The tech ecosystem has seen drastic patronage over the last decade. More and more people are transitioning into the industry in different capacities. While academic or educational backgrounds prepared some to work in tech, some had to evolve to fit into a new role in the booming tech industry.
Transitioning to work in tech comes with different experiences. Factors such as mode of working, freelance or full-time, and more may influence the kind of experience you get. Also, your level of expertise before getting into the system may affect your transitioning experience.
For this article, we spoke with five tech employees who were relatively new to the industry when they joined in their chosen capacities. They shared their experiences which will inform your decision and expectations.
Let’s get into it!
How does your background affect you working in tech?
There are several mental barriers people have created about working in tech. And one of the most prevalent is the notion that you must have at least an educational track record or background in the industry before getting into it. This stereotype is part of the reasons we recommend people to read about what qualifies as a tech job. You
Some even nurse notions that you must know how to code to work in tech. However, most of these things are misconceptions. Most times, to get started, you only need a nudge, couple with passion, effort, and peculiar soft skills . Our chat with Ogeroju Opeyemi, a software tester, gave more light on this.
Opeyemi was a shoemaker who also studied history at the University of Ibadan. But Opeyemi found herself in the tech world a couple of years after she graduated from the University in 2019. She said, “My then boyfriend shared me the link to Testify, and that was how the journey started. Today, I’m a software testing engineer and he’s now my husband.” She explained in her voice note how she was exposed to virtual training, got an internship position at a tech company, and today she’s a full-time software tester at Oze, a business app for managing and growing business and accessing capital.
We also spoke with Dare, a software developer at TechCabal. On his transition to tech, Dare said, “I didn’t study anything related to Computer Science; in fact, I studied Political Science which is nothing close or related to tech. I gained most of my current skill set by reading materials, watching YouTube tutorials, and taking software development courses bought on Udemy.”
On the other hand, Ngozi studied engineering and could have easily slotted into different coding or engineering tech jobs as a software engineer, developer, machine learning expert, and more. But she decided to be more adventurous.
Ngozi said regarding her transition to work in tech, “I had studied to be an Engineer and was going to get a master’s degree in Control Engineering because I thought engineering was the only way to solve important problems. I was great at math and physics, so teachers told me it would be a good fit. However, after spending years at the university, I realised that there are myriad problems worldwide and even more diverse ways to approach and solve these problems, including art, communication, and storytelling. I had a passion and a knack for those, so I decided to explore other career options.,” Today, Ngozi is one of the prolific writers at TechCabal, interested in technology, and using her writing and storytelling passion for reshaping Africa’s culture.
Mesioye Johnson, a young rooted voice in Nigeria’s literary scene, spoke to us about sidelining writing poetry and delving fully into tech intricacies as a freelance writer. Mesioye told us, “Moving from literature was like discovering a not-so-tapped horizon where you’d survive with its water.” In our discussion with him, he made it known it wasn’t easy, but with persistence, he’s become one of the foremost Nigerian tech writers flourishing on freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
We spoke to another person who preferred to remain anonymous. She graduated as a student of French from one of Nigeria’s foremost institutions.
She explained how the pandemic ushered her into several realisations, and one of such was her affinity for data science. For this article, we’ll name her Sisi.
Sisi explained taking advantage of the avalanche of free courses flying around during the lockdown. She specifically said, “I graduated with a degree in French, and believe me, I never liked anything calculations, or that’d make me stress my brain too much. But the pandemic period sent me into a sort of panic mode. I saw people taking courses, getting certifications, and so on. Meanwhile, I kept seeing juicy job opportunities available for people with skill sets that I didn’t have. The scare of losing relevance or not achieving anything with myself made me choose to delve into data science. And from fear, fright and apprehension, I found myself developing a deep affection for data science. Today, I work with one of the top tech companies abroad from Nigeria as a remote data scientist. I’m just grateful for my journey.”
These people exemplify that there’s almost no limitation in transitioning to work in tech. Regardless of your initial knowledge, discipline, background, or focus, you can find a role and flourish in it. There are coding, non-coding, and data-related jobs for you to select from.
Freelance or full-time work in tech
You can choose to work as a freelancer or full-time, regardless of your tech profession. However, both have their perks and glitches.
