A diverse group of individuals tell us how they began their career in programming. Read them here.

Dimgba Kalu shares his story.

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DimgbaKalu

Dimgba Kalu

Growing up, seeing or using a computer was completely rare and unusual. I cannot concisely point out the first time I saw one but I remember my very first experience of using a computer was when my secondary school computer mistress asked me to double click to open a folder. That was in JSS2. I did that two more times and that was all.

In 2004 when emails and browsing started trickling down, a friend opened an email for me. He was also responsible for checking and printing emails for me as it were. I had little or no interest for computers. In fact by the end of my secondary school studies my desire was to study Chemical Engineering, not Computer Science, let alone coding or programming. (Who even knew what it was then?)

I had followed friends, a few times, to the cybercafé to assist me in checking my email and browsing the internet, using the all famous “Internet Explorer 6”. Within that period I had gained knowledge on how to move the mouse, enter web addresses on the address bar, check my emails and fill forms. ‘Wonderful’ you may say.

Surprisingly, I saw myself studying Computer Science because I couldn’t get Chemical Engineering. My idea about computing then was the routine six months road side computer training that several individuals were offering. So I had prepared my mind to just learn Microsoft office suites in school and play around campus the rest of the time. (I actually played around a little)

My assumptions were wrong because, not long after my first month in school, I was introduced to BASIC programming. I still felt dumb because I knew little or nothing about programming.

However, the game changer came after our second semester first year exam, a certain course mate of mine who was proficient in Q-BASIC challenged me to the fact that having a good GP and graduating top of the class makes no sense for a prospective Computer Science graduate without a proven knowledge of programming. I then took it upon myself to learn how to code just to prove to him that I could measure up at all fronts. (Funny reason. But that was exactly why I wrote my first line of Code)

First, it was Q-BASIC, thanks to my friend Chioma Ukwuoma, who gave me a lift and helped me find my way on the blue screen. Like every other student of our time, I had no PC, so my learning tools were a floppy drive/CD/Flash Drive, my 80 leaves coding exercise book and a pen. I ran errands for, was insulted and embarrassed by our lab attendants, just to be able to use the lab PCs (Those Pentium 3, Windows 2000/XP Computers). One thing at the back of my mind was the challenge that I was bent on overcoming.

When I was done with Q-BASIC, I joined a Software Development class. I’m to forget the first assignment given to me. I was asked to develop a webpage using HTML. It sounded and looked like Greek to me. That alone made me stop attending the class. However, at the end of the semester, I made sure my holidays weren’t going to be fun,I got down to business. This time, the library helped. I borrowed a book on HTML and transferred all the tags to my 80 leaves programming note book. This time, instead of the lab, I choose to make friends with mates that had acquired PCs. Most times, I fuel their generators with my transport fare and will journey distances more than 600 m. By the end of the holidays, I had already finished HTML/CSS, then I jumped to VB 6.0. My friend Franc had just bought the text book, so I borrowed it from him to use. Again, my note book was handy to copy codes and my friends PC to practice what I had learnt. I can remember my first application in VB 6.0, a payroll calculator. It really made me famous in school. I also used some specialized coding websites for source codes.

The need to build interactive web applications pushed me to JavaScript and for the quest of building intelligent systems, I learnt ASP. Access was close to my heart. Then came PHP; easy to use and less expensive to host.

However, the journey continues as new languages, technologies and platforms emerge. It is more of a pleasure and a profound passion to explore these new platforms, e.g. Ruby on Rails.

I believe that coding is the literacy of the future and I encourage every young person to embrace any opportunity that comes his or her way to gain this knowledge. You certainly do not need to be an expert or a professional; the knowledge will profit you in business and your career.

***

Dimgba Kalu (@dkdimgba) is a Computer Science graduate. He works with Integrated Business Network where he is the lead developer for SwishIndex.com . He also runs Technigeria, an African focused technology news curator and is a co-founder of LearnCode (an intiative that teaches young Nigerians how to code). He is currently a Technology/Innovation Fellow of HalaNigeria/Code4Africa.

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