Born Ready

Submerged BrainBoxes.

Submerged BrainBoxes.

Sometimes last week, my car got flooded in water.

Which was really strange, because the same day exactly 5 years ago, I posted this on Facebook:

fb_2011_06_17

First, a little backstory.

I bought my first car going on 22. For the first few months after that, I loved driving. It was exciting at first… the feeling of being in control. But in no time, the feeling soon waned off, as I began to understand that by getting a car, I had lost something really valuable.

Or had I?

But let’s get back to the main story for a bit…

Sometimes last week, my car got flooded in water. Point of correction, Lekki water.

It had rained terribly all through the night, into the morning. Heading out for an early meeting, I saw a gigantic puddle of rainwater sitting between me and an adjoining road. It looked deep, but having just seen an SUV go through and come out successfully, I was confident that my car could pull off a similar stunt.

So I drove into the water with all confidence.

Less than a few seconds after I drove in, harsh reality hit. The engine, alive and revving a moment ago, started coughing. Water had seeped badly into the exhaust, and then into the engine. To make matters worse, it happened in beach-type sand, so my tyres were instantly rendered useless. Naturally, the car went off – and like I had expected, it didn’t start again. Water, in its element, started seeping into the car, soaking the rug in a matter of seconds. Before I knew it, I was knee-deep in water, and the only thing that came to mind was rescuing my phone and computer, which I promptly did. Next up, after contemplating for a while, I took off my shirt, rolled up my already-soaked trouser, and got out of the car to get help.

Oh. But not after taking a picture… you know, for Instagramurance and whatnot 🙂

team_flooded_car
This was the last picture taken by my phone 🙁

In summary, the most terrible thing that happened was that my car’s brainbox got submerged in water. I remember the mechanic bringing it out, turning it upside down – and water gushing out. It was fried on impact! Water also got into the engine, the spark plugs, the air filter and messed up the leather seats. Oh, and my phone? When I got back after the meeting later that day, I mistakenly put it in the car’s cupholder – which I forgot also had water in it. The rest, as they say, is history.

The next 4 days after the incident had me trying to figure out how to get the car fixed and still get work done. In between taking trips to client meetings, the ATM, convenience stores and back to the mechanic, I used all types of public transport.

Half an hour after we pushed out the car and parked it on the road, I entered the first bus. Still had to make a crucial meeting. Ignoring how wet, cold and highly disorganized I felt, I pulled out my smartphone and whipped out a Whitepaper. Jeez. How I had missed reading in transit. So I started perusing the document. But less than five minutes into it, I had to stop reading.

And definitely not for lack of trying.

Growing up, I had quite the reading culture. From Anthony Horowitz to Thomas Friedman, John Maxwell to Apostle Paul, I read anything and everything I could lay hands on. But unfortunately, all that reading had to be done when I wasn’t on the move.

I remembered… during my internship days – how much I tried to read during my daily commute. I also recalled when I was younger – feeling nauseous and having to ask my mom to open the car windows anytime I was trying to read or stare at a screen, thinking it was just fresh air I needed.

Later, it all added up.

I discovered I had what’s known as Moderate Vertigo – motion or carsickness, if you may call it.

I was young, but seriously upset.

Back to the backstory.

After a few months of experiencing the new car, I figured I had lost something valuable – the free time that came with not driving a car, or just being a passenger in a bus. Free time that could be used for other useful stuff, like reading.

Except that I just couldn’t.

My 4 days spent without a car, a smartphone or a book almost had me frustrated, not because of the situation, but because I couldn’t make productive use of the free time. But instead of bawling at the situation, the whole experience had me actively trying to learn from everywhere else: on one day, the roasted corn shed where I had to wait while rain fell, had a guy who never went to school but kept telling us the most insightful things. At the mechanic’s workshop, I learnt how to burn spark plugs in fuel, dry air filters using wind from a diesel generator and check for bad fuses using a wire, a battery and sparks.

