How I Got My Dream Job: From Customer Support Rep To Software Engineer

by Temitope Akintola| June 01, 2022

I’m in Abuja for the first time. It’s a lot calmer than Lagos. And so while I’m in this lovely, quiet city, let me tell the story of how I went from being an NYSC corp member to a customer support rep to a software engineer.

My story begins in 2019 at NYSC. Fresh out of orientation camp, I needed a PPA, Primary Place of Assignment, so I printed out many copies of my CV. Every day I would wear my khaki and walk the streets of Lagos going from one company to the other asking if they had job openings and handing out my CV.

On one of those days, I ran into a friend from my platoon. We exchanged phone numbers. He was coming from Flutterwave where he had gone to apply for a job. He told me about a lot of other places where I could apply to. It was from him that I first heard of TeamApt.

I found the email address of the Head of People Operations at TeamApt, Naza, online and immediately sent an email with my CV attached saying I needed a PPA. I didn’t even know what role I wanted. I just knew I wanted to work in an organization and find myself. I saw on Google that the easiest role to start out with was customer support and so that was what I applied for.

Naza replied to my email saying they didn’t have any openings. I texted the guy from my platoon telling him about TeamApt’s response. I asked him, “Should I still go to the office?” And he was like, “Yeah, if you feel like.”

I felt like.

So I went to the TeamApt office and liked what I saw. Everyone dressed really casually, the place had a nice vibe. I still got an L sha, because just like their email had said, they really weren’t hiring at that moment. I asked if it was okay for me to drop a copy of my CV. They said it was. I dropped two copies, in case one went missing.

I didn’t hear back from them for almost a month. I was about to give up on my job search. I had an offer from another place but I really didn’t like the job. I decided that if I didn’t hear back from TeamApt before the end of that month, I would resume at the other place.

Two days to the end of the month, on a beautiful Wednesday, I got a call from Ope, who is in the people Operations team at TeamApt. They had an opening. She said to check my email as I had been invited for an interview.

Omo, I was shocked. I thought she called the wrong person. Because they had said no to me twice. Also because imposter syndrome is a problem I have.

But I did not have the luxury to indulge in self-doubt. This was my ticket out of the trenches. I studied hard for my interviews, to the extent that the hiring manager, Solomon, asked if I had crammed for it. Lol, sapa dey motivate.

I was on a bus to Ibeju-Lekki on my way home from the interview when I got an offer for the job. And that was how I started off at TeamApt in August 2019 as a customer support rep for Moniepoint.

I loved my job and was really determined to succeed because like I said, I have ambition. And so I went from a novice who needed constant guidance to a resource whom people came to for solutions. After a while, I was moved to operations. There I also gave that 110% energy.

To be fair, everyone at TeamApt approaches work with a similar devotion to excellence so my work ethic wasn’t an anomaly. Aptians are super into their jobs. I admired that a lot. I especially liked what the developers did at TeamApt and had been nursing the idea of changing careers for a few months.

The thing though was that I was afraid to tell anyone about this goal. I felt like a joke. I mean, I studied English at uni. I couldn’t see how I would go from that to being a software engineer.

One random day, while gisting with my team lead at the time, Odun Adeboye, about personal goals, I told him about my dream to become a software engineer.

Odun not only encouraged me to go for it, he literally took me to Felix Ike, TeamApt’s CTO for advice on how to make the transition.

Felix whom I had never spoken to before was immediately invested in my journey. He sent me a course on Udemy called Python for Everybody. Felix said to try out the course and if I liked it, I could come back and we would plot the next step together.

I loved the course and would stay back after work to study. Things were going really well.

Then COVID hit.

The uncertainty, lockdowns, all of it took a toll. And I zoned out and stopped working on the course. That was the end of my python journey.

I stuck to doing my job to the best of my ability while navigating the anxiety of COVID. As the world settled a bit and the novelty of COVID wore off, I started to feel the nudges to pivot again.

Around the same time, I made friends with a technical support staff on the Moniepoint team called Onome, and a reconciliation officer, Tosin Olubiyi. They both held me accountable.

It became a thing where every day on Workplace Tosin would ask if I had started working towards actualising my dream.

