The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.
For this week, we have Chimdinma Adriel Onwukwe, a trained Lawyer and a passion-driven product manager with expertise in taking real customer requirements and developing products that are valuable, innovative, and successful. When she is not managing tech products, Chimdinma works as a Programme Officer and Curator for #KaweAfrica – an organization that runs book clubs and promotes the reading culture through the adoption and transformation of libraries in Nigeria. She also runs a social enterprise – THE AFRO READER – which enables her to analyse the intersection between literature, culture and society. Chimdinmaisan advocate for quality education, development, technology and literacy, and she believes ONE BOOK AT A TIME can change the world!
Tell us a bit about yourself, how your journey has been to how you got to where you are today.
I’m Chimdinma Onwukwe. A Lawyer and a Product Manager. I graduated from the University of Ibadan and I attended the Nigerian Law School, Yenagoa Campus. My journey has been quite fascinating. Like they say: Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. While I studied law and love law, I am actually obsessed with literature. After law school, I served in one of the Big Fours. The plan was to get retained and begin my career from there. However, things didn’t go as planned and I began to think of my WHAT NEXT. A few weeks post-NYSC, a friend shared an opportunity in an ed-tech company: a subscription based platform that makes books affordable for readers. Anything for literature. I was excited. The role was for Content Acquisition and Strategy. I got the job, started figuring out the whole tech thing, took courses in product management to become more grounded and the rest they say is history. Since then, I’ve worked in AgriTech and recently got into FinTech.
The transition from being a lawyer to a product manager, how has that been like? What was the motivation behind the transition? What challenges have you had to overcome in this regard?
The transition has been overwhelming, inspiring and also challenging. The motivation behind the transition was and is MONEY. Haha! To be honest, I wanted more. I’m quite ambitious and I have audacious goals. I didn’t get to practice law during NYSC and I didn’t want to waste my time applying to firms etc. And so, I took the opportunity that came to me and turned it into gold. The challenges would be learning new and technical things. It’s as though I’m going through school all over again but the benefits keep me going.
Asides from being a product manager, you also work as a program manager and book curator, how do you create time to read books, what systems do you put in place to read them or does reading come naturally to you?
Reading comes naturally to me. I’ve been a lifelong student of literature and I love to read anything and everything – save for mathematical theories. Hahaha. I am always reading something – short stories, long essays and actual fictional novels. Adulting is difficult and so I don’t get to read as often as I would love to. However, I give myself a target; 1 chapter in the morning and 1 chapter at night. Depending. Sometimes, I read while I grab a quick lunch. I try to do at least one book a month. I am currently reading ‘The baby is mine’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite – a wickedly dark story about pandemics, parents and playboys.
Could you walk us through a typical workday in the life of a lawyer turned product manager? What apps and/or systems do you put in place to ensure you stay productive?
1. Get up early (6 am) 2. Review to-dos from the previous day (emails, action points, signups etc) 3. Stand-ups with the engineering team 4. Business support 5. Business Calls (To users, team members etc) 6. Read an article on product management and industry-related articles 7. Strategy documentation, meetings and reporting. 8. To ensure I stay productive, I lock all my activities on google calendar. I also use Monday.com, Trello and the good old Google sheet.
Since your transition into being a PM, do you think your knowledge of the law has in any way been of relevance to your work as a PM?
Well, not really. It’s an entirely new field. My knowledge of the law has actually been more useful in the Business Support and Operations part of my role.
What advice would you have given yourself at the start of your career?
Do not box yourself.
Could you share what your favourite books are so far? Books that in a way, changed the trajectory of your life.
– A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.
– Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (I wrote an essay about how Americanah changed the way I saw the world. You can read on my website – www.theafroreader.com)
Funny question, what fictional character do you identify with the most and why?
Ifemelu in Americanah. She questioned everything. And she kinda lived life on her own terms.
Who else would you like to answer these questions?
The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the legal, tech and justice space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.
For this week, we have Vincent Chimobi Okonkwo, a Legal and Compliance Associate at Renmoney Microfinance Bank, a leading fintech company in Nigeria. Before joining Renmoney, he was an Associate with Jackson, Etti & Edu. He is a tech-focused lawyer (and a budding product manager), with diverse experiences cutting fintech advisory, finance and financial services, regulatory compliance, commercial intellectual property, corporate law and technology policy. Beyond professional life, Vincent is fun-loving and an ambivert. He is a writer, an unpublished poet and a pseudo-music-snob (with a preeminent taste for indie rock).
