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Prosper Otemuyiwa
Prosper Otemuyiwa

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What Are You Asking For?

What are you asking for?

The most wonderful thing about asking people for impossible things is that sometimes they say YES!
— Eli Trier

Several years ago, Steve Jobs of blessed memory was at the helm of affairs at Apple and he always asked for things, and what seemed “impossible” from his team of engineers.

According to Apple’s former CTO, Tevanian:

“He was the kind of person that could convince himself of things that weren’t necessarily true or necessarily easy, maybe easy is the better way to think of it. That always worked with him for designing products, where he could go to people and ask them to do something that they thought was impossible,”

..and also said:

“But he would keep asking and say: ‘You know, it’s impossible but I still want you to try’ — and because of his sheer will, they would actually make it happen, or make something like it happen.” — Avie Tevanian

You know, while growing up, I used to be afraid to ask for things that could benefit me greatly because I was too scared of rejection.

Maybe it was out of fear. Maybe it was because in the early stages of growth, my family couldn’t afford a lot of things. Maybe this lack of having things in abundance bounded my courage & limited my ask-ability. Maybe I cared too much about the opinions of others & was greatly afraid to be the villain in anyone’s story!

“There are enough people in the world who are going to write you off. You don’t need to do that to yourself.”

However, I have learned so much along the way of building my life, relationships and career that I have discovered an open secret. The most successful, influential & wealthy people in virtually all ramifications always asked for things consistently, and repeatedly even in the face of failure, insufficiencies and rejections.

  1. Elon Musk asked for 100% electric-powered cars at prices affordable to the average consumer, which seemed “funny” and crazy to lots of folks at the time. Now, Tesla has delivered over 890,000 electric cars. Tesla delivered 367,500 cars in 2019, 50% more than in 2018 and more than triple the number sold in 2017. Elon has gone ahead to ask for more things like SpaceX, and hyperloop!

  2. In the early days of Andela, the learning curriculum was bereft of PHP/Laravel. No one wanted it, the “cool” technologies were incorporated in the curriculum. I asked for PHP to be added, and delivered the complete curriculum. Guess what? The engineers that trained with me on this curriculum were later onboarded on clients project that lasted for the longest time. Made the company some good money & reputation (because the engineers consistently delivered with no problems).

People Are Waiting For You To Ask…

I see this a lot in romantic, platonic relationships and groups of people (maybe in the community or clubs) bounded by a common goal. Someone summons the courage to ask for something, and the person on the other end replies with: “Oh, I thought you’d never ask!”

I see that young man hang around a beautiful lady, become friends & hope she becomes his partner without explicitly asking her out. He’s around her everyday just hoping things work out. With the rush of a wind, another young man comes around & without wasting time, asks for what the former was too scared to ask. And if the answer is YES!, it results in tears & resentment for the first young man.

There’s something we humans do a lot, including me(oh shit, I’m actually human). We size up people in our head, and assume a lot. Constant battles are happening in our brains, like Pinky & the Brain arguing, like Dexter & Didi with neural, doubt-infused, assumption-baked thoughts like: “She’s never going to talk to me, I’m not good enough”, “They are too big to respond to my request if I ask”, “What would they think of me, if I asked”, “I’ll play safe by sticking to asking for cookies”, “If I asked for help to solve these challenges, people will not rate me well enough as a programmer”, “I can’t handle being said NO to”

Your degree of resistance around something will be proportional to the amount of power waiting for you on the other side of that resistance. — Barbara Stanny

Are You Asking For Cookies?

Take a 10 minutes introspection at your current state of life, especially your career & count how many things you have requested for to get you to where you are right now.

Now, in all of these things, filter them with the lens of asking for cookies (small things) or something really big and substantial? Have you been asking for cookies all your life? Are you asking enough? Is your journey filled with events & rewards that mostly fell on your laps?

Nothing can stop you from flourishing unless you stop asking. When you don’t ask, you are either seen as all-self-sufficient or someone that never wants to grow past their current roles or responsibilities even if you desire it innately.

Never insult the maker of your being by asking for biscuits & peanuts. You are a full grown being with the innate ability to operate from a realm of people throwing money, time & resources to accomplish whatever you want, if only you’d ask them!

