This 25-year-old dropped out to pursue music, and is now building a tech career.

10 || January || 2024

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#Issue 54

How Donald Yotay went from music to design

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Happy New Year people of ET 👋🏾

To start 2024 off, we’re sharing the story of an Entering Tech reader who refused to gree for everybody. 

Donald Apakhade Ogah—or Donald Y.O.T.A.Y (ears Of The African Youth) —is a 25-year-old Nigerian who started his career in music, and is now building a tech career as a UI/UX designer. Our conversation with Donald started on X (Twitter) early this week when he shared his success story (and how we played a part 😉). 

So for today’s edition of #EnteringTech🚀, Faith and I have invited Donald to write to you about his journey through music, network marketing, and tech. Here’s how Donald Yotay is hustling his way towards building an audio tech unicorn.

by Timi Odueso & Faith Omoniyi

Tech trivia questions

Some trivia before we begin. Answers are at the bottom of this newsletter. 

  • Which African country has the most startups?

From music to design

I have documented my job search journey on LinkedIn and Twitter, and my goal is to share a well-rounded story. I hope that you gain one or two things that can apply to your job search, business, or brand.

I started off studying computer science at the University of Lagos (UniLag), but in 2018, I dropped out in my third year to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. I won’t go into details on how that went, but by 2021, after years of being an artist without any sponsor or record label, I decided to look for ways to make money. This time, I tried network marketing. I believe that our dreams change, and we should allow ourselves to pursue new dreams. 

Donald Yotay

By 2022, I switched roles again, and this time to tech—design. In a conversation about entering tech, my cousin, a full-stack developer, suggested I try product design. At the time, I didn’t even know what Figma was. But then I spent the whole of 2022 learning from free YouTube tutorials, Udemy and Coursera. I learned mostly UI design and had just a brief idea of UX design.

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A year later, I was ready for a job. In January 2023, I enrolled in a boot camp at Side Hustle to build an MVP for a startup idea, where I got my first taste of working on products.

Recording/Performing Artist 2016 – 2020
Entrepreneur (Network Marketing) 2021
Product Designer, Freelance Apr 2022 – Dec 2023
UI/UX Design Intern, Analytics Intelligence Africa Jan 2024 – Present

I created a portfolio, and got a mentorship on ADPList where I spoke to mentors from Tesla, HomeDepot, and American Express. There’s a lot I learnt from these mentors from creating my core values to identifying industries I wanted to work in, but one of the most critical things that would help me down the line was creating a unique portfolio. “The job market is saturated,” they told me. “And if you want to stand out, you have to create something that’s different, something you’re passionate about. This way, even when you’re speaking about it, your passion will show.”

And that’s what I did. I created a portfolio that said something about my interests. In it, there’s a prototype for Moosic App, a music streaming platform that stems from my background as an artist (with songs being used in Nollywood films), a UX design for Google Chrome bookmarks, and even a brand design project for my sister’s scented candle shop. 

I designed things I was passionate about.

A snapshot of Donald’s portfolio

The work paid off. In November 2023, I clinched an interview with a construction startup that needed a designer for an app and a website.

Did I get that job? Yup. But I declined because it didn’t align with my career objectives. My mentors advised that even greenhorns with no experience can still stand firm on their core values, preferred industries, and dream workplaces.

They say No, I hear “NOTO”

I didn’t relent though. I consistently reached out HR departments and even had another interview in December 2023, and in January 2024—this month— I received two job offers! These jobs might have come a year after I started job hunting, but the seeds were sown in September 2023 when I changed strategies. Here’s what I did:

Starting in September, I started considering offline strategies for job hunting since the online approach wasn’t as fruitful. I shared my CV with everyone—friends, family even a bartender I once met. I would tell them to be on the lookout for UI/UX opportunities, and follow up with calls and texts.

