My Twenty Nineteen in Retrospect

Ibrahim Gana
8 min readDec 31, 2019
credit: Iconomi

I was contemplating not writing my 2019 review, because by my metrics I didn’t achieve my goals, compared to 2018. On second thought, it is worth sharing the journey.

Goals coming into the year were simple:

  • Become a better Software Engineer.
  • Do a 365-day photo challenge.
  • Read at least 12 books before the end of the year.
  • Add value everywhere I find myself and impact anyone I cross paths with.

I had an awesome 2018. I wanted to build on that energy. Though this year was somewhat good to me, it still felt like an abusive relationship.

Here go the highs and lows:

Started the year by taking the longest canopy walk in Africa.

Taking the walk has always been on my bucket list and I thought it would be a good way to start the year

I joined a book club (Book worms arise). I have been struggling with my reading goals, so I imagined a club of fellow readers would help. Book worms arise is focused on African literature. I got introduced by

, a tech journalist at Benjamin Dada blog.

After a few weeks of interaction with other members virtually via Whatsapp, the book for the month “Binti “ by Nnedi Okarafor was announced. After every book, members meet monthly to discuss it. Attending meetings as Book worms arise member was compulsory (mostly Saturdays).

But around that period, I’d just joined the organizing team for AI Saturdays Lagos and Cohort 3 was about to kick off. I knew I had commitment issues and wanted to change that. Opting out of the club to focus on the Cohort was inevitable.

Lawrence taking the deep learning class on Image processing.

I still read the following books though:

  • Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Hit Refresh, by Satya Nadella
  • The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
  • The Subtle of art not giving a f*ck, by Mark Manson
  • The Productivity Project, by Chris Bailey
  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
  • Rethink Social Media, by Paul O’Mahon
  • The Virgin Way, by Richard Branson

As a huge podcast fan, it occurred to me that I could increase my list by listening to audiobooks. I later did

I attended SMW Lagos 2019. 2018’s edition was a game-changer for me, so there was no way I was going to miss out on this one.

Hung out with old friends and new acquaintances.

The Lagos local guide even had a meetup at the same event that week and it was fun.

I hoped to bump into the lady I met last year (one of my motivations to go into programming) but that was a lost cause. I am optimistic my story will not be like Johnny Drille & Efe. I will try again next year.

I also wanted to write a lot of articles this year but I am ashamed to say this is my second article for the year. The first one was featured on Senpai collective ‘s blog and it was titled Time of the Multipontentialite”.

Impact hub Ikoyi was impressed with the article I wrote about the AI6 meetup we held at the hub. I got a pass to use the space for some days before they moved from Gerald road.

The Wall of Impact hub Ikoyi

Sara Hooker from Google Brain was in town and she hung out with the team. I even told her about my plan for The Data League and she recommended I do a podcast.

Everyone close to me knew about my conscious interest in learning the dotNET stack. I guess the universe wanted me to go that route too.

One good day, I was on Instagram posting photos for my 365-day photos challenge. This was a challenge I gave myself to post photos taken from my mobile phone every day for 365 days (check my IG page here). Then an ad about a full-stack .NET Bootcamp came up and I applied for the scholarship.

I got a mail a few days later for an assessment test, passing and getting into the 4 months intensive Bootcamp.

It was a full-stack package. I get to build stuff for web (ASP.NET), desktop (WPF) and mobile (Xamarin). I wanted this Bootcamp thing to work so I had to take a break from everything to focus. This decision affected my year but I was still active with AI Saturdays Lagos. I made sure I was available to help the team.

Going to the Bootcamp every day, I was inspired to take more photos for my 365 photo challenge. It was a great way to be creative. Everything was going smooth till I got ill for a week and when I came back, I tried my best to catch up. It was too much for my brain to handle, to be honest.

I honestly gave my all with my “we die here” attitude because I wasn’t a quitter but it ended in tears.

Just when I was looking for a way out, my uncle called me that his company Needle Technology (based in Abuja) has this contract with Dancom technology (a subsidiary of Dangote Group) in Lagos, he asked If I would like to join the team. Without hesitation, I jumped on the offer. I was going to be working from Dangote group HQ at Ikoyi and that’s like 5 mins walk from home.

What more could I ask for?

My 365-day photo suffered, however. I couldn’t go out as much to take new pictures

My work for Needle/Dancom: make all their manuals web-based so all staff can easily access and edit.

The Dancom application team was still contemplating on which CMS tool to use. So they gave me a week to do a sample with Confluence, which was recommended to me by my egbon

. They later chose SharePoint because they already use a lot of Microsoft tools.

This was the most challenging moment of my year because dropping the ball was not an option. Until that period, I’d never heard of anything called SharePoint. I checked online for something to get me started but got nothing worthwhile. The only way out was to learn on the job.

I never got to finish my dotNET Bootcamp. But one important lesson I left with was “Learning how to learn”.

I learned that one way to learn is getting your hands dirty and you don’t need to know everything just dive right in. It will make sense in the end.

With that attitude, I became a Sharepoint guru in less than a week. I actually learned SharePoint by using SharePoint. Maybe one day I ‘ll write about how to use Sharepoint — who knows, someone might find it helpful. It took me 3 months to finish the project and I later joined the dev team as a Software/QA engineer.

Leading the Data Science track for cohort 4 was stressful and challenging. An exciting 14 weeks I was so so glad to be part of.

While everything else looked exciting career-wise, I lost my dad to cancer on the 20th of November, 2019.

He’d battled it a while.

During the period he was admitted at LASUTH, I visited most times before going back to work. I’d use Opay to beat traffic. Overcoming one of my greatest Lagos fears — crossing third mainland bridge with a bike — became the least of my worries.

Losing my dad left a hole that will never be filled. I even blamed myself, flashing back to when he told me to be a Medical doctor. Maybe I would have saved him if I became one, I thought. It’s too late for all that now.

We buried him the next day. While observing the burial rites, I stood there and watched as his body wrapped with white clothing going down six feet into the ground. A gentle reminder that death is inevitable.

Before the news of his death, I was on Day 50 of a #100daysOfdotNET challenge. I felt I lost everything till the Intel Edge AI scholarship mail came in.

It cheered me up for some weird reasons, I can’t explain. I started going out and mingling with friends again.

We (AI Saturday Lagos)hosted a NeurIPS meetup in Lagos (

) at Launchpad Space, which was a fun experience.

After procrastinating for a year I finally bought “” and “”

The Data League started on WhatsApp with a group of friends(Extraordinary data enthusiasts) with the goal of improving ourselves. We had members from India, Ghana & mostly Nigerians. Started on a high note, everybody was hyped until some went back to school and others got a 9 to 5. The group engagement dropped because at the time I was busy with my dotNET Bootcamp. A few months later I close the group. Right now, The Data League changing direction but you can still check out articles here.

My 2020 starts in April.

I have unfinished business with 2019. I will be using the first quarter of next year to sort that out.

In April, I will be 2 years in this tech thing, this means a lot to me and there are certain things I need to achieve before then.

3 major goals for me:

- Join a Martial Art class (Taekwondo preferably)

- Join a book club (and don’t drop out again)

- Pay more attention to details.

Like my friend Alex Onukwue, a writer at TechCabal, tweeted: “2020 is for growing expertise consciously, not dishing opinions impulsively”

No crazy goals for 2020, the plan is to live life one step at a time and be intentional about it.

The End…



Ibrahim Gana

The Left-Handed Multipontentialitel | Twitter & IG: ibrahimygana