Discover more from Faces of ALX SE
Knowledge unchained: Davido Okolie’s Open Source BookHub revolutionizing access to tech learning resources!
My name is David Okolie and I recently transitioned from architecture to software engineering. I am also a husband and father who really wants to make an impact in the world. I love learning and that heightened curiosity helped in making my transition from architecture to software engineering pretty smooth. I studied architecture in the University of Nigeria and practiced actively for a few years albeit without a Master's degree which in turn affected how much people believed I could contribute. However, I am of the opinion that experience does not come from a piece of paper but rather you become a master through rolling up your sleeves and getting down to doing the actual work. I worked in construction supervising construction processes but since I was not finding the fulfilment I desired, I started searching for something else that was in line with what I wanted. My job as an architect did not allow me to fully express my skills hence I knew there had to be more out there. I quit my full time job in 2021 and transitioned to freelancing so that I can have flexibility to step back and plan my life.
In my re-evaluation and planning phase, I spoke to a friend who was into software engineering and the amazing thing is that he was able to apply the same set of skills anywhere in the world. I reviewed my architecture training in Nigeria and realized that it is not a global skill since if I have to practice in other markets, I will have to relearn a lot of things due to differences in architectural designs and building materials. At that point, I knew I needed to build a career around a skill that can set me up and allow me work anywhere in the world. My friend encouraged me to try tech and I went on LinkedIn and started searching for architects that have made a similar shift. I found a group based in San Francisco that had switched to software engineering and even though they were no longer accepting members, I found articles they had written about the similarities between the 2 professions that make such a transition easy. As I continued with researching and reading, I randomly came across an ALX advertisement.
The application process and the requirements, especially 70 hours, seemed crazy. However, I had a pregnant wife and I was on a freelance contract hence I needed to make decisions fast about my next move. The desire to have a skill that will make me marketable globally as well as some of the questions during the application process solidified my resolve and helped me overcome any initial fear. I joined having zero coding background and fast forward to today, I am in cohort 8 finishing the final sprint 3 and waiting to graduate in a few weeks!
It has not been an easy journey because the truth of the matter is that the ALX software engineering program is more than tough. The first thing you need is a mindset and insane drive that you want to do something useful with yourself. Once you have this mindset, the ALX SE program pretty much takes care of the rest by providing a structured program that literally keeps you on your toes. I thought about quitting a lot of times coupled with the fact that I had a wife who faced a very complicated pregnancy throughout this period. However, I kept on reflecting on my why at such moments and as I woke up everyday and put one foot in front of the other tackling tasks and projects, months just flew by. I am finishing the program and my wife despite all complications had a safe delivery and brought forth a beautiful baby girl!
I would tell my peers in the program that there is power in learning and building in public. When we started working on our project, OSBH(Open Source Book Hub), we documented extensively on twitter. One day when I woke up and found that Julien had retweeted and Fred Swaniker had commented on the tweet launching OSBH, I felt like I had won the ultimate jackpot 🙂. Earlier in the ALX-SE program, We formed a group of 5 guys who kept each other accountable. 2 later deferred to later cohorts, leaving the rest of us to collaborate. The 3 of us then were brainstorming on a portfolio project that we can do that can ease access to knowledge and learning materials for people in tech. For example, you can ask questions on stack overflow but you can download a book and discuss it there. Similarly other sites like PDFdrive.com to download a book or resource but you cannot discuss it there. The idea behind OSBH, therefore, is to create a community platform where you can download books and other resources, you can write a blog about and people contribute or you can create a private forum where you can discuss any resource at length. With OSBH, you do not have to jump across three to four platforms, it is a one-stop shop.
The app at the moment is only open to techies since the only sign-in integration we have built for now is to Github. However, we are in the process of enabling third party logins from Facebook, Google and other platforms so that anybody can hop into the community. We are keen on making sure there is a give-give balance within the community on OSBH hence for you to successfully sign up onto the platform, you MUST first upload a resource which could be a book, a pdf document etc. The user interface is very straightforward and we have a demo video on YouTube. When you land on OSBH, there is the option to read a book or a blog but you cannot download, like or comment. Once you are impressed with what you are seeing, then you can go ahead to create an account, upload a book and you have unfettered access to everything. We are soon working on a mechanism to vet the content being uploaded and shared on the platform to avoid offensive materials. We also do not want to have pirated resources that have privacy licenses on them being shared freely on OSBH. At the moment, we can manually check and vet stuff before it goes live but we are planning to automate the process so that we can work at scale.
The current world teaches people that careers are life-long identities but in my opinion, a career is a lifelong journey with many speed bumps and turns that one should not be afraid to make. I realised that I really wanted to do more than just generic designs of buildings and so on but the industry is very rigid in my locality. I would come up with very radical ideas but they would be brushed off as me just being an idealist instead of being practical hence I felt so restricted. If I thought architecture gave me room for creativity, software engineering has given me a million times the opportunity to exercise my curiosity, innovation and idealism. There has, however, been a lot of transferable skills such as creativity and problem solving only that with software engineering, I get to exercise these skills to infinity. The best way to keep sharpening one’s software engineering skills is to keep solving problems and building solutions.
I am currently building another product called Piechat, a simple social media application with a tasty twist, as the name implies. PieChat is a unique social media platform designed to bring people together over their love for snacks and engaging conversations. Whether you're a foodie, a snack enthusiast, or simply enjoy connecting with others, PieChat is the perfect place for you. I have built all this as open source projects simply because I am still in the process of learning hence commercialization is not yet a big worry. I always know and tell myself that once I master this craft well, then I will be able to build my name in the industry and that comes with the money. For now, I will advise my peers to just keep building, the ideas may not seem grand or worth celebrating but the more you work on projects, the more you build your skills and confidence
Thanks for reading Faces of ALX SE! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.