6 years an “intern” at softcom
A figuratively correct title, yet paradoxically a clickbait
I looked forward to that photo-op, the surreal moment I will throw my hat up in the sky without much of a plan on how to catch it mid-air. I was ready to flap my wings and soar into the real world.
I was told to reach for the stars, what I may not have known was that the closest star to earth is about 4.37 light-years away.
But hey, the journey of 6 million miles starts with one giant step, an internship.
With heads held high, best foot forward and CV in hand, I looked forward to graduating from Covenant University and setting out on the journey to find someone that’ll give me a chance. A chance to prove I was worth something in this large, often scary, and mean world — a chance to become.
An opportunity to start earning [relatively little] money while learning on the job — shifting our employer from our parents, a guardian, or anyone who sponsors our existence.
Acknowledging how strenuous this transition period can be for new graduates is vital — It’s a sour blend of hope, courage, frustration and often rebellion. Getting a [decent] job straight out of school isn’t a fairytale. You’re competing with people who have graduated years before you, who are stuck in the rat race of the system, scouting for entry jobs. It’s horrific.
I had to acknowledge the existence of this pain because only then could I truly understand my privilege or perhaps my sheer “luck” on becoming an intern at Softcom. A position I waltzed into without officially applying or being interviewed. Life gave me the chance to be my most creative self while I was finding myself.
But can I describe the orchestration of the universe in perfect symphony with my mom and dad’s continuous prayers over the years for me to always find myself in the right place, at the right time, with the right company as being lucky? Perhaps no. I can acknowledge my readiness — not everything is luck — I can say that I had built quite a decent track record, met people, learned and added value. Without taking away from chance, I can acknowledge that all the experiences I had had up to that level guided me and positioned me to be at the right place at the right time. To be discovered.
As an undergraduate, I had earned a reputation of being a “creative genius”. I was running a media brand called Rapid Focus — helping people get their ideas off the ground; ideating with founders, designing their brands and creating marketing material and ads that premiered in the chapel hall to an audience of 3–8 thousand students, depending on the event.
I had the unbelievable privilege of impressing Dr Olumuyiwa Oludayo, who had a peculiar eye for spotting talented people and giving them a chance to give their best shot in and beyond his public speaking class. Sometimes, I look back and wonder what he saw in me and why he trusted me. Dr. believed in and advocated for Rapid Focus so much to anyone who cared to listen.
He helped me build a track record. This track record put me on the road to being found.
On December 1, 2014 — I walked into his boardroom, wearing my favourite Fossil wristwatch, and met two very sharp gentlemen. That made 3 of us. Dr. was in his office at that time. He was sharp, too — but you get the point.
Both founders of Softcom, Yomi and Seindemi, had come into my school to finetune the final details of the pilot phase of the mobile learning project — after which it will be announced to students. They were ex-students, committed to impacting the very institution that shaped them.
They asked this question, “How can we announce this to students and get them to listen and get excited?” The boardroom was quiet for a few seconds. I could feel Dr’s energy nudging me to take responsibility. “Perhaps I can shoot an ad — show how everyday students will get to use this and experience it”, I finally said. The idea was welcomed. It made sense. However, Yomi and Seindemi were quite worried because we had less than 70 hours to departure service where the announcement would be made.
I left the boardroom thinking, “what have I done?” — I had promised the impossible! When will I script this, shoot it, edit and animate the 3D elements — and even if I managed to do this, how will I manage what is beyond my control — rendering? Those who know know that rendering can take from several hours to days depending on the complexity and realism of the composition.
Fulfilling an impossible promise
As I would often do when I had a stressful few hours ahead of me, I went to the cafeteria and bought Ewa Agoyin, which knocked me for at least 4 hours. I cultivated this habit all through my time in school, and it came in useful when trying to prepare for particularly stressful examinations.
When I woke up, the first thing I did was to find someone who was better than I was in animating and editing to help. Iyke Odiakosa, extraordinarily brilliant and versatile in media, was the wild card I knew I needed. He agreed and was excited to work on this impossible promise with me. A commitment he didn’t make but now had to keep.