GIF Source: YARN Memes

In October, I volunteered at a conference, SwitchCon Africa, and strategically snagged the “green room” access to chat with speakers. I shook hands, and collected LinkedIn details, Twitter handles, and even phone numbers from every single one! (You never know.) One of the speakers—Chide Idoga—I met would be instrumental in helping me get my first job. She was the only one who would contact me weeks later, forward my CV to the HR team at the company she worked for, and hint at a possible internship.

I read an edition of #EnteringTech on the 3 Million Technical Talent (3MTT) Programme and I applied. At that stage, I had two job interviews but no job offer. I was torn; it was painful, but then I received news, in November, that I had been selected for the 3MTT programme. 

By December, I posted the new certifications I got as part of 3MTT on Twitter and LinkedIn and the posts got zero engagement, but I didn’t think about it too much. But then, on New Year’s Eve, Minister Bosun Tijani—who created the 3MTT Programme—himself validated my LinkedIn post. I mentioned that I was looking for job opportunities, and the minister asked his network to view my profile and reach out if interested.

“Within a few hours, four different brands had asked for my CV, and by January 5, I had two job offers!”

Both were fully remote paid internships in my dream industries: edtech and data organisation/management. The company I eventually chose was Analytics Intelligence Africa. I’d met Chide, an Investor relations manager, who works there earlier in October, and she’d forwarded my CV to the HR department! I had been on their necks for 3 months, following up with the HR department. They finally sent me an employment letter when they noticed the minister’s spotlight on my profile. My discipline in 3MTT is UI/UX design, but I took additional artificial intelligence certifications just to impress the company.

This might sound weird and obsessive, but it makes perfect sense to a guy coming from a background in music and network marketing. The amount of “No”, “Stop trying”, and “Leave me alone” I had gotten from my time as an artist and a distributor cemented my hustle philosophy.

For anyone in a similar position, please keep at it. Try and FAIL repeatedly until the only option you can see is your win; when people say “No”, hear N.O.T.O. instead, or “Not on this occasion.”

GIF Source: Zikoko Memes

People love tips, hacks, and tricks, and I am sure a few of the readers are wondering what I said in the 3 interviews that got me hired or what level of design expertise I have that made me stand out. For me, I know my secret is aggressive learning. Learning is a hobby for me. I know that sounds silly, but instead of doing the normal things others do when trying to relax, I open a book, watch an informative video, listen to a podcast, or start an online course. And like I mentioned, building an intention portfolio with passion projects also defined my path. 

In conclusion, let me share my top resources from 2023, for life and UI/UX design. First, of course, is Entering Tech. It’s a newspaper for the tech era. Our parents often whine about us missing the news, but influencers know every detail about YouTube millionaires. Entering Tech was my digital paper: industry updates, relatable newbie journeys, and even job leads like the 3MTT in the October issue. That one story? It brought me here. Here are other resources I enjoyed:

Life: The Diary Of A CEO, Founders Podcast, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Happy Sexy Millionaire by Steven Bartlett, the Duolingo App—where I am currently learning German, French, Maths and Music and the You Version Bible App.

Music:Dejavu by Seyi Vibes, Wire by T.I Blaze, and Awodi by Asake.

Design: ADPList — mentorship platform on different fields, this Free Figma Web Design Course on YouTube, Refactoring UI by Adam Wathan & Steve Schoger, Laws of UX by Jon Yablonski and The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.

Donald has documented his job search journey on LinkedIn and Twitter, and his goal is to share a well-rounded story. We hope that you’ve learnt one or two things that can apply to your job search, business, or brand. If you’d like to connect with Donald, please check him out on LinkedIn (Donald Yotay) and Twitter (@Donald Yotay).

Tech trivia answers

  • It’s Nigeria with 3,360 startups.

Jobs

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Disclaimer: TechCabal is not affiliated with or associated with jobs and opportunities listed on all its job boards and newsletters. All applicants bear the responsibility of researching about the roles and companies they apply to.

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Timi Odueso Senior Editor, Newsletters

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