Ife Sobogun- Backend Engineer at Paystack
Brief Introduction about you.
My name is Ifeoluwa Sobogun, Ife is what most people call me (A very generic name). I’m a backend engineer at Paystack (engineer/developer same difference). I work on the commerce team and the work is usually to help small merchants (merchants that usually would not have the opportunity to set up websites or tools that cost a lot of money like payment pages, product links, storefronts) sell and bootstrap. That’s me and that’s the work that I do.
How long have you been working here?
I’ve been working here since September 2019, so about 21 months I guess.
Can you tell me a bit about your background and how you got to where you are?
Well software engineering wasn’t a popular role in Nigeria. Maybe now among the youth and teenagers, it's more common, but I can’t say for the younger generations. When I was growing up I didn’t know about software engineering at least for most of my primary school education. I wanted one of those generic law, engineering, banking roles. My dad was a banker so I wanted to work in the bank like him. At some point, I got interested in computers. I think my first introduction to computers was in primary four but I didn’t take proper interest till primary six. So from primary six onwards, I started knowing a lot about computers, I knew more than most people. The good thing is my parents also helped because they always got me devices, they got me a phone, got me a laptop and all of that and that was great.
My first introduction to writing code properly was my first year in university. I went to Babcock University and it was quite the experience. I took a course, I think an introduction to programming in C and just seeing the possibilities of what I could do and knowing the extent of the possibilities was very interesting. So I went back and started to study and since then it's been upwards and onwards. My third year was my first introduction to dealing with real-world applications and that opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities, one different from the one I got in my first year of school and I just knew that there’s hardly anything that’s not possible with code. That’s pretty much it. I finished University then started working as an engineer, then I moved to Paystack so yeah.
Interesting, how did you get into your role at Paystack
Well, I finished from Babcock with a first-class, and there’s this company that comes to recruit first class and second class upper students in computer science. They give them a test, and the best performers get a job. So that was how I got my first job out of school. It was an alright job, it exposed me to a few things. It was a job in fintech so I got into fintech early. It was my first job but I didn’t really enjoy it for some reason. So I left the job after three months and moved to Field Insights which was formerly delivery science. I don’t know if the company still exists. I worked there for about a year just getting better as a software engineer. I grew a lot here and it definitely made me employable by Paystack at least. After about a year, someone got in touch with me about applying at Paystack so I applied and got in.
So is working at Paystack your dream job?
I don’t know about dream jobs, right, but I know I enjoy working there. There are a bunch of things that make a job enjoyable. I don’t know that I have a dream job for me, but what would make a dream job for me is that I’m constantly learning, the environment empowers you to want to learn, to want to do more work and you’re interested in what you’re building and I think Paystack is all of that for me. There’s always something to learn, the people are the nicest and the environment is definitely the best that I've been in. The management and the people care about you and you’re building things that actually matter. Like right now we’re trying to solve the problem with payments infrastructure in Nigeria, and also trying to solve the problem small merchants have, specifically on my team. So yeah I'm interested in the things we’re building, in problems that we’re solving, and I enjoy the work that I do every day. So if this is the idea of a dream job, then I definitely have that.
What’s your typical day like at Paystack?
The good thing about Paystack is that there are hardly ever any two days that are the same because there are so many things to deal with. An average day starts with a collaboration meeting figuring out the next project to build, writing code to build out the project, communicating with external merchants to figure out how to integrate with any external systems. There are many third-party providers that we communicate with. That’s pretty much it. When we were at the office, we played ball every day but since we haven’t been at the office in a minute we try to have fun via zoom and just try to relax so it's not all work. It's always fun doing what we’re doing. Paystack isn’t a place where everything feels so rigid and work feels stressful because that’s all that you’re doing.
Looks like Paystack has a great work culture.
I want to say Paystack has the best work culture, and this is putting into consideration the companies that my friends have worked at, but I have to experience it to say that. But in my experience, Paystack is definitely the best I’ve worked at.
What do you think has been the most important skill in your journey?
I think the most important skill has been knowing how to do the work. Learning how to network is important. I got my job at Paystack thanks to a friend of a friend. Another skill is consistently studying to get better. But I think knowing how to do the work is the most important. Knowing that you can be reliable or dependable and people can count on you is really important. Everything else won’t matter if you cannot do the work. I think it's important to make sure you know the things you can do, you’re not overestimating your skills and you’re not putting yourself in the comfort zone. Just know how to do the things that you want to know how to do.
Something you wish you knew before you got into Paystack as a backend engineer
Probably that I knew that the most important thing is consistently doing work. As an engineer, there are so many things that’ll interest you but making sure I’m not dragged into every path is important to keep focus. Another thing is that I used to make long term plans and decisions and I've stopped doing that. I try to make sure my plans are not so long term that I lose sight of what’s in front of me.
What do you hate about your job?
I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything I hate. I don’t think it's about my job, it's more about being a young adult. A lot of people in my line of work are stereotyped to be criminals or yahoo boys because it isn’t the conventional wake up in the morning and wear your tie like you’re going to get married. I’ve had friends that were harassed by even their landlords because they worked on their laptop and hardly left their houses. So I guess the stereotype is not the best thing to have to deal with. I think there might be a lot of problems that other developers face that I don’t realize because I work at Paystack which is a great place to work.
What do you like most about your work? (you cannot say work culture)
I think this is more about programming than about Paystack. It's just the fact that you can have an idea and build it. For example in Paystack, we built Paystack commerce last year and this was because a bunch of customers had been asking for a series of tools. Before Paystack commerce, we had a bunch of tools that were not adequate for what the customers needed. So we were like this is what the customers need, can we build it? And the answer is always Yes. And then we sit down, think through it and just build it. Another example is Paystack music. We had this slack channel where everyone posted music they listened to and someone was like it would be nice if we had this as a Spotify playlist where people outside Paystack can also listen, and we just built it. So it's really about knowing that you can make your ideas come to life.
Do you have any advice for upcoming techies?
This is the part where I sound like a motivational speaker. I don’t know if there’s any particular advice because people get into tech in different ways so I think one thing I’d like to point out is that software engineering is really just one part of tech and if you don’t want to be a software engineer there are so many roles in tech. For someone specifically trying to get into tech, the key is to focus. When I started, I was really trying to learn everything possible and that didn’t do me any good. So I think one thing that makes sense is to figure out one thing you want to do and focus on that. Earlier in my journey, I used to write frontend code, but now you can never catch me writing frontend code. If you see me writing frontend code, I've been kidnapped. But the point is that at some point I tried everything and that’s not profitable. You don’t have to learn seven languages at a time. Once you have a focus you have a clearer vision of where you’re going and there are less distractions.
Thank you Ife, you're such an inspiration.