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January 12, 2024

9 mins read

Fullstack Engineer to SVP of Design: What 8 Years of Evolving within a Company Looks Like

by Adrian Agho


Hi, I'm Adrian, and this piece is an attempt at rolling back the last 8 years of my career, which is also 8 years of working at Moniepoint. Here's to connecting the dots backwards, hopefully painting the picture of what growth within an organisation can look like!

First, you set the stage.

Since 2015, I’ve had the privilege of working and building impactful financial products and doing what I call the greatest job ever. I remember my interview with Tosin 8 years ago, more like a chat, really. I had just completed the mandatory NYSC after I graduated with a first class degree, and was looking at a couple of options for where to work. A number of companies were hiring at the time - Interswitch, PWC, etc. So, here I was, trying to decide where I'd fit in when my friend Felix reached out to me -  he had left Interswitch to start TeamApt Inc. (which is now Moniepoint Inc.),  and he asked me to join the company.

I went to see Tosin at the TeamApt office, which at the time was also Tosin’s home at 1004 Apartments (one of Nigeria’s oldest housing estates) and we had this conversation where Tosin was painting a good picture about the dream he had for this company he was building, and how his goal was to create Financial Happiness.

The first thing that struck me that day was how atypical the interview was - I knew interviews were meant to be these straight-jacketed meetings, where things were formal. It was the first time I was hearing about stock options, equity, and things in that bucket. At that time, the mental model for jobs was - get a job, work at it, and keep getting promoted until you reach senior management. This was completely different.

The second thing was Tosin’s energy. He was so full of life and could describe in detail what the future would look like (for us and for customers/clients) if we were able to make a good impact. 
It was really an inspired conversation, and I thought to myself, “I'm young. I’ve got nothing to lose, and I’m among friends. Let’s do this!”.

That was it. I just gave it a shot and joined.

Next, you go all in and do hard things.

One of the benefits and sometimes drawbacks (depending on how lucky you get), of taking a leap is that you have to go all in. There are no what-ifs, second-guessing, or being polarised.

When I took the leap of joining Tosin as against going the traditional job-growth route, I went all in. At that time, we were a service business, working within the banks, and improving their internal tools. And it was fast-paced! Requirements came in frequently and fast! I was conscious of how high-stakes an environment it was; delivering excellently was paramount, or the bank could lose money.

Our first major project was automating the Settlement and Reconciliation arm of Fidelity Bank. We also worked with a couple of banks on a project basis and built a suite of solutions that focused on automating backend processes for these banks. 

Every day was as challenging as it was interesting, and I loved it! Coming in and doing that kind of work that you probably wouldn't do until you get to senior management was refreshing. 

We made decisions on things that had a lot of ramifications, so it forced us to grow up quickly. We were building things that impacted the lives of people. So from that early stage, I already had a different way of thinking, knowing that what I was building was shaping a lot of people’s lives.

A particular scenario that crystallised this for me, was after we automated Fidelity Bank’s customer support platform, which was a project I handled from A-Z. 

One day, I was coming to work; I was living in Jakande at the time. On the bus I was in, there was a lady on the phone, talking about how good their new Customer Support Platform was. Apparently, she was a Fidelity Bank employee, working out of one of the branches. She was praising the Customer Support Platform, and she had no clue the person who built it was in the same vehicle as her. It was a mind-blowing, serendipitous moment for me.

I've seen members of my team have moments like this over and over, which gives them renewed vigour and sheer joy. It makes them proud that the thing they are working on is really helping people - "I'm not just doing a job, but I'm actually helping people" because you can see the impact of your work in society.

Lesson: Go hard at things and build impact-driven solutions.

You evolve as the company evolves & pivot roles.

As we began to expand, to build more products, and build other things, more Engineers came in. The next major iteration was building for the bank's customers, this was now our 3rd/4th year, so we were gradually going from B2B to B2B2C. We worked on a couple of banking applications like Sterling 1pay, and Unified by Unity. 

This required more engineers, and with more engineers came the need for me to be in charge of giving clear-cut directions on projects and products. This precipitated my being moved by Tosin into management, and being in charge of products at a new level and what a switch-up that was! 
I had to manage people, which was a different ball game entirely from doing the work yourself  - managing people, managing the products, managing what engineers were building. Testing, getting the requirements, all that good stuff. It was a change of pace and it was more hectic, with more responsibilities and more adventures for me.

The developers that came in, have today become Product Managers in their own rights. They're no longer developers because they've built within the company for a while. It was a natural progression. You come in as a developer, you grow - you can become an Enterprise Architect EA (for those who want to remain engineers), TPM or BPM (Technical PM or Business PM). You find your way up, or you are forced up because the reward for hard work is more hard work.

Somewhere along the line, evolving and my innate passion for design met.

I’ve forgotten what the motivation is now. But throughout my time from the beginning, I've always been design-inclined. Yes, I wrote code, but I liked designing more. I liked working on UI elements. I could translate almost anything into its design. Translation essentially means taking a design and converting it into something a user can interact with on a client - a website, an online software solution, a mobile app, etc.

It's one of the skills I have that I'm incredibly proud of, being able to translate any view. So, as my role evolved, it naturally tilted towards design, and I took on the aspect of product management that focused on design.

Lesson: Natural progression is always up when you are doing great work.

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You lead and build out the Product Design team.

Fast forward to 6 years, I began officially handling the User Experience arm of the company, and I'd like to think of it as the homecoming my heart yearned for.

The first thing I did was restructure Design within the company. At the time, the team was structured such that every sub-product or channel had its own designer. And I recognised that we needed a cohesive experience for our users. So I took all the designers from all the teams and brought them into one funnel.

I take all my experience of being a PM, being a developer, and being a designer, to vet all the requirements coming in from business and the PMs, to say, “Okay, this is what I think you should correct, this what I think we should do” so we just set up that funnel to make things a bit more efficient design-wise.

In a way, I’m the referee who tells everybody what everybody else is doing so that we are all on the same page. I am the interface between the requirements and design while being the information architect.

A good example is with the BRM earnings. They earn commissions on different things - cards, POS, account deposits, etc. Every product team wanted to show their own commissions, but I felt that since the person earning these commissions was one person, all the money they earned would be shown on one dashboard regardless of where they were coming from.

In addition to structuring the team, the next thing I did was to set up a design language. We called it Kamona, which is a growing library of all the elements you see anywhere on any app. 

Today all the UIs for all the user types across all the products Monnify, Moniepoint, Moniepoint business and personal and the Brms, the state coordinators, Moniepoint Kenya, Websites, etc, have a holistic design.

Designers no longer have to design from scratch. There's a library they can reuse and the output is very quick. It's very efficient and really good. Right now, we are a team of 7 designers and 1 illustrator.

Of course, the team is young and still growing, right now we're trying to expand the team, make it a bit more mature, and improve the way we handle business requirements - marrying them with pain points we discover from our users during the discovery phase, removing biases. Getting more feedback channels in place to better serve our customers.

What’s Next?

I used to think I’d like to retire when I’m in my 40s, buy a boat and just sail across the Atlantic. But I know I’d get bored after a couple of months. I love how engaging my work at Moniepoint is. It feels like I started this journey yesterday, so I'm excited to continue being obsessed with maturing our User Experience.

There are new things we're doing, new processes we are implementing, and maturing as we go global. The frontiers are there, and we keep breaking the status quo, which gives me great joy. 
I'm evolving as the company's evolving. Everybody is learning and growing upwards. It's nice to say that after eight years, we still have that DNA of relentless growth that is still very strong.

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