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

On this week’s episode of My Pivot Journal, Stephanie Durugbor shares her personal story of how the COVID pandemic affected her journey to becoming a tech expert. Despite the challenges she faced during this transition period, her persistence and determination helped her push through and achieve her goals. Durugbor takes us through her journey, providing insight and inspiration for those who may be treading a similar path.

How it started

I initially had aspirations to study medicine, but due to not being able to gain admission for my desired course, I decided to switch my focus to optometry. However, that didn’t work out and I ended up studying dental technology at the University of Technology Owerri. Initially, I had plans to switch courses after my first year, but as I delved deeper into the subject matter and had hands-on experience during my SIWES training, I realized that the limitations of the course in the real world made it unlikely for me to pursue a career in it. After graduating and passing my professional exams between 2018 and 2019, I began searching for a medical internship position, which is a necessary step for anyone who has studied medical-related courses before participating in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).

Epiphany

The medical internship search can be a tedious and lengthy process, involving sending applications to various hospitals across the country, travelling for exams, and holding onto the hope of being selected. I was in the midst of this pursuit when the pandemic struck in 2020. As a result, I had to pause my search due to the restrictions imposed during this time.

During the pandemic, my interest in technology sparked as I became aware of the vast opportunities that the tech industry held. The Covid-19 pandemic encouraged remote working, and I wanted to be a part of this shift. I began researching and taking courses in digital marketing and social media management. I was fascinated with the idea of working remotely and bringing value to a business or company from the comfort of my own home.

After applying for various jobs for a long period, I finally landed a job as a customer service manager in September 2020. Although it wasn’t directly related to the tech industry, I took the opportunity as I was tired of being idle at home and I was eager to work while still continuing my search for an internship position. I got a medical internship placement in January 2021, which exposed me to the vast opportunities in the tech field. This experience prompted me to pursue a skill that was more in-depth than just digital marketing.

Stephanie Durugbor

Transition

In 2021, I developed an interest in product design after admiring the attractive designs I saw on social media platforms like Twitter. I wanted to create products that could solve problems and help people. Although I briefly experimented with coding, my passion for design ultimately prevailed. To improve my skills, I saved up for a laptop and began to learn through various resources such as YouTube and Twitter.

However, I found the abundance of information on the internet to be overwhelming and desired a more structured learning experience. To achieve this, I enrolled in the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) program and simultaneously took on a job as a social media manager for a fashion brand, using my salary to pay for the program. A friend who had experience in product design also helped guide me through the learning process.
In addition to taking courses, I joined tech communities, like RoadTrip Community where they helped with my visual design skills. Design tasks were put out every week and we had feedback sessions to rate our progress.

I also attended tech events and connected with designers on Twitter whose content I found helpful. Stephanie Orkuma’s contents were super helpful. She curated a UX roadmap which I found very useful amongst other content that she constantly shares on her platform. I attended the Flutterwave job fair and a couple of events organized by ladiescrushingitafrica, a non-profit organisation nurturing young girls and women to acquire tech skills across Africa.

The internship was exciting and instrumental to my growth as a designer. As it came to a close, I began applying for entry-level product design positions with the goal of working in this field for my service year. However, it was a challenge to land a job as a beginner, and I faced numerous rejection emails. But I remained positive and persistent in my pursuit of my goals.

Through my efforts, I eventually landed a job with Interswitch. I had come across a flyer on Twitter that advertised a “Kickstart your career in Tech” opportunity, which was specifically open to NYSC members. I applied by submitting a one-page summary of my technical skills and was invited for an interview.

How it’s going

Being my first job as a product designer, it meant a lot to me. It has been amazing and knowledge packed so far. Working with a team of product managers, developers, and designers, I am able to develop solutions that cater to user needs and preferences. I have the opportunity to design user interfaces for web and mobile platforms, ensuring a seamless user experience. Despite feeling accomplished, I am always eager to expand my knowledge and grow further in this field.

Career hack

It’s normal to feel frustrated and clueless. Keep trying no matter the outcome. Your effort will eventually lead to positive results. Additionally, I learned that it’s important to step out of my comfort zone and try new things, even if I don’t have a technical background.

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