Oh, I’ve also found out that majority of times, we like to operate from a space of safety, thus limiting our ability to ask. Have you studied babies? They ask boldly. “Give me this”, “I want this”, “Let’s buy this”, “I want more”

No one fulfills destiny from the comfort of safety. You can’t play safe and achieve big things.

I’m reminded of Akintunde Sultan, who came on Twitter in 2019 to ask for 1m Naira (~2,777 $USD) to simply support 10 upcoming developers with free laptops.

Guess what? 11 months later, he has raised money twice, 5000 pounds, and ~11,536 pounds respectively which ultimately has provided 22 developers in Nigeria with laptops, courses and opportunities to get jobs. Right now, he’s on the second cohort of #Laptops4Developers and he’s asking for more funding which will directly impact 50 upcoming developers in Nigeria. I love his sheer energy of not asking for cookies.

I’m reminded about how forloopNigeria became forloopAfrica with chapters scattered across ~8 countries & directly influencing lots of developers in Africa because I asked Ridwan (the founder of forloop); “Can we spread our wings? Why are we limited to Nigeria?” and before we could say Jack, all resources went into actually spreading our wings!

I’m reminded about how CEOs are always asking people(developers, engineers, PMs, execs) from other companies to join their team. (they really don’t care, they repeatedly ask until they get them to be on the team).

I’m reminded about how Samson Goddy, Ada Nduka Oyom, and Peace Ojemeh raised thousands of dollars, asked open source experts, and big companies across the world to throw in their time & resources to support the biggest open source festival Africa happening in Lagos (Africa’s unofficial tech capital). Just take a look a the speakers coming to Nigeria this month. They asked, and kept asking!

Are people challenged by what you are asking for?

Asking For Things Stretches You…

In my few years operating in leadership positions from different fronts, I have noticed that asking developers and people on my team, even extending to other teams for some “crazy” features/things actually stretches their ability to perform.

Humans are naturally inclined to remain in a position unless pushed by a force. Remember Newton’s third law of motion? Founders that have had to raise money know how asking for things stretches their ability to write better, email better, sell better, speak better, tell their story better, manage relationships, spot BS from afar of!

Furthermore, people that you request things from don’t even know what they are capable of until you ask them for something huge, very substantial or way out of their current abilities. When asked, either of the following can happen:

  • They go overboard to either impress you.

  • They deliver because they don’t want to be embarrassed.

  • They pull all strings to make it happen because they have a deep respect for you.

  • They say No, and refuse to move an inch.

Asking For Things That Scare You…

As I conclude, I want to charge you to throw away that self-doubt, and faux humility. Wake up, and ask for big things.

  • As an employee, ask your boss for that promotion. You know you deserve it, but everyone is mute & you’re scared to ask.

  • As a founder, go ahead and ask for people (big or small investors) for the funds required to build & grow your company.

  • As a partner, ask your partner for what you really want, instead of expecting them to go on a wild goose chase to guess what makes you feel good & appreciated.

  • Ask that person you silently admire to take a look at your work.

  • Trying to develop your speaking skills? Ask to be a speaker on that technical conference.

  • Trying to widen your audience? Ask for your technical article to be featured on that popular newsletter and blog.

  • Trying to build up your software architecture skills? Ask to be in charge of that open source project?

  • In the process of negotiating your next salary and benefits?, ASK FOR MORE!!!

  • Ask to be on that team that works on Machine Learning & Data Engineering.

  • Ask for more responsibilities.

  • Ask, Ask, Ask and keep asking. Don’t stop asking!

    If high, accelerated growth & learning trumps stability for you, nurture a gargantuan asking appetite. The world, and the fullness thereof, are yours for the taking if you can develop & put to repeated use, impressive ways of asking for things.

Finally, if you’re reading this & live in or around Lagos, Nigeria. I’m asking you right now to sign up for Eden Life.

Eden is a human-powered, tech-enabled service that puts your household chores on autopilot; Laundry, Cooking and Cleaning, while you focus on doing things that significantly moves your life forward. There are over 100 plans for you to choose from on our mobile web app, Android, and iOS.

If your child asks you for bread, would any of you give him a stone? — Matthew 7:9

A new day, another opportunity to wear the cloak of courage, embody the mamba mentality, and transform your entire life.

