Hello World Class: Completing The Andela Fellowship

Photo Credits: Mohini Ufeli

Endings are often characterized by sad and/or mixed feelings. This is different. Last month saw the celebration of the completion of the Andela fellowship for me and others in the earliest cohorts. Whilst, I am winding up this month, I have had time to reflect on what this means. It signifies the end, yet the beginning — the beginning of a new chapter, the start of the exploration in the quest to becoming a true technology leader.

Pre-Training: The Beginning

My Andela journey began on December 2nd, 2014 when I attended the famous Andela Bootcamp for its fourth cohort and first all-female recruitment. Walking into a relatively small room known then as the Andela Herbert Macaulay “HM” office, every normal instinct was to turn back, return home and wait for feedback on all my other job applications at the time. The office, arranged in such a way that it had partial library, partial workshop, partial office setting all in one room didn’t fill me with confidence when I arrived that day. It wasn’t a glamorous setup like we have today in all our offices. But I wasn’t about to walk away just like that. Against the will of the voices in my head, I decided to stay. In all the permutations I ran in my head, certain things stood out — I was making a switch from Electrical Engineering to Software Engineering, Andela avails me that opportunity. Irrespective of the not-so-great as the environment then, I could see through to the value of being a part of the movement, the evolution of software engineering in Nigeria and across Africa. I could potentially see the ability to create impact and solve human problems as I have always yearned to. I stayed, I took a chance on this company that not so many knew at the time and I am glad I did.

Training Phase

Anna Ogbemi, Myself and Yetunde Sanni on the first day of training in the Andela Fellowship.
It gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But, you got to do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier. — BoJack Horseman

The ride through the Andela fellowship has been an interesting, challenging (who doesn't love healthy challenges?) and fulfilling one. Challenges come in all shapes and sizes, especially when one belongs to the set of earliest cohorts in a system like never before. There were rapidly evolving changes in processes, implementations and structure which although frustrating then, have helped shape the company into what it is today. For instance, being a part of a rigorous and rapidly evolving learning process was tough on some of us who were relatively new to software engineering then. Those iterations have led to a more optimized process for making fellows partner-ready. Special shoutout to our Learning facilitators — Nadayar Enegesi, Gnerkus and Prosper Otemuyiwa for their patience with us in those early days. I am sure it was quite frustrating for them.

Becoming a Partner-Facing Developer

Being able to add value and generate revenue for the company is what every Andela fellow anticipates, and I wasn’t left out too. My first Andela partner project was one filled with many lessons. I got to experience the beauty of working in a distributed team. Coming to work with other developers and colleagues here is already an enjoyable experience, but getting to collaborate with other colleagues across several time zones around the world is a totally different and exciting experience. Learning new technologies on the job, along with adapting to a new diverse culture of my team members, were top of the challenges on my first real-life work encounters. At this point, all the improv sessions and other soft skills training had come in handy in being the rockstar developer I should be. Shout out to Obie Fernandez for all the improv and soft skills sessions, thus making me the desired “rounded” developer.

Over the course of my activities in the fellowship coupled with all technical knowledge gathered along the way has prepared me to be adaptable to learning and working multiple technologies and being a near polyglot — I currently write 4 languages efficiently; lead teams both internally on Andela partner teams and conducting other non-technical but equally value-add activities within Andela.

Co-facilitating a workshop on Design Patterns with ayoola ajebeku in Jan 2017

Leadership within Andela & broader tech community

Representing the Andela’s Ladies in Tech (LIT), formerly know at sheLovesCode at Google’s IWD 2016

For everyone who knows me well, I am a reflection of diversity on multiple levels. It is no news that I am a strong fan of female representation and other diversity groups, so long as members of these groups are deserving and qualified to be placed at levels being advocated for. With this strong interest and drive, I have had the honour to meet and partner with awesome female developers in and through Andela. Komolafe Tolulope and I co-lead Andela’s Ladies-in-Tech group (formerly known as SheLovesCode). This group was formed by females from the earliest cohorts in a bid to increase female engagements in technical affairs. Its current focus is to increase female representations in Andela by creating level-up programs at pre-Bootcamp stages, engaging young females in senior secondary schools and lots more. It also provides support for the existing ladies in tech through support systems like roundtable discussions addressing similar issues faced in the cause of work. Being in an environment that supports communal activities has also encouraged me to build a community around my interests — data science and machine learning. Sanni Yetunde and I started the Lagos Women in Machine Learning and Data Science group. In this group, we welcome both practicing engineers and enthusiasts alike and across both genders to collaborate, exchange ideas and increase participation in the field of machine learning, especially since there hasn’t been, there hasn’t been so much participation from folks in this part of the world into this field. Being in Andela and actively living out the EPIC (Excellence, Passion, Integrity & Collaboration) values has been a huge drive into being a part of all these.

Appreciations

It’s been a long, interesting and impactful ride. It wouldn’t have been so without the awesome people I have met along the way. First, I acknowledge Sunday Adefila (my classmate from university and colleague at Andela) amongst others who were the first to take chances with Andela when no one knew about it. Through him, I got to know Andela and gave it a try. Nadayar, although he made us miss out on Valentine’s Day celebration and peaceful weekends in 2015, I cannot but acknowledge him for all his patience and efforts especially with driving the mentorship program through the fellowship. To Mustapha Abokede for your exemplary leadership in the early days and a high display of integrity, you constantly thought us to cut through complexities and be comfortable with uncertainties. Seni Sulyman, I silently learned a lot from you and I am grateful. To everyone who has mentored me in and out of Andela, I am thankful for the contributions in making me a world-class software engineer. To those who I mentored, thank you for the opportunity to be a better version of myself in a bid to give you top-notch guidance I could muster. Kosisochukwu Anyanwu, Sanni Yetunde, Olaide Agboola, Blessing Orazulume, Fadekemi Ogunwa, Anna Ogbemi, Oluchi Enemuo — I am glad I had you all around to go on this journey with. I am super glad of how far we’ve come in our respective strides and I am all eager to hear of your future trailblazing stories. Cheers!

Conclusion

The next big question is, “what next for me”, right? Well, I have been a fan of following my dreams. Having started a community of Machine Learning/Data Science enthusiasts, I do know that the future of ML and AI (artificial intelligence) is super bright for Africa. I would be more focused in this field going forward, putting all my knowledge and skills in the last 4 years to use in creating interesting solutions targeted at the health and power sector. I am looking forward to all the awesome solutions that would come out of knowledge from this field.

Andela Ladies Celebrating IWD 2017 — Talent is Gender Neutral