Unveiling Prosper Otemuyiwa, One Code At A Time
When you hear “Software developer/Engineer”, you envisage a young man or woman putting on a jean, sneakers and carrying a laptop bag, sometimes wearing a cap. However, Prosper Otemuyiwa also known as Unicodeveloper is defying this stereotype.
He walks in, clad in a crisp well-ironed native, he clarifies that it is a precaution against the constant misconception by the SARS arms of police operations, a misconception that young men in jean and carrying laptops are internet fraudsters [Yahoo boys.]
Prosper Otemuyiwa is not your regular software developer. A guru in his field at only 26, Otemuyiwa proved his expertise at age 23 in 2016 when he beat Facebook to emerge second in the list of #PHP developers worldwide.
“I feel privileged. We had a lot of people before me who were making moves in silence. But when I came along, I started putting my work out and was encouraging people to put theirs. One of the works I was putting out was what blew up.”
What is more, he went ahead to co-found Eden Life Inc, a “tech-enabled service that puts your home’s chores on autopilot.”
One would think that his decision to be a software developer was deliberate, however, he found his calling by chance.
While in school, he was not a fan of programming. In fact, he had a low grade in it. Bothered about the grade, he decided to give ample time to study the course and discovered how easy programming is.
This had an unintended consequence. He became the crossword puzzle solver in programming and coding that his seniors and mates paid him to unravel the difficulties they encounter while programming. Programming will be his source of income.
Successes come in leaps and bounds for those who work hard enough and Prosper has had his own share of recognition. He was a Google development expert for two years from 2016 to 2018 where he represented Google at events.
One would think with his groundbreaking successes, he would have discovered the road map in place for young developers. However, he explains that there are no rules set in stones.
“Always have the beginner’s mindset because the moment you think you know it all, you discover that you know nothing and you remain junior and you will not realise until you get to a new place. Always be in the company of senior developers, it is better to stand on the shoulder of giants.”
Hence, there are no roadmaps other than learning from people who are on a higher pedestal and doing things that are worthy in society.
Moreso, he has proven that it is possible to be different things at the same time, the basic thing is knowing how to balance these life choices. At Eden Life Inc, he has mastered the art of being a co-founder, a software developer, while being a mentor to others. When asked about how he has successfully managed all responsibilities, he answers, “it has been challenging but it is good so far.”
He adds that efficient time management, division of labour and dedication are important. This also translates to his life’s ethics. He works while traveling and gives people the benefit of doubt by making them work on his personal projects.
“It is just efficient time management, concerning conferences and travelings, the good thing about coding is that you can do it anytime. I can be on the plane and be coding, I can code during layovers. You have to be dedicated and you can also allow people to do some of these things, allow them to step up, you don’t have to do it all yourself.”
However, there are moments as a developer where he gets stuck and he has to start all over.
“There are times you get stuck and after some time when you come back to it, you have to start all over again because you totally do not understand what next to do, there are times you need to call someone else to look into what you are doing, so as to fix it.”
Lessons To Last A Lifetime
Taking a peep into the lessons he has learnt from his past mistakes, especially when it comes to censoring things online, he advises that people should get to be careful about the things they say in the public space as they can be misinterpreted.
As someone who has been wrongly accused because of a tweet that was wrongly misunderstood, he hopes people learn and avoid ambiguous jokes and posts.
“If you find yourself in a public environment, just be careful of what you say because a lot of people are watching especially if you are a public figure, you say something, people misinterpret what you say or take it out of context. Be very clear about your communication.”
As a result of this experience among many others, he has learnt to adapt depending on his environment. There are moments he is an extrovert when he finds himself amongst people he can be free with and moments where he is an introvert. His behaviour is also reflective of the situation and the purpose of his presence in any particular gathering gets to serve.
Further discussing basic life lessons that he has learnt, he states how important networking is to people. He finds networking an important life hack to grow and move forward especially career-wise. He explains how people are not growing because they are not moving with the right set of people and not networking.
“I have seen people that are excellent at programming, but I look at them right now and I know they can be in a better place based on their skills. This is because nobody is speaking on their behalf, nobody is speaking for them or recommending them simply because they do not have the right connections. You need to have someone speaking on your behalf.”
Despite the promises that networking holds, the persistent issues of segregation and racism are a bother in networking. And as a software engineer that has cause to travel all over the world, he is not exempted from these issues. Narrating his ordeal while travelling to Russia, his plane was not allowed to move because he was the only black man on the plane; he was drilled and questioned about his source of income and other disturbing questions before the plane was allowed to move.
“When I was in Paris, the plane didn’t move for a while and only for some French police to come in and match out. They started asking me things like who bought the ticket from you? Where did you get the credit card? Who got the credit card for you? What do you do? do you have a return ticket and I told them I am a software engineer and it took a while to believe all I said. Five minutes after this, the plane moved.”
Further evidence that the world still has a long way to go in battling and countering racism and all the other vices that come with it especially as Nigerians first then as Africans.
Despite this prejudice, Prosper has proven that he is not all talk and no action as a twitter influencer, and as a mentor. Besides offering mentorship to young developers, he co-founded a committee for budding developers where they can learn, put up relevant materials which he purchased for upcoming developers and published online for free while constantly recommending people for jobs.
Prosper, like other successful humans, has mentors and he refers to them as virtual mentors because they are people he has no close relationships with.
“I have virtual mentors because they do not know I am looking up to them, I look at what they have done.”
Wondering what the Unicode as he is popularly called means? It is just a nickname which has stuck over the years and now, has made him stand out.
Prosper Otemuyiwa is a software developer who has done so many things, one step and a time.