Tell us briefly how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The short story is that I started from the bottom now I am here. Lol. The long story though, is that I started out working with a top law firm in Lagos. I got an offer to work with them during my service and I worked there for three years before making the ambitious transition to my current role as an in-house counsel. It has been a pretty incredible journey so far, with a lot of learning curves and fast-tracked growth.
2. Walk us through what your job at Renmoney entails? What is it about your job that you enjoy the most?
In my current role, my work ranges from regulatory compliance (which typically includes navigating AML/CFT, CTR and STR compliance, to just about any other CBN or bank related compliance requirements), to product compliance (which entails interfacing with the Products team or the Marketing team as the case may be, to ensure products are either in line with regulatory requirements or are well provision for in terms of documentation), to contract negotiation, drafting and management, to company secretarial, to a bit of financial advisory, and some form of general risk advisory. The part of my job I enjoy the most is the fluidity of the work I do. Because Fintech is such a tightly regulated industry and because my Company gets quite busy (both literally and figuratively), I get to be involved in the work done in many of the operational parts of the Company and contribute value directly through the work they do in the form of the advice I support with or documents I help prepare or manage. This gives me a sense of variety, since the thinking or skills I apply to each task depends on the nature of work done by the operational team I am supporting and may be quite varied. It also give me a sense of excitement, as it always feel like I am contributing value direct to source.
3. With your work at Renmoney, the ILCA, Millennial Lawyer, how do you keep track of what you have to do?
I would be lying if I said I am doing very great at joggling everything I have going on and that all of the things I have on the stove are cooking fine. Some end up burning a bit and for some, I may forget to even light the fire. But to be fair, what helps me keep on track is the people I work with on each of these platforms. With my job, I work with an amazing team of people who are always hands on deck and who are always looking to better themselves or those around them. This helps keep me fully grounded and serves as a constant source of direction and motivation. The same goes for the other platforms. For the ILCA, I have had the luck of working with really forward-thinking people, who are always outdoing themselves. When I feel out of touch, I only have to go on the platforms emails and see the amount of crazy stuff the Capacity Building or Partnership guys are cooking and that would re-calibrate me right into form. For Millennial Lawyer, I have an amazing team which I am still trying to get fully functional – so it is not all rosy yet, in all honesty. It helps though that the people I do have on the team are really competent people who I believe I can rely on when things finally get ticking.
4. What tasks do you dislike but still do? What gadgets do you rely on to stay productive?
For the first part of the question, I wouldn’t say dislike per say, but I am not much a fan of regulatory filings, which is funny because it is a huge part of what we do as in-house counsel in the Fintech/Banking industry. I find them routine, and routine can get very boring, very fast. But they are faciendum – they just must be done. In terms of gadgets, I rely on my phone, alarms and my fully synchronized calendar. I also try to scribble on notes, in the old fashioned way, to keep track of tasks. I don’t have a catalog of gadgets that help me keep productive. I tried some productivity apps previously, but it turned out I need to deliberately map them into my existing systems and I struggled with that. I am looking to start using Calendly and Engross. Since those are targeted to improve efficiency in specific quarters, they may be easier to work with.
5. What are the things you enjoy doing on a typical weekend? How do you recharge or take a break?
My typically weekend has an element of “smash and grab” to it. (Not in the sense of a robbery, of course.) They basically trickle into existence and then take off, ram into something and crash land on Sunday evenings as I am scramble to recalibrate in time for Monday. Usually, I catch up on some personal tasks over the weekend, between doing laundry and other house chores. Personal tasks could include working on some parts of the deliverables for Millennial Lawyer or getting two hours in on the Product Management course I am currently taking on Udemy. They could also mean finishing up articles or coming good on gigs from friends. On a very good weekend, I might have time to cook, binge on anime a bit and maybe even visit friends. On a bad weekend, I just stumble through and hope against hope for a second Sunday.
6. What are you currently listening to, watching or reading?
Listening: I love rap – so I have been binging on J. Coles Off-Season for a while now. I have also been trying to discover new alternative/indie rock bands to listen to. I have recently discovered/rediscovered Matt Maeson, Doc Aquatic, Foster the People, Two Door Cinema Club and Kodaline, so I have been listening to those as well. Watching: The Euros – although my favourite teams Portugal and France suffered early disappointments. I am rooting for England now, because, well, Commonwealth. I am also on two animes with weekly releases, Boku No Hero Academia (Season 5) and Tokyo Revengers. Reading: Currently, I am only reading materials from Cole and Evan to be honest. (Cole and Evan teach the Product Management course I am taking).