The time was 11 PM; we had about 60 hours to go. I quickly wrote the script that night, and by the following morning at 9 — we headed out to shoot footage of students using their devices, attending classes et al. We had some of our friends take up cameo appearances and B roles in the video — Lanre, Michael, Charles, Olivia and at a point, Iyke himself. I was the man behind the camera but also the man who did the voiceover. It was a very lean affair.
Now to the hard part, animating and rendering the tablet in 3D environments, highlighting the project’s value proposition and its components. We had 30 hours to go, tick-tock. This part of the project presented unique challenges that I’ll attempt to explain. After creating the composition in 3D max, rendering it out would take about 35 long, absurd hours basically because of limited computing power. We were using only one MacBook; how would we beat time?
Iyke brought up a brilliant idea; the team/network render. He proposed that we use the computing power of several Macbooks connected by a local area network running 3D max. Now the question is, where do we find several students willing to lend us their Macbooks to get this done. I went around the halls, friends, friends of friends, to ask if they could do me a solid one. We had 6 Macbooks running 3D max in a couple of hours, including mine — rendering the video. This cut the render time from 35 hours to 10 — a significant margin of possibility.
Though we experienced a lot of failures — power, the local network getting interrupted and Iyke and I trying to catch some sleep in-between, we delivered in the nick of time with the final render ready only 4 minutes ahead of the announcement in the chapel hall with over 6 thousand students waiting in the natural mixed feelings of anxiety and joy that events of those nature bring with them.
My very first work for Softcom, seen.
Yomi and Seindemi had not seen the ad yet because it only just got ready — this intensified my tension. What if they thought it wasn’t good? Well, at that point, there was only one way to find out.
After Yomi gave his address to the students, it was showtime — the lights of the chapel dimmed as thousands of eyes lit up.
I wish I could find the video, but for some reason, I can’t. However, one thing I can hold on to were the responses. The applause in the hall, the sheer excitement on their faces made Iyke and me happy but mostly relieved. Dr Oludayo gave me that “I am proud of you” look. I was glad I didn’t betray his trust.
And now, the big question, what did Seindemi and Yomi think about the ad that was delivered in just over two days — against all odds. I’ll let you be the judge of that from their email to me.
My first and only “open cheque.”
“Let me know what you guys want for this.”
I asked myself this for the next few days; I saw this as an open cheque. What qualifies as the perfect charge? Three hundred thousand? Five? A million? I simply couldn’t come up with any response, so I gave none. A part of me didn’t like to be paid for doing things I simply loved to do anyways.
Did this leave an impression? Perhaps.
Come to think of it, even though he never charged me — I still owe Iyke.
Ready for the future? and Future Ready
Life went on after that day, and I had one more semester to go. I never did respond to Yomi’s email and never reached out afterwards. Six months later, I was done with school, and Dr Oludayo offered to take me home to Lekki as he was heading for a press conference in VI. But he was running quite late, and I had to follow him for the Diamond Bank’s HQ meeting as he didn’t have time to drop me at home first.
Interestingly, the press conference was to announce the Future Ready University Conference, holding the next month. Softcom and Diamond bank, alongside other partners, had raised $100M for technology intervention on education. The conference was designed to show universities how to be ready for the future and how technology should play a part in it.
For the second time, I walked into the venue and met the two sharp gentlemen — Yomi and Seindemi.
I recalled walking up to them to say hi, — “hello Mr Seindemi, Mr Yomi” and they said “no bro, it’s Yomi and Seindemi”
They welcomed me and even introduced me to Uzoma Dozie and other stakeholders. This was my very first experience being around professionals. I was fresh out of school, jobless, without even an internship to look forward to.
What did all this mean for my future? Maybe Future Ready was the answer.
The question that snowballed into an internship
After the press conference, we had a brief moment to chat. I decided to ask Yomi, “what does Softcom do?” He simply replied, “come over to the office and find out”. I went to the office the following Monday, 15th June 2015 — and every other day after that over the next two weeks — I took responsibility for every media need for the conference — it was mind blowing for me.
