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Joshua Alana’s rise from 8 job rejections in 24 hours to now holding 4 dream jobs!
When Joshua had to apply for jobs to help sustain his studies at ALU, he never expected to wake up to 8 job rejections in one day! Joshua is the epitome of resilience during job searching.
Joshua Alana from ALX SE cohort 8 is a talented and driven individual who has embarked on an inspiring journey in software engineering. With a passion for innovation and technology, Joshua has been honing his skills as a self-taught software engineer before seizing opportunities to further his education at prestigious institutions. In June 2022, Joshua embarked on a transformative academic pursuit, enrolling in the African Leadership University (ALU) software engineering program. Recognized for its commitment to fostering leadership and driving positive change across Africa, ALU provided Joshua with a nurturing environment to expand his knowledge and refine his expertise. Joshua's hunger for knowledge led him to join ALX, an institute that complements his studies at ALU. This dual educational approach gave him a comprehensive understanding of software engineering, equipping him with the tools to bring his innovative ideas to life. However, Joshua comes from scarcity and this is a narrative that is all too familiar for many young Africans. He had to apply for jobs to help sustain his studies at especially ALU and in this quest, he never expected to wake up to 8 job rejections in one day! So what did he do? We sat down with Joshua and he takes us through the journey of how he rose and dusted up from 8 job rejections to now holding 4 roles in 4 different organizations!
Tell us a little about yourself and how did you start your journey into tech?
I grew up in a small village in Ondo State of Nigeria where I undertook my elementary and secondary school education. Afterwards, I started reading for JAMB exams which is a prerequisite for entrance to University in Nigeria. At that time, I did not have neither a phone nor access to the internet but I did my best. However, a good Samaritan who used to be a teacher at my secondary school saw how brilliant and determined I was and offered to take me to Lagos so that I can better prepare for JAMB. I passed the exam and got admission to Ekiti University but with the surge of the covid pandemic in 2020, all schools were shut down. I could not join university and as I was wondering what I would do, an uncle reached out to me with good news that kicked off my journey into tech. He worked as the Financial Manager at Renaissance Capital, a leading emerging and frontier markets investment bank, hence he always had exposure to a lot of information. He is the one that found the ALX software engineering program on the internet and he informed me asking me if I would be interested. I applied and when I got accepted, I felt that is the best decision I have ever made getting to learn from the best software engineers on the African continent.
You are a student at both ALX and ALU (African Leadership University) and you also have 4 roles in different organizations, how do you manage to strike a balance?
I started with ALX first before joining ALU and my reason for joining ALU is that I also wanted the degree accreditation. I applied to ALU and I got a scholarship worth $2000. The intensity of the ALX program has not been easy to keep up with although on the brighter side, it has helped me with my studies at ALU. I often find it easier to tackle course modules since I may have already covered them while tackling my ALX tasks and projects.
As for the roles coupled with studies, prioritization has really helped me because none of the roles require me to report physically. On my laptop, I can deliver on all the different roles by dividing up tasks daily into important and urgent, important and not urgent and so on. I do the same with even my tasks at ALX and this helps me have even enough time to sleep because if I burn out, it affects a lot more people.
The eight job rejections you received in one day must have been a bitter pill to swallow. How did you cope?
There was immense pressure on me to get a job to support my studies and tuition fee because my parents are poor. After being in the ALX SE program for six months I felt ready to take on a role and deliver in any organization. I also loved that ALX encouraged us to apply and submit a report on a provided form in order to gain further career support and, therefore, I was on a job application spree. Rejections were ultimately part of the process but I was utterly shocked to one day open my email and find 8 rejections! I really felt so disappointed but when I went online on twitter, I found that Julien Barbier had tweeted something about keep trying and taking risks. It resonated so well with what I was going through at the moment hence I dusted up and immediately went on LinkedIn to search for more opportunities.
How much experience with coding and development did you have before joining the ALX SE program?
I had just started learning a little bit about web development and I could access content on platforms such as Coursera, Udemy and YouTube videos. However, my learning lacked structure and at some point I was a little confused. When I joined ALX, I had very little knowledge and experience with web development and absolutely none with software development.
Away from ALX and ALU studies, you also have 4 roles in different organizations, tell us about that.
