Sometimes we young aspiring professionals get so carried away with the accolades and slay of corporate that we fail to look a bit closer at the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes to provoke such ‘Badassness’.
In this interview, Bayo talks so REAL with us about hard work, drive and some of the lows that come with being a Senior Problem Solver. With his badass job as a Software developer at Andela, Bayo is definitely someone that works the work and reaps the returns.
He gives some golden advice for aspiring technology professionals regarding skills required and must-have ethics in order to build a successful
technology career actually, any career.
You’re going to love this one.!
- What does it mean to be a Senior Problem Solver?
First of all the Senior there is for aesthetics, the core of it is problem-solving and the reason why I refer to myself as that or like to use the title is because of first principles. As a techie, sometimes it’s easy to think everything is about technology, software, hardware, the next big tech, the next fancy gadget or device and sometimes we forget that the core of it is trying to solve problems and if the problems are not solved you haven’t done anything, regardless of how advanced your technology is. More often than not technology always gives you this 10x boost on your solution but the core of it is that you’re trying to solve a problem.
And then the “Senior” in front of it is because haven solved so many problems, I’ve seen them in so many different types, shapes and forms that I’m used to it. I’ve acquired some skills in identifying these problems, proffering solutions, considering alternatives and basically going through a problem solving process. That’s the idea behind that.
- What’s a typical workday for you?
Are there any typical days? Every day is a work day and I work all through the day.
I get into work, typically early in the mornings, go through my emails, slack messages, WhatsApp messages from the night before and really just all the information I can go through.
Try to do some reading: catch up with the news, Twitter; find out what the hashtag is today or what we are fighting about laughs and then after that, I move into code reviews where I review code submissions from people who work on my team and give feedback. Shortly after that, there’s typically an array of meetings, I have so many meetings during the day; you’d be shocked at how many meetings I can fit into one day.
Some of those meetings are coaching/mentoring sessions where I provide guidance and coaching to other Software developers, some are pair programming sessions where I try to solve problems with another developer or observe the developer solve a problem and provide guidance. Some of the meetings are brainstorming sessions where we try to solve problems for the company, my department, other people etc.
Typically after that, I just go home, go to the gym or go out. I try to go out frequently because for me the whole idea of work-life balance is difficult, how do you carve out time for personal life when you’re frequently too exhausted to do anything? So what I try to do is merge work and personal time together, I basically create a mesh between them, sometimes I go to see a stage play from work or rather than having lunch at work, I leave the office and go eat somewhere.
Some other days, after work I go and party till late in the night and then come back to work the next day. I try to fuse work and life, that’s my typical day.
- You’re at a level where most of your peers are yet to reach, asides from being uber cool, what else would you say has given you an edge? Please don’t feel the need to be humble or politically correct
Funny enough I actually think a lot of my peers are beyond me, but I’d say 2/3 things have given me an edge; first is putting myself into the work, doing the actual work. For anything you decide to do or find yourself doing, the first step is to actually just do the work. Whether its school or skilled labour, whatever it is put yourself diligently into the work and do it, then you actually see returns.
I can date the beginning of me ‘doing the actual work’ back to my primary, secondary and university school days. In Primary school, I remember there were times when I had to stay up all night just because there was this 1-1000 I had to write, there was even a time I wrote 1-5000, my teacher asked me to write it and I decided I must get it done.
Success comes in doing the work. I remember vividly once during my 2nd year in university when I had a math exam, I had prepped so much for the exam that after I wrote the exam, all I was seeing were numbers; I was DRAINED.
The second thing I’d say is important to success is people, we talk about this a lot but I don’t think we realize how important people are. I got my first job through a referral from a friend who had seen my work and thought I would be fit for the position.
It’s important to have the right people around you. Not just for referrals but more so for inspiration, motivation and a healthy challenge.
I remember back in University, one time I and my friends pulled an all-nighter preparing for exams. We removed one mattress from the bed and put it in the centre of the room and took turns sleeping for a few minutes through the night. When Person A gets tired of reading, he goes to the mattress, lays down for a bit and then after about 30 mins, Person B wakes Person A up to continue studying and he rests for a bit. Person C does the same thing and that was pretty much how we went through the entire night.
I have always had people around me who challenge themselves and in turn, challenge me to be better. The people you have around you to a large extent affect how far you can see and consequently, how far you can reach.
Those are the 2 major things for me; do the actual work and then have the right networks.
- I’ve heard a few times that no matter how much you love your job, there will always be tasks that come with it that you don’t enjoy. Is this true for you? What’s that work task that you absolutely dread?
