The value of community for the Nigerian tech ecosystem

Iyin Fisher
4 min read
Remote Religion is a series which shines a spotlight into the life of a remote tech worker in Africa. We explore the promise and perils of remote work and how to navigate career transition.
In this edition of Remote Religion, we spoke with Kola Ojoodide, a Product Designer at FairMoney. We talk about how he’s working to transition into Web3 and the value of community for Nigerian tech professionals.

Hi Kola! I’m so excited to be speaking with you. Please tell us about yourself.

Hello! My name is Kola. I am a digital product designer. I have been designing products for about 3 years. Prior to that, I freelanced for 4 years as a visual designer.

How and when did your interest in tech start?

I had a friend in university who was also a visual designer, and we kept each other accountable to our professional goals. One day when we were talking, he mentioned design thinking. That was how I found out about IDEO and The Interaction Design Foundation, where I started taking courses.

At the same time, I also became more interested in software development. I had some friends who were coding and getting work on Fiverr and Upwork. Because I’d already worked with them on flyers, banners and other graphics, it was easy to have conversations about transitioning into tech. After a while, someone put me on my first gig.

Awesome! More specifically, how did you get started in Product Design?

Because I had been designing for a while, my pathway into product design was shorter than it normally would be. I had the visual part down but needed to understand strategy and UI/UX. So, I read a lot and tried to get hands-on experience.

What’s your favourite thing about working as a product designer?

Solving problems. The fact that you can start with a vague problem and after going through some process, you get a practical solution? That’s the best part of product design for me.

On the flip side, what’s the hardest thing about your job?

Making people see that product design is beyond visual design. The design maturity of your company affects how they see your work. It affects your given timelines, how expenses are prioritised, how UX research is approached, etc.

It’s difficult getting everyone to see that there’s more work that goes into getting designs on the table. There’s a lot of background work that might not be handed off to the developer at the end of the day.

What advice would you give to people looking to work in product design?

My first advice is to always to take a course. This is not just for the certification but also because they give you a structured way to learn as opposed to just bouncing between resources.

I would also say to start practising and find hands-on work. If all you do is learn, you’ll fall into learning limbo and never gain practical experience.

The third thing I’d say is always to go the extra mile. The product design space is getting a bit saturated, so your portfolio needs to have something extra to stand out in hiring funnels.

Lastly, I’d advise people to join a community and start putting out work. That’s one of the best ways to get noticed in tech.

Speaking of community, I know you’re a part of the design community, Asa Coterie. Can you tell us more about it and your role in the community?

Asa Coterie was founded almost four years ago. This was when we were back in school. For the founders, it was because they identified a need for designers of all disciplines to be able to converse. They brought me and a few other people on to help coordinate the community.

Initially, I joined the design education team, which was responsible for hosting meetups and finding speakers to facilitate workshops. I volunteered in that capacity for a while. Last year, however, I transitioned to the talent resource team. This means that I’m talking with hiring managers and design team leads to understand their needs and help plug people in the community into these jobs.

That’s so great! How did you get interested in crypto and Web3?

Sometime around 2018, I caught the crypto bug and began reading about bitcoin mining and blockchain. More recently, I took a course on financial technology, and there was a section on Ethereum. It covered what the tech could become in the future, which sparked my interest again.

How are you working to transition from Web2 to Web3?

Product design skills are really transferable between different industries because the processes stay the same. The difference is in understanding the product space. This is what I’m doing right now. I’m trying to understand as much as I can about crypto and Web3 technologies. This means I’m doing a lot of reading, watching Youtube videos and engaging with a lot of resources (please send me recommendations).

The Stack Shift community is also helping because I get to meet people who are in the space or also transitioning. So, I get to meet people I can ask questions or benchmark my progress against.

We’re glad to be of help! What do you do for fun?

Mostly watch movies. If you ever need movie recommendations, I’m your guy. Asides from that, I spend time with my family and my dogs - I have three. I also like to exercise and recently picked up gaming.

What are your plans for the future?

In the short-term, I want to get in as much product building experience as possible.

Long term, I see myself in a design studio or an incubator where I can help companies build out the first version of their products. I might even transition into product management down the line.

Sounds great! Thanks for your time Kola. How can people follow you?

Thanks, Iyin. You can follow me on Twitter @kolaojo_

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