Under The Hoodie - Chris Adolphus, Lead Designer at Chaka Stocks

Chris Adolphus is a 22-year-old Product Design Lead at Chaka Stocks. On this edition of UTH, he talks to us about getting into tech as a teenager, dealing with disappointment, and ultimately leaving school for tech.

Under The Hoodie - Chris Adolphus, Lead Designer at Chaka Stocks

Under The Hoodie is a weekly series where we talk to people about their journey into tech. It focuses on the intersection between life and career. UTH Week 7.

Chris Adolphus is a 22-year-old Product Design Lead at Chaka Stocks. On this edition of UTH, he talks to us about getting into tech as a teenager, dealing with disappointment, and ultimately leaving school for tech.

22 is a very young age to be the design lead at a company. When did you get into tech?

I have two older brothers who are both in tech, so I picked up interest from them. I never really liked secondary school. I was always the funny guy at the back of the class making jokes. But I was good at computer science.  Even then, I wasn’t looking at getting into tech. I wanted to be an aeronautics engineer.

My journey probably started when I  joined the Andela Bootcamp. My brothers were at the Academy, so I went along with them.  I was just around 16 then.

Wait. Was it a Bootcamp for teenagers?
No, it was their regular Bootcamp at their Yaba office. It was the Class XI, 2015. I didn’t ask for anyone’s age and no one asked for mine, but I was probably one of the youngest there.

The Bootcamp was really good. I learned a lot from it. At the end of the Bootcamp, we had to pair up for projects. I paired up with a guy called Emmanuel to do my project. After the Bootcamp, Emmanuel got retained by Andela, but I didn’t.

How did you feel when Andela didn’t hire you?
It felt bad seeing as the person I did my project with was hired. In my hurt, I promised myself that I was never going to apply for Andela again.

But you were 16, it was likely impossible for Andela to hire you at that age?
[laughs] Honestly, I didn’t consider that at the time. It felt like I wasn’t good enough. Eventually, I got angry, stopped caring about tech, and left.

Was it missing out on the Andela gig that made you leave tech?
Well, it was primarily because I liked money. I really wanted to earn my own money at the time. So, I worked with a nylon-making factory on the extruding and cutting machines. The machines were dangerous—like they could rip off your arms if you were careless, but I was getting paid. It didn’t matter.

How much were you getting paid?
It was around N15k a month, if I remember correctly.

I see you were balling...
[laughs] Yes, I was balling bread and beans.

So, what happened next?
In 2018, I got back into tech—incidentally, with Andela again. I moved in with my brother who was already working in tech by the time, and learnt about the Andela Learning Community (ALC). I did Android Development on Udacity then. There were about 18,000 of us who started the course, but they were only going to give scholarships to 500 people, Fortunately, I was part of the 500 who got picked.

After that, I built a couple of projects that didn’t see the light of the day. At that same time I was building anything people wanted, as long as they were paying. I would build websites, blogs, help people download software, fix their phones, as long as it brought money, I would do it. My brothers were giving me money but I still wanted more money.

The ALC scholarship meant I was one of the best-performing students. So, I applied to be a community leader. In January, 2019, I became the lead community facilitator. It was fun because we would organize events around tech and help a lot of people find their feet in tech.

The ALC community leadership doesn’t sound like it made you money. Why did you do it?
At that time, I had started to lose that love for money. After becoming one of the 500 people, I was feeling grateful and wanted to give back to the community. Also, it was around the same time I got to know Prosper Otemuyiwa, and I was inspired by the work he was doing in different communities.

How about your tertiary education. Did you go to school during this time?

I did. Or at least, I tried to. I first applied to Unilag in 2017 to read Mechanical Engineering. I passed quite well, but I was given Physics Education which I rejected. In 2018, I decided I wasn’t going to school anymore, so I didn’t apply.

In 2019, my mom bought the form on my behalf. She was insistent that I had to go to school. By then, I was already working in design, so I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea. I only remembered I was registered when I saw people going to write the same exam.

As expected, I didn’t pass. I applied to UNN to study Mechanical Engineering, but my grades weren’t good enough to get in. So, I changed my school to FUOYE, Ekiti to study Physics.

Seeing as you had to change courses, did you enjoy your new course?
I love physics, so I had no problem with it. 2020 was the COVID year, so I could work from home without the interference of school. It worked out smoothly because when we had to go back to school, my employers were comfortable with it. They believed I would be able to manage it.

However, especially the area around FUOYE, Ekiti was a difficult place to live  There’s no power or internet connectivity. I got a generator, but sometimes I wouldn’t be able to get fuel to work. I couldn’t take courses, or do my work and I hated dragging back everyone at work.

So, I decided to quit my job. My employers wanted me to continue, but I also wanted to focus on school work at the time.

You quit work to focus on school, that’s impressive.
Well, I changed my mind just a week after.

What?! What happened?
Like I said, FUOYE was a difficult place to live. I had an interview with Chaka—where I currently work, and I was looking for internet connection in the bush, because I needed to make a call.

I asked to reschedule with the company, and they agreed. The moment they agreed to reschedule, I made up my mind to leave school. I felt school was never going to give me the opportunity to earn a living, so I was better off after.

You mentioned dealing with depression when was that?
That was 2019 - 2021. I am a driven person, and I think that contributed to it. I think the more driven you are, the easier it is for you to get depressed.

People typically tell me that I’m doing well, but I don’t always agree. I know they may not matter to a lot of people, but I have a lot of milestones I set for myself, and when I don’t meet them, they make me unhappy. I think it stems from me feeling like I should be doing more.

Has it gotten better?
I write about it. I have a gratitude journal that was gifted to me by a friend. Every morning, when I wake up, I have to write down stuff I’m grateful. I try to reflect a lot about my journey so far, the things I’ve done, and the people that have helped me.

I’ve also tried to break down my goals into smaller, more achievable chunks. That helps me understand the steps I need to achieve those goals. My goals no longer appear as far fetched as they used to be.

The sadness is still there. It comes some times, but I think I’m in better control of it.

Do you have any plans to go back to school?
Honestly, at this point, I don’t know. Maybe an online school. Thing is, I’m not a big fan of the current schooling system. I prefer to put on my PC and study what I need to know. But who knows, I may find it interesting later in the future.

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