7. What is a problem you are still trying to solve?
The one problem I can remember off-the-cuff which I am currently struggling with is getting everything going with Millennial Lawyer, the content-aggregation platform I am trying to build. I think I am way too finnicky with everything and I am slowing down progress myself. I must find a way to get things to a place that I can accept that the train can get on the track and just let go.
8. If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?
To my “pre-adulting” self, I would say “get even better grades, do even more extracurricular and try out for more opportunities, especially those with international flavour.” I have learnt that despite how much I like to think I did in my younger days, I left too much time for faffing and I have paid for it in some ways. I would like to have given my current self even more boost, if I can afford to. Also, I would tell myself to get involved in the tech industry, in whatever capacity, as early as I can.
The world is rapidly changing. Governments must draft, change, and enforce legislation rapidly as emerging technologies drive new business and service models. The most pressing challenge is how to safeguard citizens and promote fair markets while allowing innovation and businesses to thrive. Regulators are grappling with how to strike a balance between supporting innovation, safeguarding consumers, and addressing the potential unintended consequences of disruption as a result of technology advancements.
Four fundamental problems must be addressed by government officials and regulators as they struggle with the challenges posed by digital technologies:
What’s the current state of regulation in the area?
What’s the right time to regulate?
What’s the right approach to regulation?
What has changed since regulations were first enacted?
Here. we suggest a variety of alternative tools and techniques for a future focused regulation to stimulate greater innovation and lower compliance costs to differing degrees. The concepts below can assist answer the problems of “when to regulate” and “how to regulate,” as well as lay the groundwork for reconsidering regulation in an era of rapid technological change:
Performance or outcome-based regulation: Specific measurable outcomes (performance metrics, risk thresholds, and so on) that allow organizations to innovate more freely, as long as the desired performance can be demonstrated easily. Firms and consumers can choose the method by which they will comply now that the outcomes have been established, allowing them to choose more efficient and cost-effective ways to comply
Regulatory experiments: This consists of various regulatory techniques that give businesses more flexibility through temporary regulations. This covers everything from sunset clauses that establish goals and allow for adjustments over time to “regulatory sandboxes” that allow businesses to experiment with new ideas without being bound by the applicable set of rules and regulations.
Management-based regulations: They aim to shift decisions to businesses with the most information, as these businesses have the best understanding of the risks and benefits in a given sector. They are also known as “enforced self-regulation.” Such regulations typically require firms to maintain a variety of procedures, systems, and internal management practices in order to meet the regulations’ goals, which may be outcome-based.
International regulatory co-operation (IRC) : In some cases, such as developing technology, a company’s products may cross numerous industries and jurisdictions, necessitating a coordinated regulatory strategy. IRC can assume many different forms and types, and its geographical reach can range from bilateral to multilateral.
Self-regulation and co-regulation: These are instruments with no government involvement. Typically, self-regulation entails a group of regulated entities creating voluntary norms or codes of conduct to govern or guide the behavior, actions, and standards of those inside the group. In general, co-regulation entails governments providing explicit legislative support in some manner for industry-developed regulatory frameworks.
To encourage innovation, authorities are developing outcome-based regulations and experimenting with novel models in sandboxes. The principles discussed in this article can assist regulators in striking a good balance between consumer protection and innovation.
The Workchop Conversations is an ongoing series of conversations with different players in both the law, tech & justice tech space, sharing about their work and innovative role within the space, promoting access to justice in Africa.
For this week, we have Moses Faya, a Tech Policy Researcher at Advocacy for Policy and Innovation, an Africa Focused policy intelligence platform that helps you understand how policy development and legislative bills affects your business and gives you the tools to influence policy development or to restructure your operations to adapt to realities, whereheworksat the intersection of Technology, Policy and Law.
Tell us briefly how you started out and how you got to where you are today, what spurred your interest in tech policy?
First of all, I am a lawyer, I started out working in a law firm. I have always been interested in technology. This was why after I got bored working in the law firm, I left the law firm to rediscover my interest in technology. My interest in Tech policy was influenced by the dearth of knowledge that existed within the players in the technology ecosystem and I chose to close the information asymmetry gap. The journey has been great so far but very demanding.
As a research and policy analyst, what does your work entail? If you could, describe your work in one word.
