A Nigerian Doctor’s Unlikely Path to Becoming a Computer Scientist

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So, where do I start? This has been long in the making. The passion has always been there, smoldering and waiting to explode. But will I say I was so unfortunate to be born in the wrong country and at the wrong time? Who knows, the story would have been different if I was in another country on another continent.

Who I Am

So, questions first: You may ask “who are you?” and why you should read my incredible journey.

To answer the first question, I will give a brief introduction of myself.

My name is Benjamin Dike, a Medical Doctor working in Nigeria, Africa. This is a country filled with so many brilliant minds. And they are living and working in a restrictive environment. There are no basic amenities. Access to the internet is a luxury for which you pay through your nose to get unlimited access to.

And what is this incredible journey which I want you to walk through with me? It is a journey of rediscovering my passion and my first love. A career I had always wanted for myself.

Against all odds I found my first love – computer science

I remember myself as a child observing in wonder as my dad turned on the television and radio. Many thoughts used to race through my head. How do these gadgets work?

I searched for books that will explain the mechanisms behind these gadgets. I got hold of my father’s encyclopedias. Unfortunately, the more I read them, the more I got confused. The concepts embedded in those books were way over my head. I was a little boy trying to make sense of the world around me. But I kept reminding myself that one day I would like to know exactly what makes those gadgets work.

Events started unfolding at a fast pace as years kept rolling by. I knew exactly where I was heading. A career in electronic engineering or computer Science was all I could think about.

Reality instead presented another pathway which was not part of what I had planned. As I entered junior secondary school, I met my first senior class friend, Chidi. He was in senior secondary. He told me he was going to study electronic engineering in the University, exactly what I had in mind. We forged a very strong friendship. I was always looking up to him. So, what happened next?

Computer science was in its infancy in Nigeria

Five years later, my friend was in the final year of an electronic engineering course. I was in senior secondary still working towards my dream. Computer science was in its infancy in Nigeria then. Electronic engineering as my dear friend was doing was more established.

I got home one cold evening expecting to watch my favorite television program. I entered the sitting room only to see gloomy faces staring back at me. What has happened? My Dad told me the television has gone blank. It was not showing anything anymore.

No TV? No Life!

I told my dad not to worry. My Friend Chidi was then a final year electronic engineering student. I was sure he would know how to fix a television. Everybody looked relieved when I said that. They know how traumatizing it can be taking the television to any of the local electricians who don’t know much. They work by trial and error and will most of the time end up sending your television to the junkyard.

So off I went. Running as fast as I could to my friend’s house. I knocked on their door and my friend Chidi who was at home opened the door. Without breaking a sweat, I poured out our woes to him. The worst has happened, and our television is no longer working. Can you please help?

Chidi looked at me with a mischievous smile. Then he told me that we should take our television to the local electrician. I was so devastated. Everywhere started spinning around and I felt dizzy. I could hardly breathe. I asked him if he was telling me that he cannot repair a faulty television. He said yes that he cannot fix a faulty television. I then asked him if there was any practical thing he could do at all and walked away disappointed.

As I got home, I couldn’t look at my father’s face. I told him my friend cannot help us. He said we should take the television to the local television electrician. I could hear the deep sign that went up in the room and the echo of that sound will remain with me for years to come.

That night I changed my mind towards studying electrical engineering or computer science. What is the use of studying a course that gives no practical solutions to our everyday lives? Our lives revolved around the television and the radio. This is where we get our information which enables us to plan our day. No television or radio means no life at all.

The health sector is crucial in Nigeria – so I chose medicine over CS

So, when the time came to choose a course, I chose medicine and surgery. At least I will be providing a more practical solution to everyday health problems. Our health sector was in shambles. I felt that as a medical doctor I could contribute more to society. Even more than my friend Chidi who could not fix a simple television.

But the passion to delve into the world of electronics and computers was still there. It was waiting for the right moment.

But I couldn’t stop coding!

In my third year of medical school, I got another friend, John. He introduced me to the wonderful world of computers. For the first time I was able to operate a computer. He taught me a bit about MS DOS programming with which I was able to write some computer commands. It was so much fun. Those days, computers were still a very rare thing in Nigeria and few people knew how to use one.

Medicine and Surgery took most of my time. I focused on becoming the best medical doctor I could be. I graduated and worked at all levels of health care in my country.

Back to my first love: computers

Here I am now, 20 years post-graduation. I have seen all there is to see in medical practice in Nigeria. I still find myself completely unfulfilled. Not much attention is being paid to health care in the country. Every day I see my colleagues leaving the country in droves. Salary paid by the government cannot take you to the end of the month. You have to struggle every month to take care of your family.

As I sat down one day thinking about my situation, I remembered my first love. Which were electronics and computers. The question that I first asked many years ago still remains unanswered for me. What makes these gadgets work? And other questions have over the years joined the queue. How does the computer work? How does it perform the operations it does?

Discovering Python and Finxter

As many years passed, a lot has happened, and computer science has come of age in Nigeria. Many people are now studying the course. Many others are on the side learning various programming languages. So, I dived in straight and started doing some research. I then stumbled on the Python programming language.

I was also so lucky to stumble on the Finxter academy and start the Email courses. Since then, I have come alive again. My first dream is now redefined into a more specific pathway. This I have never ever imagined possible. My Destination is now staring me right in my face as something that is achievable. So, look out world! And watch me coming. A Master Coder is in the making.

Master Coder in the making

I now have all the motivations I need and there is no looking back. I have finally started the most important journey in my life. The journey is to take part in solving the problems that bedevil the world today.

My primary area of interest is mobile applications. I have always been fascinated with the way simple mobile apps solve complex problems that we encounter on a daily basis. 

And as I strive to become, in the end, a Master Python Programmer, I will work on developing mobile apps that will solve daily problems in our life today. So, let the journey begin.

Benjamin Dike

Finxter Academy Student