The #NairaLife Of A Student Doubling As A Software Engineer

December 6, 2021

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.


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In 2018, the 20-year-old in this #NairaLife randomly applied for a coding training course and didn’t look back. Three years and a couple of courses later, she works as a front-end developer. How much does the job pay her per month? ₦470k.

What’s your oldest memory of money?

When I was four years old, my sister and I frequented my grandparents’ house because my grandmother was ill. Our visits usually coincided with my granduncle’s, and he would dash every kid in the house ₦5. I knew the money could buy me biscuits or sweets, so I looked forward to the drop. But my sister always complained that she couldn’t do a lot with the money. This was how I learnt that more money meant more sweets.

The biggest awareness of money came when I was in JSS 3 when I was stuck at home because I owed school fees. It shocked me because I always thought my parents were doing well. 

Do you remember why you thought so?

I never heard them complain about money. I knew we weren’t rich-rich, but things were just always done. Our school fees were paid on time, and we didn’t lack any basic needs. It wasn’t until much later that I found out that my dad was in-between jobs, and my mum worked as an instructor at a catering school and occasionally worked some catering gigs. 

Anyway, the school fees thing opened my eyes, and I had more appreciation for money. Deep down too, I wanted to start making money as soon as possible because I thought it was up to me to assist my parents. I quickly realised that the only thing I could do then was to go to school and become one of the best in my class and that’s what I did. 

I got two opportunities to make some money while I was still in secondary school though. 

I’m listening. 

When I was in SSS 1, I helped about 15 guys in my class buy roses and greeting cards for their crushes during Valentine. I made about ₦1500 in profit. God, it made me so confident in myself and gave me the ginger to do the second thing two years later.

What was it?

During our final exams, 50 people in my class gave me ₦1k each to get exam dubs for them — I knew a guy, and I paid him about ₦20k and kept the rest. Because of this, I had a bit of money on me when I finished secondary school. This was July 2018. 

Interesting. What happened after you left secondary school?

I started trying to figure out what to study in university, but I wasn’t particularly interested in any course. In the end, I went for what my folks liked: electrical engineering.

I had time to kill when I started my application process. In July, I found a one-month computer coding training sponsored by the state government, and I applied for it. 

Was coding something you had always been interested in? 

I learned some of the basics at a summer camp I went to when I was in SS 1. While I liked the experience, I didn’t give it much thought or do anything with it after the camp ended. The training I found felt like a good opportunity to return to it. Besides, it also felt like something I could do to make money. 

When the training ended in August 2018, I wasn’t sure how to proceed. I knew I didn’t know enough about coding to make money off it yet. Luckily, I got another training opportunity with a tech company to learn python programming, and I went for it. I applied and wrote the test in August and got accepted in September. It was a 3-month course with an option to apply to their internship programme upon completion.

How much was the internship, and did you apply to it?

₦25k/month. I was 17 years old, and the money felt like a lot. But no, I didn’t apply because they needed me to stay for a year, which wasn’t possible since I was in the middle of my university application. I was a little sad about it, but we move.

Unfortunately, my university application wasn’t successful. In December 2018, I signed up for the state-sponsored coding again. I was there for about two or three months and learned about HTML and CSS. 

The first few months of 2019 was about applying to the university again, writing the exams. I was also registering for every training programme for young developers I could find — this felt like the easiest route to improve my skills. It was a good thing I did this because one of them moved the needle. 

Tell me about it. 

I had developed an interest in front-end engineering. In July, I applied to a three-month programme at DevCareer and was accepted the following month. By November, I could tell that I was ready to start taking on jobs. 

Nice. When did you get your first job?

July 2020. It took nine months to get my first job. A couple of things happened between that time too: I got admitted into the university and started classes in January 2020. Then Covid happened and academic activities just stopped. There was nothing much to do, and I threw myself into finding my first job. 

So you got your first job in July 2020. How did it happen?

A referral. One of the guys at DevCareer knew someone who needed a front-end engineer for an e-commerce website. The pay was about ₦210k. However, the project ran for a few months, and I was paid in instalments. I got ₦75k at the beginning of the project, then another ₦75k a month later. The balance came at the end of the project, which was in February this year. 

Ah, I see. How did the project go?

Omo, it wasn’t the best. They kept asking for specifications and features I didn’t agree to when I came on board. Unfortunately, I didn’t know enough to ask for a contract renegotiation. I cared too much about adding the job to my CV, so I stuck with it. In hindsight, that was a mistake. But lesson learnt. 

I got a couple of little projects in the months that followed, which paid between ₦100k and ₦150k. In December 2020, I got my next major gig with a fintech company. I worked with them for three months, and I was paid ₦350k.

 

 

Neat. I’m curious about what your expenses were at the time.

