16-year-old Nigerian web developer John Oseni has gone online following reports that he was offered a job by an Italian company. He talks to ALEXANDER OKERE about his passion and his achievements
To tell about us about yourself.
My name is John Oseni. I am 16 years old. I turned 16 in February. Am from Yewa North in Ogun State. I am the fourth child in my family. My father is a professor of biochemistry and my mother is a retired civil servant. I completed my high school education from Command Day High School in Akure. I was in the technical department.
What are you doing right now ?
I am a programmer. I worked for 16 to 17 start-ups. Additionally, I am working to start my own business and see the possibility of a future powered by nature. We plan to use nature to power cars, phones and other things. The company has not been registered but I already have a team in the United States of America, Canada and Nigeria working on research. My lawyer is also working on this.
There was a recent report online that a company in Italy has offered you a job. Can you tell me how it happened?
I’m the type of guy who doesn’t have a programming certificate. Most of the jobs I get are referral based. I currently work for two companies in Italy. Someone recommended me and before I knew it, companies contacted me; I didn’t know them. They appointed me blockchain team leader.
What are the names of the companies?
Flywallet and Cryptonite. They actually wanted me to go to Italy and say hello to the team, but I refused because I was still working. I had an appointment with the Ooni of Ife, who wanted to see me. So I had to tell companies that I would be working remotely for now. I have a passport but the companies will sponsor my trip.
What did they tell you the requirement for the position was?
Before getting the job, I was given certain tasks which I successfully completed.
What did your parents say when you told them about the offer?
My parents gave their consent but they were worried about my safety. When I was taking my high school certificate exam, my parents grabbed my laptop, but I bought another one and wrote codes with it at night. But they thank God for not stopping me from doing what I love.
You said you had no training in web development, so how did you acquire this skill?
There is a place called Green Garage in Akure and some people from that place came to my school to teach us computer science. They organized a competition and, out of about 80 students, a student and I came first. They promised to give us a price but did not fulfill this promise. So, I went to their office to tell them but when I arrived I saw that they had dusty laptops that I could use to learn the programming language. So, I told them to allow me to use one of the laptops and they agreed, for one day though. The next day they said that I should pay the sum of 160,000 naira to teach me to code on my own, but I begged them to give me a week. So I learned the programming language for a week and the next week I started helping the training center to teach people for free. I trained between 20 and 25 people, including corps members, who had paid the center to learn. I used to wake up as early as 7am to clean the training center and run errands just to give them a reason not to collect the training fee from me. It was like being of service. Over time, I got to know blockchain better and started getting referrals. My life has been hard but God has been there.
When did all this happen?
It happened towards the end of 2020. I worked for different companies for free, but I started writing code thoroughly last year. Currently I write for different companies but I try to cut some as I am working on mine. I have a few investors but I want to take it slow.
Many would expect you to prepare for college. Do you have that in mind?
I will go to school but it would be for an online program so I can also work. I believe there is no time, I want to be multitasking. I don’t want people to think I don’t want to go to school because I saw money. I hope to obtain a doctorate in computer engineering. I believe in doing what I can do now, so that I don’t have to do it later.
You said you started coding full-time in 2021 and worked for different companies. How much have you earned so far?
I sometimes get paid in crypto because my account cannot take more than N1m. So I collect crypto money and put it in another bank. I would say that I made a lot of money.
How much is it?
I made millions, over 10 million naira. Once, I received 5 million naira wholesale while other payments came monthly, some in the form of salaries, but I did not buy a car. I push my business with everything. I made my first N1m last year at 15 years old. I was very happy ; I felt like the richest man in the world, but I thought back after spending half the money on useless things. But now, making millions doesn’t affect me because the money is for my business.
Do you receive or read messages from people who doubt your story?
I’m the kind of person who doesn’t have time to watch what other people say. When I publish an article, I do not check the comments. A lot of people didn’t believe me; even the people I called mentors surprised me. But I have God, so I don’t care what people say and let my results speak for me.
Were your parents surprised at what you accomplished?
They are very surprised. They prayed for me and thanked God for helping me make the right decision. But they thought the Devil got into me, that I was possessed.
Are they overprotective of you now?
Yes they are. I no longer travel by road.
Would you say there is a connection between your performance in high school and what you are doing now?
I was one of the top three in my class at Command (Day Secondary School). My school was happy. They wanted to put me in touch with the Army Chief of Staff to allow me to work on the Nigerian Army website. The school was proud of me and welcomed me.
What were your SSCE results?
I had eight A’s and one B. The B was in technical drawing and I don’t like technical drawing.
What would you say to Nigerians who don’t understand what coding is?
Coding requires passion. I used coding to improve myself, like Elon Musk, who used coding to grow. He was a developer at PayPal. Coding is more like talking to a computer and building apps that help people solve problems. Crypto presents itself as a very secure digital access because it is decentralized. Even if the hackers break into it, they have nothing to do because there is no information to show them.
How soon do you think appliances in Nigeria will be powered by nature, as you said, instead of electricity?
We started getting the formulas, now it’s about getting the capital to implement the formulas. I have an architect in the United States who helps me design the physical structure of the business. I have lots of volunteers. My purpose in life has not begun to manifest. I’m not trying to be competitive in the world of technology, but I believe my purpose always manifests. I don’t believe in luck but in God and hard work. In high school I wanted to be in the military but that changed when I was in SS2 during the COVID-19 lockdown. I was at home bored and kept wondering what my purpose in life was. That’s when I remember Green Garage owed me an award and that’s when it all started. I thank the pandemic for giving me time.
What should people expect in a few years?
Not in the next few years, in the next five months. People should expect the future.
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