My Pivot Journal is a weekly series from Ventures Africa that documents people’s career transitions from one sector to another, especially to technology.
With more than ten years of technical experience, Sam Adeniya has become a respected figure in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, especially in the edtech space. Adeniyi went from a magazine salesman to a graphic designer and now a self-taught software engineer. His entrepreneurial drive has been the northern star of his career. In this week’s episode of My Pivot Journal, Adeniyi takes us on the journey of becoming.
How it started
Growing up I loved math and wanted to be a teacher. So while my result could lead me to the University of Ilorin, I chose to go to the Kwara State College of Education to get a degree. There I studied Mathematics and Economics because I could not study Mathematics as a stand-alone subject.
On the other side of education is my entrepreneurial drive. Lagos is a dream city for many, including me, so when I got a vacancy to sell newspapers, I jumped at the offer. I sold obsolete international newspapers and magazines under the bridge in Ojota and Palmgrove for about three years before moving on to a degree in statistics and joining the National Youth Service Corps.
My entrepreneurial spirit was burning, so while I was at camp I taught people basic computers and even wrote a proposal to the Bayelsa state government to teach some of its ministries. After NYSC I didn’t look for a job. I started selling shoes with the capital I earned after spending my year of service at Chevron, the multinational oil giant. I would travel to Lagos to buy shoes in bulk and put them up for sale in Ilorin. But after six months of doing this, I had to think about self-reflection and realized that the money I was making did not match my dream. So I quit.
I took a step to embrace my next passion, graphic design, and from there my career path became clear. At one point I did a design for a client who worked with Intercontinental Bank, which she loved and further asked me if I could turn it into a website. This was new to me, but the amount she offered was mouth watering and exceeded what I was making from graphic design. I took the project as a challenge and worked on the design. After payment I realized how much I could earn with technology. So my entrepreneurial drive led me into software engineering because I felt I could make more money.
Being self-taught, learning was more trial and error. When I started learning computer languages like HTML, I went to the computer village in Ikeja to buy technical instructional CDs. The Internet was uncommon at the time, so I often went to a cyber cafe to explore it.
Once I got the hang of the technology, I started telco integration on MTN and Etisalat. I built the mobile and web app for MTN’s first tech plus event and the SME marketplace. After that, through one of my clients, I got a job at SystemSpecs, a software development company focused on providing quality delivery of a leading e-Payment application (Remita). I am part of the team that revamped Remita’s user interface to what it is today.
From Remita, I moved on to become a senior software engineer at inlaks. They own the majority of ATMs in Lagos, so we built agency banking infrastructures for them. I then moved to Venture Garden Group to build incoming payments to Nigeria, and also became a co-founder and CTO of Tarvos Technology Limited, a startup building a larger agency banking infrastructure. My passion is to grow, and this made me realize that I was outgrowing most of those companies very quickly. I was tired of fintech and wanted to do more education because of my passion for teaching.
How are you
I’ve done quite well in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, especially in the edtech space. I have worked as the head of engineering in uLesson. I built the team and tried to help them scale to other countries.
I worked at uLesson for about nine months until I was offered a job in the UK at Perlego, a digital online library focused on the delivery of academic, professional and non-fiction eBooks. Being an edtech I didn’t object and within two weeks the travel documentation was ready.
I also do a lot of side gigs. I have had the privilege of advising for almost all edtech startups in Nigeria from Teesas to Utiva, to Edukoya. I have been pivotal in the development of their team.
Tenacity has helped me throughout my career. I sometimes stay up into the night to read and don’t retire until my body is completely tired. The ability to want to do something and to stick with it has helped me a lot.