12 January 2018

Hafiz Adewuyi

How I found my first new job in Lagos

Or how I moved from my first job to another company in Lagos.


I write this article in the hope of inspiring someone to start seeing themselves, not as a victim but as the orchestrator of their career. I've spoken to too many people who feel frustrated with their job and like they're at the mercy of their current employer. While I acknowledge that my current job situation is far from being the standard for success, I must mention that I can't remember the last time I felt that way. 

I've benefitted immensely from knowing that irrespective of my current situation, the power to steer my career in a positive direction lies mostly with me. It's my sole responsibility to keep my head high enough above water to make the best out of the situation.

That said, I encourage you to share it with your friends who you think might be able to benefit from the shift in perspective that I hope this piece will help bring about.

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If I were to summarize this article into a 140-character tweet, it would be to

"Pick one important pain your current employer's business faces and own it!" 

For me, the important business pain at my first job was a particularly unstable software product. So grave was the instability of this software product that many of the clients using it were sending unpleasant emails daily and threating to dump it every chance they got.

I would say I got lucky with the part of seeking out an important business pain. In my case, the important business pain sought me out. Not because I was the best for the job but because I was the most available. This immensely buggy and dirty codebase was literally dumped in my laps. So, for me, it was either own it or go home. You love your family and you've decided you want to spend more time with them, my CEO would sometimes joke when talking about something that could get one fired at the company.

For the first few months of my inheriting this software solution, my life was hell. I barely had a grasp of what the solution was meant to do and knew absolutely nothing about how it works. Yet, I was the first and last port of call for clients when they had any issues. The clients being the 8 different huge organizations who had licensed the software.

Yes, during that period, I achieved some progress, however marginal it might have been. For most issues that were brought to my desk, I had to defer to a more experienced colleague, having them do most of the heavy lifting to fix it. Then I would finish up by merely delivering the work to the client.

At this point, I had yet to take ownership of this problem and it was clear for everyone to see. Service delivery was poor because I often had to wait for someone else to leave their main responsibility for significant amounts of time before I could complete any task.

TURNING POINT

I remember vividly like it was yesterday, the particular issue that marked the turning point in my experience at that first job. The software solution in question is a payment gateway system. Nigerian banks were my company's clients and the end users of the solution were the bank's business-owning customers who wanted to accept payments on their website (and the customers using their website).

This particular Friday, one of the last emails that came in from a bank was about one of their valuable clients whose developer was finding it hard to connect his website with the payment gateway. Prior to this time, my default response when posed with this problem was to refer the customer to the payment gateway integration document. At best, I'd send them some supporting sample code which I had inherited from a predecessor.

But this time, something was different. I can't remember what it was but there must have been some peculiarities which prompted me to approach the case with some novelty. For the first time ever, I zeroed my mind on seeing this bank's customer through their integration; till their website was accepting real payments from customers.

The following weekend, with no one putting pressure on me as usual, I digested the payment gateway integration guide for the first time since I'd inherited it months back. I read it from start to end, making sure to truly understand the purpose of every instruction in the document. Once I was done with that, I decided to practicalize what I'd just learned. This I did by creating a barebones HTML payment form and integrating it with the payment gateway.

Once I was done that same weekend, I sent the code for the HTML integration I had done to the troubled merchant's developer. This, my friend, turned out to be all the help which he needed to complete his own integration. Furthermore, the end product of that weekend's grinding (the HTML code) became a silver bullet for much of the rest of my career at the company. I would go on to share it countless times after with other people who were seeking to work with the payment gateway.

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A  couple of months after resolving that revolutionary issue, I had gone from being scared of what turmoil the next email might throw my life into to having dull days when there were too few emails from my clients. The software solution was now for the most part, stable and delivering its promised value to my company's clients with only occasional hitches.

My role evolved from me weathering storms day-in, day-out to being confident enough to reach out to clients, inquiring about how I could make the software more useful for them. From that to me having enough time and will to pay back some technical debt which the solution had incurred in its worse days. In essence, the fulfilment and gratitude I received from investing myself in that first customer's success got me addicted to focusing on my employer's customers' delight.

After a little over two years at my first employer, I got an offer from two different companies at the same time. Each of these offers came by way of my company's partners whom I had encountered through my work. Without a doubt, these people were convinced they needed some of my problem-solving aptitudes in their organization. Right now, I think back to one particular person I worked with who proudly describes me to people as resourceful.

Prior to my receiving these offers, I had interviewed with about 10 other companies at different times, all with a unanimous response of NO. In light of that, I had all but given up on my potential for success as a career programmer when they came in. So much so that I had resigned from my first job and was preparing to pivot when I got these offers. Offers which I effectively already had even before the first interview.

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2 comments

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12 January 2018 at 21:22 delete

Mr Resourceful, thank you for sharing this. Inspiring. I've memorized the tweet and digested the rest. I shall go on to pray for the peculiarities...

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12 January 2018 at 22:07 delete

Mr SLW my role model. Thanks for reading. I was so excited to see your comment

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