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Honestly, I've always admired those who are able to put out their Year in Review at the end of each year. Writing one myself is something I've never gotten to do or even thought I'd do. Why, might you ask?
One, because I've got the memory span of a fish, probably due to my terrible sleeping habit growing up. LOL, I could literally walk into the kitchen, put water on the fire, and completely blank out once I stepped out of the kitchen.
Two, opening up to the public about my personal life and past struggles feels somewhat embarrassing. I tend to keep those to myself. But, last year, I came across my friend @Yinka's 2021 Year in Review, and it nearly brought me to tears (to be honest, I think I cried a little); I could relate to his story on a very personal level.
I promised myself I would write one that year but eventually succumbed to procrastination. However, today, I came across another of my friend @Israel's 2022 Year in Review and couldn't help but want to write mine. Plus, a few people on Twitter requested I write one. So here goes my 2 years in tech review :)
Prologue (long, but necessary)
Like most Nigerians, I grew up in a not-so-well-to-do family; we were the definition of poor with well-to-do extended relatives that didn't care if you lived or died. My dad passed away when I was very young (4yrs, I believe), but the problem is he left 11 kids (6 girls, 5 boys) to a widowed farmer. As a result, most of us were sent to go live with different family relatives. Luckily, I was sent to go live with my aunt (mom's sister, who didn't have a child), where I spent the rest of my years growing up.
Consequently, my eldest brother became the father figure of the family at a young age, and he considered education a priority for my siblings and I; He strongly believed it to be the only gateway out of poverty (probably because before my dad's passing, my brother was sent to go live with a well-to-do Professor relative). Yet, I started school very late due to financial challenges. My first class was primary 3, where I began learning to read as a child; I failed the class obviously and had to repeat it. Honestly, I had no appetite for education as a child because I started late, and it took my aunt promising to buy me a bicycle if I came top 3 positions in the class for me to even put in an effort the following year.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for me), my siblings all had very good brains, and I was no exception. I was one of those kids who didn't have to study too much to get good academic grades. On my second try at Primary 3, I took 27th position in the first term (from 40+), 9th in the second term, and 5th third term. But, regardless of the improvements I made, my eldest brother always gave me the "did the person that took 1st position have two heads?" question. Lol, I was so angry at him that I held 1st position from my primary 4 to primary 6 class to prove a point (I still didn't see a bicycle, btw). Badass right? But he wasn't all that impressed as he didn't see me reading as much as my older brother (a year difference), who lived with him and was obsessed with reading. So I probably just had dumb classmates, lol.
By the time I got to Junior Secondary School (JS1), I'd given up on school as I was always getting compared to my older brother. I started reading a lot of novels (half of which were romantic novels) to escape my reality; I was the black sheep of the house at this point. One morning, my eldest brother dragged me to go write a Shell Scholarship exam for JSS1 students he had registered me for without informing me (probably so I'd fail and he could rub it in my face). But 30mins into the exam, I was already done and spent the 1 hour left sleeping in the hall :). He was still unimpressed that I passed (Shell took the top 100 students from the thousands that wrote it), and I was on scholarship from JSS1 - JSS3.
By the time I got to Senior Secondary School (SSS1 - SSS3), I absolutely hated school; I was in science (thanks to my elder brother, who would not even hear "art" existed). It's not that I hated science; I would naturally gravitate towards it. I just hated being forced to do something. As a result, I only read the night before exams to pass and always had average grades (Cs and Ds). But there was one class even the best students could not best me at, and that was Computer Studies... straight A's; I found it very fascinating (mostly because we had a Computer Lab, and I loved gadgets.
I had plans to study Computer Engineering or Computer Science at the university, but my brother would not have that. Petroleum Engineering was the path he had chosen for me as one of my brothers was already studying Medicine, another was in Law, and my sister was in Accounting. Apparently, only professional courses could make you money in Nigeria, and anything "computer" was not in his dictionary of high-paying fields; he believed cyber-cafe (internet cafe) was the only thing at the end of that career path. By the time WAEC (West African Examinations Council) came for the 2013/2014 session, I was forced to move in with my eldest brother to prepare for it as he felt I was unserious at my aunt's house. I wrote the exam so well that I was expecting parallel A's (honestly, the exam was easier than my school's internal exam).
