Francis Onwumere – I Learnt to Code by Freeloading


We asked a diverse group of individuals to tell us how they began their career in programming. Over the next few days, TechCabal will be featuring stories shared by these various software developers in Nigeria, on how they got started coding. 

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Francis Onwumere

Back in 2003/2004, I was in UNN and I had already learnt how to build static websites with HTML. I was still catching up on CSS then, but I remember advocating its use to some of my friends at the time.

A lot of my early learning was thanks to AlistApart, Particle Tree, and more. But what really got me programming was access to programming resources. I was a regular reader of MIT Technology Review Magazine because my friend’s dad was a subscriber. In one issue of TR, there was a feature on BearShare as the new P2P service that couldn’t be closed down.

It occurred to me that this could be my gateway to the programming resources that I needed to get me started. If you recall, this was around the trouble days for Napster and LiveWire – So BearShare was a welcome option.

Francis in TechCabal session, November 2013

So I got to the school cyber cafe one morning, got my timeslot, and it occurred to me to install BearShare, which I did and boom! I had access to all these relevant resources. I basically had BearShare running all day in the background on the Cafe’s PC while I was in class for lectures. At the end of the day I, would walk in and walk out with my flash drive. This way, when I read about some trending programming stuff, I could now get books, video tutorials etc that treated those topics.

This went on for about 9 months till the system admin in the Cafe realised what I was up to and blocked Bearshare on the network (haha). This is something that perhaps I shouldn’t be particularly proud of. In a different context these were resources I would have been happy to pay for. But here I was, a relatively broke student learning software development on my own, and these resources were really what made that possible.

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Francis Onwumere is a web developer and co-founder of Digital Craft Studios, a web and mobile development agency based in Nigeria. He is also the cofounder of Prowork, a project management and team collaboration application and Digital Drift, a podcast focused on Nigeria’s tech. You can tweet him @digitalcraft.

Do you have stories of how your love for coding began? Please share in the comments below!

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