My work entails research, analyzing and advising the technology ecosystem on mitigating the risk arising from the development and implementation of policy, laws and regulations that affect them—consulting with stakeholders in the technology space and government officials. I will describe my work as FUN (getting a lot of insight and understanding what drives policymakers and technology businesses).
As your work requires you to read a lot, how do you manage to do that with distractions on the increase? What systems do you put in place to ensure you read and research?
Having a quiet place to read is very hard in this day and time, especially when I am not in my working space. I will say I am adjusting to finding ways to block the distractions around me. One thing that has helped me a lot is my noise cancellation headphones. Also, when I am reading or conducting research, my phone is either on flight mode or entirely off, I try as much to discipline myself by staying away from social media. Frankly, it hasn’t been easy. Lol
How do you recharge or take a break? What do you spend time aside from work?
I sleep, stay away from my phone (sometimes turn it off), and play basketball and flag football. Aside from work, I spend time working on my photography skills. Haha
What is the best advice that you have ever received that shaped your career?
Life is all about managing expectations. Work hard and stay humble.
What one book would you advise every tech policy enthusiast to read? What are you currently reading, watching or listening to?
I am currently reading Samsung rising by Geoffrey Cain and Regulating and Combating Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing by Nkechikwu Valerie Azinge-Egbiri. Watching Spycraft.Listening to Isaidwhatisaid and Nigerian American podcast
Less than a year ago, we started writing THE WORKCHOP CONVERSATIONS. A virtual chat that uncovers the typical day of individuals in the Law, Tech & Innovation space in Africa. The aim was to understand how they work, what they do, tools or apps they use to achieve productivity and a general outlook at their everyday life.
Fun fact; TWCC was coined from the popular saying: na where man dey work, na there he dey chop.
7 months and 10 interviews later, we are proud to say that we indeed have learnt how these people work and chop and so we thought to bring to you the 10 workchop conversations we have had so far:
The conversation with Elizabeth was our first feature. Elizabeth has a love for seeing ideas take on a life of their own and that’s one of the reasons she took up the product manager path even though she is a Lawyer. As a Product Manager at LawPavilion, she manages the LawPavilion Prime product portfolio. Prime is Nigeria’s first tech-enabled legal research and legal analytics tool. In this edition of TWCC, she shares with us more about the products she manages and the tech tools she relies on to stay productive. Read it here.
Selina Onyando is a tech policy fellow at The Lawyers Hub, Kenya where she works in promoting creative policy solutions for inclusive and sustainable digital economies. Here, she shares with us what her job as a Tech Policy Fellow entails and the the apps and gadgets she uses for work. Check out our conversation.
Damilola, is an avid learner and a technology enthusiast who has tried out different things like Digital Marketing, Web design & development, and fashion blogging. Now, he currently works at DIYLaw as a product manager. Damilola shared with us what his everyday work life is like, more about the products he manages, tools he relies on for productivity and a lot more. You can read it here.
Bright Oleka alongside his cofounder started Judy with the aim to make legal research faster and efficient for lawyers. Bright currently works as the Head of Product overseeing products like JUDY Plus and JUDY Lite. Bright share with us how Judy ensures faster legal research as well as some of the problems he aimed to solve while starting Judy. You can read it here.
Themba believes the robots are not coming to take our jobs, instead, legal practice and the delivery of legal services are evolving and in doing so, becoming more accessible. He shares with us the one idea that shaped his perception about justice tech, how he allocates time for work and how he enjoys taking walks with his wife and son. Read more on our chat here.
Sunday Fadipe believes he was not born for the stress of Litigation. He writes on diverse subjects and enjoys getting involved in high-level transactions and conversations. In this edition, Sunday shares a typical work day, an app he is surprised hasn’t been built yet, his favorite hack for staying productive and a lot more.
For Neema’s startup, Sheria Kiganani, it has been able to provide easily accessible and affordable legal services to over 30,000 Tanzanians, enabling them to solve their cases or prevent legal mishaps from happening. Neema shares what her work entails at Sheria Kiganjani, best piece of advice she has ever received and how she keeps track of what she has to do. Read it here.
Soriah shared how Apptorney started as a curiosity on the part of her brother, Muchu Kaingu to know what could be done to assist her with her legal research. In doing this, they partnered with two other friends to make Apptorney a reality. Soriah shares with us a typical work day at work, how she loves Zoca (a fusion of Zambian and soca dance), one problem she would like to solve in the legaltech space. Here’s what her everyday work is like.
What do you think? We would love to hear from you. Who would you like us to feature in our next edition? You can please email your feedback to email@example.com