It dawned on me at some point that I now had a “placement” — an internship at Softcom.
6 years an “intern” at Softcom
It is difficult to describe my experience working or entirely, should I rather say “interning” at Softcom for the last six years. One thing I know is this; I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Here, I am. I am entirely at one with my purpose. From the beginning, I was given the complete creative freedom and latitude to find myself, while learning on the job. I have been thrown into many oceans, many roles that I may have never believed I could ever make sense of, talk more of thriving at, but not only did I not drown, but I swam with steady strides.
An internship intends for the intern to gain experiences and multiple competencies on the job. Interns are allowed to make mistakes, not be perfect and course correct. I have embraced this internship mentally for the past six years.
I have worn several hats, from visual designer to videographer, photographer, animator, pitch deck designer, “younger brother”, UI/UX designer, creative director and storyteller, marketing manager and most recently, Brand and Creative Director responsible for building love, respect and understanding for our company and its products.
Connecting the dots backwards — is what I have done through the years, defining and designing experiences that have been used at scale.
With Softcom, I have experienced progress, witnessed happiness, executed beyond ideas, worked with the sharpest minds, helped design products that have been used at scale. I experienced care, thoughtfulness, conscious leadership by my bosses and managed people dedicated to our cause. Interestingly enough, I have also experienced over 30X (where X = first pay).
I remember our trip to Stanford. I watched and helped them plan for the future, and all the time, I pondered, “Why does my opinion matter?”
I wondered what Dr saw in me, which made him advocate for me and bring me to the table, even though I was just a kid. By natural extension, I extended that sentiment towards Yomi and Seindemi — what did they see in me? But these days, and with each new stride in my career, it has become more evident. My greatest gift is the tenacity to always have a unique perspective of what “good” can and should be and the continuous dedication to doing my best work.
What does the past hold?
We often confront ourselves with the somewhat inevitable question, “what does the future hold?” Those who can answer it with a single breath are pretty fortunate. For me, to honestly answer this question, I take a retrospective glance at the past. A proper understanding of what I am leaving behind may help me understand and embrace the responsibility I am stepping into.
I am leaving self-doubt in the past — alongside struggles and even my past accomplishments. I know exactly what people see in me as I have become more self-aware of my gifts and talents.
What the future holds
Without self-doubt, with the commitment to do my best work — I intend to be worthy of the attention I’ll command and continuously increase the brilliance I bring to the table.
I may never get the opportunity to change the world, and that’s okay. Still, one thing I find solace and gratitude in is that I have gotten to work with people who will change the way solutions are perceived, designed and brought to life — Yomi, Seindemi and Toyosi.
When I asked Yomi what Softcom did, and he told me to come over and find out, what did I find out?
Softcom’s promise is a simple one — to accelerate inclusion and growth for Africans, wherever they may be. Our solutions are targeted at the dreamer and doer — the people who create something out of nothing; the entrepreneurs — providing the tools, support, bank and knowledge they need to excel. We believe they are good to grow.
This purpose is a shared one, one that I wear on like second skin; wherever I find myself, and in whatever capacity, role or lack of it, I will fulfil with the best of my abilities; an opportunity to be a partner of potential to people and businesses, just as Softcom has been to me.
Lastly, perhaps I may once again orchestrate deliberate chaos.
Life unfolds in different ways, sometimes when we are in situ — other times in freefall, a dive over the ledge — but whichever way it reveals itself, I have complete trust in my ability to find stability once again after creating deliberate chaos.
A few months ago, Yomi was recounting how he met me, how he saw this young chap walk into a board room — wearing a fancy Fossil blue-faced wristwatch. A young guy with an opinion on how best to get students to be excited. I wondered briefly about chance meetings, how much of our lives are shaped by the places we go, the people we meet, those we say hi to with a smile and those we let in.
Softcom, as I begin year seven, thank you for letting me intern.
Special thanks to Nimide and Niranthi for helping me edit this.