One of the roles is that I am Co-Founder of African Homes which is a startup in Kigali seeking to make low-cost but quality housing available to all. Imagine you are a student or tourist and just visited a new place and need long term accommodation on a budget and we know hotels and AirBnBs are a little on the higher end. This is where African Homes comes in with the possibility of such people deciding to own such houses hence investing in Africa. We thought of this idea when we got introduced to the Foundations course and we were exposed to some of the greatest problems facing Africa. The Entrepreneurship Action Lab ( E-LAB ) played a vital role in my learning journey in my first year, exposing me to real-world challenges and honing my problem-solving skills. During my entrepreneurial Action Lab ( E-LAB ) at ALU, the most transformative aspects were the emphasis on empathy analysis and root cause analysis, which significantly shaped my thought process. Understanding empathy analysis enabled me to put myself in the shoes of potential customers and stakeholders, gaining deep insights into their needs, pain points, and aspirations. This empathy-driven approach fostered a profound connection with the target market and allowed me to develop products and services tailored to their specific requirements.The combination of empathy analysis and root cause analysis not only enriched my learning experience at ALU but also became indispensable tools in my entrepreneurial toolkit, enabling me to create ventures that make a positive difference in people's lives
In my second role, I am a senior software engineer at MEDIXR, a trailblazing software company specializing in delivering cutting-edge medical education services using extended reality technology. By blending technology and healthcare, we play a crucial role in transforming how medical knowledge is disseminated and absorbed, ultimately improving patient outcomes and healthcare practices. Medical trainees do not have to physically be present, they simply log on their computers and enter augmented reality virtual rooms such as anatomy classes where they can access full training virtually in partnership with various medical institutions.
In my third role, I am a Product Associate at Farmtrics, an innovative data analytics startup that empowers businesses, organizations, and governments across Africa through automating farm processes and providing data-driven solutions for farmers for maximum yields. I grew up going to the farm but due to lack of data and knowledge, I never knew one can make millions of dollars from farming. The biggest challenge for the agricultural sector in Africa is the lack of data and this is what Farmtrics aims to solve by helping farmers, businesses and organizations make data-driven decisions with their farming methods.
In my fourth role, I am actively involved with Miss Nacre Africa, a dynamic social enterprise that empowers young women to take leadership roles and participate in decision-making. By promoting gender equality and diversity, I strive to create a more inclusive and equitable society, fostering an environment where everyone's potential can thrive.
The roles are impressive and cut across so many different sectors, is this intentional?
Yes it is very intentional. I recently started watching a show called Shark Tank and for the business moguls in that show, they did not get to where they are at by putting their eggs in one basket. They have impressive portfolios of investment and that is my inspiration i.e. to impact lives by providing solutions across various sectors. Out of the 14 GCGOs, I am actively helping solve 4 which are infrastructure, women empowerment, agriculture and healthcare. If another person takes another 4 and so on, then we can within a short time realize the African dream.
You have done so much while still in the program, you did not wait to graduate first, what is your advice to anyone hesitating and wondering how to start tapping into opportunities?
I will quote something Jack Ma once said; from 0-25 years, do not look for money, build your skills and experience. 27-30, start building your empire, 30-40 start enjoying your empire, and afterwards keep enjoying, plan for retirement and spend your sunset years with grandkids. I have been taking on all these opportunities across different sectors even when money is not involved, for example at Miss Nacre Africa but my goal is to learn how to build systems for various fields. You do not have to wait after graduation for you to look for opportunities to learn and build your experiences. You already have the skills hence you need to tap into the real world of work to understand how systems are built and how they work. When looking for such opportunities, look towards startups and smaller companies instead of straight up wanting to go to Google or Tesla. Startups give you a lot of room to grow as they grow and even though they may not have money to pay you well, but as they grow and you keep showing value, the money also comes. Learning and building your experience concurrently plays a big role later while job searching because you will have both the required skills and the years of experience. Elon Musk says that if you are not failing, then you are not innovating enough hence just apply and never give up like I did!
Are you team VI or emacs?
I am definitely on team emacs!
To stay in touch with Joshua Alana, contact him on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Github. Do not forget to also set a reminder for this upcoming twitter space on 8th August to hear his amazing story of resilience during job search.