Last week, I read Francis’ post on scaling barriers to collaboration in Nigeria’s techosphere (in english, all he was trying to say is Nigerian developers need to collaborate more). I thought he was on to something, and I was about to leave one of those predictable “nice post” one-liners in the comments. Only as I typed, it got away from me and grew longer than I’d initially anticipated. I decided that I’d do my response as a proper post instead.If you’ve read that post — you’ll agree that when he refers to collaboration, he’s almost certainly referring to a relationship between developers on an equal footing with equal rights. Maybe not equal equity in the project, but certainly not a boss and employee relationship. Then it hit me, just as I’m about to hit you.
I can’t speak with authority about developer ecosystems on a global scale, but I know that Nigeria’s ecosystem is filled with young coders and designers like Coder Lomo (let’s call him that, with a Yoruba accent) who stumbled into tech and programming in maybe his late teens and has decided that he’s going to outdo Zuckerberg. So he slaps some code together, drums up a website, attends a few hackathons and kapow! Yet another one man startup is born. After six months, he gets maybe a few hundred users, thanks to aggressive Facebook and Twitter promotion — wow, he’s getting traction, isn’t he?
Now after hearing all about how developers need to cooperate so then can co-create, synergise so that they can synthesise (insert more buzz words here____), Coder Lomo realises that he probably can’t do this on his own. So now he goes around “networking” — which basically comes down to handing out his card to every other developer he meets and hoping that they’ll be impressed enough to want to collaborate with him on something. Looking good, so far.
Then one day, his prayers are answered, and someone offers him a chance to collaborate — a job at a startup. But he promptly turns it down with a shrill laugh. He’s probably thinking — “What?!!! Work for someone? That sort of collaboration is for losers. I CAN code dammit. I’m gonna start my own company”.
So I’m asking you the same question. With your coding super powers, would you take a job? Have you ever considered that working for a bigger startup might actually be a form of collaboration? Or are you hell bent on being CEO?
Admit it. You want to be the alpha and omega, the big cheese, the big boss of your very own startup. You want to be known as CEO, XYZ Technologies — even if all the staff your company can afford is just you. No wait, there’s two of you? Well you both get to call yourselves “Co-CEO”. Afterall, all that matters is that you’re CEO…bitch!
It doesn’t matter that you’ve never worked anywhere before, so you have no actual industry experience. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know the first thing about running a company. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t quite made it to the end of your PHP textbook. Heck, it doesn’t even matter that your website is a WordPress.com blog because you can’t even afford decent hosting. All that matters is that CEO, XYZ Tech sounds a lot sexier than Mobile Development Lead, *insert existing startup name*.
The truth isn’t always pleasant, but it has to be said, and I’m here to say it. Sorry buddy, but just as we can’t all be the Pope, we can’t all be CEO…