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 2.
Jude Dike is a Blockchain developer with Ethereum Push Notification Service (EPNS). In this edition of Under The Hoodie, he shares his journey into blockchain engineering and his battles with imposter syndrome, burnout, and finding his feet again.
Okay, let’s start with you telling us a bit about yourself.
I never quite understood how to answer this question. But I’ll take a shot.
My name is Jude Dike, I’m a 26-year-old Software Engineer by day and Netflix connoisseur by night. I would say I’m a workaholic, which is something I got from my parents.
I was born, brought up, schooled, and still live in Lagos. I studied Computer Science at Unilag and that was how I got into Tech.
I never expected that Tech was something that would pay off. I got into tech because I wanted to learn how to hack. Then, I stayed in tech because of the godlike feeling of being able to create something out of just code. I also like to learn about fascinating things, which is what brought me into blockchain.
What was the first job you got as a developer?
My first gig came when I was around 19. Someone offered to pay me N50k to build five websites.
To build five websites?
They were actually web apps, but I didn’t really care at the time. I was a student, and N20k was really big money to me. Now imagine having N50k. I was rich!
Then, I started getting gigs from people who wanted to build sites for small-scale businesses and doing projects for senior students.
It was around my final year I started getting gigs that were N100k and above.
What was it like when you got your first N100K job?
I got the job via a referral. A friend of mine referred me to the job and negotiated on my behalf. When he asked me how much I would charge for the frontend and I said 70k. When we got to the meeting, he told the guy N120k and they negotiated down to N100k. I was just there in the back saying nothing in shock
The first time N100k hit my account, it felt crazy. I hadn’t clocked 20 then, so you can imagine how much money it was to me. A few months later, the same person gave me another gig of N200k. I was balling in my final year.
After graduation, I got tapped up by one of the companies I had worked for while in school, and since then, it has been from one job to another.
Most of my jobs since then have been by referrals but at the same time, I’ve gotten many rejections. There was a time I was eating rejections for breakfast.
How did you get into blockchain?
I caught the bug during the bitcoin rush of 2017. But it was different because I wanted to build ICOs instead of investing.
I took a course on Udemy and it was a lot of fun. Then in 2018, I met someone who was looking to build something on the blockchain. It was like a match made in heaven.
I can imagine...
Sometime in 2018, this Canadian guy reached out to me to ask about how much I would charge to build on the blockchain. I don’t know why but I blurted out $30/hr. He said he would think about it.
When we finally got to cost the whole project, it was about 2 months of work for N1 million.
Was that the first time you earned a million naira in tech?
Fam, it was the first time my account saw a million naira.
And at this time, I already had a day job that took care of my basic needs and housing. We had a cook, a free apartment, and other stuff. We were just coding for fun. I tried my hands on many things during that time.
I tried mobile development which I’m never going to try in my life again. I tried react.js, that’s why I hate it till today.
So, you were working multiple jobs?
Throughout my career, I’ve always been what I call a “Code Mercenery”. What it means is that I always have side jobs. It’s mostly because I tend to get extremely bored as a person, so even if I’m not doing a paid job, I always have a side project.
You mentioned earlier that you struggled with rejections for a while, how was that?
That was in 2019 when I had a long depressive episode. It’s a long story.
Do you mind sharing?
Oh, that’s fine. Since I started freelancing in 2014, I never really had a dry spell. I was always engaged with one job or the other.
This continued until the middle of 2019 when I was doing a gig for a bank. The gig ended abruptly because of internal politics. The bank wanted me to come on as a full-time staff but the HR was wasting time. For over a month after the tests and interviews, they didn’t send an offer letter.
During that time, I got an offer from another company. It was the first time I would get a proper US gig that paid real dollars. I think it was around $4k/mo. But for some reason, I felt uncomfortable. I passed the test pretty well. They even said I was the best person for the role.
But I had been working non-stop before that time and for the first time in my life, I was experiencing burnout and imposter syndrome—I was the only black guy in a room full of white guys with different accents, and I was struggling to even understand what they were saying. It’s probably why I hate accents till today.
Things weren’t going so well. I found it hard to understand some things at the company and even contribute at meetings. Eventually, after about two months, I was let go of.
The day I got the call, I was actually very relieved. I decided to take a month off to try and calm my head. I traveled to Abuja for a month to relax. That was in October 2019.
When I got back from my self-imposed holiday, I tried getting back into the workforce and applying to US jobs. Everything I applied for just wasn’t working. I wasn’t even getting called to interviews—that’s how bad it was.
That must have felt terrible...
Yeah, it did.
After a month with no progress, I decided to try Nigerian companies. I got rejected too.
I had discovered the Eyowo app and it was lovely. I wanted to know who built it. People referred me to the people who worked there. Interestingly, they had an opening. I applied for the role, did the test and interview. The lead engineer even told me that he needed me on his team and had told HR to expedite things. Strangely, the same thing happened again—the HR kept wasting time. It was close to the end of the year, so I figured it was because they were making end-of-year plans.
I also applied to Andela around the same time, which is funny because they had reached out to me many times beforehand and I wasn’t interested. This time, I wrote the test and did the interviews but when it got to the Leadership Interview stage, they started rescheduling too. They rescheduled as far as a month later. I was mad frustrated.
Now, in all these times, I had savings but I was living my regular lifestyle—Uber everywhere, going to the gym daily, etc. So, by this time, I was already going broke. I think I even had to take a loan from a friend in December 2019.
We get to mid-January and Eyowo finally sends me an offer letter but they’re pricing me like pepper. They offered me a Senior engineering role for N340k. I told them the offer didn’t make sense. They got back to me two weeks later with an offer of N349K.
I told the Lead Engineer that while I wanted to work on the project, I couldn’t work at that price. I didn’t take the offer.
Andela, on the other hand, eventually rescheduled my leadership interview with a new person. At the interview, I was asked what I would do if I was put in a role that’s not aligned with my goals. I answered honestly and told them I would leave. Two days later, I received a rejection letter in my email.
At that point, I was tired. I said f*ck it, I’m no longer applying to any job.
So, how did you get out of this rut?
At the end of that January, my girlfriend sent me a job application from a friend of hers with a description that looks tailor-made for me. The company was Africave, which I now have an interesting partnership with.
At the time, the company was just starting. They were trying to do something similar to what Andela does. They needed someone who could be the face of the company, a standard they could point to when talking to companies. I fit the profile, got the job, and ended up staying with the company until covid hit.
But in the February of that year, there was a crypto developer role posted by Edem Kumodzi on Twitter. The role also appeared to have my name on it. I applied and got it, so at that time, I had two gigs that paid more than the previous US gig I left.
This sounds like a very memorable time in your life.
Yes, I learned two lessons from that time. The first is that sometimes, you need to take a break. As you can see, I got the jobs when I was no longer looking for one. Second, always have some runway i.e. money that can fund your lifestyle for a couple of months. Having some runway allows you to take a break, relax and restrategise.
For people looking into Blockchain Engineering, Jude provided a link to a free YouTube tutorial on learning Solidity—the programming language for writing smart contracts.