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Web Design

My Journey to Tech Via T.E.N.T- Oladotun Aluko

By | DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, TENT, Web Design

“Is there chops?”. That is the official attention grabber for most Obafemi Awolowo University students whenever an event is announced. It was a quiet evening in 2012 in a lecture room where we sat and listened to a team we were meeting for the first time. The question that played in our head was, “What is this going to be about?”. Well, it was what would eventually become one of the best things that ever happened during my stay in the University.

It turned out that an organisation called Paradigm Initiative was kicking off a new programme and we were just given the opportunity to be the pioneers of Techie Entrepreneurial Nigerian Talented or T.E.N.T (now known as Techtiary). So here came ‘Gbenga Sesan doing one of the things he does best, inspiring younger ones to pick up the challenge of making themselves self-employed through entrepreneurial activities. Believe me, he sure knows how to activate the entrepreneurial nature in people.

T.E.N.T’s structure was very simple; come up with a viable, scalable idea that tackles a problem and find a technological solution to it and develop it into something marketable without necessarily waiting to be out of school before thinking ‘big’. His primary emphasis was that one should not be at the mercy of anyone when there is the option of entrepreneurship and created jobs for others.

It sounds easy or so I thought until the time came to actually generate the ideas (possibly the next big thing). We had several group brainstorming sessions and personal brainstorming sessions. But of course, we had a rather naive approach to generating these ideas. In fact, a friend had spoken around developing a Time Machine. In one part of my mind, my response was, “Bro, just forget it”.

The very first set of ideas were simply just too fancy so I am not going to mention them. However, the real journey started a few months down the line in 2013. It was during this period that I found something more substantial to work on. And then, here came an extended semester break in form of a general university  Strike. This period was really the time I got to work on very substantial things. So I decided to go change the idea. This time, I went for something along the lines of matching skilled and talented people with those that may be looking for skilled personnel.

In essence, it was like an online Marketplace for soft skills. I named this one “Expose” for lack of a better name (you can laugh at me – it was the best I could find). I proceeded with it up until sometime in 2015. At which time, I collaborated with another TENT participant to develop another product which was centred around identifying different places based on the principle of Augmented Reality. This one was named “FINDA”(still not the best name – I know).

Working on these ideas served as the impetus for study and research, to find out what works and what doesn’t and afterwards find out why what works, works and vice versa. During these periods, I picked up a number of skills and learnt a couple of things that have enriched my experience. And sure enough, it has paid off in huge terms. It’s then you find out why the statement, “99% of startups fail” is not an exaggeration. And in fact, the major takeaway is more about developing an attitude towards finding the simplest approach to solving a particular problem.

Developing the Entrepreneurial mindset was the key takeaway. Since then, I have served on a number of startup teams trying to develop simple solutions to seemingly complicated problems and believe me, it’s so much fun. The experience with T.E.N.T, on the whole, was interesting. I do not feel that not succeeding with the ideas is a sign of failure (at least by my own standards), it is actually the foundation for something much bigger. This experience and lessons learnt are quite invaluable.

 

Oladotun Aluko participated in T.E.N.T (now Techtiary) between 2012 and 2017. He is available on Twitter, @nutod_20.

“I once thought Java was a type of tea”- Ita, StepWiseFlow Founder

By | DigitalJobs, ICT Policy, ICTs, TENT, Web Design

In its five years of existence, Paradigm Initiative’s digital inclusion program, Techtiary has helped discover and groom new ICT talents in Nigeria. Formerly known as T.E.N.T (Techie Entrepreneurial Nigerian Talented), Techtiary has been quite effective in providing the necessary structure for talent development in the universities where it is currently available. One of such talents is Ukemeabasi Favour Ita, the founder of StepWiseFlow, who told us that prior to joining the program in 2012, he had no idea what Java was and even thought the programming language was a kind of tea.

We bring you excerpt from his recent conversation with us.
“My T.E.N.T journey started on the 30th of April 2012 when the program facilitators arrived at Obafemi Awolowo University to create awareness through an orientation event tagged T.E.N.T.50.’’

As the program is designed to run the length of participants’ degree program, Ita was required to come up with a project he would focus on during his 5-year engineering degree program. The idea was to work on this idea and make it sufficient for the student’s final year project. We believe that dedicating this much time and resources to the idea would ensure the production of a solid product.

Ita recalls this stage of his training process: “After joining the program, I was required to come up with proposed project topics to work on for the program. With that, I went brainstorming and finally choose just 5 of the numerous ideas bugging my mind. These are Project A: Pressure Sensor Traffic Lights; Project B: Universal Electronic Schooling (e-schooling); Project C: User Programmable Calculator (UPC); Project D: Single Signal Hybrid Computer (SSHC) and Project E: Human External Hard Disk (HE-HD).”

As the maiden edition of the TENT Forum was approaching, Ita finally settles for Universal Electronic Schooling as his main project for the 5-year program.

“At this point, I had never written a line of code neither did I have knowledge of what computer programs were made of. Sincerely, this memory brings back smiles. I was, just as my mentor Elon Musk, a young boy with big dreams of changing the world. I even named my first startup “changing the world”

He continues: “I registered for the TENT Forum which held on the 10th of December at Awovarsity Hall, and after 2 weeks of constant speech “cramming” and personal drilling, I felt I was adequately prepared to present my idea to the Forum. With my well-ironed shirt, crisp tie and radiant smile, I stepped forward to explain how my “e-University” system would revolutionize the whole Nigerian academic system. I was shocked by the feedback. I was told that my idea was not workable as it was and had somewhat already been implemented. Let’s just say my first TENT event did not go anywhere as planned.”
Ita did not allow this disappointment to weigh him down and like many successful entrepreneurs, he simply returned to work to fine-tune his idea. This paid off.

“After 5 years of hard work, late nights, missed lectures, broken laptops, lonely holidays, my project was finally ready. I strongly believe one of the high points of my story was when I eventually presented and defended the e-University system as my final year project. Truly, it was not as easy as expected as there were various challenges such as lack of electricity and poor internet, but these I overcame through making myself available for several Bootcamps, Hackathons, Developer gatherings, and Programming seminars.”

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“My experience involved me learning various programming languages such as Python, PHP, Java, C++, JavaScript and a lot more frameworks which helped me achieve not just my project goals, but also made me a better person.”
“5 years after that first day in TENT, I have received the technical exposure I needed to thrive. From a young student who assumed Java was a type of tea, I have evolved into a full-stack software developer and Technopreneur with well over 5 years of technical experience ranging from software (mobile and web) development to networking, to database management and also to the world of artificial intelligence and robotics.”

Now in 2017, Ita currently runs two start-ups, Tecky designs and StepwiseFlow. He has also played vital roles in several companies like Sanwo, Kudi.ai, and RIBY Finance as both a software developer and a Technology Lead.

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This is part of a special focus series on alumni of #Techtiary.

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