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How I moved from being a bank teller to a designer at Cowrywise

6 Mins read
Kizito's Journey - From Bank Teller to Designer at a Fintech

For those that didn’t figure out what they wanted early enough, the completion of NYSC usually comes with its uncertainties. Yes, this was me in 2019, done with NYSC, broke, no clue on what next to do 😭. My parents asked me to return home to Bida, Niger State but I was bent on staying back in Uyo where I served.

I graduated with a 4.47 CGPA in Biochemistry, and my options were limited due to the “+234 Factor” 🌚. I was in-between the usual option for Microbiologists/Biochemists – do a Master’s Degree (get a scholarship abroad if your results were good), teach/lecture, or join Access Bank and start driving KIA 😂.

Starting a Banking Career

Of course, you guessed right, I started applying for a Master’s scholarship abroad. While waiting for it to click, I spoke to my mentor, Mr. David Ogunshola – An EduTech Software Developer in Uyo, about my interest in Tech, and he offered me an internship as a designer. Sure, I was a “Rookie”, but I was hungry to learn and grow. One month into my internship, I got an invitation from Zenith Bank to come to write the Graduate Assistant examination at Lagos. I aced it and was posted to Eket, an hour’s journey from Uyo, Akwa Ibom. My mentor approved my joining the bank, as long as I kept my interest alive.

Life at the bank was something else –  “Heaven on earth” 😭😟. Firstly, we resumed by 7 am and don’t have an exact closing time, because, for many days, we waited long after COB, trying to balance books and looking for missing money 🤫! The days you find the money, you thank God, the days you don’t, you pay 😂. There were days I returned home by 8 pm, and some days, later than that – mind you, it’s not Lagos, there was no traffic o. So it meant we left the office that late.

Secondly, we weren’t allowed to use phones at work, so that was another limitation. You submit your phone by 8 am and get it by 5 pm. They didn’t want us to call armed robbers 😂. I also wasn’t entitled to any leave for 1 year, so no opportunity to go for an interview anywhere 😂. It was draining really! As I got exhausted to do any productive work when I got home. Some weekends, I was required to come to do ATM duty at the bank, because we had several ATMs across the town, including Exxon Mobil’s facility. So even the weekends were off for me. What a life. Lol

Thirdly, the pay wasn’t it at all, coupled with the fact that we paid the missing monies from our pockets to balance our books on some days.

How I Shot my Shot

But I had a strong desire to become more. I had an interest in going into Tech, so I decided to build my skill set along those lines. I spoke to my friend Promise Somto, the former Lead Designer at Konga, and a current Product Designer at Sabi Africa. He made some recommendations, and boom, I started acting on them. I came to the office on Saturdays and Sundays to catch up with my courses, and I started making significant progress. With what I had learned thus far, the next question was – “How do I change my environment and move into the Tech Ecosystem?”

One day in 2021, I chatted with my guy Uwem Asuquo – who was a Compliance staff at Zenith Head Office at that time but is now a Compliance Manager at PalmPay. I told him I wanted to shoot my shots for them to bring me to the Zenith Head Office at Lagos, and he encouraged me to go ahead and helped review my email. My goal was to get design experience to add to my CV, as it was obvious that being a “Bank Teller” wasn’t a career path. I drafted the email and sent it to Zenith Bank Group Head, Digital Marketing, letting him know my interest and the progress I have made thus far. I was favored, and he took it up and got the MD/CEO to sign my relocation to Lagos. 

Moving to “No Man’s Land” – Lagos

On 22nd August 2021, I landed in Lagos and resumed on 23rd August. My boss at the Zenith Head Office allowed me to learn and grow. He was patient with me and held my hand to help me grow; but I wasn’t satisfied, as I had a desire to move fully into the Tech space. Plus the pay was roughly the same after almost 3 years of being with the bank, and Lagos expenses were triple what I experienced in Akwa Ibom 😭.

I started staying back at the office to grind overnight, sleeping where the technicians stayed – on the 8th Floor (Engine Room). Throughout the nights, I stayed up making applications, building my portfolio, and LinkedIn profile, and learning more. I applied for about 10 jobs on LinkedIn and Indeed daily. I kept at it. Tough, but I liked the fact that I was making progress.

We’re sorry we are unable to continue…” became a normal email. I had over 200 rejections within the space of 6 months. Got some, but had high expectations and didn’t want to settle for less. I sent InMail to individuals using LinkedIn Premium, and also shot more shots by sending direct emails to employers. And one day in the sweet by and by, I saw Cowrywise call for application and I applied and got an invitation for the interview. I was interviewed by Emmanuel Faith, Nonso Okolo, and Mobolaji Olorishade, and yeah they picked me. Not because I was the best candidate, but only God knows why 😭.

I have been a Cowrywise user since 2019 and liked the team. I had done my research and I just liked the fact that they were chilled, their products were exciting and they were truly building the best place to work. One confession – when asked at interviews about my favorite apps, I always mentioned Duolingo and Cowrywise (that was before joining the team). And here I was, with an offer at Cowrywise. My joy knew no bounds, as all I desired were factored in my employment offer.

Now!!!

I am 6 months with Cowrywise today, 7th September 2022, and I must say, I love the experience, the culture, and the people. I came in as a designer, but have been given opportunities to learn and improve. I recently started core Growth Marketing tasks, and it’s a lot of learning for me, and I love it!!!

Learning Points

  1. Start Early: Starting early doesn’t mean launching out early. It simply means determining where you want to be early enough and start making preparations for it. So in 300 Level, I was already coding (baby codes though 🙄), I built a platform for uploading past questions and handouts in my school, using Joomla. But I gave up on it after I was cautioned by the School’s Student Affairs that I was exposing the school to risk, by putting our materials on the internet. Lol. I wasn’t clear about what I wanted. That’s how I paused my coding journey 😂.
  2. Mentorship/Guidance: Have a frame of reference. There should be someone or something that paints a picture of what’s possible to you. That was my mentor for me. I saw what was possible, and it sparked a desire to want to become more.
  3. Right Circle: Thanks to Somto Promise, Uwem Asuquo, and my other friends who played active roles in my transition. I spoke to the right people, not people who gave me reasons why it’s not possible 😂. Getting a relocation at Zenith Bank isn’t easy. I know people who after 4 years are still yet to get their relocation approved, but I was glad to speak with the right people when I wanted to shoot my shots.
  4. Grit: Be willing to give it all you’ve got. Growth has a structure. You don’t get it at the platform of convenience. You will get plenty of rejections 😂, and you will get stuck at many points, but your zeal to succeed should far outweigh the challenges you meet.
  5. Shoot Shots – The worst answer you will get is a “No”. Please do yourself a favor, and shoot shots. Life won’t offer you what you deserve, but what you demand.

I am still learning, I am still building my skill set, and I am growing. On 7th March 2023, I will be 1 year with Cowrywise, and I will update you on the outcome of what I am currently learning 🌚.

Conclusion

You can go from 0 to 1, from 1 to 1,000, and 1,000 to infinity. Your dreams are valid and what you want exists. Focus more on who you are becoming, rather than on what you are getting.

Want to transition into tech? This guide would help you make the right decision and help you transition within the least amount of time.

ALSO READ:

500 Days at Cowrywise – Building Culture that Lasts

Money Chronicles: I started building wealth with Cowrywise 3 years ago

Personal Finance Tips For Graduates

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