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From sec. school desk to lead dev: A self-taught programmer’s remarkable journey into tech

August 28, 2018 · 5 min read
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If you were a regular at the Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) between 2011 and 2013, you may remember a young chap hanging around the hub in his school uniform. These days, that young chap, Tunde Yusuf works as the lead developer at Findworka, a Nigerian internet company.

Tunde Yusuf’s first encounter with the technology community was in 2011 when he was a Senior Secondary School 1 (SS1) student at the Birrel Avenue Senior High School located in Sabo, Yaba.

Tunde Yusuf

“Our school’s senior prefect came to our class one day and mentioned a training happening at a location close to the school”.

Tunde and a couple of his friends would later discover that the location was CcHUB and the training was on human development. The young boys were curious and fascinated by the activities of the hub and their curiosity led him to Femi Longe, cofounder of CcHUB.

“He asked us a couple of questions relating to technology. At the time, my only interaction with a computer was with the desktop we had at home which I occasionally played with”.

Expressing their interest in learning about computer programming, Femi Longe asked the boys to return to the hub the following day, promising to introduce them to a couple of guys that could help them.

The following the day after school, Tunde and his friends went back to CcHUB, and as promised, Femi Longe introduced them to Femi Taiwo, founder of INITS Limited.

After Femi Taiwo’s brief summary of how websites, games and applications were built, Tunde made a decision to do everything it took to learn how to build software.

Learning to code

“I would leave the house as early as 7 AM, after school by 3 to 4 PM, I’d be at CcHUB until the hub closed at 9 PM. On Saturdays, I’d go there as early as I could to pick up from where I left off. My parents were worried that I was staying out so late, but I was able to convince them to allow me to keep going,” Tunde recalls.

Tunde Yusuf at the Techpoint office

While spending most of his time at CcHUB, Tunde met a couple of people who would play very instrumental roles in his career as a software developer.

“I met Ayoola Ajebeku and Temitayo Olufuwa, both now senior technical consultants at Andela, Dele Bakare, founder of Findworka and Wilfred Ekpo, the Chief Operations Officer  (COO) of the company. They were all working on different projects at the time. They taught me everything I know about programming and they were more than happy to help out whenever I was stuck”.

He began learning on w3schools.com, a website recommended to him by Femi Longe. Since he didn’t have a laptop, Tunde had to read all the courses on his Nokia 2600 Classic and practice writing code on a notepad.

Tunde’s notepad

His interest for coding grew and he became inseparable from his notepad. At school, he would paint a mental picture of a website and write codes on the pad during classes, to be run on a laptop (mainly his sister’s laptop) at any chance he got. Unfortunately most of his codes did not work, but he kept trying.

“The first one that actually worked was some sort of a bookmark I named Gitwap. I built it using HTML and CSS. It had Facebook, Yahoo Search, Google and some other popular sites. It didn’t do much but I was more than elated that it worked”

Tunde didn’t stop there. He kept on honing his skills by cloning popular sites like Waptrick and Sefan but had challenges with linking the pages.

“At some point, I realised that to successfully clone those websites, I’d need to create multiple pages but I didn’t want to waste much time on it. I talked to Dele about it and he advised me to to use PHP”.

And so Tunde was introduced to PHP. After reading up so much on PHP, he practiced by building Tikkichat, a social network.

Kicking Facebook out of business

The plan for Tikkichat according to Tunde was to give Facebook a run for its money. Ironically, for easier access, he used Facebook login for Tikkichat. However, much like Facebook, Tikkichat’s first set of users were from his school.

“I launched it in school and got about 500 people to test it. Although 2go was popular then, my friends helped me convince our schoolmates that Tikkichat was better than 2go and since it was built by one of us, they were willing to try it out”.

As expected from a website built by an amateur web developer, Tikkichat had plenty technical challenges.

“The chat wasn’t in real time, you’d have to reload multiple times and still not get messages sent for a while. Regardless, people still used it until the domain expired in 2014”

It had garnered 700 users at the time, some from outside Lagos.

A career in software development

While still in secondary school, Tunde took part in a couple of hackathons at CcHUB, he also assisted Ayoola, Tayo and Dele in building some of the products they were working on at the time.

By 2013 when Tunde completed his secondary school education, he was convinced that he wanted to pursue a career in software development but didn’t see the point of getting a university degree.

“Spending so much time at CcHUB and building tech products changed my mindset in a positive way. I had learnt that technology will shape and change the future and being part of that change does not necessarily require a university degree”

From 2014 to 2016 when he began working in Findworka, Tunde horned his skills with the help his mentors who constantly referred him for freelancing jobs. In 2016, when Dele Bakare started Findworka, Tunde joined the company as a software developer.

“Initially, I was doing backend, frontend and general software development, building products for Findworka and its clients”

A little over two years down the line, Tunde now manages the affairs of 10 developers.

“Leading a team of developers is tough but I can relate with their challenges as a developer myself. I try to educate them on how best to overcome challenges, meet deadlines, general best practices”.

Looking back, from his days as a secondary school student with no resources but his feature phone and notepad, Tunde is glad he chose to become a software developer”.

Tunde Yusuf

“The beauty of being a developer is that you’re like an encyclopedia. You learn a lot of things from researching and working on different products that cut across various industries. So many developers are vast in so many subjects and we keep learning”.

Looking into the future

Although there’s the plan to one day start his own technology company, Tunde says he’d be more than willing to relinquish the role of CEO to someone else to focus on the technical aspect of the business. He also plans to one day enrol to get a degree in Economics.

“Even though I would rather not take on the role of a CEO, I would want to study economics to become more business-oriented. I’m also looking forward to getting a PhD too”

Ultimately, Tunde wants to keep using technology to solve more problems and make major impact on the technology ecosystem.

Titilola Oludimu

Titilola Oludimu

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I'm always open to new experiences.

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