I’m one in probably ten-thousand Nigerians who can’t read in a moving vehicle. But most others who can read, don’t read. And it has me worried. Not because people can’t read in any other location, but because, in this day and age of a thousand work-related deliverables and a million distractions, we know all too well that the daily commute is most probably the only free time people have on their hands. And on the long run, I really don’t see us developing as a nation, utilizing yesterday’s knowledge alone. We need to learn new things. And for the most part, to learn those things, we do need to read!

At VeriCampus, we’ve kicked off deep conversations on how to influence and improve the reading culture of Nigerians and Africans by utilizing a creative mix of technologies around accessibility, attention and retention. And we can’t wait to share it with the world.

Because, in all honesty, without a strong reading culture, the only place we’re headed to, is murky waters with lots, and lots, and lots of submerged brainboxes.

Extra 🙂

Weirdly enough, a few days after the flooding incident 5 years ago, I also wrote this:

fb_2011_06_20

Where the light shines through…

Hearing…

Hearing…

Love is an echo.

Love is an echo.

Just a Name…

Just a Name…

I remember the first time I was gonna get a customized shirt – University Days, 200 Level. Here’s how the conversation went:
 
Shirt Guy: What do you want us to write at the back of your shirt?
Me: **thinks hard**
Shirt Guy: You there?
Me: Yes….. **thinking much harder… trying to come up with a cool name, like S-flex, GeekSquad, El Logico, or good-ol Shaywoon**
Shirt Guy: Seun, we don’t have much time… Or should I co…
Me, cutting in: Please, just put ‘SEUN’ there abeg. At this point, I can’t even be bothered anymore. I’ve got better things to think about… (like my half-eaten pack of jollof rice sitting in the hostel 🙂
 
Fast-forward 7 years later, at an epic product launch, when the luminous body paint guy asked the same question (but this time, for my hand), I’m sure you could very well guess the answer I gave him.
To The Teacher…

To The Teacher…

A while ago, I sat around and thought of what I’d be doing if I had everything I needed and didn’t have to work another day in my life. Well, as much as I’d love to give you an impressive lineup of pseudo-retiree activities, honestly, I’d probably be doing one of the following:

  1. Composing indie songs for days on end, beautifully adorned in a comfy cashmere robe and paper flip-flops, drinking malt n’ milk.
  2. Being the official background hype guy (the guy who shouts ‘hey!’) in songs for bands like The Lumineers, Of Monsters and Men or Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
  3. Trying to find answers to the most irrelevant questions (such as why lines appear when we really squint our eyes, why children are so shocked when slapped out of sleep by their impatient mothers, or why our ears can boil water.)

But of recent, it turns out that I might be considering a new activity…

And here’s why.

One Friday evening in my final year in the university, while taking a few junior students a ‘technical tutorial session’ on web design, I got a small note from a lady who was reading at the back of the class we were using. It read these words exactly:

“I don’t really know you, and we haven’t spoken before, but I’ve seen you around, helping and teaching people. I’ve got to say well done. Your reward might not be right now or right here on earth, but it’s definitely in heaven.”

Beautiful.

Needless to say, I still have the note till today. (to put this miracle into context, I don’t even know where my NYSC certificate is. I came home, dropped it on my table and slept off. It disappeared.)

Maybe mother took it. But who knows?

The camera says my head is large
The camera says my head is large. I think it actually is.

In the past month, I’ve been privileged to do some interesting stuff. Firstly, in what I’d consider as personally record-breaking, I taught my first guest-lecture to a class of over a thousand university students. Then, told my little life-story to a classroom full of secondary school students. Next, graced a mentoring session for students who were about to start, or had started out in business. Finally, yesterday, I was on the panel of judges for a school business pitch contest.

Awesome month? Awesome feeling? Most definitely.

Let’s call it ‘October Rush’

But as much as I’d love to go on and on about how satisfying and rewarding it was, I’d also let you in on the work that came after:

In the past month, I’ve also had to reply over 100 follow-up Emails from students who had questions, business ideas or just needed some form of clarification on stuff they were working on, and spent over 5 hours on the phone doing the same. And it still goes on. Somehow, it hurts when an email goes unanswered for more than 24 hours due to my weird work schedule.

