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 Emmanuel Paul.
He covers everything from the government policies that affect Africa’s tech industry to African corporate giants like banks and telcos. He researches, interviews experts, and writes data-driven insights to help players in the ecosystem make informed decisions. He talks about his career journey, work processes, and challenges with working during a pandemic on this week’s edition.
- Current role: Corporate, Governance and Policy Reporter at Techpoint Africa.
- Location: Lagos, Nigeria.
- Current computer: HP Elite book 8470p.
- Current mobile device: Xiaomi Redmi 8.
- Describe what working in this pandemic is like, in one word: Tedious
Tell us briefly how you started your career and how you got where you are today
I’ve always had an interest in tech. From a very young age, I loved phones and computers -- any gadget really. In 2012, I learnt how to troubleshoot and repair computers, but I didn’t pursue a career in that. While in school in 2014, I started freelance writing -- mostly fiction and academic papers. I did it for fun and wasn’t getting paid, it never occurred to me that payment for my work was an option.
It was in 2016 while managing a cafe that I got paid for doing an academic research paper for someone. So in 2018, while teaching, I started earning money doing freelance work on the side. And then in 2019, I started doing two things I love that: writing and writing about tech. I also started getting paid to do them, so the journey has been great so far.
What your job entail?
I report on corporate policies and governance for Techpoint Africa. I write stories about policies -- tech-related and non-tech-related -- that affect Africa’s tech ecosystem. And of course, I report stories on corporate companies: banks, fintech giants like eTranzact and Interswitch, and any company that has gone beyond the startup level in Africa. I also report issues of cybersecurity and telecommunications in Africa.
Is this your first time fully working from home?
Yes, it is.
Walk us through a typical workday since you started working from home
I don’t have a straight guideline for my typical workday. What I do depends on what day of the week it is. On a Monday, it typically starts by 8 a.m. when I wake up and do some things before joining the general team meeting and then the editorial meeting where we pitch stories. After the editorial meeting, I check my email and reply when necessary. And of course, I scour the Internet for news. Though I start thinking about my story for the next day in the evening and start writing by 7 or 8 p.m., most times I write much later at night.
On a Tuesday, it’s mostly thinking about more story ideas and dumping them in Google Keep. After pitching them at our editorial meetings, they go into my lead bag.
On Thursdays, I go to the office to record the weekly Techpoint Africa Podcast.
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What apps, gadgets, or tools have you been relying on to work from home, and how do you use them?
I have been relying on several Google tools. As stated, Google Keep for story ideas, Google Docs for writing, and Google Sheets because I plot lots of graphs for some stories. Also, my device recorder, laptop, phone are all valuable. Apart from this, I use Google Voice Typing for converting audio interviews to text (shout out to Oluwanifemi Kolawole for the pointer).
I also use Paint, Photoshop, and Snapseed to make light edits to images, charts, or graphs that I’m working on.
My power bank and mobile phone have been very useful on nights when I don’t have power. And of course, my MiFi gives me a more reliable network than my phone.
Having to work from home, how do you allocate time for work and other things?
I’ve been doing very poorly at this. I just try to compartmentalise. During the day I manage to do the things I need to do in the house or with friends and family when possible, though this does not always happen. My evenings and nights are strictly for work. There is a time for ideation and a time when I talk to sources for my stories, as well as time set aside to flesh out my story ideas.
Once I have done all these, I know I’m done with work for the day. I then proceed to do other things before the evenings and nights when I’m able to write my stories.
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 alone but my compound is very noisy. Between my room that faces a busy road and neighbours who come out to play football at 3 or 4 p.m., I do not have a serene environment to work in during the day. So I do other things and then I write in the evening when there is peace and quiet. However, when I need to write during the day my trusty earphones block out the noise.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I sleep, watch Netflix, or play Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). If I’m not playing PES, I will play a real-time strategy (RTS) game like Rise of Nations or Age of Empires.
What’s your biggest challenge with working from home and how are you trying to solve it?
The biggest challenge is the Internet network, which is not too good where I reside. I tried all the network providers but none of them worked well until my friend gave me a MiFi. The other challenge has been power supply but 80% of the time I’m guaranteed power at night.
What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to? What do you recommend?
I’m currently watching Lucifer, One-Punch Man, Martin, and Mr. Iglesias. I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale for our reading club, as well as Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success by Napoleon Hill.
I’m listening to Uber vs Lyft series on Business Wars podcast, which I recommend. I am also listening to Sports Wars: Serena vs Venus.
I'll also recommend Business Wars: Amazon vs Walmart and Facebook vs Snapchat, The Illusionist, and The Witcher on Netflix.
What piece of advice would you give someone trying to adapt to working from home?
The major thing is finding what works for you, everybody has a unique approach to things. I live alone so my approach will differ from someone else’s. Find what works for you and stick to it, but change if you have to.
Who would you like to see answer these questions?
Timi Olagunju, tech lawyer and regular contributor to Techpoint Africa; Ayodele Adenaike, COO of GIG Logistics; and Yinka Awosanya of Techpoint Africa.