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Debbie Otuagomah
Debbie Otuagomah

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I'm a final-year law student. Here's how coding gave me purpose.

I don't have a .edu address. My sister does. One day in my third year, she sent me a link she got in her school email inbox and asked if I would be interested in a Python programming training happening in school. She said she forwarded it because she knows I like to learn "IT stuff".

I am a law student. This was my first semester in third year and I was dreading Criminal Law.

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Quick Backstory

I like studying and reading, but Law? Nope. I'm not a big fan. I have tinkered with computers since I was a kid and I ran through three of the family's desktop computers before I got(won) a small laptop (I loved so much) in an IT competition I participated in.

In secondary school, I loved going to those competitions. They were like hackathons of a sort. I attended a robotics thingy one time and loved it. I also got to play with Cinema 4D as a kid. I remember how friends from other schools would banter about getting beat by me and ask why I never showed up for science-related competitions so they could school me in return. Whenever I laughed and told them I was an Arts student, I always got a lot of "How?" and "What?".

I enjoyed reading as a kid and still do. Heck, I read 73 books last year. So, my folks in their infinite wisdom thought it would be better if I became a lawyer. After I finished secondary school, I put technology aside and focused on getting into university.

I did get in, but I got tired after the first month. I remember solving equations in Legal Methods class simply because I missed solving problems. It goes without saying that I did not do well in first year. My grades were an average mix of Bs and Cs. I got so bored, I barely attended classes.

In my second year, I stopped slacking, tucked my disinterest away and got my grades up. However, my mental health nosedived and that year is undoubtedly the hardest one I have had in awhile. (I'm looking at you, 2017.)

I kept at it till third year where I finally hit a roadblock. Studying cases hurt. You only had to say "law" and I would literally start getting stressed. It was a lot. I wanted to transfer to another faculty but could not. So, I kept going.

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Back to the present

When my sister sent me that link, I jumped at the opportunity. The webpage said applications expired the previous day, but I sent the organisers an email anyway.

After a couple of days, I got an email asking me to come write a test at the ICT centre.

A test? Omg. What now?

The last time I wrote a test was 5 years ago, damn. But I got to it. I remembered the structure for the ones I had written before: basic things about the history of the web and some logic questions. I googled things and made notes.

The test was around 10 a.m. that day. I was still in an Oil and Gas Law class by 9 a.m. So, I packed my stuff, shuffled to the front of the class and asked my professor if I could be excused. She looked puzzled when I explained why I had to leave class, but she let me go.

Let me just say here that I was not ready for the test. There was Math. And it was a lot.

I was staring at the monitor like "Omg. What's all these?"
There were some things I could answer but it was generally hard. I had filled my head with legal principles for the past three years and had no clue what I was doing.

The test results were ready immediately after. I scored 65%.

Hahahah, how?

The cut-off mark was 60% and I had passed. Omg. I passed.

Applicants who qualified for the next stage were asked to form groups and interview for the final stage. I was lost. I could not see any familiar faces.

In Nigeria, law students always wear a black and white combo. I had no time to change, so I had gone there in a white shirt and black skirt, complete with black flats. Some guy walked up to me and asked, " Are you a law student or are you just wearing that?"

I managed a nervous smile and said I was. "What are you doing here then?" "Did you take the test?" I nodded and nodded again when he asked if I passed. That was the first time I actually looked around and it clocked. Everyone was looking at me strangely. I was probably the only student here from the Arts/Humanities. Yikes.

I was still panicking about the next stage when I saw someone who looked friendly (Hi Eloghosa!). I walked up to him, smiled and introduced myself. I asked if I could be part of his group and he smiled back at me and said "Sure".

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And that was the beginning of my coding journey. Eloghosa and I became good friends and he started inviting me to tech events. We hung out on weekends and coded. He showed me how to set up my environment and write functions.

Then it got better from there on. I started to learn on my own. I developed a huge interest in machine learning and started to build small projects. School stopped being a burden, because I could now do something I enjoyed on the side. I followed smart, kind programmers on Twitter. I also made friends who inspired me to keep going.

Fast forward to December 2019, a month after finishing my 4th-year exams, I figured that if I wanted to be good at machine learning, I needed a good foundation of software development and architecture first.

So, I started the #100DaysofCode challenge and began learning software development. I have built over eight small projects so far and I'm loving it. I'm currently working on a gourmet pizza website with Bootstrap.

I started blogging in 2014 and stopped after a while because I didn't feel great in my head and the stress spread to everything I wrote. This is the first time I am writing after a year and it is because I learnt to code.

Being able to reconnect to my love for technology has changed the way I view things. Now, I'm excited to build stuff. I have gone from feeling stuck to committing myself to lifelong learning because I found code. I enjoy writing a few lines of text and creating something that was not there before. It feels good. It's still hard on some days, but I like it anyway.

If you have always liked technology, but are in a different field, it is never too late. You can still do it on the side. There is so much to do with technology, asides coding. If you enjoy what you already do, but are still very much interested, you should totally go for it as well.

I wrote this post to remind myself and you too, that it is important to find something that fills you with a sense of purpose. I am sure all the legal knowledge will come in handy at some point, but what I want to be, is a software engineer, a really good one.

This was a pretty long post. Thank you for reading and I hope you are having a good day!

Top comments (6)

somedood profile image
Basti Ortiz • Edited

What an inspiring post! Thanks for sharing.

Folks often lose track of themselves because they misplace their passions. It's always healthy to remind ourselves what our goals, objectives, ambitions, and passions are so that we may not get lost in this strange world we live in.

thatgirldoriann profile image
Debbie Otuagomah

Thank you for reading, Basti!

jammypiece profile image

Hi Debbie! I'm learning basic coding at the moment, also looking to make a big change from my background in the social sciences. Your story is inspiring and one I'll keep in mind moving forwards. Following you now on Twitter!

thatgirldoriann profile image
Debbie Otuagomah

Thank you so much, Lorna. I wish you all the best in your journey.

I'll follow you as well!

the_omolewa profile image
Shape shifter.

Keep going Dhebs. Im Sooooo happy to read this! Im challenged and encouraged to keep working at my UX. I love you💗

thatgirldoriann profile image
Debbie Otuagomah

Hey Lewa!

Thank you so much! I wish you all the best and love you too! 💕