Now, for a little throwback.

During my service year, I was posted to a state government school as a computer teacher… actually, the only computer teacher in the entire junior school of over 1,500 students. Oh, gosh, was it an experience. I remember setting my first test questions for the JSS3 students and thinking ‘Oh, yes. These guys are in for it’. They’re what we call ‘theory’ (in your own words) questions. But, oh boy… it wasn’t until the class captains came to drop the test scripts that I knew I was in trouble. To cut the long story short, as we weren’t allowed to recruit students, I spent over 3 weeks personally marking that test, and got a healthy dose of laughter from the other teachers for setting difficult questions. Needless to say, from then on, all my tests were highly-basic ‘objective’ and ‘fill in the gap’ questions.

What I found interesting about my service year was the amount of satisfaction I got from seeing the students learn new things, or when a student I personally challenged got better grades… and even from coming up with simple initiatives that exponentially increased learning. For example, since I have such terrible grasp of my native language, I taught in flawless English, and had the students who understood only Yoruba form a circle where a fellow student helped me translate.

Looking back, I now understand why, even with the pressure of running a business, I still chose to stay dedicated to my job as a teacher. Always in school 4 days a week, I never told my principal about other commitments. I remember going MIA for 3 days due to an intensive exhibition in another state – and another 1 week because we had 3 meetings in 2 Northern states – and not being particularly fond of the fights with my principal that ensued after.

But I would never have traded being a teacher for anything else.

Why?

Because they say you can only connect the dots looking backwards. And honestly, looking back, I’ve been on both sides of the equation, and I’ve figured out that a teacher’s job is truly one of the most critical jobs in the world. And it needs to be taken seriously. Teachers wield a huge amount of influence over the learners – And so, can’t afford to misuse that privilege.

With the right teachers, I believe we can truly change the world.

So, on a final note, here’s to all teachers… but first:

  1. To teacher Kenny, for being my first primary-school teacher-crush (she was so fair and pretty).
  2. To teacher Ben, my disciplinarian headmaster who particularly liked to flog us where our soothing hands could not reach.
  3. To my first Igbo teacher (I forget her name), who would forever be credited for helping me count one to ten, helping me successfully negotiate with a cab guy on a southern-state road trip earlier this year.
  4. To Mr. Nosike, the Intro-Tech teacher whose wife’s name was synonymous with moist cotton-wool, exposed buttocks and painful injections.
  5. To Mrs. Adesanya, my rich Yoruba teacher who caught me and my best friend eating fried plantain under the desk.
  6. To my first physics teacher (again, I forget his name), who picked me as an outstanding student in his class and gave me the opportunity to touch the helm of my 4-year-long school crush’s blazer.
  7. To Mr. Ogunsanya (how could I forget his name?) who’s credited with giving me my first slap when I tried to lie to him to save my class from being marked down on the weekly ‘neatest class’ register (oh, and he later taught me English).
  8. To Mr. Abogunrin, my highly-entertaining Yoruba teacher who always wore a very large suit and informally endeared me to a rarely-known romantic song titled ‘Falila’
  9. To Mr. Pat, for no specific reason except for being a totally chilled guy, for having a long, un-pronounceable last name, and for making me fall in love with technical drawing.
  10. To Mr. Adeoye Physics and Mr. Adeoye Chemistry, for being very strong influences in my love for physics and my fear of chemistry respectively.
  11. To Mr Okulaja, my first and only lesson teacher, who did everything here.

And, finally, to you. Because I believe you can take a minute out of your busy schedule to teach someone something today.

Pluto

Like a final puzzle piece,
It all makes perfect sense to me…
The heaviness that I hold in my heart belongs to gravity.

Emphasis…

The smartest thing I’ve ever learned
Is that I don’t have all the answers,
Just a little light to call my own.

