365 Days with the Stacks

In 2019, I became more conscious of my career progression and this made me switch jobs, twice. I was trying to take control of my career growth as I realised I had plateaued. I was basically doing whatever was good for business with my previous employers. Salary wasn't commensurate with experience nor work load. A side hustle is a requirement for substantial income. This didn't apply to me alone, my friends were suffering the same plight. I decided to take the bull by the horns and came up with a game plan — earn more and leave the country.

While working as an integrations consultant with some Nigerian banks, I discovered that software engineers switched companies with the goal of getting a better salary with each new role. It seemed like an effective strategy that I could also make use of. Before applying this strategy, it was essential to improve my technical (full-stack and mobile development) and transferable skillstransferable skills Transferable skills are soft skills that can be applied across various industries and role.

I drew up a study plan to level up on my skills and timelines for accountability. However, toxic work culture was a major barrier to sticking with my study plan. I had to fight against working extra hours in order to get some time for my personal development.


Application Season

After spending a couple of months leveling up, I started applying to opened positions within and outside Nigeria. I had tailored my résumé to the different roles I could comfortably fit into. There were multiple rejections and some companies never acknowledged the application. For those that were unsuccessful, I tried to ask for feedback which I applied in subsequent interviews.

I finally got a successful response that offered me twice my salary! This was proof of the company-switching roles and positive validation that I was doing something right. But this didn't stop me from applying for new roles. I had gotten a reward that kept me motivated. Like Oliver Twist, I wanted more.

It was about this time that a close friend informed me about the Technical Product Specialist opening at Paystack. Initially, I was reluctant to apply as I felt the role would derail me from the career path I had envisioned. I thought it was more of a business-centric role than a technical role, and since I really wanted to keep coding, I thought it wouldn't be a good fit. After reading through the job description properly, I realised it was the opposite. Since I had nothing to lose, I went ahead with the application. This was another avenue to test my game plan; get a senior role and double the money. Again, the game plan worked. My interview went well and an offer was made. On getting my offer letter, I decided to reflect on what worked well and what I could improve upon in my next application.

I remembered a particular question I was asked during the interview:

What is the best project you've worked on so far?

With so much excitement, I responded to the question with my freelance projects. Most of my freelance projects were simple projects which gave the interviewers a sense that I wasn't really experienced. Meanwhile, I had worked as an integrations consultant with both tier 1 and tier 2 banks in Nigeria. I worked on implementing an Enterprise Service BusEnterprise Service Bus An ESB, or enterprise service bus, is an architectural pattern whereby a centralized software component performs integrations between applications. — which sits on top of the core banking application — and APIs that were consumed by third parties. I also handled training sessions on the architecture and maintenance of the implemented services for these bank's staff. Heck! I was the team lead for some of these projects.

I had repressed these memories as they were some of the worse times of my career. If I had mentioned them during the interview, I might have gotten a better offer. However, the salary and perks were much better than my previous job. So we move!


Culture

During my onboarding, I started getting a glimpse of the company's culture. After my encounter with the first set of people, I thought their kindness was one-off like most companies I had worked with. But I kept seeing messages like this on Slack:

Hi team, I am not feeling too good. I'd like to take a nap for two hours.

Such a message would get so many hearts (❤) emoji and heartwarming responses. In my head, I totally thought they were all acting nice because I just joined. I was eagerly waiting for them to exhaust their script so we can all go back to the crappy company culture I was used to.

After a couple of weeks, I realised Paystack genuinely cares for its staff. Each employee's wellbeing is of paramount importance to the company. This is why we really cherish communication a lot. If you aren't feeling a hundred percent, inform your manager and you get the time off to recuperate. Pre-covid, the company provided meals to cater for a variety of dietary requirements. We also had a lot of fun activities that could be done during and after working hours. In as much as work doesn't suffer, you are free to do whatever you want to do. This really helped me achieve a work-life balance. On most days, work doesn't feel like work.

Everyone is also willing to help each other out. Do you need to learn anything? Do you need information on something? Do you just want to talk? Again, just ask. There'll always be someone willing to help. We have a lot of interesting slack channels too. Some are specific to interests, others are for general fun and banter. I always look forward to the summary of the Paystack league. It was always hilarious that it got me to staying back after work to watch the matches. We also have the Food wars where you get the chance to get the meal of a colleague. Basically, anyone not having their meal puts it up for grabs on the food channel that their meal. The first person to call dibs on the meal gets it. In a split second, multiple dibs will be called on the meal. It was so fun to watch and participate in.

At Paystack, you also don't need to work from a particular workspace, you can literally work from any corner in the office. I explored working from the quiet room for a couple of weeks. Then I tried the kitchen. Finally, I moved to the design space. Most days, I work based on my mood and punctuality to the office. But this was pre-covid. Sigh!


Integrations Team

My team ensures developers and non-developers can integrate Paystack into their products easily. Our responsibilities include:

  • Development and maintenance of libraries/plugins
  • Application development for merchants aka Special projects
  • Development and maintenance of the developer's documentation
  • Testing APIs and documenting third party APIs for product teams
  • Joining Sales meeting to help with technical questions
  • Providing technical support and recommendations to key merchants
  • Technical support

The team is managed by Tolu Kalejaiyehttps://twitter.com/tolluminati, with the following members:

A honorable mention to my ex-manager Ik Obihttps://twitter.com/ObiIk, who I successfully scammed into hiring me 😁.


Lessons

My role as a Technical Product Specialist gives me the liberty to work on any task that interests me. I simply share my interests with my manager who ensures I am aware of befitting opportunities when they come up. Within the last year, I have learnt some important lessons from working with my awesome colleagues turn friends:

  • Tackle problems with the curiosity of a child and the experience of an adult
  • Always ask for help and be willing to help
  • Never compromise on quality
  • Communicate effectively, without assumptions
  • Document as much as possible. This is to ensure you have reference materials for subsequent projects

Final Thoughts

I've learnt and grown in my first year at Paystack. I've also picked up new interests such as photography, videography, storytelling, and copywriting. Right now, I just want to be a student, a dry sponge ready to soak up knowledge from people either directly or indirectly.

Paystack has shown me that you can do the best work of your life while having fun. I'm also privileged to be working with the smartest and kindest colleagueshttps://paystack.com/about. If only we had a working country... Looking forward to the next year. Cheers!