Meet Emmanuel Popoola, the rising star at Fincra who was the first hire at the company and quickly climbed the ranks to become a team lead. With hard work, determination, and a passion for innovation, Emmanuel has proven that anything is possible with the right mindset and skill set.
In this article, we’ll delve into Emmanuel’s journey, exploring the challenges he faced, the lessons he learned, and the successes he achieved along the way.
When did you join Fincra?
I joined Fincra in November 2019, a month after I had graduated from Yaba Tech. At this time, I had not even started my NYSC, as a matter of fact, I was still wrapping up my final year project when I got hired. The process of getting hired was so seamless, no one asked about my degree, they were just concerned about the fact that I could do my job well. I was the first hire at Fincra, oddly enough.
What role were you initially hired for?
I came in as a front-end engineer. At that time, we were a very small team, so work was very interesting, communication was effortless, and there weren’t any long chains of blockers. I and the product designer at the time used to play a game where we would see who would finish their assigned tasks first *laughs* 😂 There was some healthy competition amongst us, we called it ‘healthy pressure’. I’m still astounded by the fact that we saw Fincra grow from the beginning, from having no customers to where we are today. It’s pretty awesome. Everyone was involved in everything, startup life 😂
What do you currently do? Are you still doing frontend engineering at Fincra?
At the moment, I am a full-stack engineer at Fincra. Initially, as I said before, I was only doing frontend engineering, but I gradually started picking up some back-end engineering tasks. I currently lead the Pay-Ins engineering team.
What do you like the most about working at Fincra?
I really love how each Fincra Tribe member is exceptionally brilliant, we all know what we’re doing. We’re all very hard workers too, we have a goal and we’re all working towards it, everyone does what they can to move the middle. I also really love the culture at Fincra, there is room for growth.
What would you say that you’re passionate about?
I love solving problems, I love that I build things that help people solve problems that have to do with payments. This is one of the reasons I’m aligned with Fincra’s goals, solving the problems of payments in Africa is a lofty goal, but I’m positive that we can see it through. Solving problems for me transcends just tech, I really love helping people, and I want to make their lives better. Whenever I create a viable solution that positively affects people’s pain points, it gives me great joy.
What’s a skill that you think everyone should learn?
It’s not a skill per se, but I think everyone should be thirsty for knowledge, we should all be curious, and we should all learn to discover why things work the way they do, and how we can make them better. Another skill I would mention is empathy. If you are empathetic, you’ll approach fixing problems from a more holistic point of view. Being empathetic, especially as a service provider, you’ll have a deeper understanding of other people’s problems, and you’d want to create solutions that help them.
Do the people close to you understand what you do?
My family gets it, from the onset, they were really supportive, I personally know of people whose families will not be accepting of tech as a career path, because they simply don’t get it. My family is not like that, they took an interest in what I was doing, and they understand that I build products that people can use to better their lives. My neighbours, however, do not get it. *laughs* 😂
What’s your favourite part about your job? What excites you the most?
My fave is being able to lead the team that I’m in currently (The Pay-In team) and being able to architect how we’re going to build a particular product. There are different ways to solve a problem, but thinking about the best way is super fun for me.
What would you say is your biggest achievement/accomplishment since you joined Fincra?
They’re many, but I think the biggest achievement is our merchant portal, we spent a lot of time getting it to go live. Before we got a decent MVP, it took forever. It was a very big milestone for me.
What’s one thing you wish you knew before you started working at Fincra?
I would say how to talk to people, I mean engaging in productive conversations with people, for the purpose of networking. It was difficult for me to build that professional rapport with people that I met in the early stages of my career, but now, it’s a breeze. Another thing is relationship maintenance, I think it’s a gen z thing, *laughs* 😂
How would you describe your work ethic?
With everything I do at Fincra, there’s always one base component which is the customer, when I get assigned a task I always ask myself whether it benefits the customer in any way. I like to communicate expectations to my teammates, and I like my manager’s expectations to be clearly communicated to me.
So I would say the key pillars of my work ethic are customer obsession and communication.
How does your current role compare with the other roles you’ve had?
Well, I would say Fincra has been the best so far, while I was at the other jobs, I was in school, so it was so hard to combine my studies with work. Also, the culture here is so much better than in other places; you feel your work is valuable and appreciated and can see where your work is making a difference.
What Fincra values resonate with you most?
Customer obsession for sure. I always like that whatever we’re doing benefits the customers directly, because it has to do with their money. I try to prioritise customer-related issues as opposed to building new features. While building new features is important, solving customer problems is more important.
Excellence is another core value I really resonate with. I try to not do things in a mediocre way, I try to do things in the best way possible. Funny enough, I used to be a perfectionist, but I realised that when you’re trying to be a perfectionist, especially in this field, you won’t push out any product; as long as what you’re building is functional and can meet the needs of the customer, then it’s good to go, you can build on customer wants as you go on.
Can you tell us how you’ve grown professionally since you joined Fincra?
Like I said before, when I was initially hired, I was doing frontend, but then I slowly transitioned into back-end, as well. To be honest, in the beginning, I was very curious, I did some work in business development, and I kept an open mind, but my first love was engineering.
With Fincra I’ve been able to build capacity to the point where I was able to train people/students on how they can choose a career in tech. I trained about 40 people in a summer code camp in frontend and backend development. I also volunteered to be a mentor at Andela’s Mentorship Program.
Who inspires you the most within the organization?
That would be Wole, and that’s because he really knows what he’s doing. He’s not the type of CEO that’s not involved in the goings-on of their organisation. He is never isolated from what is happening on every level, and it’s very intentional. He really embodies the culture of excellence that exists within Fincra.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve faced?
I think it would be trying to handle too much work at the same time. Sometimes, we work under immense pressure because we work in a pretty fast-paced environment, and we forget to breathe. Recently, we have had to push out a lot of features, along with bug fixes, and requests from customers in terms of support. Juggling all these tasks at the same time was a major challenge, but we scaled through like we always do.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In 5 years, I see myself as very very rich, going on vacation from country to country. I want to visit as many places and live life to the fullest. *laughs* 😂
When you’re not working, what other cool stuff do you do?
I really like driving, it helps me relieve stress. At some point, I signed up on Uber, whenever I was free, I would go on rides, meeting new people was fun, and visiting new places that I would never have gone to was also pretty interesting. I also really enjoy playing games and working out at the gym.
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