When was the first time you came in contact with a computer system?
It is actually pretty interesting because it was my mom that pushed me towards IT in different ways. First time I came in contact with a computer was when my mom used to work at First Bank Head Office at Marina. She brought a Zinox Computer System home, she set it up and was using it for work related things. I looked at it and I was like what is this box. I started playing with it and I discovered the games on it. I was always playing Beethoven’s song that came with it in the background while I played games on it. It was from there I started having affinity for beautiful things that just worked well and it had an impact on me.
So you played a lot of games while you were young.
Yes I did. Games like Solitaire, Max Payne, Hitman, God of War, Soccer, Mario.
Did you visit game centres?
Yes I did. My dad caught me at game centres a couple of times. So after secondary school we would go to game centres and play our hearts out. I was one of the few kids that would get picked up by their parents and I will still go back.
Did you play with comic books when you were a teenager?
Yes I did. I think we all did. Back then I will buy exercise books and draw things I saw in comics or movies and create characters fighting each other. I remember drawing an image of the 1999 super eagle mascot trapping a ball on a cardboard and I think one of my Uncles bought the drawing from me, framed it and payed me ₦2000.
Can you give us a brief run down through your educational background and how you started out?
My Secondary School was at Nigeria Premiere College at Palm Avenue which is where I did most of my gaming. I remember when I was done with West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exams and we were putting together the year book, there was this part where we were required to fill what we wanted to do in future. I remember writing I wanted to be a software engineer. I just knew that whatever it is I wanted to do with my life had to be done with a computer.
I was lucky to quickly find out that no Nigerian University could offer what I was looking for and because I wanted to play in the computer space. Luckily for me, my Uncle used to be a computer engineer and he had this computer outfit that basically dealt with computer hardware.
So there was this time when a bank had an issue with their server and banking activities were shutdown and the bank was looking for an emergency solution. They asked in-house if anybody in the IT section could help but an employee suggested that they try my Uncle’s outfit and that is how he was contacted. They made about ₦ 20 million from a job that took them roughly about 15 minutes to complete.
This happened after Secondary School, so my mum looked at me and said this is what you are going to do and I started laughing. My Uncle advised I attend
NIIT because he also attended the institute.
So right after Secondary School I took an e-learning course at NIIT on Funsho Williams Avenue just to be familiar with the computer and I did that for like 6 months. After that I chose Software Engineering courses under a degree program called DNIIT which basically allows an individual do a two and a half year course and when done one can do a one year top up program in Computer Science with any of the NIIT affiliated Universities outside the country to get a bachelor’s degree.
I did DNIIT for 3 years and I learnt a lot, had very interesting friends around me that were very knowledgable. We picked up things really fast and we were always ahead of the class. Many of the things we learnt were self taught. We kept picking up new technologies and doing fun things with software.
What was the state of internet connectivity at the time?
It was not so good.
Did you watch tutorials on YouTube?
No, we didn’t watch a lot of YouTube videos. I think it kind of helped because we didn’t have a lot of distractions from social media. Access to internet was to get knowledge and download them for offline use. We downloaded a lot of e-books and we read a lot because the library was always open till 10pm. So we will stay there reading and coding.
Did you engage in personal/commercial projects at the time?
It was kind of interesting because we would have students from University of Lagos (UNILAG) bring their final year projects for us to work on and pay us like ₦5000. At the time it was a lot of money and it was fun. We would make jokes that these students have spent 4-5 years in the University and they are bringing their projects to us and it made us feel we made the right decision not to attend a Nigerian University.
Was there a project you worked on that helped you decide on becoming a UX Designer?
Then I was learning a lot of JAVA, building desktop and J2ME applications. What we found out was that when we got web related projects, we realised that we were all back-end developers and the front-end development was lacking. So what we did then was to buy flash themes from
After the Software Engineering course at NIIT, did you go ahead to the University to obtain the bachelor’s degree?
At that very young age I started getting a lot of job offers. It was just a weird feeling because I was 20 years old and I had job offers of ₦50,000 per month and I didn’t know any 20 year old earning up to that at the time. My best friend at the time advised that I work for a year before completing the degree program because the NIIT transcript afforded us the liberty to finish the program anytime.
What was your first tech Job?
I took a job with AltaVisioni, a software development company. I worked there for a year and five months. The era of hotspots had started and
Swift had hotspots in Silverbird Galleria and we worked out of Silverbird Galleria sometimes when at AltaVision because we could see a movie after working for some hours.
