manager of coders.
Techpoint: For the sake of our readers, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Eduofon Japhet. I am a mum, I have three kids and I love my job because it gives me new challenges everyday. It helps me to meet with different people from different works of life and what gives me the most joy is when I meet people with challenges I can use technology to solve. I am the third child of my parents with five children and I have just one brother who is my immediate elder brother. I grew up like a 'tom boy'. I loved to climb trees and all my friends were guys and I think that’s pretty much how I ended up coding. Today I manage projects and technical management for our bluechip customers at GTBank. Typically, we sit down with customers to discuss their needs and my team comes up with solutions that we build.
Can you give us a brief run down through your educational background?
My parents are lecturers, my dad is a Professor and I grew up in Calabar. I attended University of Calabar Staff School, from there I went on to Federal Government Girls School Calabar. When I was done with Secondary School I decided I had to school away from home, so I ended up going to University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
I chose computer science at the time because I needed to find a course that wasn’t available in the University of Calabar, so I will be able to leave home. Entering the University was pretty straight forward for me, I took JAMB once. In school I was one of those triangular students, that went from the hostel to the class then fellowship and back to the hostel. I used to write snippets of code as an undergraduate. The first real software I put together was when we did our final year project. I loved it and graduated with a Second Class Upper.
What do you enjoy doing?
I love looking at a problem and coming up with solutions and seeing it through. I also love kids and I have three of them.
When was the first time you came in contact with a computer?
That must have been some time in secondary school at home. My brother had a computer going into the University. I used to play around with it.
What was your first tech job?
During my service year I worked with Resourcery Nigeria Ltd. My first assignment was to write library software to manage the resources (CDs, books and electronic books) that we had at the time. After Resourcery, I worked in so many other places. I worked with First Atlantic Bank and I was part of the team that worked on Flash Me Cash. I was very proud of Flash Me Cash, it was my first real mainstream product out of the University and it did well. Most of my career has been spent in GTBank. I was hired as a software developer. Immediately I joined the bank in 2005 as a senior banking officer, the head of applications development resigned and I had to fill the position. I was hands-on coding when I joined GTBank up until 2010. I have done all kinds of projects here. The internet banking platform that we use in GTbank was built by my team and typically what we try to do at GTBank is that most of the things we use that other people buy off the shelf, we build everything in-house from scratch. The average GTBank employee loves innovation, loves change, loves to dream and we can’t make it happen with off-the-shelf software. Even when we buy off-the-shelf software, we always build around it just to realise people’s expectations.
Can you recall individuals (mentors) who have helped you get to where you are today?
My biggest mentor has always been my brother. My brother still codes and he works with a software firm overseas. He taught me a little on how to code and he encouraged me. When I left the University instead of looking for a job I did certifications, learning how to code and that’s pretty much how I started out. Also, I have had great bosses and Dare Adeyeri was my first boss in GTBank. Dare always made us believe we could do anything, he would talk about things that didn’t exist when we went for meetings and when we came back we had to create them.
Be the smartest in the room
How do you manage work and family?
I tell people that the first career decision you make is who you get married to. My husband is very supportive and that helps me to be able to do well at home and on the job. I try to make out time to spend with my kids and make definite steps to spend quality time with them weekly. I see my kids in the morning and I see them in the evening. We also spend time together over the weekend. I also really love to cook and it is part of what I do to bond with my kids. We look up recipes and cook things we read out of books, sometimes they turn out well, sometimes they don’t.
Let's talk about technology in Nigeria so far, what is your view on the state of the industry?
Technology is interesting. When I left the University, doing anything technology related was either being a developer or network engineer. But today there’s a whole lot of variety, I have seen different fields emerge. There’s so much to do in technology today, in the area of specialisation. I believe anybody can work in the Technology Industry. I think that the pace of technology and the way things keep changing makes the industry really exciting and it’s one of the best places anyone can work.
What advice would you give to younger individuals thinking of what to study in the University?
The key thing about technology is not to be afraid of it. Some people feel it’s too ‘techy’ and end up choosing other courses. We have seen people use pieces of technology to make things like Facebook and because it doesn’t look scary people use it. In the same way one can take technology and apply it to anything. Regardless of what anyone studies, they should always have some background in technology because technology gives an advantage in any field.
Should computer programming be taught in Secondary Schools?
Yes, of course. In my kids' school, they have computer lessons and they teach them how to do basic word processing and some research on the internet to do their school work. My four year old son knows a lot of the features on my smartphone than I do because he is not afraid of it. I believe that at every level children should be encouraged to learn Computer Science.
Where do you see Nigeria in 2020?
I have seen technology change banking and I have not seen those strides in technology in so many of the other sectors and I think we will begin to see it in education, in manufacturing, in transportation. By 2020, a lot of the things we have seen happen in the financial sector, we will see technology begin to change in other sectors.