However, my classmates and I had parallel F's when the results came out. It was so bad that the person that held 1st position every year attempted suicide as a result of the shock. Apparently, the external supervisor had an issue with the school's Principal and decided to screw us up. Finally!!! My elder brother had something to wrap around my throat. I failed!!! That was the only thing he took out of the story, and for that, my academics were abandoned from 2014 - 2018, and I spent those 4 years wasting at home as punishment, reminded every day that I was a waste of money.
Getting into Tech
Although I had a poor background growing up, the one thing I got from my upbringing was my moral values (my aunt's house was a very Christian home). I wanted so badly to make money, but my value system detested making money through any illegal means. I initially tried getting into tech while languishing at home for four years. I wrote a four paged letter to my eldest brother, backed by research, to try convincing him to get me a laptop so I could get into tech. He was amused, "So you can write such a well-articulated letter? But you couldn't pass WEAC :)".
The next day he took me to several of his friends to advise me, including one who worked at a cyber cafe and was a programmer (or so he claimed). Lol. They all concluded I should focus on school first, get my certificate, and then I could try tech afterwards. I decided I would find a job while I was at home (so I could save up for a laptop), but again, my brother refused it, saying that "once you start making money, it distracts you from academics." Eventually, I got admitted to UST for the 2018/2019 session; by then, I'd gotten a used laptop from doing odd jobs to raise cash. I tried learning WordPress at the time as I was in a hurry to start making money (school came with its share of financial challenges). But things didn't go as planned with WordPress because customization was limited unless you understood PHP.
I eventually ventured into helping shoppers purchase things from Amazon, Walmart, and eBay and getting them shipped to Nigeria (this was nearly impossible then). I made so much from it that I bought myself a smart TV and PS4 gaming console. By 2020, there was the COVID lockdown, which crashed my importing gig. Luckily, I was able to find a silver lining in all of this, as there was suddenly high demand for remote workers. I figured out how to get Nigerian Upwork accounts approved, a challenge faced by most remote workers trying to get on the platform. I was initially able to make money from it, but eventually, that too crashed as too many people got wind of my secret and started charging way less to get it done. I was back to being broke; I needed a stable source of income.
1st Year in Tech Timeline
January - May 2020
This was during the COVID-19 lockdown when schools were shut down. I spent the first quarter of 2020 playing video games and whiling away on social media. It was fun for the first four months, but by the end of April, I had completed all of my favorite games ( GTA5, God of War, Uncharted Series & The Last of Us). By May, I was thinking of ways to raise money to purchase The Last of Us 2 ($60), scheduled to be released in June. Around this time, my phone got faulty, leading to my disconnect from social media.
At this point, all I had was time to reflect and reevaluate my life; I knew I was too broke to afford the game I wanted, too broke to get a new phone, and my brother had all but given up on me at this point. It occurred to me that if I continued on this current path, I would only be proving my brother right; I had to stop playing and turn my life around. Towards the end of May, I swore I'd not turn on my PS4 in June; I badly wanted to learn to code (mostly so I could afford the games and gadgets I wanted, lol).
So, I contacted a friend to loan me an old blackberry phone he had at home (I needed to connect my PC to the internet). After getting it, I subscribed to several night plans, downloaded the Udemy course I needed, and started mapping out a plan a few days before the end of May.
By the 1st of June, I had set a daily target of spending 8 hours a day learning to code. The first course I took was Brad Traversy's Modern HTML & CSS From The Beginning (I highly recommend it to every beginner starting). I initially struggled the first week to reach my 8 hours a day learning target (I was doing 5 - 6 hours on average). Since I had played with WordPress in the past, I had a vague understanding of basic web development concepts, which helped with picking up HTML and CSS.
By the second week, I was hitting my target of 8 hours a day of learning. My learning process typically involved taking notes on important concepts; whenever I came across one I couldn't understand, I would pause to go watch a few YouTube videos on that specific concept or topic. Eventually, I find a video explaining how your brain can assimilate it. If I still needed clarification, I sought answers from Google and Stack Overflow.
By the third week, I no longer kept track of time once I hit my 8 hours target. I would code all day until I dozed off from exhaustion (only taking breaks to eat and use the restroom). If I ever ran out of battery due to NEPA's power failure, I'd immediately go to a neighbour's house who had a Generator on. I was doing 8 to 14 hours every day; it was so extreme that one of my neighbours said I would soon go mad at the rate I was going with my laptop.
