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 10.
Teju Adeyinka is the Head of Growth at Sendcash, a product of Buycoins. In this edition of UTHSeries, she talks to us about her tech journey, working in multiple tracks, and thriving in ambiguity.
What’s working at Sendcash like?
I guess it’s more like “Working at Buycoins”; Buycoins is a really good place to work - having a bunch of really smart, energetic people that care about the work we’re doing.
But working on the Sendcash product itself has been a great experience so far. I’ve been involved with Sendcash since it was an idea - I did some of the initial user research and was a part of the team for it so it’s super interesting to be involved in it as it continues to grow.
In my current role, my primary responsibility is Sendcash —the product is my responsibility for the most part. It’s my job to figure out everything we need to do to grow and then to get us to do them. My work encompasses product development, marketing, comms, etc. I love working on it because I get to see firsthand how the things that we work on make life easier for thousands of people across the world.
Before now, I used to be the product manager for Buycoins across our products (Buycoins, Getcards and Sendcash).
You went from studying Economics to being Head of Growth, how did that happen?
In general, I’ve always had an idea of what I wanted to do. I just didn’t know it was going to be in tech. I knew I wanted to work in the intersection between producing and selling; like an entrepreneur—which is similar to my role at Sendcash now.
My tech journey started when I was in school. Google Women Techmakers was having an event for International Women’s Day, and people had to apply and answer a couple of questions to get in. I applied then because I was running an online bookstore called Streem then, and got selected to attend.
While at the event, I heard a couple of people speak, including Juliet Ehimuan, now Director of Google, West Africa, and Teju Ajani, now Country Manager of Apple. I didn’t know if they were technical people, but they appeared to be people just like me who were doing influential things in these big companies—that inspired me.
Then my school went on strike, so I took the opportunity to go for an internship. I used to follow Gossy Ukanwoke, the current CEO of BetKing then, so when he tweeted about the strike, I used the opportunity to ask if he was looking for an intern. He asked me to follow up via DM, and that was how I got an internship with Venture Garden Group (VGG).
Initially, I was supposed to work with the customer success team, but I ended up working with the business analysts until the strike was over. After I finished school, he reached out and said he would like me to return for a graduate internship program.
So, how did you end up at Buycoins?
My graduate internship at VGG lasted just until my NYSC. At that point, I had decided I was going to become a product manager because it was the role I thought fit best with the entrepreneurial thrill I was looking for. I didn’t know how I was going to do it though.
One day, my friend who’s a recruiter reaches out to me and says Timi Ajiboye of Buycoins is hiring an Executive Assistant. At first, I didn’t want the job because I didn’t see how it fit into the kind of role that I was looking for. But my friend—the recruiter—convinced me on the basis that Buycoins was a small team then, and I was going to be able to have my hands in a lot of things.
Eventually, when I took the role, I took it under the condition that I would transition into product management.
So, how did you transition from an Executive Assistant to a Product Manager?
It required a lot of learning on the job. When I joined I told Timi that I wanted to get a chance to work with the product team—which, to be fair, was only one person at the time. But I still wanted to work with the team even though I didn’t know what it entailed.
It also helped that Timi was very involved with the product. Since my role as EA was to work closely with him, it afforded me the opportunity to work with the product.
Sounds like because it was a small team, you were able to get your hands on a lot of things.
Yes, it helped that we were a small team. There were only about 6 of us at Buycoins when I joined. In addition to being Timi’s EA, I also functioned as an Operations Associate and, sometimes, a Product Associate. I basically filled whatever gaps and learned as quickly as I could.
Because it’s a startup, there are no real boundaries. I don’t need permission from a million people to work on something. Usually, once I indicate interest in a thing, I’m able to start contributing to it. The founders are very supportive and encouraging of internal growth so it made it a lot easier to do this.
For instance, I started working on Sendcash in the capacity of a Product Manager before I was one. I was very involved in the process, reviewing design and giving input on how we should build it. It’s not an opportunity I would have gotten in a larger team because it would have been someone else’s responsibility. But, when there is no one to handle it, you have to pick up the slack.
You transitioned again from Product Management to Head of Growth. How did you manage that context change?
I’ve always had to deal with changes like that. The startup is often figuring out what it needs per time and in my case, being vocal about the kind of opportunities I’m interested in and having a team that encourages internal growth has helped me find places where I fit.
I was the first PM at Buycoins, so that came with a lot of ambiguity. That coupled with the nature of a PM’s role, which is typically self-defined meant I had to figure a lot of stuff out on my own. My experience in Buycoins in general has been like that.
I’ve also had to deal with a lot of impostor syndrome. I’m not sure if I can call it that because you have to at least know what you’re doing for it to be impostor syndrome. I felt I didn’t know what I was doing, but I was getting a lot of good feedback.
So, how has working as Head of Growth been?
It has been an interesting challenge so far. Some parts of the work (Product), I was already familiar with, but some the more marketing-leaning sides, were somewhat new to me. We didn't have a Head of Growth for any of the products before this, so it was initially a lot to get used to because we were essentially defining the role as I went along.
I’ve had to learn a lot of different things on the job, so I spend time reading as much as I can about the different levers for growth and asking questions from people who work in similar roles in other organisations. I've also had a lot of support from the team as well.
Having something that you're directly responsible for and having something like "Head or Lead" in your job title can also come with a lot of pressure to not mess up, but seeing things begin to come together is very rewarding.
Interesting. Do you think working at a startup has been beneficial for your kind of person?
I don’t know if it will be the same for everybody, but for me, it has been. I feel like I am a “restless” person. If I don’t feel challenged by my work, I get bored and discontent. If I worked at a more structured company, I might have gotten bored.
Working with a startup has thrown me into the thick of things. If you’re working with people who are figuring out how to run a company, you kind of learn how to run a company. Like I mentioned earlier, you also get to work on a lot of different things that pique your interest. You get to see the things that you worked on used by people in real time and it’s an amazing feeling.
It might have been more difficult to get that experience if I worked at a more established company.
Even from the perspective of watching the resilience, creativity, and innovation that goes into running a startup, it is inspiring.
Do you think you’ll run a startup in the future?
I love starting and influencing the direction of things, so when I find problems that I’m passionate about and have the resources to solve - why not?
Teju also runs a volunteer community for students and recent graduates at Workaroo. You can volunteer to be part of her community or send a donation. You can also check out her writings on cryptocurrency here.