In the words of Kyle Rector, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa, computer science is not just about syntax and code. People’s lives can be changed by developing applications.
On this episode of Ripples, Celz discusses with Johnpaul, senior software engineer at TeamApt, on the role that technology plays in cultural and economic development.
C: Hi, Johnpaul. Good to have you here. I’ve heard some of your friends call you JP. Can I call you that too?
C: Awesome. Can you share a bit about your career journey?
JP: My journey technically started in 2014 when I was in the university. Before then, I wanted to study computer engineering because I liked the hardware aspect of computers, but my technical drawing was poor, so I had to opt for computer science instead.
I started school, but for the first year, I was merely doing school for the sake of it. I wasn’t paying attention in class and generally wasn’t interested, but one random day, I had an experience that changed that.
I wanted to use an ATM in school, and I saw something that caught my attention. The ATM wasn’t functional, but that was not all. Looking at it, I could see the backend code that was running the ATM – VB.net. It was like looking at a laptop with codes, and even more, it was the exact language I was taught in class. The very one I didn’t pay attention to.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had a situation where you thought something wasn’t important, only to find out it was one of the key things you should have been paying attention to, but that was exactly how I felt. This language that I didn’t rate at all was what was being used to run ATMs. I went home thinking about this, and I couldn’t stop.
I realised that I needed to change. Apart from beginning to pay attention in class, I made it a habit to learn more and stay abreast with the latest updates in the engineering world.
C: Sounds like quite the turning point. So, what happened after that?
Johnpaul concluding his NYSC service year
JP: Okay, so fast forward after school, I got an internship for six months with a company that built IT solutions for banks and other businesses. That was my first professional experience, and it was very hands-on, but I was ready to learn everything. I’ve always believed that becoming who you want to be requires acting like that person, so no task was too big for me. I would ask all the questions necessary and execute.
After school, I applied to TeamApt because I had done my study and knew this was where I wanted to be. From day one, It’s been from one level of growth to another. Sometimes there are stumbling blocks, but it’s been progress and a good journey.
C: That’s quite interesting. So as a software engineer at TeamApt, what do you do?
JP: Initially, I was a full-stack engineer. Sometimes I was required to work on the front end, probably UI/UX, and other times I worked on the back end. As we grew, we needed more hands, especially when kickstarting virtual accounts, so we got more people on the team. I got the opportunity to specialise, and I chose backend engineering. What has always mattered to me is the knowledge that, in the end, what I work on creates an impact.
C: You mentioned virtual accounts. Were you a part of the team that worked on it?
JP: Yes, I was a part of the team. That’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of.
C: How did it feel seeing the virtual account feature come to life, especially knowing that we pioneered it in Nigeria?
JP: The feeling of seeing my code come to life? The only word for it is “success”. I still feel amazed when I try to pay online and can pay via transfer. It doesn’t even matter whether it’s powered by TeamApt or not. I pick the option joyfully because we pioneered it in Nigeria, and it feels like a personal win. I feel fulfilled.
C: So, from your point of view and your own experience, what role have you seen engineering play in cultural and economic development?
JP: Economic development is at the top of my head, so I’ll start with that. In Nigeria, for example, a lot of revenue is generated through technological solutions. Across the 36 states in Nigeria plus the FCT, we have POS terminals, and business owners are financially empowered because of our work. Jobs are created. Think of the business owner who can send her child to school. So these people probably would have been jobless, right? But due to technology’s role, it’s easier for them to get busy and meet their needs.
It’s helping to provide jobs, and it’s helping to increase the overall revenue for the country. I find Moniepoint, as a product, very fascinating. When you look at it, what we’re doing is not exactly rocket science or artificial intelligence. It’s straightforward, and helpful and the impact is enormous.
JP: Culturally, I think about how I would always look for cash when stepping out. But now, I am more confident that any business owner I meet will have a bank account. Every time I take a taxi, Bolt or Uber, I just ask for their account details. In the past, I would ask if you had an account, but now I just ask for the details because I expect you to have one. Then going by the virtual account that you mentioned, you realise that some people used to have issues shopping online because of card details. Now, it is the norm. People are keeping money in wallets for transportation and transferring online for items without having to notify the business owners manually. Life is just simpler, honestly. That’s due to technology, and I will say that I am always happy to be a part of this shift.
C: That’s a remarkable change, and you seem quite happy to be part of it. In all of this, is there any story that stands out for you?
JP: Many, actually, but the one that stands out most will be Ezekiel’s. He had started as a merchant with agency banking as his side hustle, but the moment he was made a BRM, it was from one promotion to another. Right now, he’s the lead of offline distributions. Oh boy!
C: So, what about his story caught your attention?
JP: When I read his story, I remember seeing that our instant settlement feature and request for a refund feature had saved him on multiple occasions. We work on features that go live, and it’s cool to not only see them work but also find out that they could save someone from being arrested. That’s a whole other level. Ezekiel is currently holding a senior position here at TeamApt. I think he started as a bank sales manager, then a merchant and worked his way up. There’s not much room for such accelerated growth elsewhere. Only here.
Then there was another one about a guy who bought a house. Sometimes, I just try to imagine our impact, and I am amazed.
C: Yeah. How did you feel about impact when you read that we now process $10b dollars monthly?
JP: I was jumping on my seat. Literally. When you see something like that, your first thought is about the number of people you are helping. From an engineering perspective, it also feels great that the applications we work on are being utilised.
C: It has been insightful having this conversation with you, Johnpaul, but let me ask you a question. If you were not an engineer, what else would you be doing?
JP: Hmmm, maybe I’d have been a pilot. Mm-hmm. I am fascinated by anything that flies. Or an athlete. It’s more like a family thing. I was an athlete in secondary school, the same as my dad.
C: I’m sure you would have been delightful at any of those things. Do you have any final words?
JP: Consume knowledge. Based on my experience, that will be my major advice. Anything that you’re doing, right? It may seem useless now, but you’ll find a use for it. Secondly, there are no shortcuts. Anything you’re doing, just put your mind to it. Initially, things may not go as planned but keep going.
C: Thank you so much again. That brings us to the end of this interview. Thank you so much.
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Also in this series; Ripples: Wisdom Ndebe on How Design Impacts Our Experiences