Ngozi was initially a freelance writer, but she decided to devote her expertise, full-time, to TechCabal. Having had a taste of both cherries, here’s what she has to say, “Before TechCabal, I used to be a freelance writer. My end goal was to get the work done. Working full-time is different in several ways: The end goal isn’t just to finish a task; my everyday tasks are a means to an end. I am part of a system now, and my roles are interconnected with others, so my tasks are just part of a bigger picture. I have to think about the company’s goals and ensure that the things I spend my time on are taking the team closer to our goal. As a freelancer, I didn’t feel so responsible for how things turned out in the end for my customers, but working with a company full-time, I have a greater sense of responsibility.” Ngozi added, “Now, I’m constantly looking for ways to increase my work’s impact or redefine it if I see that it is not moving the needle. The only downside is how much control I have lost over my time. Because of this new sense of responsibility, I find myself spending more time working or thinking about my work.”
Ngozi’s experience makes it seem like freelance is the way. But Mesioye, a full-time freelance tech writer, says, “Apart from the freelancing career as I’d love to put it, I run a writing agency, Mesileum, and I have a team of professional writers. So, that by default, is draining. Now let’s add factors like meeting deadlines, meeting schedules with C-suite executives etc. This list could be endless.”
Dare has a similar take to Mesioye’s despite working full-time. He says, “Working full-time in an active and accelerated environment like TechCabal means you’re pushing your works to the eyes of the public, which I think is most developers’ dream, i.e. to see people engage with whatever you’re creating in private. This commitment is, however, challenging because you’re held accountable for the performance of what you build, unlike when you are only building for yourself or freelancing for one-off clients.”
Ogeroju, on the other hand, works remotely, although full-time. She says the feeling of working full-time in tech is gratifying and has helped accelerate her growth in her role as a software tester.
Ogeroju says it can be very tasking sometimes, and you can get overwhelmed. But it helps, especially if you have entry-level experience transitioning to work in tech.
She continued, “From the internship at my former company, I’ve been on full time. That made it easy for me to ask questions from colleagues who had better backgrounds or were more experienced than I was at entry-level. Thankfully, most tech folks I have worked with and currently work with are chill and are always willing to help. So I was never in a completely lost position. Anytime I encountered a problem that seemed insurmountable, I reached out to my colleagues for help. And this may have been impossible if I were trying to freelance considering my level of expertise upon transition to work in tech.”
Numerous factors, such as the nature of your chosen tech profession or job, your clients or company, and your level of expertise upon transition, can affect your experience as a tech professional.
Also, unlike freelancers, full-time tech staff have access to medical insurance, company merch, work gadgets, wifi, and other added benefits. Freelancers may be able to charge variably as they please. However, full-time tech staff are restricted to a specific salary amount.
But while full-time tech staff have secure salary sources, freelance tech staff can only partially determine how frequently they’ll get gigs, influencing how they generate revenue.
You can choose either route to work in tech. Just ensure you weigh your options before you make a decision.
Will you have time for fun or other interests when you work in tech?
Balancing work and leisure is a prominent discourse in the tech scene, especially if you work full-time. Judging from the likely loads of work to be done, finding time to unwind and play can be a thing.
Ogeroju Opeyemi believes it’s possible to have fun. She says work may get intense, but she ensures she makes out time for herself. She says she realises there’ll always be work; therefore, she devised a means to balance work and play. “My work can be very tasking, and if you’re not careful, you can get submerged. But what I do is I go the orthodox way by picking a pen and book to jot down the most pressing things I need to do. I love seeing my ToDos in my handwriting. So, once I can tick it all off, every other thing can wait till I need to get work done again.”
Opeyemi speaks of her observation of her colleagues, mostly software developers, software engineers, etc. “The thing is, I think most tech guys are quiet, and their definition of fun is different from that of someone like me who came from a non-tech background. They really enjoy their job, and when I see them take breaks, they’d rather sleep and watch movies.”
