Building a career in Technology: a conversation with Yoofi Brown-Pobee

Get to know our team! This week: Yoofi Brown-Pobee, Software Engineer. This interview is the fourth of a series featuring the outstanding team from Chalkboard Education. Check out previous interviews from the Developer team with Nii Apa Abbey and Lemuel Hawkson.

Yoofi Brown-Pobee, software engineer at Chalkboard Education

What is your role at Chalkboard Education?
I am a software engineer, part of the developer team responsible for building and maintaining the product daily.

How did you get involved with Chalkboard Education?
It’s quite an interesting story. My friend was working at Chalkboard, and I went to visit him at the office. I posed as an investor during my visit, but eventually, I told them I was joking. I asked the team about the company, and I was interested in the work they did, so I wanted to join. Afterward, we set up an interview, and I joined the company, and it’s been about two years since.

Considering you joined the team as a student hire, how has the transition been from working from school part-time to working full-time?
Pre-COVID, the main difference between both experiences was coming to the office frequently and seeing my colleagues. I wouldn’t say there has been a significant change regarding how I feel about my work or execute it. The team dynamics and working arrangements stayed the same; the only other changes are expected, such as an increased workload because it’s a full-time job now.

You began in operations and now work in the Technology team, how different are both experiences?
They are both unique experiences in their ways. For operations, the work was more functional and administrative. I had to work on content conversions, creating materials, and developing manuals, which was fine because we could do it. The tasks did feel repetitive so I started using code to simplify the execution of some tasks. When I moved to the developer team, the first weeks were for onboarding, and the main change, apart from the tasks I worked on, was less interaction with my manager was required than in operations. Tasks are assigned, and you would reach out to Nii Apa (our C.T.O.) when you have issues instead of how I would frequently contact Genevieve (our C.O.O.) when I worked in operations.

What have you learned at Chalkboard Education that has shaped your career in technology?
Writing scalable and extensible code and understanding design patterns. Making sure to make all code modular and encapsulated to make changes easy and effortless. The approach to structuring code has rubbed off on me. I also learned Laravel : I had web development experience, so understanding of principles carried over, and it was just a matter of getting syntax.

A snapshot of the Chalkboard application in action
A snapshot of the Chalkboard application in action
A snapshot of the Chalkboard Education application in use

What do you like about working with the team? What have been your highlights working with the team and its clients?
I like how we disseminate tasks at Chalkboard and how there is swift and easy communication between us if we need clarification on tasks. Also, I support our working structure, how we have general meetings once a week to give updates on our work. It allows you to be self-motivated because no one is rushing you to do your tasks, and you there is room and flexibility to complete tasks within a set time. One of my highlights was when I worked in operations, and we had to provide I.T. support for a client with their onboarding in another region in the country.

What is the most intriguing in-house project you have worked on with Chalkboard Education?
It would be writing tests for the whole front-end. I had to refactor existing tests and write new tests while converting them to TypeScript, that was a good one.

What are your interests outside work?
I hang out with my friends to just chill and base. I watch quite a lot of YouTube and read stuff in my spare time.

What is the most challenging task you have had to complete since joining the team?
It has to be the task of converting the codebase to TypeScript. I had to learn TypeScript and then convert the codebase, which was challenging. Initially, I was stressed, but while I was going along, it was getting more manageable. I was developing momentum, less friction to understand what I was working on. I had to learn the types and then implement it on the live code base, which was necessary because the code could be correct, but the app won’t compile if the TypeScript is wrong. So yeah, it was challenging, but I got through it.

Yoofi working on the codebase

What are your interests in technology, and how has that helped you while working for Chalkboard?
I am interested in back-end development and virtual system designs, also with having to make everything modular. It has led me to look at things like design patterns and structuring code in a scalable way. My back-end work and testing have helped me because now when I write code, I make sure it’s modular, robust, and scalable.

What drives and motivates you in your pursuit of a career in technology?
I feel this is a path I enjoy because it doesn’t feel like as much work. It can be stressful when the workload is heavy, but the tasks I work on don’t feel like work. Because it doesn’t seem like work, I want to get better and do more tasks to improve. I’ll have the ability to do more if I know more, so I am motivated to work harder at it.

What should upcoming college graduates know about pursuing a career in technology within Ghana?
So, for this, I would say come up/look for a roadmap for yourself — a roadmap for either front end dev, back end dev, or full-stack development. Most importantly, it would help if you were building things and trying different things. You can do tutorials and read documentation, but only when you have to retrieve the information and utilize it to create stuff is when you’ve grown. Once you understand building, I would say get used to reading documentation. I randomly read documentation to know where everything is. Code is mostly the same, except someone knows how to use it better than you and knows a more efficient approach or a best practice. Another thing about programming is that it is incremental; completing one task gives you the momentum to keep building and doing things. Finally, make sure your code is modular; it just makes everything easier.

What advice would you give to people seeking out career opportunities in technology in Africa?
Just keep building things and applying to areas that interest you. I think the most important thing is knowing how to build. Once you can build, the rest comes because you have the confidence. Of course, you have practice interview preps available online, but I think if you have the ability, everything else naturally occurs.

Thanks, Yoofi!

Educational technology in Africa and emerging markets