My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.       

Going by his track record, Barnabas Inyangsam can be described as a fashionista. However, the 2020 pandemic and a slew of responsibilities made him realize he had some other unexplored potential. Presently, he is a product designer, but earning the title was not an easy feat. He paid with his sweat. 

How it started

I became a graduate of Petroleum Engineering from Covenant University (CU) in 2013 but did not go for service (NYSC) until 2015. For many CU graduates who wanted to further their education then, two things were conventional. They either go overseas for their Master’s degree or stay at CU. But for someone like me from a family of seven, studying abroad was not feasible; my siblings had to be taken care of. 

So my cousin got me a job at a clothing company as a supervisor immediately after my graduation. Fast forward to 2017, I changed my job to become the production head at another clothing company in Lekki. But I wore so many hats in this company and had to discuss a salary increase with my boss. It turned out that I was the highest paid at the company. I resigned after six months to start my fashion line, and COVID hit. People were not buying new clothes since there was a restriction on movement. I hated how idle I became and the consequent financial instability all through this period. I was surviving on my savings, my rent was due, and I also had other responsibilities.  


Post-COVID, I became the chief operating officer at another fashion house. We signed a contract that made me entitled to profit sharing. But there were limited sales so they had to do a rebranding to attract customers. That took time and my tailors were complaining about being idle. Consequently, I did not stay there for long and had to find an alternative. Luckily, a friend of mine who worked for a US company and earned well introduced me to product design. It was also around that time Don Jazzy tweeted about the I4G and Zuri free tech training.

Barnabas Iyangsam


I got into the I4G and Zuri programme and started learning and watching what my friend did. I assimilated quickly, and he was impressed. At the end of the Zuri Beginners Course, my team won a cash prize of N100,000 for the best project. I took courses like The Designership by Miziko and watched NNG videos on Youtube. Later, our mentor at Zuri advised us to learn further and apply for the HNG internship

My team members and I got into the internship programme. It was fun but also challenging. People I met at the programme had 3-4 years of experience as product designers, and there I was, a newbie. I thought, “I can not let them know I am a weak link.” So I put in a lot of work for the assignments and case studies. I had so many sleepless nights, and I felt like giving up many times. I dedicated eight hours to studying every day. I was either reading something or on YouTube learning design. During the course of training, people were evicted every Sunday after a project, including those I looked up to.

Stage four was the hardest stage for me, and I almost dropped out of it. Luckily, I met a guy that contributed a lot to my improvement. Stage six was quite difficult as well, and we did a full project in the space of seven days. I was on probation for once when I got to stage eight, but I scaled through. Eventually, I was a finalist. What that taught me was hard work. The good designers I met had access to information, and I was sure I could be as good as them with the right information.

Through the HNG network, I got an internship job with Buzzline. It was a contract based and I was paid $400 to build a feature for an app. I also designed their website and app screenshots on the marketplace for iOS and Android. While doing this, I  documented my progress on LinkedIn, and someone reached out to me to lead his entire design team. 

How it’s going

I currently work full-time with Indotani, an Indonesian company building a community for farmers so that they thrive. The idea is to ensure farmers make more money and that people have access to good farm products. For the past six months, we have been trying to make personal products for farmers. The app gives farmers access to markets, loans, and logistics. Lately, we are building a website for credibility, which would be launched in about two weeks. There are plans to bring it to Nigeria and share the vision with Nigerian investors. 

I have had people reach out to me on social media for mentorship about Zuri and HNG internship, but I have not agreed to any this year. I need to give a lot to myself before I start giving out to people. I want to learn more this year and give to people next year. I believe designers learn more on the job.

Career hack

There is no other path to excellence in this field but hard work. Everything in tech is hard work. If you think tech is ‘blood money’, you are right. But the blood is yours, not someone else’s. 

The hack is to learn a lot of things, but not be an island; always reach out to people. Make sure you are learning something new every day. Also, do not rush; just be a better version of who you were the day before. Most importantly, rest and refresh your mind.

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