This is very true, I love what I do but there are things that come with it that I don’t like as much, for me there are 2 of those things so far:
- Reports: After all the work is done, I have to sit down, think about in retrospect how it all went and then put together a report. I have gotten pretty good at it now; getting started is always the hard part. You have to figure out what the first words are, what’s the first heading? What are the first set of numbers I need to put in? all of that stuff.
- I’m a people person and the current role I work in deals with upskilling people. With that comes a major factor: If at the end of the day some people are not up to par, I have to confront awkward truths. I remember the first person I had to let someone go, it was hard! To work with someone for months and then have to let him go? That’s one part of my job I absolutely dislike, it takes a bit of my soul every time.
- How do you keep your energy level and passion for your job high, particularly when the pressure comes?
This is an unfair one for me to advice on because I generally have a lot of energy; I think I inherited it from my mother. Nevertheless, one way I keep my energy level high and passion for my job is by reminding myself of why I do what I do in the first place. Regardless of the cycles you hit or rollercoasters you get into, the core of it is why you are doing what you do and if you are doing what you love in the first place.
Sometimes it also helps to take time off because you don’t want to break under pressure; when you do, you might not make the most logical decisions or judgements. I take a break when I need to and go do something else.
There are times when I have so much work to do and there is a lot of pressure, I first of all, acknowledge there is so much to do and so little time, then sometimes I just do something else like watch a movie, not because I’m trying to be stupid but because I know that if I just throw myself into the work I might do rubbish, so I distract myself first and then come back strategically, take it piece by piece with my eyes on the ball and then see it through.
This is my general approach to pressure.
- As a leader and trainer of upcoming software developers, what skills/competencies/attitudes would you say are critical to success in your role?
First of all, I think communication skills are very important because you will be talking or having conversations both verbal and non-verbal pretty much all the time. It takes a lot of patience and believing that what you’re doing will eventually upskill that person and that person will be able to move from point A to point B.
Next is patience because sometimes it can get frustrating, you take one look at something and can see 1+1=2 but for someone who does not have your experience, expertise or perspective, it can be a bit difficult to see and sometimes it can feel like you’re hitting brick walls.
Also, it takes an open mind, sometimes people do things in different ways and they have rational thought behind it, it makes sense to them. Yes, you may see more because you’re more experienced but, if what they have done makes sense, you have to walk through with them, first acknowledge that you understand why they what they did in the manner they did and then share how you think they can do it better.
You’ll need to say a lot of “Yes and” instead of “Yes but” because that person you’re training has put in diligence into doing that work and you don’t want to tear it down, what you want to do is push them to the next level.
You also need to be able to read people, situations and conversations. Sometimes, you just need to take a break then come back to the discussion or session and you need to be able to sense that. Other times you need to let them go even though they don’t understand it yet let them figure it out and come back to you.
Then there is also your technical competence which you need to continually upskill because you find that people learn things in different ways, some people take a different angle to the research and discover things that you’re not familiar with and you need to be humble enough to admit that you don’t know and ask for an explanation.
It takes a mix of soft and hard skills to be able to upskill people.
- Who are the top 3 people who you find inspiring and why? Can be within or outside your line of work
It’s quite difficult for me to pick 3 people. There are quite a number of people I listen to either through their books or speech and learn from their journeys.
There is Fela Anikulapokuti (the musician) for his advocacy
The late Pst Bimbo Odukoya for all the work she did with Singles and Married people on relationships
There is Chimamanda Adichie for her work and for giving us those cool lines that address when people talk Ill about Africa and Nigeria.
Condoleza Rice for her work in governance; she is what people call a triple “minority”; black, female in politics and a black female Republican, though we don’t agree on all things, I like the fact that she is competent at what she does.
Fela Durotoye; I grew up listening to him.
Bishop David Oyedepo who is a sound businessman; he knows his stuff when it comes to Business.
But over and above all these people, the one person who is LEGEND status on her own is my Mum. I can’t start to explain this because if I do, we won’t wrap up this interview.
For all these people, their work and their stories inspire me and I continue to learn from them
- What’s the most impactful career advice you’ve achieved so far?
It’s hard to choose but one that I think stands out is from one of Fela Durotoye’s talks, he said: “Be the man that makes your family, Nation and God proud”.
I am a fierce loyalist to my country; I LOVE Nigeria and I won’t trade it for anything. I believe Nigeria will get better.
Bayo’s final words to you: DO THE WORK.