To get Tosin off my back, I got serious about my goals. I joined this class online where the tutor would teach us at night. It cost about 10,000 naira which was really cheap. We first learned git and then moved on to HTML. That was when I first felt like I was performing magic. I absolutely loved HTML and CSS. After those, we moved on to Javascript.

I couldn’t have advanced in that class without Onome. Every time I had difficulties, he did his best to help me through them, walking me through the solution. There was a time he stayed up till midnight helping me through a particularly tough problem.

After a while though, the tutor stopped teaching us. I barely knew anything. I needed quality knowledge.

Just then, I saw that there was an opening at Decagon Institute. Decagon is a software engineering institute in Lagos. My plan was to write the entrance exams just for research so that when I was truly ready to apply next time, I would have the context of what to expect.

I took the exam and failed.

Decagon informed us that those who failed could retake the test in two weeks. I don’t like to fail. So I called Onome and with his help, I studied really really hard, sat for the exam again, and passed.

In November 2021, I was admitted into Decagon.

But there was a problem. Decagon requires a six-month commitment. I could not learn part-time while working at TeamApt. On the other hand, I love TeamApt and did not want to leave the company.

With the help of my team lead and HR, we worked on a compromise that suited all parties. I went on a sabbatical with the understanding that I could come back to my job as a Customer Operations rep. If I wanted to rejoin the team as a developer, I would have to go through the hiring process and tests. I agreed.

I have to pause my story here to send a shout out to the HR team who made sure that sabbatical or not I got a birthday cake in January. That meant a lot.

All right, where were we? Decagon.

Decagon was an experience of a lifetime. Challenging but really good. They operate a flipped learning system which means most of the learning is self-driven. I was placed on the Java path. There was Agile to learn, weekly classes to attend, and two weekly algorithms.

As the training was rounding up, I knew it was time to come back to TeamApt. I didn’t want to work anywhere else.

Everyone in my cohort who learned that I came from TeamApt would immediately say something like, “Oh wow, you work at TeamApt? You’re my new best friend. I want to work there.”

So yeah, even if I didn’t already want to come back yet, seeing how excited others were at the prospect of working here would have been enough to motivate it.

The program at Decagon involves a four-month training and a two-month internship. At the end of the four-month mark, Decagon immediately tried placing me in an internship.

I responded thanking the company for the offer but declining it. The HR manager at the company called me saying she went through my CV and she had a question.

“How could you have worked at TeamApt and be thinking of working elsewhere?”

I laughed and assured her that the plan was to get back to TeamApt.

About three hours later, she called back saying she thought my story was amazing and that she had called her friend at TeamApt to ask if there were openings.

Guess who her friend was…

Felix Ike, the CTO who started me on my journey to software engineering.

Between Felix, my former team lead, Simpa, and Solomon, I was able to find an internship position on the backend Moniepoint team.

This worked great for everyone. TeamApt has very high standards and wasn’t going to give me a full-time role off the bat. I also wanted an opportunity to ease myself into my new software engineering shoes.

Me at work these days

I’m two months in and loving it.

Some of my code has even been merged with production! That makes me feel so good. I told my friends all about it.

This job is seriously fun. I still get scared quite often and worry that I’m a fraud. But I have the support around me to help remind me that the voice in my head saying those things is a liar.

These days, when I’m not writing code or watching YouTube tutorials about code, I spend my time watching sitcoms on Netflix or talking to friends on the phone.

One of my best friends works at TeamApt as well. So most work days we stay on a call from morning till evening. We don’t even have to speak. It’s just nice to not be alone while you work.

That has to be my favourite thing about being an Aptian — the quality friendships that blossom here.

So folks, there you have it. My journey so far at TeamApt. From an NYSC corp member to a customer support rep, and now a software engineering intern.

I have to get back to my friends now. We are going on a hike tomorrow morning. I’m so excited. Remote work sweet gan.

I’ll leave you with the most important lesson I’ve learned on my career journey so far.

Don’t be afraid to make that career pivot. I’m especially speaking to women who would like to explore a career in a technical role. You’ve got this. Feel the fear but do it anyway.

In the words of the poet Erin Hanson, “There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky.

And you ask, “What if I fall?”

Oh, but my darling, “What if you fly?”

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