By the fourth week, it was no longer just about making money. It was about getting good at this thing called coding. I woke up thinking of code, ate thinking of code, and went to bed dreaming of code. The joy that comes from seeing my code take life on a webpage is indescribable; it makes you feel like you have superpowers. At this point, my girlfriend broke up with me for no longer having time for her (honestly, I'd almost forgotten I had a girlfriend). I wasn't heartbroken, maybe a little upset. But I understood her reason and chose to channel my anger into coding.
July - September 2020
At the beginning of July, I was halfway through the course and felt very confident In my skills. So I decided to take a break and go build something of my own. I tried replicating a simple-looking web page and realized I had not grasped flexbox properly. I decided to take a flexbox-specific course called The Complete CSS Flexbox Guide With a Complete Project from Udemy (the best flexbox course I've seen). Halfway through the course, I had already mastered flexbox. After replicating the initial simple webpage, I felt I could build anything I laid eyes on.
At this point, I decided to sell my PS4 (it was just eating dust at home) and got a new phone. Once I got the phone, I first opened a Twitter account and joined the #100DaysOfCode, but with a twist.
I spent July ending and most of August creating and posting on Twitter clones of popular websites such as Twitter, Youtube, Gmail, and Google. It began to make waves on Tech Twitter, and a few people joined the challenge, but halfway in, I decided I wanted to learn CSS animations because my next project would need it. I took another course from Udemy called Creative Advanced CSS Animations - Create 100 Projects. Halfway through the course, I felt confident enough to jump into the animation project I had in mind.
By September, I posted everything I'd done so far and it was well received by Tech Twitter.
I got a lot of followers from this and 3 job offers (2 Nigerian, 1 Remote). I didn't accept any as I felt there was still a lot I needed to learn, and money was not really my driving force at this point; I just enjoyed seeing my code come to life. Besides, "What sort of Dev would I be with just HTML & CSS skills?" I wondered.
October - December 2020
Nothing eventful happened. I was miserable and tried to keep up my learning using my phone. It was a horrible experience, to be honest; my progress was plodding, and some days I struggled even to code at all. I went on Twitter to find any platform that was giving out laptops. I tried my hands at all of them, but in the end, it amounted to nothing.
By November, I came across @Enyata's #ProjectBuildUp.
I did everything in my power to get one of those laptops and prayed every night until the day results came out. I didn't make the cut! I can still remember the heartbreak I felt going through my TL seeing people that got theirs, lol.
By December 15th, my birthday, with a broken spirit, I decided to make one last attempt before the year ended.
Nothing came of it initially, or so I thought :).
January - April 2021
By January 10th of 2021, just as schools were about to resume as the COVID lockdown had been called off. I woke up on that Sunday morning, and noticed a DM from a complete stranger on Twitter. I checked the profile, and it was a lady that was following me (she was in her late 30s or early 40s, I think), a software engineer I never knew until that DM. We chatted for a bit, and the next day...
She didn't just stop at sending me $300; she also did some crowdfunding, and I got another $500 from her friends and random Twitter users. It was an experience I can not put into words. I immediately placed an order for a PC that was later delivered in February.
2nd Year in Tech Timeline
May - June 2021
Even with my first article bowing up, I became a "once in a blue moon" kinda technical writer. I had a lot going on in my life and school at the time, and it was already difficult to balance those with coding. I started writing once every two months.
July - October 2021
By July, I was having a major family crisis at home due to a disagreement with my brothers (immediate and eldest), and they decided not to renew the house rent. I had to move out in a month as the rent was due then, and they were both moving in together. I was desperate and spent every day looking for gigs and applying for job openings. Eventually, I found a woman on Facebook that wanted to build a web app for $3k (later increased it to $5k based on her needs)but would be paying in installments as we progressed.
In a week, I picked up the basics of UI design using Learn Figma: User Interface Design Essentials - UI/UX Design and created a mockup of the homepage and other related pages that the client approved. By the next week, I finished coding the homepage and sent it to her, to which she sent a down payment of $500 to my PayPal (big mistake) because my account immediately got locked for no reason. The only option was to refund the money to her, asking her if we could use crypto. That night, I broke down with the most severe Malaria I've ever experienced. I had to be admitted to a hospital for five days, three of which I was unconscious.
