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From Handbags to HTML: My Tech Journey

My journey into and through tech is a story that involves finding a passion, exploring my creativity, and pursuing new opportunities. Hi, I’m Victory Johnson but feel free to call me Viki Johnson. As a teenager, I had a love for fashion and a dream to make a mark in the fashion and music industries.

I was known among my circle of friends as that one who would mix and match outfits to get the exact look I wanted. There was only one tini-tiny problem. I was a broke teenager.

I had to be extra creative when it came to exploring my passion. My family didn’t have a budget for a fashion icon as a daughter. I also had so many wants, so to remedy that, I set out to make money from quite a young age.

At 13, I learned how to make women’s handbags by ripping apart one of my mom’s old handbags and piecing it back together. I took it further and started a handbag and jewelry-making business I called Trivinia Designs. After school hours, I made leather handbags as well as handbags and jewelry made from Ankara – a traditional African fabric. This wasn’t my first business venture, but it was the first time I was running a business solo. — When I was around 7 years old, my sister, my older cousin, and I started a business making beaded pieces of jewelry and selling them to members of our church. — My mom was my business advisor, she would give me tips on bookkeeping and reinvesting my profits.

I leveraged Facebook, my mom’s circle, and my friend’s mom’s circles to promote Trivinia Designs. A few years down the line, in my late teenage years, I started thinking of expanding my business. I needed to take this beyond the walls of Zaria, so I decided to brand the business.

I needed a brand, a website, marketing, etc. I tried to find the best people in Zaria to deliver these services for my brand. I found them, but I couldn’t afford them. This brought me to two realizations:

  1. That there’s money in this branding and marketing oh. Ah!
  2. That I needed more education/information on branding and marketing.

So, I went on YouTube seeking information. I learned all that I could about branding, web design, and marketing. And this was my entry point into the world of tech.

I’ve always had a flare of creativity. My first few logo versions caught my dad’s attention. He saw potential and so he recommended me to his brother who lived in the United States. My uncle became my first design client. He would send graphic design projects from his friends in the States my way, I’d complete the projects and be paid around $10 per flyer and $30 per logo.

After months of saving, I came to a crossroads. Do I invest this money in expanding Trivinia Designs, or buy myself a powerful laptop?

After months of saving, I came to a crossroads. Do I invest this money in expanding Trivinia Designs, or buy myself a powerful laptop?

I weighed the pros and cons. I had made more money in 4 months from design than I used to make in a whole year from bag and jewelry making. Not more money—more profit.

The fashion business was capital intensive, the deign business required very little financial capital. At this time I was already in the university — studying Civil Engineering — and I had to come back every weekend to make new bags and jewelry and fulfill new orders. On the other hand, with design, I could use my laptop on the go and still make more money from it.

They say you’ll fulfillment if you follow your passion, so I followed the money and made digital design my passion, exploring new ways to channel my creativity through branding and web design.

With time, I would only get better and sharpen my design skills — I’ve always believed in continuous learning, no matter what field I’m in, I strive to be among the best in that industry.

In 2020, amidst the Covid19 pandemic, I got my first remote job working as a Virtual Assistant for a company my sister introduced me to. My design and communication skills, as well as creativity and a can-so attitude helped me to thrive in this role.

The company’s clients loved me and always had good reviews about me, so after a while the CEO decided to make me her Personal Assistant. Soon, I became the Human Resource Manager of the company, sourcing talent and hiring new Virtual Assistants into the company’s workforce, all while working remotely. I also started working with 2 other sister-companies owned by the same CEO, as she wanted me to oversee some specific areas in each business.

One of the things that boosts employee confidence and performance is getting affirmation from your boss. I will never forget the day my boss said to me. “I wish I could clone you, so I can replicate the excellence you deliver across all my businesses.” That day, I did a happy dance and decided to put my possible best into that job.

So here I was, running a digital design business, working a remote job, and studying Civil Engineering. I was earning more money than I thought I could make as a student, and that really fueled my drive.