Speaking with Dare, he admits work in tech as a software developer is very immersive. But he believes the love for your job eases the pressure and helps you balance work and play, especially when you’re getting compensated financially. Dare said, “Really, it’s mentally engaging. I honestly wanted to be a literary writer, but Nigeria is not a fertile ground for writers, especially if you’re not into commercial writing or don’t have access to some privilege. But for someone like me who developed a love for tech, tech has made writing for leisure pleasurable because it provides the financial ease that full-time literary writing does not guarantee. I can buy the latest books and stock my library with tech money. Tech money will order you that ride to those literary readings on Friday evenings (laughing hard right now). So, I’d rather choose tech because it allows me to be both a writer and a software developer.”
Ngozi thinks it takes a lot of work to balance work and life when you work in tech due to how fast-paced it is and how independently responsible you are for your company’s success. She sees it more as a factor of working full-time or as a freelancer.
Ngozi said, “When I was freelancing, I could start my day trying to work up words for a grant proposal and end up writing 70-line poetry and not bother about how I spent my day because I knew I could write the grant tomorrow or next. As a freelancer, I could pace myself and control my time more, but now I don’t have as much control anymore. An impromptu task might come up, I may spend too much time on a task trying to make it perfect, and I spend more time thinking about my work and how to make it more impactful.”
Ngozi, however, believes working full-time has helped her understand time management and how to get quality work done faster. She said, “As a freelancer, I suffered from time blindness, so I could be spending way too much time trying to get one task done without knowing how much time I was losing.”
Work and play are balanceable when you work in tech. Most tech companies also try to foster that culture by organizing team bondings, retreats, parties and making the workplace as flexible as possible. But the first step to achieving work-play balance is ensuring you love your job. If you love what you do, it’ll be easier to find a middle ground between tasks and leisure and, in turn, find fulfilment.
Is there a point where one may burn out working in tech?
People speak of experiencing burnout at several points in different industries. But how does the mental and physical saturation feel working in tech?
Sisi, a full-time remote data scientist, feels burnouts are sometimes inevitable, but definitely manageable and avoidable. She lent her voice to this point, saying, “Honestly, it’s very possible to sometimes burn out due to the workload. I remember falling sick at some point during my early entry-level days, despite working remotely. I hardly stood up from my bed, seldom ate, and could barely find time to take care of myself. And I serially burnt out. Thankfully, my team lead noticed, and he was kind enough to navigate me on how to take time off between work and do something relaxing. That really helped me to realise I could do more. So during the day’s work, I take breaks to eat, bathe, and just do stuff around my house. In the evening, after work, I try to take walks. And believe me, those walks are therapeutic.”
Regarding losing steam, Ngozi said, “Upon starting work at TechCabal, I was thoroughly excited. I was excited to be a part of something that contributes so much value to the continent. But as time passed, the excitement wore out because I realised how different working full-time was from freelancing.”
Ngozi continued, “When I was freelancing, I hardly took jobs that were too urgent. It is a big problem now that I am working full-time. I have daily writing tasks that I must submit at certain times during the day. It is still a struggle keeping to deadlines, but I am making it work; plus, I work with really kind people who understand these things and do what they can to help me.”
Contributing to the possibility of losing motivation and how to help it, especially for entry-level, Dare said, “As an entry-level tech professional, it gets boring sometimes, so it is okay to take breaks instead of losing one’s grit entirely.”
Speaking on getting bored of working remotely and losing steam, Ogeroju Opeyemi said, “There are times when I get bored at home, and I just can’t get work done. So to help myself, I registered at some work hubs where I can go work with my pc. That relieves me because I can get to meet people and return to a productive mode.”
It seems to be a challenge, even if you choose to be a freelancer. Mesioye already made it clear, as shown earlier. It calls for meetings upon meetings, especially if you genuinely want to make money off your tech role. You need the client ratings to boost your profile on freelance platforms too. So you need to keep consistently putting in the work and delivering quality.
However, you can avoid incessantly getting to extreme physical or mental saturation points. You can work in tech and have a life. Simply try to devise relaxation strategies to help you blow off steam between work.
How well do tech professionals earn?
The African tech ecosystem is filled with different jobs. And with every role comes peculiar demands. Meanwhile, in every position, there are levels of experience and expertise. Also, some companies or clients can afford to pay more than others.