Though it pales in comparison
To the overarching shadows,
A speck of light can reignite the sun
And swallow darkness whole.

Armor…

Show me where my armor ends… And where my skin begins.

With Great Power…

With Great Power…

“With great power, comes great electricity bills…” (black humor, but couldn’t be any more true…)

At Grappleline, we’ve been privileged to take up a number of interesting and audacious projects lately. And we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. For this, I’m really excited.

A particularly impressive project would be our most recent one – an Enterprise Software Deployment for the Power Sector. Lots of buzzwords, right? I could go into details, but I’m still very much of a newcomer. My partner Tega would be the subject matter expert in this scenario. (I’ve got my other strengths, okay? So it’s not that bad.)

But first, allow me to take things back a bit…

I’ve gotta admit that when we kicked off at Grappleline, we were quite shortsighted. And that’s normal, especially when you start a company right out of university. It’s difficult to see the world beyond your basic line-of-sight. The basic ingredients were there – passion, dedication, commitment (wait… don’t they all mean the same thing? Now you see why I despise buzz-words), but honestly, without a clear, objective view of the possibilities that existed beyond what we knew, it was quite difficult to establish a clear-cut direction for the company, and that really affected us, in no small manner.

But things are changing.

So, back to the story.

In the past 2 months, we’ve had to more than double our staff capacity. All software developers. We’ve spent nights and weekends staring at computer screens, battling glare and chugging down coffee (or anything else that keeps the developers awake). Oh, it’s been an incredible experience. And in between driving over to the clients’ for review meetings, keeping our people happy and meeting deadlines, I’ve learnt a few lessons about running a company:

  1. It’s more than just the money: I’d be kidding you if I said the project isn’t profitable, but heck. As much as our bottom-line is important, that’s not what keeps us up and running. Cash keeps the lights on, and our people happy, but the possibility of increasing our individual and organizational capacity has been what gets us really excited. We’ve actually started ‘looking ahead’. And that’s a good thing.
  2. You need the right people: We’ve had to stretch ourselves to acquire good developers. And, yes, I mean financially. Sometimes I joke with our interns that they make more money than me, but it’s actually true. For now, we’re focusing on getting, retaining and building the right people, as well as establishing a reputation for ourselves in a highly competitive industry. And we’d do whatever it takes to make that possible. Without that, wouldn’t it be fair to say that we’re just goofing around?

But that’s actually not the main story.

[Main Story]

I’ve fallen in love with Energy.

Wait. No, I’m not talking about some sort of ethereal definition of energy… I’m talking about actual Energy. Yes, Power. Electricity and stuff.

In the roadmap of Nigeria, I believe the power sector is about to get better, more organized and relatively more efficient. As a regular citizen, that might be quite difficult to believe, but if you’ve been in our shoes for the past few months, it’s easier to understand why I made that statement.

(Side Note) – Gosh, we need better power in this country. I had light for a few hours today and ended up binge-watching Studio 1.0 on Bloomberg. Learnt a lot. Imagine if there was light for the entire day.

So, here’s what might happen. In the next few years, through the combination of big data, smart grids, standardized energy efficiency indices, stakeholder organization, giving a semblance of control to actual end-users, (and let’s not forget the all-too-important role of government policy), I believe we’re heading for better days.

And at Grappleline, we’re excited about that.

So, in our own little way, we’re driving that change. Firstly, by conducting basic research on the possibilities that exist in the sector. Then, moving forward, to the best of our capacity, we hope to take actual strides to do things that really matter. It’s all quite hazy, but I’d keep you updated, okay?

So, on a final note…

Between building our strengths as a Software/Digital Media/Mobile Company, streamlining our product pipeline and then researching into new possibilities in the industry, I think we’re making good progress. We’re not a tad-bit where we’re supposed to be, but I’m glad the journey has started. In the next few years, we hope to build a more powerful company.

But we know all too well, that with great power, comes great responsibility *cue Uncle Ben from Spiderman here*.

So, I sincerely hope we’re ready to be responsible enough to give it what it takes.