AltSchool Diaries: My Product Design Journey at AltSchool Africa

How it all started

My name is Sanusi Abdulrahman and I am a Product Design student at AltSchoolAfrica.

I had wanted to learn a tech skill for the longest time but was uncertain about which one to do or where to start. Is it Product Development or Design? I had no idea.

One day, as I was surfing the internet during the ASUU strike in 2022, I received a text from a friend on WhatsApp who wanted me to help engage her posts on Twitter. After I did, I randomly stumbled on a link that led me to AltSchool Africa’s post about their waitlist for the School of Product.

So, I checked their website, read through the structure of the program and was ready to start immediately. Though I didn't have money or a Laptop–which is a key tool for learning, with faith, I sought the application fee from my Dad, applied and began studying the study kit in preparation for the assessment.

Before then, I was so worried about how I could get a PC and pay my tuition. So, I started to consider gigs that could make me money. I thought I could learn technical writing in 2 months and start earning immediately (Lol). It was just wishful thinking anyway because I didn't even know how to go about it.

I eventually found a platform and began the journey through an online tech community. I tried to join the sessions via Google meet and struggled to keep up with assignments and as expected, it all fell apart. My plans to earn some quick money were botched. Within that same period, I tried to learn HTML and CSS too as I was so desperate. However, that didn’t work out either. When some opportunities came up on Twitter, either to win a laptop or a scholarship at AltSchool, none of those worked out as well. I was so sad. But, God always comes through especially if it's meant to be.

I always say, there is no coincidence, that everything happens for a reason. Shortly after, I got a sponsor for the laptop and my tuition. It was all God. On July 8, I bought a laptop and started learning Product Design with so much passion. That same month was when I wrote the AltSchool assessment, passed and became an AltSchooler.

My Experience Learning at AltSchoolAfrica

Classes started in the first week of August and Khidi, our Program Manager, taught us a few things on the Learning Management System (LMS). We also had an introductory course on Computer Science which had me wondering how it related to Product Design. Lol. But it was all important.

Afterwards, Lade Tawak, our LMS tutor, took a detailed lesson on User Experience. She was so brilliant with her use of words and the way she broke down the concept of UX. Theophilus, our live class mentor–the best mentor I ever had in the design space–also came through with explanations and real life experiences he had while working too.

I made sure I attended all classes as I had no reason to miss any. My 100% focus was on design. Our curriculum for the first semester was basically UX, and I really couldn’t wait to design, so I started some random online courses on UI. However, while I had started designing, they were never good designs. Why? I was yet to grasp the understanding of UI design principles.

When exams came, I collaborated with my circle members to deliver a successful project and scaled through to the next semester. Upon resumption, what gave me joy was that our mentor selected 5 projects and did a thorough review of our work, helping us understand what we could have done to make them better. My project was one of those reviewed. I was incredibly happy to have received this feedback as it motivated me to keep pushing.

In the second semester, we started UI design fully and I am proud to say I'm so happy with my progress, I've been able to understand the basic design principles and I like to hold on to something one of our mentors love to say, "What differentiates a good designer and a non-good designer is the mastery of basic design principles, the Mastery of visual hierarchy". It has really been an engaging semester and for me it has been productive. I felt really sad at one point, but it's all been good. It was all going well until the ASUU strike was called off and I had to return to the university.

Learning at AltSchool Africa and also at my University

It was quite challenging when I returned to school. I live in a hostel with terrible power supply and poor network coverage. This means it is harder to join live classes or watch videos on LMS as it takes forever to load. To get around that, I go to lecture halls for power and internet connection. This typically takes me the entire day as I’d be trying to figure out the few things I've learnt while also attending live classes. It was also difficult to keep up with my program at the university but I drew up a better schedule that currently works for me. My grades have also remained excellent, as I have not had anything except As. I was able to get a sponsor for my data expenses in January, same thing with February and I thank God for all the help. My zeal to learn and become a better designer will never fade so help me God.

This is to someone who is doubting himself, giving himself excuses of not being rich or up to the task, just put your mind to it, do your best, keep being consistent, be yourself and never stop learning. My second semester exam at AltSchool is coming up soon and I am really looking forward to it. I want to become a better version of myself by the time I finish at AltSchool. I encourage that person doubting himself to come and be part of this journey, nothing in life is impossible, I'm yet to make a dime in this tech thing, and I'm yet to be a good designer but the goal is to never stop going, the money will come. If you ask me why I enrolled at Altschool, my sincere response will be "I want to earn in dollars, I want to be comfortable too, I want to be proud I've done something too". It will all fall in place one day. Never give up!.

I have met amazing people at AltSchool Africa

Let's start with my circle guys. They are amazing! Faith, my guy, Daniel, and some other amazing guru designers who have also become mentors to me, cheers to the great things we will do together. Also to Khidi and Tabby who are always there to help. The AltSchool community has been amazing and I want to be part of its growth in the long-term. I'm here as a student now, but will probably give back.

I give all praise to God who made everything possible. Cheers to other amazing things yet to come.

This article was written by Sanusi Abdulrahman, a Product Design student at AltSchool Africa’s School of Product.


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