Fire and Community
Prosper Otemuyiwa is a young Nigerian software developer who believes in giving back to the community. The community nicknamed him “Fire” for his exuberant “fire emoji” laden social media posts, which he uses to share some valuable insights on different software development related topics. While Prosper has worked with some software startups from Anakle and Andela to his recent US employer (for whom he works remotely), he has no interest in founding a startup of his own at this time. Prosper seems to be an anomaly in a community where “starting something” has seemed to become a fad.
At 24, if there is a hierarchy of young talented software developers in Nigeria or indeed Africa, Prosper will be at the very top of it. He is a “Google Developer Expert” one of the very few talented technology people Google decides to bestow this honour and he was recently a mentor at the first Google Developer Launchpad Start event in Africa held in Nairobi. He is practically a “legend” on Github, the online global developer code sharing repository and connection platform where he regularly contributes and has achieved global rankings.
Why does he not want to “start something” when there now seems to be a lot of money flowing around as incentive? It is because he believes that he does not have to. He is one of those rare professionals primarily focused on improving their skills, the craft, and community. They are not interested in doing things because of fads; they act based on deep personal convictions. He asks “if everyone is a founder, who will build the software?”. That is a very real question in a community where every person or the other seems to be a technology entrepreneur looking for developers to help them build their ideas.
This year, Mark Zuckerberg paid a surprise visit to Yaba. YCombinator partners came and ate “Jollof Rice” with members of the local investor and entrepreneur community at ccHub’s rooftop. 500 Startups also came to Lagos. It is very easy to conclude that these people all came because of our “brilliant entrepreneurs”, but I believe they came because of our “Brilliant Developers” who are now commanding Global attention for being “World Class”. It is people like Prosper and others like him that have brought this attention.
Prosper is not the only one who has “Fire” inside of him. There are several others. The local developer community started organising itself with small local community events like the “ForLoop” sessions where they networked and shared experience, and it was followed quickly by other activities powered by technology giants like Google. These events have energised the community to share experiences with each other more, and they revealed some incredible talent who would have gone unnoticed. For the first time, the developers have started to become the celebrities and not just the startup founders, as it should be. Collaboration seems to come more naturally to the developer community as they realise that they are fighting for a common purpose — “Global recognition and accreditation”. This collaboration happening in the background is the reason why the local technology community seems to be thriving.
Creating World-Class Developers
When it comes to creating “market ready” developers, our educational institutions are grossly under-equipped. My sister graduated with a second class upper in computer science but still had to learn more to be able to get a job in the market. When Iyinoluwa Aboyeji first came to me with his idea of enabling student learning through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) I realised that he was on to something. His startup, Fora, had a big vision of transforming Nigerian higher education learning with online content. He went on to co-found Andela as an evolution of Fora.
A couple of years later, I was at the annual Google I/O event in San Francisco, and one of our own, Moyinoluwa Adeyemi of Swifta got featured in the keynote of Udacity founder, Sebastian Thrun. Udacity was founded by Sebastian who was a Stanford University Professor, and it has now become possibly the largest global online learning portal for developers. Sebastian highlighted Moyinoluwa as one of the African developers who had taken advantage of Udacity to become a “WorldClass Android Developer”. Moyinoluwa was still a student at that time, but she had seen the future.
Google supports Udacity and provides many NanoDegree Scholarships to Africans interested in learning how to build applications on its Android platform. Udacity, Udemy, EdX, etc. are platforms that have enabled our local developers to learn and catch up very quickly with the rest of the world. In most cases, the students need no prior knowledge of programming, and the courses have been well designed to achieve learning outcomes.
Udacity has enabled several success stories, and it made me realise that access to the Internet has become the same thing as access to world-class education, at least for software developers. It, however, takes a lot of discipline to complete these courses as the same Internet is full of distractions. Those who complete these online courses have the motivation and discipline to achieve learning outcomes. It is that tenacity that makes them become “World-Class.”
Back to 2016
There is no argument that 2016 has been groundbreaking for Nigerian or even African technology because of the software developers and their community. Passion is winning. Massive investments have been made, innovative ventures launched, and these have been made possible by the fact that our developers have chosen not to be left behind by limitations in infrastructure and education. Twenty something-year-olds are making the difference once again in Nigeria, and this time, they are helping not just to build multi-million Dollar ventures, they are building our future.