Hey, so can you introduce yourself?
Hi Pete, thanks for having me. My name is Halimah Omogiafo and I am the Founder and CEO of Koody, a personal finance app and stock market research website in the UK. Before launching Koody, I worked in the financial services industry as a banker.
Working in banks and other financial institutions was a natural next step for me after university, as I hold a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. I launched the version of Koody that is available today in August 2020 after taking a number of coding courses online and in-person. I currently live and work in London, UK.
Why did you learn to code?
I chose to learn how to code because I was blown away by the impressive accomplishments of software engineers and entrepreneurs in the United States of America. At 19, my role models were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google. I read extensively about their achievements, education and personal life.
When I completed undergraduate studies at 20, I had one goal: to become like my role models–to build the most useful software, the kind that will be used by people all over the world. At the time, the only way that made sense to me to achieve this goal was to become a software engineer.
How did you learn coding?
I started learning to code by taking online courses on Codecademy in 2017, back when I still lived in my home country, Nigeria. I moved to the UK in late 2017 to pursue an MBA. Whilst studying for my MBA, I realised that although the curriculum was robust from a finance, business operations and marketing perspective, it did not provide me with the technical skills necessary to build a minimum viable product (MVP) for an entrepreneurial idea I wanted to pursue.
Indeed, I was fully aware that I could have hired a software engineer to build an MVP, but I did not have the financial resources or the technical know-how to hire the engineer I needed at the time. Also, at the time, I was already obsessed with coding and building software products myself. Apart from playing with Codecademy, I also attended one-off coding classes and tech talks at the computer science department at the university.
A few weeks into my MBA programme, I decided that I needed to take coding seriously and join a course (that lasted longer than a few hours). I started searching online and was particularly keen to find short three to six-month in-person courses hosted by the computer science department. That was when I came across Code First Girls - a female-only coding bootcamp with in-person classes at the university.
I immediately signed up for their HTML, CSS and JS eight-week beginners course. The beginners' course was great because it finally made all my Codecademy lessons make sense. I was able to put everything I learnt into practice, build my first website (Aqua Exchange) and collaborate with other young developers on GitHub.
The Code First Girls beginners course was excellent, but it was not enough knowledge to help me build an MVP. For my MVP, I wanted to build an ethical payday lender. This required at least some data analysis skills and a good understanding of backend development.
So, in 2018, I signed up for the Code First Girls Python and Databases eight-week in-person course in London. This course was brilliant! With the knowledge I gained from it, I was able to connect to APIs, build a credit-scoring algorithm, and present an MVP to the entrepreneurship careers panel at the university.
How has your life changed since learning to code?
Learning to code made me the entrepreneur I am now. It has helped me build products that tens of thousands of people use on a monthly basis. It has also provided me with a steady income and an opportunity to improve the lives of others.
I work full-time for my company, Koody, and I build all our products myself. None of these would have been possible without my early exposure to software development and my decision to become a software engineer.
What does a typical day as a software developer look like for you?
I am more of an entrepreneur than a software developer, but I will stick to the software development part of my day. A typical day for me starts with creating a to-do list. I always seem to have a backlog of tasks to do, so every morning, I take some of the tasks from the backlog and add them to the day’s to-do list, depending on priority. I also add new tasks that are unique to that day.
Next, I start working through the list. This will typically involve optimising existing web pages for speed, search engines and good user experience. I tend to do this every day regardless of what else is on the table. Depending on the tasks on my list, sometimes I have to add new features like calculators, tables and charts.
Once I am done working on the website, I face the mobile app. The mobile app isn’t nearly as demanding as the website. For the app, I usually check our support file for feature requests and usability complaints. I always prioritise usability complaints over all other requests and spend most of my late afternoons fixing bugs and updating customers about them.
Finally, I compile a list of interesting tasks for the rest of the week or the following week and add them to my backlog.
Building software products as an entrepreneur is not what I thought it would be. I spend more time doing sales, marketing and business development than anything else. Even when I think I am coding a lot or building products, I find that I am usually just doing something to aid sales and marketing.
I also tend to be very customer and revenue-focused, which means no matter how exciting a potential feature or product could be, if I determine that there is a real business need, it will not be built. So, once again, to answer your question, no, being a software developer is not what I expected it to be.
How did you get your first developer job?
Since completing my MBA programme, I have only worked for myself. However, It took me two and a half years after completing my Python and Databases course with Code First Girls to finally launch something that people wanted enough to pay me for.
After learning how to code, I spent too much time coding and very little time figuring out what people wanted and how to create it in a way they would appreciate. If I were applying for software development jobs, that would have been a good strategy, but I wasn’t. I was building my own business, which meant that it didn’t matter how sophisticated my code was or how good a developer I had become.
What mattered was that I was building a product that people wanted, and I knew exactly where to find these people when the time came. It took me two and a half years to realise this. On the bright side, it made me become a really good Python developer.
What are your career goals for the future?
My goal for the future is to build software that improves people’s lives and is used and appreciated globally, just like Sergey Brin and Larry Page did with Google.
In the meantime, my short-term goal is to rebuild Koody, my stock market research website and personal finance app.
I launched both products as MVPs in 2020 and 2022, respectively. It has been three years since I launched the first product, and I am confident that, having found product-market fit, now is the time to rebuild both products into more sophisticated, scalable and globally useful software.