So after resigning, I still went to Silverbird Galleria to work because of the hotspot and I had built a relationship with the individuals around there and they knew what I did, that was how I met Seyi taylor.
I met Seyi through Ifeanyi who attended UNILAG. Seyi told us about a platform he was building. I came on board with Seyi and that is how the Bloovue team was formed and I co-founded it with Seyi Taylor.
We started work on Bloovue, an online advertising & media-optimisation service. Seyi Taylor gave us the room to play a lot with different technologies and we built the platform over and over again. At a point we had several versions of the platform because every new technology we came across that excited us made us rebuild the platform. It was really cool because it was the formative years of my career and I was becoming comfortable with doing User Interface design and coding the front-end while my colleague Victor was in charge of the back-end development for Bloovue.
I worked on Bloovue for almost 3 years. Victor at the time started getting offers from companies outside the country so he left Bloovue to become a freelance Software Developer. I also left Bloovue after Victor left around April, 2013.
During my time at Bloovue I met Bosun Tijani, Co-Counder/CEO of
Co-creation Hub (CcHub) and when I was going to leave Bloovue I spoke with him and he told me that CcHub is open to help build anything I was planning to work on. Did CcHUB request for equity?
Not in the beginning. In the beginning it was a free ride for me at CcHUB and it was there I met my Co-founder, Emotu balogun now Chief Executive Officer at
Traclist. We started 500shops together and I was working out of CcHUB for free. We had power, internet and space for like a year before we launched 500shops. Each of these journeys for me was like huge opportunities to learn new things and improve. How was the journey like for you at 500shops?
During the time I was working on 500shops I meant
Sim Shagaya, Founder of Konga at a couple of events. Bankole, co-founder of Big Cabal Media had mentioned to Sim that I was working on a marketplace. So Bankole set up a meet with Sim and I was pretty excited to meet Sim.
During my meeting with Sim we discussed 500shops and Sim told me about an opportunity within
Konga and at the time we were in the formative years with 500shops so I didn’t want to leave but Sim told me that the door is always open when I am ready.
We ran 500shops for a year and seven months and after that acquired a total of 300 customers that were paying. So it was really cool doing something we started from scratch and I was ecstatic because I was still young when all this was happening.
When did you join Konga?
I joined Konga October, 2014. I started working as a UX Specialist, at the time the UX team was very small. We have grown a bit and I have added a new role with what I do. Now I am the Product Manager for Mobile.
Do you still get your hands dirty with software related work?
I still do a lot in my spare time.
Have you got any award or win any hackathon?
During my time at CcHub, we won quite a number of hackathons. I recall we built Trade Hack for a particular hackthon that we won hosted at CcHub. The hack, which was a collaboration between CcHub, the UK Department for International Development (
DFID) and The Economist Intelligence Unit. Open Apps which I was also part of was nominated for Future Awards under Science and Technology category. Did you have mentors or role models aside your Uncle that motivated you?
When my Uncle told the story he was my role model but over the years I have had a couple of people I looked up to.
Victor Igbokwe my friend and colleague used to act as a mentor at the time. He works as a software engineer at Truppr. When it comes to design, Meg To is one great designer that inspires me. MadebySofa and a ton of other designers and design companies inspire me. For those thinking of taking design serious, what advice do you have for them?
I was at the UX Lagos Meetup —
now Usable — recently and I said most of the things I am about to say. You need to be interested in making people happy and making life easier for people. Find people whose works inspire you and reach out to them, most importantly try to replicate their works. Don’t put other people’s works as yours but just use their work to learn.
Do a lot of free things and put them online. This doesn’t mean you should go around just doing free things. Take up freelance projects that will make you better. Each time you have a project you are working on it gives you a lot experience. A very important thing you should do is to network and attend events to meet with people.
You found your own path for learning, will you advice same?
There’s value in attending the University. I believe that being in the four walls of the University is important and the experience is key. It is something I am still going to do myself. It is important that if you choose the Software Engineering or Designer path, the Nigerian Educational System cannot offer you the best that you can get.
Luckily we are in an era where everything is online. One of my mentors, Jacob (
@fat) on twitter used to say that you literarily don’t need to go to the University to be the best at anything especially when it comes to do with technology. With all the resources online it is easier to learn and become better as long as you understand that you can be the best at anything not depending on a school’s curriculum.