Akintomide Jeremiah , 19, graduated with a first-class degree from the Department of Computer Science, Mountain Top University, Ogun State having scored 4.65 CGPA in the 2018/2019 academic session. He tells TUNDE AJAJA the secret of his success and his aspirations
Do you recall what first attracted you to computer science?
I wanted to study petroleum engineering because of my deep love for mathematics, physics and chemistry, which I applied to study at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State but I wasn’t able to secure admission. So, my parents obtained Mountain Top University admission form so I wouldn’t stay at home. When I looked at the form, computer science was the only course available that I could apply for, and I did. In my second year, I wanted to switch to chemistry but some people felt computer science was the right choice for me. But along the line, I fell in love with programming and that made me stay. It became more of a driving force for me and I have no regrets taking that decision.
After studying the course, what do you love most about it?
What I love most is programming, because just like architecture that people interact with daily and somehow impacts their everyday life, so is coding. You can create something and people will interact with, use, touch and work with it. That is an amazing feeling. The use of computer makes life easier and I think we could deploy it in some of our processes for optimisation. And I would advise the government to employ IT professionals to automate, most importantly, sensitive information still stored manually.
Even in the area of solving national problems, we can do better. Effective use of computer would have helped in crime reduction, like the installation of closed-circuit television cameras in sensitive locations, which I think should be basic. Programming can also be deployed in the medical sector, most especially government hospitals. They should try and automate record-keeping for patients and a platform should also be created where patients can remotely and conveniently converse with the doctors without having to go to the hospitals. Programming should also be deployed in the educational sector where students can school online without having to be in a classroom.
These solutions make life easier. The computer could also help us to keep and secure our data. One of the problems we have in Nigeria is that we don’t have proper records or database, as some people would prefer to call it. The import of data management cannot be overemphasised in modern times.
Now that you are a graduate, what are your career plans?
I’m not certain yet as regards the option to take because I have some plans; I’m still praying to God for divine direction. However, I would like to work in an ICT company as a software developer, preferably in Microsoft or Google. I would also love to lecture and impact knowledge in people. I really don’t know why I love these two so much but I’m trusting God for direction. But I want to first get a scholarship in the United Kingdom to do a master’s programme and PhD in artificial intelligence, after which I would come back to Nigeria to impact others with the knowledge acquired. That is an option for me.
Did you enjoy any scholarship or win any award as an undergraduate?
Yes, I enjoyed the DKO scholarship foundation which I was awarded based on my performance in an aptitude test. Apparently I did well in the test and the scholarship was quite helpful. I also received an award as the ‘best tutor of the year’, courtesy of the Students’ Representative Council. I won another one as the ‘most handsome male student’ (laughs) courtesy of the SRC, while I won another award for graduating with a first-class degree courtesy of the university chancellor.
You said you won an award as the best ‘tutor of the year’, does it mean you were teaching your colleagues?
Yes, I volunteered to tutor other students in some courses whether as a group or as individuals, and that helped me to have a wider understanding of those courses. The more I taught others, the more I discovered different approaches to handling the courses. And I remember I used to do that while I was younger.
Since computer science wasn’t the course you wanted initially, would you say it was tough graduating with a first-class degree?
True to the saying that nothing good comes easy, it wasn’t easy but with consistency and hard work, I was able to achieve the feat. And for me, I planned to graduate with a first-class degree from the very beginning and I knew I had to make conscious effort towards achieving it. Thankfully, I started having excellent grades from my second year. That was because in my first year, I didn’t take my studies seriously. I felt I would change my institution to a federal university to study engineering so I took things easy. But as soon as I knew I was going nowhere, I got very serious with my studies. I started setting achievable goals every semester and I’m very happy it all paid off.
What was your experience like in that first year?
My first year was a bit challenging because I wasn’t well oriented. In my previous schools, I always had excellent results and I remember that during my primary school days, I was the best in my class while I was one of the top three in the class during my secondary school days, but we were the pioneer set of the university so I didn’t have any senior colleague that could educate or advise me on what the university system was like or what to expect. I also didn’t pay attention to my General Studies courses. I simply studied my departmental courses and used residual knowledge for the GST. That alone really affected my CGPA in my first year and I hard to work extra hard for my result to get better.
Some students would think you had to read at all times to graduate with a first-class degree, what was your reading schedule like?
I didn’t read all the time but when I wanted to read, I did it extensively to cover lots of topics. I read mostly at night and I often used five hours of my time to sleep (8pm-1am). I also made good use of the library. In fact, I was always there during my free period, not to read most of the time but just to surf the Internet and download materials. In my early days in school, I made a conscious effort to stay focused and determined irrespective of the distractions, so I knew I had to do all that was necessary to make it work.
What was your reading schedule like during exams?
To be honest, during exams I slept for only two hours, and most of the time I would use the remaining hours of the night for revision.
Were there times you went to secluded places to read?
Yes, especially in my final year in school. My room was always noisy, so most times when I wanted to read I went to secluded places to do that and it helped. I think when people know what works best for them, it helps us to take actions that could make our lives better.
Many parts of computer science are now accessible at some training centres and institutes; don’t you think this trend could erode the need to go to university just to study the course?
I think studying computer science gives you an edge; it opens you to various aspects of computer science like networking, data science, software engineering and others. In the course of studying, you could look at an area of interest you want to specialise in. And I still believe that studying computer science with a passion in the university helps to have vast knowledge of what computer science is all about. We can’t throw that away.
Were there times you were skeptical about meeting up with your target of graduating with a first-class degree?
Yes, that was in my third year. The work load was too much and there was no time to study; most times after my lectures, we usually had one chapel activity or the other and I would get to the hostel very exhausted. I would simply sleep and wake the next morning and the cycle continued like that until I had to device a means around it because it affected all my mid-semester test scores.
Apart from academic work, were you involved in other activities?
Yes, I was. I was a worker in the chapel and a member of the chess and programming club, I also played football occasionally.
Would you say you were social?
I was not very social but I participated in social activities that I was interested in, like the dinner night, chess competition, football competitions, etc. I also involved myself in all extra-curricular activities organised by the university. And at my leisure, I could play chess, scrabble, see movies or spend quality time with friends. I understood the need to balance all.
Is there anything you would have loved to do as a student that you could not?
Yes, not being able to go out sometimes and not being able to cook what I really felt like eating too because sometimes I just didn’t feel like eating what was sold at the cafeteria. But, it was part of the things I had to get used to.
Some computer science students commercialise their knowledge of programming, did you also make money while on campus?
Yes, I did that only in my final year when I helped some of my colleagues to develop software for their final year project, but I’m making plans to do that on a larger scale soon.
What were your most memorable moments?
My happiest moment was in my first year when I got a full tuition scholarship, while my saddest moment was when I had a ‘B’ in my final year project after dedicating so much effort and time to it.
What is your advice to students?
My advice to them is to put God first in everything they do and every decision they make. I would also say they should set a goal for themselves. When you have something you aspire to achieve; you would give in your best to achieve it because you have envisioned a great end. It is also important to be hard-working, focused, consistent and determined. Always put in your best in what you do, just as it is written in the bible, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Determination will make you work hard and be focused and when distraction comes, that determination helps you to stay consistent. I have realised that you can be your best in your academic work if you so determine and nothing is impossible. So I gave it my best. And I have God to thank for my successes. I couldn’t have done it without Him.