On How I Work, we talk to some of the smartest people across various industries in Africa who share their stories, productivity hacks, and tools for getting things done. This week, we are going behind-the-scenes at Techpoint Africa with Tage Kene-Okafor.
As a startup reporter, Tage spends a lot of his time searching for and profiling startups and founders across Africa whose ideas are transforming the way we live and do business. Here’s how he’s continuing to spotlight innovation while working from home during a pandemic.
- Current role: Startup reporter at Techpoint Africa
- Location: Lagos, Nigeria
- Current computer: HP Notebook 15
- Current mobile device: Samsung A30
- Describe what working in this pandemic is like, in one word: Stressful
Tell us briefly how you started your career and how you got where you are today.
I’ve had an interest in tech since 2015. I remember when I always read TechCrunch to follow startup stories in the US. Then over time, I think around 2016, I discovered Techpoint Africa and TechCabal, and they opened my eyes to startups and stories of entrepreneurs and founders in Africa. I’d say these two publications deepened my interest in tech, seeing stories I could relate to instead of the ones in the Silicon Valley covered by TechCrunch.
But my career in tech journalism is relatively new, I must say. It wasn’t until 2018 that I started journaling my thoughts or opinions on tech or even took writing seriously, to be honest. Then last year, I had the opportunity to take that a bit further when Techpoint Africa organised a writing boot camp. It has been a hell of a ride since then, working with these guys who shaped my views on tech.
What does your job entail?
I try to tell the stories of entrepreneurs and their personal journeys, as well as the struggles and breakthroughs that come with running a startup in Africa. So basically, I write stories and insights on startups in Nigeria and Africa. Apart from that, I also highlight the activities of investors who invest in African startups.
Is this your first time fully working from home?
To a large extent, yes.
Walk us through a typical workday since you started working from home.
So, I have this default setting of waking up around 6 or 6:30 a.m. on most days. After prayers with my family, I take cereal because I can’t work without eating. Then I proceed to have meetings with the editorial team on the days we have them. After that, I start writing stories in my lead bag (where I dump story ideas), doing interviews, or searching for new stories to write. Depending on how much work I have on hand, this can continue until about 6 – 7 p.m., then I try to relax from there.
What apps, gadgets, or tools have you been relying on to work from home, and how do you use them?
Anything Google, to be honest. Google Docs, Google Sheets, Gmail. Then Slack, Google Meet, and WhatsApp for team communication. Twitter Lists to keep up with tech ecosystem news. I also use Deezer between work just to take a break; Deezer is very important because I like listening to music a lot.
Having to work from home, how do you allocate time for work and other things?
To be honest, I just go with the flow. Some days are pretty typical, like my earlier example, but most of my days are very atypical so I just go with the flow — know when I should get my work done, know when to relax, and know when to sleep (yeah, sleep is very important).
I just try not to get overwhelmed with work or become too complacent. Also, as I mentioned, once it’s 6 or 7 p.m, I try to leave work and do other things to unwind.
Do you live/work alone? If you don’t, what’s your living condition like and how do you avoid/cope with distractions?
I live with my family and they understand that I have work to do, so they give me the space I need. There’s usually a bit of distraction and noise here and there but it doesn’t interfere with my work. There are some distractions but they don’t affect my work. To avoid them, I lock myself in my room and go out only when necessary — during breakfast and lunch or when I have chores. I return to my room to work when I am done.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Twitter is my numero uno for taking a break or recharging. Although it tends to be a toxic place, it’s kind of my safe space. Also, there’s Deezer since I like listening to music. SuperSport, if there is power supply and I have time to watch — I just like watching highlights of football matches. There’s also Netflix; unlike Twitter and Deezer, I’ve not had time for Netflix because I like to take my time to watch movies or shows — something that has not been possible during this period.
What’s your biggest challenge with working from home and how are you trying to solve it?
It has to be power supply issues. I got a power bank to try and solve this problem, but it doesn’t help much.
Another challenge is having time for those who matter in my life. Because of how unstructured telecommuting can be, work time can easily creep into some family or relationship time. Also, there’s the issue of being so tired you don’t even remember to communicate with these people when you have the time.
I haven’t figured out how to solve it but going forward, it’ll help to be intentional about creating time.
Also, poor Internet connectivity has been the bane of my life working from home. I’ll need to change my service provider to solve this problem, but even this won’t be easy as there seem to be complaints from subscribers irrespective of the provider being used.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
I’m watching Dark and Mindhunter on Netflix and I’d recommend both. I’m also watching Euphoria, which a friend recommended.
I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood for our reading club. I’d suggest Born on a Tuesday by Elnathan John to fiction readers and 21 lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari for the very inquisitive people.
For music, I’m almost always listening to Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train and Omah Lay’s Get Layd. Then for podcasts, Techpoint Africa Podcast and Stuff You Should Know.
I listen to the good stuff so I recommend it all.
What piece of advice would you give someone trying to adapt to working from home?
I recently watched an episode of Coronavirus, Explained on Netflix about how stressful this period is for people. From that episode and what I’ve heard over the past couple months, I’d say find out what works for you in terms of work-life balance and live by it.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Emmanuel Paul of Techpoint Africa, Preston Ideh of Stears, and Victor Ekwealor of TechCabal.
I write about media, technology and internet culture. Reach me on Twitter @okikesam