By the time I recovered, I had checked on the client only to find that she was no longer responding, which was very odd as we were call buddies at this point. I tried calling and texting, but her line was not connecting, and her socials disappeared. I had a week to move out; I was broke, had no job, and nowhere to move to. I asked a few friends if I could crash at theirs, and they agreed, but I hated being a bother to others. I randomly posted on Twitter that I needed a way to make $500 in 24hrs. One of my followers said I should DM him, which I did. He told me he was a fan of my work and asked why I needed cash so urgently; I told him. To which he offered me a deal. He would send me the $500, but I would work for his startup without pay for the next coming months (I would have equity that would pay me in the future). At this point, I didn't have a choice, so I pushed for $800 (N420k, at the time), to which he agreed and paid two days later.
I started learning Svelte the following week, but I was assigned a new task a few days later. I also had to learn Web3.js in a week. Lol. I was screaming internally. I was already struggling with Svelte (although I was starting to understand it), and now Web3.js? Before I could even swallow that pill, I was made the lead developer/designer and was assigned a team of juniors with five projects to launch in a month. After the second month, I quit!
November - December 2021
I started learning React in the first week of November and moonlighting as a Technical Writer. I had written four technical articles at this point; 2 in May and the following 2 in October (all of them got featured on several platforms). I didn't know there was money in Technical Writing at this point; I wrote just for fun.
Then I viewed one of my friends @Victor's WhatsApp status (who I thought was just as broke as the rest of us), but he was celebrating buying a new laptop and phone. I asked him if he landed a dev role, but he said it was through technical writing. I immediately went online and searched for "earn from technical writing." I came across an interesting tweet (from Victor's older sister, though I did not know they were related at the time, lol).
I decided to Google some more and found a gem of a resource listing all the companies and platforms that paid technical writers to write for them.
I applied to almost 15 of those, and an additional company I found on Facebook that needed a technical writer; I messaged the poster. He responded the next day with a form to fill out and gave me a writing task to complete in 24hrs; I did.
By November ending, I started getting acceptance emails from all of the platforms I applied to (12 to be exact, I didn't hear back from 3). I wrote my first paid article for the Company I found on Facebook in December, they paid $200 for it (N112k) at the time. That was when it dawned on me that there was money in Technical Writing. I spent half that money on problems I had, and the remaining half on food provisions and groceries that would carry me through the festive period and the coming new year. I ended the year writing one other article that was scheduled to be paid in January.
January 2022, till present
Entering January, I had less than N500 ($0.5) balance in my account. Luckily, my roommate and neighbors had gone for the holidays. This was a dream come true as I am most productive when I can hear myself think; I excel in calm and quiet environments.
I decided I was going to see just how far I could push this Technical Writing thing. I set out to write one article a day for the next 7 days. Lol, I was able to write 5 articles in that 7 days, making approximately 1 Million ($1800); I was mentally burnt out afterward.
Since then, I've written over 50+ paid articles for various writing agencies, startups and companies, the likes of Bejamas, LogRocket, ContentLab, Draft.dev, Refine, Flycode, ConfigCat, CoderPad, Mattermost, and SoftwareAG, to name a few.
And also wrote a whitepaper ebook for CircleCI, that is used as the company's official guide, spoke at a tech event, and even helped a lot of people get into tech.
Start of 2022 vs End of 2022
Wins of 2022 in Detail
Tech also made it possible to provide for myself in school.
Although it would help get you to your destination faster, you do not need a mentor to learn a tech skill. Most of the resources you need to learn are very accessible online.
It's quite easy to get distracted chasing money too early in tech as it can distract you from actual technical growth; there is money in tech, but prioritize growth over the initial temptation of chasing money.
As a writer, I've worked with more technologies than I can count. Learning too many technologies doesn't make you better; it just stretches you thin. Choose a stack and be a master at those.
Consistency is key! The more time you spend learning, the faster you'll get to where you're going.
Technical writing is hard, very hard! It is extremely time-consuming (sometimes, a single article can take weeks to write) and requires a lot of thinking. Anyone can do it, but not everyone can.
I love coding more than writing, but unfortunately, I've had to survive on writing in the last year. As a result, I didn't get to master the technologies I love.
I didn't land a full-time frontend role in 2022 as I'd hoped. I've worked on a few light projects, but I want more than light in 2023.
I was too busy with tech that I might have forgotten to live (I still haven't played The Last of Us 2. I might have also lost a few friends I had hoped to have genuine friendships with.
Thank you for reading. This review was put together in less than 24hrs, so I apologize if it is too lengthy or incoherent at any point. I hope you found inspiration in my story and that we all reach for the moon in 2023.
Of course, your feedback is much appreciated :) If you liked it, don't forget to share it with someone who might need motivation. Happy New Year!🎉