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Building a career in open source: Prosper Otemuyiwa

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Hey guys! I'm Prosper Otemuyiwa - also known as unicodeveloper. I'm a Technology Advocate involved in different aspects of the software ecosystem for over a decade. From speaking at conferences all over the world, to building software, training people to become software engineers, starting a software company, developer advocacy, and investing in software companies.

I've been able to build open source packages that millions of people have used across the world. It has been a privilege to be able to dive into the different realms of software development.

Currently, I'm a co-founder at Eden - a company I started in Lagos and Nairobi to help people live a better live. I'm also a Senior Developer advocate at Novu, part of the core team and helping people use Novu sdks with ease.

Getting into tech

I got into tech because I couldn't gain admission into Unilag. I wanted to study medicine like most of us back then 😂, but didn't meet the cut off. I had to spend one year at home and used this period to do A-Level lessons.

The following year, I applied instead for Computer Science. I had lost interest in medicine and although Computer science wasn't a heavy-favorite course that a lot of people were excited about studying like it is today, I was taught QBasic back in secondary school and I loved it.

So I figured maybe Computer Science might be the one for me. However in my first year, I didn't understand programming - it was like a tough black box.

I wanted to graduate with first class, that was the aim - but of course I didn't graduate with first class 😂 - so by going through some of the courses my seniors in school had done, I discovered that I needed to do a lot of programming. So during my 100 level holiday, I went to New Horizons - it used to be an ICT school for people to learn programming and networking - I learnt Java, I understood it and I was wowed.

I came back to school they taught us Java and it was even cooler.From there I started PHP, JavaScript and that was the beginning of a beautiful story.

Building a career in open source

I discovered open source in 2015 while working at Andela. I was a technical trainer - teaching people to code, taking them from zero to hero. Then, I discovered Laravel. I decided to take a peek at the source code and tried submitting a PR. Due to slow response in getting my PR merged, I decided to start creating Laravel packages.

Open source has put me on a global platform, allowing me connect with devs around the world and opened doors for me

- Prosper Otemuyiwa

It was quite difficult finding projects to contribute to in the beginning so I started doing my own stuff, people were contributing and that gave me enough confidence to go to other projects to contribute.

In 2016, I worked on Laravel Paystack, I wrote about it and put it on Twitter. The impressions were great and usage of the package blew up after that. As Paystack added new functionalities, people started sending in new PRs to the repo, creating issues and asking questions. Soon, people started sending me emails to help them with integrations.

Another interesting project was the Laravel hackathon starter I built. It blew up in even greater proportion than the Paystack package. I remembered trending on GitHub for over a week.

Prosper speaking at a conference

Contributing to open source in developing countries

A big issue I've noticed with open source, especially in developing countries like Nigeria is trying to change the perspective of people so they can contribute or use a project. Access to stable electricity is another possible big issue.

To get started with contributing, you can start with SDKs. Look for a service that has an API, that has no SDK. There are companies with APIs without sdks, go ahead and create sdks in various languages that you use and people will thank you for it.

A major drive for contributing to open source is moving from the consumption mindset to the creator mindset. People have paved the way forward for me, how do I replicate it for others coming too? That has been my drive. That's my contribution to the community. Making life easier by creating. Never stop learning and keep standing on the shoulders of giants. You don't have to start everything from scratch.

A key takeaway for any developer reading this: read many things, get your hands dirty. Over the course of a decade, I've been writing, building open source, building close source, building communities, speaking, working on new things. Explore! That's the word. Try out many things, some will stick, some will be lessons to get better. Also, contribute to open source, be consistent with it, it will take you to places you can never imagine.

A couple predictions for the future

I am currently keeping tabs on advancement in the field of AI. I remember my talk in Nairobi in 2023 about "AI for the rest of us". I foresee lots of companies will be built the open source way. We're now seeing companies started from open source projects and able to monetize a premium version off it. Communities will shift from just physical spaces to more virtual meetups. I also think we're going to be able to connect softwares to the human neural system very soon. APIs for the human body 😅.

Connect with Prosper on Twitter and GitHub

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