ASUU strikes came into the picture and I found myself with more time on my hands to improve my skills. I even took on an extra job. The purpose of this new job was to get in close proximity with one of the people I looked up to in Zaria. — A mentor. It also helped that the new job provided me with a workspace away from home and all that distraction.

I also started incubating a new business.

During my time in school, I would get lots of inquiries about remote work, design, and making money online from my peers. At some point, I organized free design classes for my classmates and others who were interested. I taught them graphic design and computer-aided design software.

This opened my eyes to the need for young Africans to acquire skills that would empower them to beat the odds in a dwindling economy. From this realization and demand for skill acquisition, SkillBirdie was born.

Bringing SkillBirdie to life.

SkillBirdie is an online platform for acquiring digital skills affordably. It is targeted at young Africans who want to create a means to earn from the global market, independent of the economic circumstances in their country.

Things went well until my final year in school, when I faced uncertainties concerning my business and career.

Things went well until my final year in school, when I faced uncertainties concerning my business and career. I got laid off from one of my jobs — the one which I took to get access to a mentor — for lack of availability. I was writing exams and hardly made it to work during that period. That was very understandable, but somehow it managed to spike fears in me, mostly because it came after I had just lost one of my loyal clients who decided to hire someone cheaper for her projects. I started to doubt myself.

A few months later, I was informed by my boss that due to the recent harsh economic conditions we had been facing for a few years, she had decided to shut down all three of her companies and focus on her career. My heart was broken. I doubted myself even more. My confidence was shaken but I knew I had to move on.

I refused to graduate from university jobless and short of one of my major clients. I put SkillBirdie on pause because I was short of a marketing budget as I was now out of two jobs, and revenue from my business was dropping. I started to brainstorm new client acquisition ideas and I also went job hunting.

From my job hunt, I got a few offers but they were honestly not compensating enough for me. I was determined not only to regain my previous income, but double it. So I turned down most of the offers. I applied to some very good jobs that I felt would make for a step forward in my career, but I never heard back from them. So yeah, I was just there.

I got recommended for two jobs by friends, but then again, they were not compensating enough. However, my family encouraged me not to turn these down as well, so I tried them out. One of them was a digital marketing role with a pretty toxic boss who had a knowledge level of 2% and a drive of 200%. He would often say condescending things to me whenever we did not agree on a line of action to take, so I quit. The other was pretty laid back but not in line with my career goals. It was a community management role. Still, I was determined to put in my best.

January 2024 came, and my first employer informed me that she had had a rethink, and all three of her companies would be back in operation within a month. I was so happy, but I also knew I needed a step up.

Things went smoothly for a while, and I was able to secure a few more recurring clients for my digital design business. Finally, things were starting to look good again. Out of the blue one day, I heard back from one of the roles I had applied to the previous year. One of the good opportunities that ghosted me. An IT company. They were offering to hire me.

It was hard saying goodbye to my old job, working with the 3 sister companies because a lot of my career experience was gotten in that role, but I guess that’s how growth works.

So where am I at now?

I work an exciting remote job as a web designer for an IT company, which that falls perfectly in line with my career goals. Alongside, I run my digital design business which is thriving now more than ever before.

SkillBirdie is back up and running as we prepare for an official launch. Oh, and I’m about to embark on a 1-year journey to serve my country as a National Youth Service Corp member. That’s a lot. LOL. I’m really looking forward to seeing how things pan out over the next 1 year. Setting intentional goals and working my butt off to meet them.

As I look back on my journey, I’m reminded of the importance of continuous learning and adaptation. From mastering design, no-code development, and some basic programming skills, to acquiring people relations skills, marketing, management, and so much more. It’s been years of learning and molding that has prepared me for the exciting journey ahead.

Now, as a fresh graduate of Civil Engineering who plans to have nothing to do with Civil Engineering unless someone offers me a contract of 100 million naira, I remain committed to expanding my technical repertoire and forging more exciting paths in my career and life.

In the end, my tech journey is not just about finding success or learning to code — it’s about embracing my passions, seizing opportunities, and learning life skills. As I continue to navigate this exciting path, one thing remains very crystal clear to me — the best is yet to come

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