Building A Career in Technology: A Fellowship that turned into a Brotherhood
Get to know our team! This week: Joshua Owusu-Ansah, Chalkboard Fellow on our Developer Team. This interview is the first of a series featuring the outstanding 2021 Fellow Cohort from Chalkboard Education.
Ayeyi: Hi Joshua! How are you doing?
Joshua: (smiles) I’m fine, and you?
Ayeyi: We are in the same school, so you know what we’re going through academically (both laugh), but generally, I’m fine. So, let’s jump right into it.
Ayeyi: You’re a fellow at Chalkboard Education? (He nods in the affirmative) When did you start working at Chalkboard Education?
Joshua: I joined the fellowship last year. I am on the Development team, where I work on different problems. So far, it’s been exciting because I like challenging tasks, and the jobs they’ve been giving me have been quite challenging. It has exposed me to many things that I didn’t know.
Ayeyi: So I like that you talked about the tasks they’ve been giving you, and I’ll get into that. But I want to go way back. Before you became a fellow, what motivated you to apply to be a fellow at Chalkboard Education?
Joshua: A staff member at my school sent us the email to apply for the opportunity. I am a person who likes to solve programming problems. So when I saw the email, and it involved solving programming-related questions, I decided to explore the opportunity. Also, when I saw the remuneration attached to it, I was very excited. As a student receiving that monthly compensation sounds pretty good(all laugh). Also, I wanted the opportunity to learn. The fellowship seemed like an opportunity to learn practical industry skills, which would aid in problem-solving.
Ayeyi: I’m sure you are engaged in other activities and are working part-time. How do you manage to find a balance between all these activities you are involved in?
Joshua: For me, I feel like everything boils down to discipline. From senior high school, it’s a principle I have always lived with; you have to be disciplined. In Ashesi, I am a Career Peer Advisor; I work with Chalkboard Education, I work on a project for Ashesi Administration, and a couple of other projects. So it demands that I am very cautious of my time and what I use it for. So I plan my day very well and make sure that I stick to my plan.
Ayeyi: So, you talked earlier about challenging tasks you’ve been given. What have been the most challenging tasks you’ve had at Chalkboard Education so far?
Joshua: When I first joined, I was on the backend team. I thought I was pretty good at frontend development because I had the basic knowledge of React. So I didn’t work on the frontend because I had a bit of knowledge, so I chose to go to the backend to learn. When I saw the code for the tasks, my head started aching (all laugh). I called Solomon [one of my supervisors] to teach me because I didn’t fully understand how things were interacting. The backend tasks were initially challenging because I didn’t know how to go about them. I had a good relationship with Yoofi [another supervisor], and I told him that I couldn’t do backend development, so I wanted to come to the frontend. Trust me when I say, when they showed me the frontend code, I was confused, and my head started to hurt again. I then sent a long text to Yoofi, asking him to train me because I didn’t understand what was going on in the codebase. Yoofi and I then came up with a plan: He would give me a task that would give me mastery of React and Typescript.
Ayeyi: So now that you have come up with the plan with Yoofi, how are things now as compared to previously?
Joshua: Things have been very smooth, and I’ll always thank Yoofi. He’s been an inspiring person. Whenever you call on him, he’s willing to listen to your problem and see how best he can help you. He’s like a brother to me if I’m having any issues.
Ayeyi: That’s amazing! One thing I inferred when you were talking is the fact that at Chalkboard Education, you have an environment that helps you. I think that’s very inspiring.
Joshua: Exactly! It’s very inspiring.
Ayeyi: We’ve talked about challenges. What has been your highlight as a Chalkboard Education fellow so far?
Joshua: It was when I got to know Yoofi. I will always talk about Yoofi because I’ve gotten really close with him. He makes things very easy for me. He came up with a plan to help me understand the codebase. I am so happy about it because now I have come to know many things that my colleagues might not know. I am thrilled that I joined Chalkboard Education, and I don’t want to leave.
Ayeyi: Awww, I totally understand. (Joshua laughs) You are a Computer Science student and on the Development team at Chalkboard Education. What motivated you to enter the field of technology?
Joshua: Let me tell you a story. I came to Ashesi University as a Business Administration student and not to blow my own trumpet; I am very good at accounting and economics. However, in my first year, my roommates were always coding. Being curious, I would always ask them what they were doing. I asked them to give me some material, and they did. After that, I decided to switch to Management Information System since it is an amalgamation of Computer Science and Business Administration. When I did that, I realized that I spent almost all my time programming. So when it was time to declare my major, I had a conversation with my mentor. And he asked me, what is one thing that you don’t become tired of when you are doing? And I said it’s programming. So I think that is where it started.
Ayeyi: Mhmmm, interesting. You mentioned your roommates’ influence, which talks a lot about who you walk with and how it can shape your motivations and actions.
Joshua: Exactly (nods head in affirmation)
Ayeyi: What does a week look like for you as a fellow at Chalkboard Education?
Joshua: My Mondays and Wednesdays are a bit relaxed in terms of the courses I have to take for the day. If I have a task, I shift it to those two days because Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have four classes, and you know how challenging our courseload is in this school.
Ayeyi: (smiles) Very
Joshua: I know that I will have a meeting with Yoofi during the week. I make sure that Monday if I have to read something. If I have to write a code on Wednesday, I do it then. So I do most of my Chalkboard Education work on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Ayeyi: Now, we’ve talked a lot about Chalkboard Education but let’s look outside that. Who is Joshua outside Chalkboard Education?
Joshua: (thinks for a while) I like to explore, go outside my comfort zone, and love challenges. If I’m not coding, I also want to discover my identity in Christ, so usually, I read the Word. Also, I call my mother and joke around with her because I have a good rapport with her. Also, I read a lot. I am reading a book called the Facebook effect, which talks about how Mark Zuckerberg came up with Facebook. Also, I watch documentaries about how people think. I have read books on Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, and I realized a commonality, so I pen it down because I want to be a billionaire.
Ayeyi: I like the fact that you study people you admire. You want to be a billionaire, so you have to look at what others have done. My last question is, what advice would you give anyone considering becoming a Chalkboard Education Fellow?
Joshua: First of all, make sure your application is excellent because that is what takes you to the next stage. When you come to the fellowship, do your tasks. Chalkboard Education is not going to force you to do anything. You could be working on one assignment for one month, and they’ll still pay you. But the thing is, do you think they will want to retain a fellow like that? So when you get a task, make sure you work on it. If you can’t do it, communicate with your superiors. Also, be free and have fun.
Ayeyi: It’s been a good time talking with you. I know you from school, and we always say hey and hi, but I don’t think I have ever had this in-depth conversation with you. I genuinely enjoyed talking with you, and I think you’re inspiring. Thank you so much.
Joshua: I also enjoyed talking to you. You asked interesting questions (both smile).
About Chalkboard Education
Chalkboard Education provides a mobile-based, offline-first Learning Management System tailored for underserved communities training. Lightweight, inclusive, and complete with full analytics capabilities, Chalkboard Education helps you reach your beneficiaries everywhere in the World, seamlessly. Currently used in 12+ countries in Africa, South and North America, Chalkboard Education is available worldwide.