I was living with my parents and didn’t have many expenses. The only thing on my mind was saving money to buy myself a MacBook so the bulk of my earnings went straight into my savings. A gig I got in March 2021 and finished up in April got me to my goal. I got ₦400k from it. I bought the laptop the following month, and it cost ₦560k. 

Well done. A segue: what would you say your relationship with money was like after you got your first couple of gigs?

I became quite generous with money for other people. I would ask my mum what she wanted and get it for her and randomly send my dad some money. My friends would ask for loans, and I wouldn’t think too much before I made it happen. To make sure my savings wasn’t affected though, I didn’t do a lot of things for myself in the first couple of months. I had money somewhere and that was the most important thing.

That sense of security. What does it do to someone?

 I became a little proud, and rightfully so. I was 19 years old and making small moves. I could handle my most basic needs.

Sounds nice o. Back to your gigs. 

The last guys I worked for decided to put me on retainer in May for three months at ₦160k/month. I liked the structure that came with getting money every month, so I started looking for a full-time job and threw myself into job applications.

I heard about how TalentQL helps programmers in Nigeria find jobs from some people I knew from my time at DevCareers. I applied to their talent pool in April and wrote a test the same day. A few days later, I had an interview with their recruiter. In May, I did another batch of interviews and wrote another test. By the end of the month, I was accepted into the programme and they sent my CV to a couple of tech companies. 

Two months later, I got my first offer. ₦200k/month. 

Did you take it?

No. I told them that it didn’t work for me and they increased it to ₦250k/month. I would have jumped straight at it then, but they said it was going to be a while before I would be up for renegotiation. Sounded like bad vibes.

I was interviewing with another company I had a good feeling about. I reached out to them and told them that I had an offer I was considering. That must have woken them up because they sent their offer before the week was over. 

Haha. How much?

₦470k + equity options and health insurance. The email came in around 11 p.m, and I returned the signed copy of the offer letter the following morning. I started the job the same month.

Congratulations. I’m curious about how you think about money now.

I deeply respect money, and that’s why I save as if my life depends on it. My salary is paid in USDT and for the most part, I leave it in my crypto wallet untouched. I have a small gig that pays me ₦35k/month, and that’s what I mostly live on every month. When I have to touch my salary, I don’t take more than ₦50k/month.

Omo. This is the part where I ask you to break down your monthly running costs.

I know that this is only possible because I live with my parents and we live very close to the university. I don’t always have to worry about food. I don’t worry at all about rent. I help with money at home now and then. The fact that I do this even used to be a problem — my parents feared that I was so bent on working because I felt Iike I had to support them. But we’ve had a series of conversations about it, and everyone is now on the same page. 

Wholesome. If you live on ₦35k/month, I wonder what your savings look like.

Right now? I have about $4k, which is in USDT. I used to save in Naira, but when I realised that it didn’t make much sense, I moved my money out of my Nigerian accounts. 

Fair enough. Are investments your thing?

Not really. I have some stocks here and there on Bamboo, but nothing major. I started with $25 and put money in it whenever I can. Also, I have some crypto assets that are worth about ₦80k at the moment, and that’s it. My primary strategy at the moment is savings and increasing my income. 

Interesting you mentioned that. How much do you feel you should be earning right now?

Anything between $2k and $2500 sounds great. I’ve grown as a developer and should easily get a job that pays that much. But the fact that I’m still in my second year of university is affecting my earning potential. That said, I’m good at what I do and I deserve all the dollars. 

Preach! You should be out of school in five years. How much do you imagine you will be earning then?

If everything goes well, that number should be between $12k and $15k. In five years, I would have about seven years of work experience. And I’m pretty sure I would have left front-end engineering and dived into something else. I guess that it would be the blockchain or web3. That knowledge should come with a big paycheck. 

Besides, I would very much like to retire by 30 if I can help it. I need to figure out how to consistently increase my income if I want to save more and invest in the right opportunities.

Sounds like a plan. Back to the present. What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?

The new M1 Max MacBook. It’s so fast, but it also costs more than $4k. I’m not rich enough to splurge on it right now. I don’t think it’s something I’m getting next year either. It’s going to be a fun fantasy for a while until something else replaces it. 

Is there something you bought recently that improved the quality of your life though?

That should be my iPhone. In August, I traded my iPhone 8 for an 11 pro and added ₦350K. Now, I don’t have to worry about my phone dying on me every time. It’s bliss.

How would you rate your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?

I’d say 6. I think I could be earning more, and I’d feel a lot better if I am. At the moment, I can’t help thinking that things could still go south, which is crazy because I save almost everything I earn. The best way to deal with this is to save more and the best way to save more is to earn more. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, but I can’t wait for that $2500/month job. 


A golden opportunity to get your hands on some of that tech money. Apply to earn a Diploma in Software Engineering at no cost. Apply Here


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