We asked a diverse group of individuals all over Africa to tell us how they began their career in programming. Over the next few weeks, TechCabal will be featuring stories shared by these various software developers in Nigeria, on how they got started coding. Churchill Nanje writes from Cameroon.

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Churchill Nanje Mambe

My journey with computer programming and later software engineering started in 2003. After obtaining all the As in GCE A levels, my parents where shocked to hear me say I didn’t want to go to university but rather wanted to spend a year learning how to repair computers and then decide a career path.

I enrolled at the Trustech Institute of Technology in October 2003 to study computer repairs and maintenance and it took a little less than three weeks for me to realize I wasn’t made to repair computers. Then in one computer networking class, our teacher showed us how to write basic HTML and instantly, I found love – love at first sight. I didn’t own a computer or have the kind of money to be able to access the Internet so I had to improvise. As you may know, constrain brings about creativity.

I made friends with all the cyber café managers in Buea and every day after school, I would go to one of the cafés and offer to manage it for them in exchange for computer and Internet access. During my holidays, I would spend close to 12 hours daily in the cyber doing nothing but tinkering with web pages and programming.

I started off on w3schools.com where I learned HTML and CSS and was trying out their online code and preview tool. Then I found out about Macromedia Dreamweaver and Fireworks. I started building basic websites for friends and people around the world for as little as 5000F ($10) and through word of mouth, a lot of people got to know about me. Most people referred to me as ‘the 19 year old local hero’ who was doing crazy things with the computer.  Subsequently, all this hype resulted in a job offer as a computer instructor at the Trustech (same school I had enrolled in earlier to learn computer repairs).

In October 2004, I got employed as Web Development Instructor at Trustech and to put this into perspective, this is exactly one year after high school. As an Instructor, every day after school, I would spend time on my allocated school computer until 3am learning Object Oriented Programming and practicing Actionscript 2.0 in Macromedia Flash. I built a couple of Flash based websites, Flash games, Flash chat systems, and Flash based applications. After a while, I got bored of Flash/Actionscript so I moved to Object Oriented Java and then PHP. I worked at Trustech for almost 2 years and then decided to resign to focus on software programming and web development.

Fast forward to January 2006, I founded AfroVisioN Group Limited, a consultancy for software development – web, mobile and enterprise applications. To date, we have had over 500+ clients ranging from multinationals to small shops. While at AfroVisioN Group, I had the opportunity to work with a lot of people including Francis Oghuma, founder of naijaborn.com, where I took charge of software development. In 2009, I won the JCI award for the most outstanding young entrepreneur in Buea and two years later in 2011, the JCI award for the Most Outstanding Young Cameroonian in Business and Entrepreneur.

AfroVisioN Group has been great, but as I got to learn over time, it became increasingly difficult to scale a consultancy business and I ran into several problems finding and hiring qualified engineers. This led me to personally code and launch the beta version of Njorku (www.njorku.com) – the African wide vertical search engine focused on jobs and recruitment. 

And the journey continues.

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Churchill Nanje Mambe, a Cameroonian, is a software engineer/entrepreneur and founder of Njorku. Follow him on twitter @mambenanje.

Do you have stories of how your love for coding began? Please share in the comments below!

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