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Nigerian Software Developers and Time Management

I have always wished I could air my thoughts on Nigerian software developers and how they manage their time. I don't want anyone to see this as an attack on anybody but as an expression of a software developer from Nigeria. Software development has really grown in Nigeria with great news of new stuffs happening every day; for Nigerians and by Nigerians. The part that brings smile to the face is how ICT entrepreneurs get funding to make their ideas fly. I decided to put together this piece after my conversation with a friend. We talked about so many things like: angel investment in Nigeria, Venture Capitals, solving problems, software architecture and algorithm, until we touched time management. The question that blew the conversation out of proportion was “Why are software development works not measured and paid for according to time spent on the project in Nigeria?”

Here is my argument, our environment is not well structured for project implementation and our academic curriculum does not create enabling environment to seamlessly get jobs done. I don't know of other tribes in Nigeria but the Yorubas have got some basic fundamental measures wrong. This, already, has made a whole lot of difference. A second in Yoruba is described as "Iseju kan" which is literally "a blink of an eyelid". How can a lad measure correctly, an expression that is even less than a second? Even a minute referred to; contains several of seconds. This, you would agree shouldn't be a problem.  Yes, I also agree. But, how many Nigerian youths can accurately describe what a meter looks like? How many youths can closely describe how heavy a gram is like? How many youths can visibly describe what an inch looks like? How many developers can measure how each code byte really affects their project? How many know their height, waist measurement, weight and understand the difference between Celsius and Fahrenheit, less their interpretation in weather?

Working with time has been my major problem because I can't even estimate correctly, when nothing is even ever certain in this country. This reminds me of one of my best jokes of all time. Some children were arguing if what they see in the sky is a moon or sun. They decided to ask a drunken elderly person this question. He answered promptly and said "if you look at it from this side it resembles a moon and if you look at it from this other side, it is a sun. Would you blame the poor man? He knows nothing is ever certain in Nigeria. I have worked into deadlines and have missed some. I still miss many, even till now. One of the questions that comes annoyingly is "How long will it take you?" It becomes annoying because you just want to respond, "Ha oga, I don't know.  It shouldn't take more than two days." Another developer that understands his time so well would have said, "It would take me 30 hours", which a project owner can relate with immediately. I have worked with different Nigeria developers and I realised this is the common practice. They would rather measure in days than hours.

Time is an important part of any project and software programming is not an exception. A perfect time estimate depicts integrity and self discipline. Almost all projects I have witnessed in Nigeria are always with vague timing. Having blamed game flying everywhere, I think we, as Nigerian developers, should do more in the area of time estimation for projects. We (I have to include myself because this piece also speaks to me) should probably take some courses related to time estimation and management in software development. I would also suggest that our schools should start training kids how to do practical measurements in meter, grams, kilometre, etc. I can never forget how my Dad described distance with so much accuracy using kilometres. He can probably guess the length of an object by merely looking at it. This is not a special gift.  He always boasts of being taught with the standard approach while the Nigerian education sector was well structured.

Another amazing thing my Dad did one day was to predict the time of the day. I could remember walking with him and he said, "Wow, today is so fast, the time should be 3:25 pm. or so". The whole event that day turned into a game because I couldn't just understand how someone could be that precise (however, I still had to give the plus/minus 5 gap). Our generation lost this interesting part of learning and here is the ripple effect on everything. As technology advanced, we overlooked the basis and moved one.

If Africa has to be great, if Nigeria has to take the lead in software development, we need to go back to school and get trained on these basic stuffs. We need to put the coming generations on track. Measurements are not for fun, they are the foundation of sound knowledge of how things work. Time estimation is golden in software development. 


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