Hi Kelechi! So excited to be talking to you. Please tell me about yourself.
Thanks so much, Iyin. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I went to school and trained as a Lawyer. Later, I transitioned from law to software engineering and then, finally, into product management. I worked as a software engineer at LawPavilion, a legal tech company in Nigeria working on digitising law reports/judgements from our courts of law. When I transitioned into Product Management, I worked at Decagon (a software engineering school). It’s been quite an exciting journey.
Sounds like it! Talk to me about why you transitioned from Law to Tech.
I wanted to do something different from litigation. I assumed corporate commercial law would be it, but I was wrong. In my search for a different path, I started off with an internship at The Leadspace (a co-working space in Lagos), which exposed me to the wonders of tech and the startup ecosystem. Later on, I got a job with a software outsourcing company as the business operations manager. My quest to understand how to communicate with software developers got me curious about getting into it myself. I saw an opportunity in Abuja for a coding boot camp for women. I applied, got in, quit my job in Lagos, and went all in. That was how it started.
That was very brave of you. So what was your experience like transitioning into tech?
My experience was challenging, especially coming from a legal background. There were days when I second-guessed myself - although I’ve now learned that happens to the best of us.
I also got some bad feedback from peers who made it seem like I was throwing away 6 years of hard work becoming a lawyer for an unknown path into tech. Fortunately for me, I got great support from friends and the various communities I belonged to. I’d advise anyone transitioning into the space to leverage communities for motivation.
I’ve also learned that no skill is irrelevant in the tech space. You can start with your strengths and climb the ladder to where you want to be.
Now you’re at Canza Finance, a Web3 company. What made you interested in the crypto/blockchain space?
There are a couple of things that got me interested. As a lawyer, the concept of smart contracts was intriguing. There were a lot of discussions about how smart contracts would take away the lawyers’ jobs back then. Also, the space feels full of possibility. Of course, money was also a factor although lost some in the dip, lol.
As a product lead in the Web3 space, what does your role look like?
My work is focused on solving pain points for users. Every day is a new opportunity to solve a problem or a piece of a problem. There is always something to learn or unlearn.
There’s also a lot of unpredictability. You wake up one morning thinking it’s going to be an easy day and realise that there are a couple of new things to address or work on. Also, when users say the product is not working, it's usually something the user failed to do, not making it work. That frustrates me 😂.
You do a lot of social work involving access to justice. Can you tell me more about that?
Being a lawyer, I started off with a passion for the intersection between law, justice, & tech. Working on this has led me to my work with The Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL), an accelerator that supports startups that are preventing or resolving justice issues in West Africa. The mission is to ensure that 150 million people can resolve their most pressing justice problems by 2030. I also created Techlawyered, a platform that advocates for more tech inclusion in law and highlights profiles of amazing innovators in the justice ecosystem in Africa.
That’s awesome, Kelechi! So what’s next for you?
Back in the university, I would have never imagined myself doing what I’m doing now. I just knew I would be doing work I wanted to and enjoyed. So that’s my mantra for the future; doing work that I want to do and enjoying it. And making good money while at it :)
Right! Thanks for a great conversation. How can people follow you?
I enjoyed it too. You can find me @kc_techlawyer on Twitter. Thanks!