John Oshodi: An I.T. Degree Is Not The Only Route Into FinTech

Career Insights speaks to Nigerian, John Oshodi, Technical Business Analyst at Credit Suisse, on industry trends, Zuckerberg's recent trip to Nigeria, and routes into FinTech.

Image Source: John Oshodi

Age: 35
Country of Origin: Nigeria
Current Location: London, U.K.


Tell us about your background?
I have a degree in Information Systems and Software Engineering and have been working in I.T within the Financial sector in the UK for over a decade.

I am a keen technologist and appreciate the way I.T. has enabled the Financial sector to boom over the years. I specialise in delivering robust and bespoke software solutions to banking and insurance clients. Early on in my career I started with implementing systems used for pricing complex derivative instruments but more recently I have a focus on helping my banking clients deliver systems that help with meeting their regulatory requirements.

Outside of work I’m a family man with a beautiful wife and blessed with two amazing kids. I have a keen interest in FinTech, start-ups and mobile app development.

You currently work as a Technical Business Analyst at Credit Suisse, what is a Technical Business Analyst, and what does your role involve?
On a daily basis my current role involves me liaising with the business to identify their technical needs and to convert those needs into documents and architectural diagrams that are easily understood by the technical teams who implement these solutions. Being from a technical background myself I also assist the technical teams in some of the implementation where my help is required.

I am also involved in making sure that the right processes are put in place to ensure system deliveries go as smooth as they possibly can.

You seem to have been contracting within the Financial Services throughout your career. Has that been by choice? Have you ever sought to take on a permanent role?
Yes, being a contractor was a conscious decision I made early on in my career. However, I started out as a permanent employee.

I was recruited into HBOS Treasury Services on their 2005 graduate intake. After a few years in a permanent role I then decided to become a freelancer so I had the flexibility to decide what projects I work on and the how long I was on these projects for.

I cannot say never to a permanent role in the future but for now I’m enjoying the flexibility it gives me and the ability to get myself involved in other projects outside of the work place

What would you say are the pros and cons of contracting, in comparison to going permanent, within Banking I.T.?

The pros, as mentioned earlier, are flexibility and the ability to work on other projects.

You get exposed to different projects within different organisations which I believe allows you to view technical problems from various angles rather than having a tunnel or single solution view. I believe it also allows you to mature quickly as you are responsible for your own training and development.

The downside is that flexibility also equates to instability; therefore you are exposed to bad job market conditions and cannot always be guaranteed a contract role.

You are responsible for honing your own skills, which could lead to complacency if you are not careful.

What is life like at Credit Suisse?
CS is a relaxed environment compared to some of the other banks I have worked at in the past. People come to work and get the job done without crossing each other. The teams are friendly and there is a huge emphasis on work and family life balance which is great. The stress on corporate social responsibility and being a trustworthy bank filters through in every aspect of the bank. It’s honestly a really great place to work, even as a contractor.

Are there any particular skill sets that you feel are highly sought with Banking I.T. at the moment?
Well in my experience a lot of these skills are seasonal so its best to keep up with the trends. I think having a mind-set of being a ‘problem solver’ is the aptitude that any sensible organisation should be after. Secondary to that, I think the industry is to see a shift away from desktop based apps to web based apps, to skills like Angular JS, Bootstrap, and JQuery. Generally, Javascript frameworks are starting to gain momentum. I think this is due to improved security and the scalability of Central and Service Oriented Architectures

How useful has university been in helping you with where you are today?Are there other routes to getting into the IT and Commodities world?

University played a significant role for me as I graduated with an I.T. related degree. This really did open doors for me into the industry. However, it’s not the only route. I mention earlier that a ‘problem solving’ aptitude is what is most important.

Some of the best programmers I know studied degrees such as History or Music. You can get into the field by just picking up a book and practising. There are also numerous IT courses and training programmes out there that can spring board you into the industry. Commodities is a niche business skill and can generally be picked up while on the job. At least that’s how I came to get knowledgeable about it.

What are the biggest challenges you have had to overcome in your career, and how did you do so?

The biggest challenges I had to overcome were the fear of acceptance, and politics in the workplace.

I initially tried to overcome the fear of acceptance by working extra hard at everything I did and always making sure I was giving 110 percent. I soon realised that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself and it was more about me, than about them. So I continued to work extra and give 110 percent.

I found politics strange initially but managed to overcome the challenge by putting myself out there and interacting socially with people. One thing I learnt is if you are nice to everyone it’s hard for certain individuals to treat you differently when you aren’t around. So I stuck to my home grown values and made everyone around me comfortable. This meant that other people spoke up for me when I was not around to defend myself. Now I’m a freelancer and don’t need to play office politics but I still try my best to be nice to people at all times.

What advice would you give to those who are just starting out in your line of work?
My advice to those just starting out is to make sure you enjoy what you do and to make sure you keep your technical skills up to date. It’s extremely important that you are able to make connections with people and keep a good professional network. Over the course of your career this will become more important than your technical skills, so don’t spend all your time at a PC, interact and invest time with people too.

What would you have done differently if you were to start over, if anything?
This might sound cliché but I wouldn’t have done anything differently. I’m thankful for where I am and all the challenges and victories that got me to this point.

At what point would you say you have ‘made it’ career wise?
Whether it’s being at the top of an organisation or being the best programmer in your field ‘making it’ is relative.

For me, getting to a place in your career where you are confident in accepting and solving any technical problem plus managing to balance that with family life is what I would classify as making it.

Do you have any interest in the Financial Services within West Africa?
Yes, I do have a keen interest in the FS sector in West Africa. In fact for a few years now I have realised that the current underutilised state of this sector is what makes it more interesting and is what will make it overtake in leaps and bounds what is going on in the West. A FinTech organisation could spring up every day and succeed in such an environment and I’m looking forward to the time it realises its potential to the full.

I’m working on a couple of ideas so watch this space!

Do you see yourself making the move back at any point?
My heart is always back home (Nigeria). If it’s the will of God, and the right opportunity presents itself, then I will definitely say a big yes to it.

What are your views on Mark Zuckerberg’s recent visit to the region, and the spotlight it has put on the Tech sector in the region?
It was great that Mark was in the region, and he seems to have good intentions in connecting West Africa to the rest of world. This shows that Techpreneurship in the region is getting noticed by the rest of the world. However, I look forward to the day a Techpreneur or FinTech from Africa is celebrated in the media for making a difference to the rest of the world and I strongly believe this will happen in the near future.

Follow John Oshodi on Linkedin.