The first time I used a computer I was 16 years old – now I travel the world working for start-ups.
My journey from tech-novice to gainfully employed graduate in the Electronics Industry is an unlikely one: unbelievable and bizarre.
It’s the story of a widowed Nigerian man seeing the opportunity and promise in further lands. It’s about his son (that’s me) grasping onto his Father’s dream – that they can overcome any obstacle presented to them. The road to success is never a straight and narrow one. To get to where I’ve got to today, I’ve had to toil long and hard, overcoming barriers both mental and social. I wouldn’t have been able to even attempt any of these challenges if it wasn’t for the gamble that my father took almost 10 years ago.
Although there may well have been a promising future within the lands of Nigeria for my Father and I, the chances of us truly succeeding within a country so choked with poverty and religious conflict were slim. As he saw it, we had two options. We either stayed in Nigeria and moved to the more liberal South in order for me to get a semblance of a decent education, or we leave the country and find another life in the United Kingdom.
After my Mother passed away when I was very young, my Father had spent a decade striving to earn enough money to send me to a good school.
Unfortunately, times had been tough and we had both struggled. By the time we had scraped the money together to make our move I was 16 years old and I’d only been to school for a hundred days in total.
Thanks to my Father’s motivation and passion for my future, he ensured that I would always have pen and paper to hand. Those hundred days of school were repeated and repeated so many times that, before I left the country, my Mathematics skills were on par with any other teenager. My English, however, left a lot to be desired. Although Nigeria’s national language is English, there are still many pockets of communities that do not speak it. My Father grew up in rural Ningi and spoke the language of his local community, Ningawa. As a child brought up in both the countryside and the city, I formed a language of convenience.
The words and expressions that I would use would vary depending on the person that I was talking to.
If I was speaking to a kid my own age, I would use the opportunity to practice my pidgin English, breaking into patches of Hausa as and when I needed to. When I was at home, I spoke Ningawa with my Father. Living in an alien city, speaking our native tongue gave us comfort and cured our home sickness. Together we grafted enough money from the streets of Lagos to get our passports and tickets to England. We arrived in London, lost but overjoyed and desperately looking for a new start.
Flash forward a couple of years – after living with relatives around the city, my Father had found stable employment working on the Underground and I had successfully got myself through my A-Levels. How did I do it? Thanks to a 6 year old laptop my Father bought me on our first day in London. Money was tight but he insisted that my education should come first. Although I worked tirelessly in those years to catch up with my English and completely learn other compulsory subjects, I was never allowed to stay cooped up in my room. My Father literally had to force me out into the street on several occasions to meet friends and play football. I’m glad he did now.
I’ve still got that laptop now. It’s hopelessly outdated and just about serves the function of a word processor, but I would never throw it away.
It was the key to my education, allowing me to learn the Chemistry, Physics and Biology that is the backbone of my current work. Having graduated from University 8 years ago, I’ve spent the time since travelling and working in junior roles at Electrical Engineering startups, big corporations and factories. My story, as crazy as it sounds, has got me the interviews that I needed. My stunted start in life has ended up serving as the foot, firmly wedged into the door of every company that I’ve approached.
My next adventure? America. Some of the largest tech companies might well function out of Silicon Valley and Texas, but I’m hoping to find somewhere on the East Coast. Wall Industries specialise in the design and production of DC DC Power Converters and AC DC power supplies – they’re on the right side of the border to my adoptive town of England…