A diverse group of individuals tell us how they began their career in programming. Read them here.
Editi Effiong shares his story.
I can’t really remember when I first saw or touched a computer. My mum used to work with computers in the early 90’s but we didn’t have one at home till much later. A friend however had one at home, and they had a computer teacher. I didn’t have the benefit of the computer teacher, but was very curious. I taught myself how to use that friend’s computer, and ended up learning so much I had to teach them.
My parents got a desktop PC for the home later on, which I monopolised against my mum’s warnings to desist. It was with that computer that I learned design on MS Paint and Powerpoint. FrontPage changed my life, but that wasn’t before I met free web services, from where I first learned to build WYSIWYG websites.
I was about 18 or thereabouts when I learned how to build websites. I hadn’t learned to code then, internet was for email, and chat rooms only. One day, I was out with our gang of boys looking for girls when a friend came back from the cafe, late for our rendezvous at his home. His apologies included the words “Sorry, I was building my website, I forgot the time”. It was my lucky day. I had been wondering how websites were created, and here was a friend of mine who already knew how to do it. I asked which site he used, and he told us all. I left the boys to continue with the adventures, and went to the cafe.
I quickly learned how to use the WYSIWYG web builder and in a few days, my personal website was ready – an ad for the website business that begun the moment my friend uttered those magic words a few days back. A week later, I got my first client, who paid N8,000 for building him a free site. I spent the entire sum on a pair of Nike sneakers.
A month later, the same client agreed to pay N12,500 for yet another free site. I was onto something. I spent part of that money on the new Nike Air Max. It was the latest Air Max then, and I was on top of the world. There was nothing like motivation to get more business and buy the latest Nike shoes back then.
After that second job, I was ready for the big time. I quickly formed a ‘company’, with business cards and letterhead. I stopped being me, and became us. I wrote a proposal, detailing how the internet worked, why businesses needed websites and how ‘we’ could help businesses setup their websites. I sealed the 9-page proposal in an new envelope (my mum had tons of those things), along with my card (I printed on cardboard and cut neatly with scissors), and handed to a couple of companies. A few weeks later, I got a call. The largest hotel in Akwa Ibom back then was my potential client. I went there from Calabar. It took a while to see the big man, but when I finally did, I quickly realised that the N75,000 price tag I had in my head was too small. I ended up agreeing a N300,000 deal for that job. At that point, I still hadn’t learned to code.
I had a week to produce a demo, but this is why Jesus invented MS FrontPage. I used that software into the ground! I learned HTML by studying the tags FrontPage produced after placing WYSIWYG content. That job bought me a brand new Dell Inspiron 500m, amongst other things.
There are experiences I’ll never forget. I remember when I had an encounter with the police. At the time when I was living in Calabar, I used to visit this cafe, Hitecpro, off Mayne Avenue. One evening, I was going out of the cafe, and a policeman stopped me and asked what I was carrying in my backpack. I told him it was a laptop, an then proceeded to quote him the laws on searches. He shook his head and left me alone. That’s the closest I came to getting my laptop seized. I’ve never been arrested or questioned, which is probably not good for my street cred.
Getting my first .com registered prove quite a headache. I think this is something Lagos based developers take for granted, but back then, it was a real headache. I lost a bit of money abroad, before I finally got a guy in Lagos to help me sort that out.
Soon after learning PHP, I designed a a custom CMS. That was a really cool thing to do back then. It worked so well, I used it for a client project as recently as 2013 (with some revisions of course). I wish I’d published it back then. Who knows?
In the end, I think I learnt to code as a means to an end – starting my business, and more importantly back then, buy nice shoes. But that was a long time ago. I rarely write code these days, as I’m more involved in the business, strategy and product design end of things. But one of the biggest advantages of learning to code for me, has been understanding how stuff works. Understanding how stuff works under the hood makes product design, UX and strategy so much easier to tackle.
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