In fact, the country involved may also influence how much you may earn. See the highest-paid tech jobs in the Nigerian tech ecosystem here. Different factors contribute to how much you get paid as a full-time or freelance tech professional. Also, you can check out top 15 high-paying tech jobs in Africa.
Our tech stars for this article didn’t specify their earnings, but their responses gave a hint.
Mesioye only said a little when asked how well he earns from freelance tech writing. He simply said in exclamation, “Haaaaaaaa, it has literally given me all I have at the moment.”
Ogeroju Opeyemi also didn’t dwell on it for too long. She said, “Financially, it has been awesome. Let me keep it that way.”
Dare sounded gratified with his response saying, “It is financially rewarding because what could possibly be wrong with getting paid doing what you love.”
Ngozi, who has eaten from freelance and full-time bowls, spoke more extensively about financial remuneration when you work in tech.
She said, “Financially, I felt unsafe while freelancing. I’m the type to charge a good amount of money for any work I do. So freelancing was profitable for me whenever I secured a gig. But I didn’t have a steady stream of gigs. I would get a gig one day and not get another paying gig until three weeks later.” Ngozi spoke further, “It was partly my fault because I was not always looking for work to do. I live with my parents, so I had my basic needs sorted out. I was also very picky about the kind of work I took on. They had to be exciting, or I wouldn’t do them. But again, I could afford the luxury of choice because my parents catered to my needs. Working with TechCabal, I feel financially safer as my income is steadier than while I was freelancing.”
Sisi was overwhelmed with emotions speaking of how much she earns. “With just my French degree certificate, I would never have imagined making the amount of money I currently get as salary from being a data scientist. And this is not to downplay the significance of a University degree or French as a course. I’m just speaking from my reality. My salary comes in dollars, and I sometimes feel I’m living a dream. It’s ridiculous that I can earn that much from where I live. I’m a natural minimalist with the way I live, so if I don’t tell you, you would never guess. Never. I’m sorry if this offends, but I’m grateful to God for the pandemic, and I’m grateful I found love in data science.”
If your motivation to go into tech is the financial reward, you’ll likely get it. But you may need to nurse a bit of passion for what you do because financial reward may be a great driver, but you may get serially burnt out and need a sense of fulfilment to keep going.
Here are some things you should also know about soft skills to give you leverage in entry-level tech jobs.
Should you decide to work in tech?
Honestly, as far as we can see of the future now, it is tech-submerged. So the best thing is to position yourself to provide value that’ll be in demand.
You don’t have to code; you can choose data-related and even non-coding/data roles in tech. See some of the simplest non-coding tech jobs you can train and apply for.
In last words for people looking to transition into tech, our tech stars for this article leave some words on marble.
Ngozi chose to sign off by inspiring entry-level tech people with a summary of her feelings about exploring her writing passion with one of Africa’s foremost tech publications. She said, “Working at TechCabal, a premium African publication, allows me to contribute meaningfully to the transformation happening in the continent in that sphere. TechCabal feels like an opportunity to solve hard problems and be a part of history.”
Opeyemi Ogeroju ends her session with gleeful remarks saying, “I honestly feel at home. I mean, tech feels like home.” With honesty laced laughter, she added, “If I could turn back time, I’d have been a tech person from scratch.”
Mesioye took a bow, saying, “One thing keeps me going, and it’s the fact that becoming a solution to people’s problems is not just a major highlight, but it also waters your intensity to be better at what you do and keeps you sane at the same time. Daily digging tech endeavours has become a habit, and I’m proud we’re changing the narrative in the tech world.”
Dare took a more direct fashion in advising entry-level tech minds as he drew the curtains on his session. He started from a personal perspective, “I often regard myself as lucky because it took me only seven months to land my current role, but that doesn’t displace the role of hard studying and project building. Folks who are looking to transition into tech should make sure they have a plan, or should I say a definite roadmap. Think of the roles you would like to take and the technologies required to work in those roles, and start learning them. A roadmap gives an idea of where you’re going, learning needs, and the type of projects to build and add to your CV.”
Sisi called it a day, saying, “Transitioning to tech may not be easy, especially if you find it hard to develop a true interest in the role you’re trying to get into. However, should you ever get into the rhythm, it’s a dance you’ll hardly want to stop.”