Discussion (83)

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toritsejufo profile image
Faith Odonghanro

Ahh, the fear rejection. I've just recently graduated, and been afraid to apply to certain companies, thinking I'm not enough and don't have the experience. Someone helped me summon the courage to apply anywhere I think I might be a good fit, and I began to. Got AN onsite interview with one last 2 weeks after passing their hackkerank test, when I never expected to. Although they haven't gotten back, I still see it as a win, the experience et al. Thank you for this sir, it has lifted me even higher, not to ask for cookies but to demand MORE.

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codyt profile image
codythub

I'm on this table as well. May opportunities come your way soonest man.

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ayobamidele1 profile image
AyoBamiDele1

hello, i saw your post on wordpress support forum on setting up shipping zone for cities within a state in Nigeria. Have you been able to solve the problem? I'm facing the same issue. you can send me a mail at bamideleajiboye@gmail.com, let's chat please

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

I'm glad you found someone to help you through the process. Amazing story you got here! If they haven't gotten back, keep asking in different places. One of them will surely come through!

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toritsejufo profile image
Faith Odonghanro

They did come through. I've been reluctant to share my testimony, but it's been really amazing. Been with them for a year and the 3rd month running now. Gained massive experience, the people, the work, the system, all awesome.

Two (2) months after getting in, some staffs were laid off due to covid (in all depts), thought I would go too (being someone that newly joined), but someone (my then team lead) spoke on my behalf and that I was doing a great job so far, that's how I wasn't let go. So when I saw your post early this year "Who is Speaking on Your Behalf", I was wowed.

God has really come through for me. I want to say thank you Prosper for posts, they've been really inspiring, and I've seen them WORK in my life, firsthand experience, no be say dem tell me.

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adam_cyclones profile image
Adam Crockett

I asked for my previous job at Dyson, I got my previous job at Dyson, I asked for multiple pay raises, I got multiple pay raises. Ask, just find out.

Prosper this was possibly one of the best post I have read here on Dev. It would be hard, no, impossible to follow on this, but try anyway.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Wow. This is inspiring! Thank you for sharing your experience, Adam.

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citadel50 profile image
1% of the 1%

Thank you chief for this one. At this point, I think I'll start by asking a whole lot more from myself. I discovered that when I ask for "the impossible" from me, It pushes me to ask from others without flinching

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Exactly. Keep doing that!

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linda_ikechukwu profile image
Linda Ikechukwu

My mantra for this year is 'Be afraid, be very afraid, yet do it'.
I remember when I got my first Frontend developer job, my boss was paying me peanuts compared to the work I was doing.
I summoned up courage to ask for a little raise to cover my expenses, this man called me ungrateful and it ended up our marring our relationship.
I felt really bad and insecure at that time but that won't stop me, I'll keep on asking for more 😊.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Every success story has lots of disappointment stories behind it. Keep on asking, this one will be part of those stories!

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tabithakavyu profile image
Thabitha Kavyu

Eiyyy Prosper 💯💯🔥🔥🔥
I'm asking to meet you when I come to Nigeria 😃

Your articles are just on point and the truth that we want to read and hear.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author • Edited on

Hahahaha, I love the energy, Tabitha! Let me know when you are in Nigeria.

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tabithakavyu profile image
Thabitha Kavyu

Yes sure,
I'll be there on 19th February. Will attending the OSCA Fest

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Awesome!

Thread Thread
tabithakavyu profile image
Thabitha Kavyu

💯

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evanxg852000 profile image
Evance Soumaoro

Great post & great piece of advice. Actually your last two posts have made me think and consider refactoring the way I have been approaching my career. I am a great developer -at least that's what people around me tend to say exceptional developer. But then opportunities take a while to come my way. I am doing my best to change this and your posts here are paving the way so far. Thank you.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

I'm glad this is giving you a good perspective on what to do. Keep being great, Chief.

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adiomojeed profile image
Adiomojeed

WheneverI come across a link to your post, I am always eager to check it out and guess what, I benefit more than whatever I might have thought of from reading the headings. You are indeed an inspiration.

i just learnt to take up challenges and never estimate if my wish will be granted or not. Just keep asking

A new moment, another oppurtunity to request for something great and better

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you so much for your kind words!

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christie profile image
Christiana Olawumi

I remember how I almost failed a course while I was an undergraduate because I couldn't afford the cost of a research work for the course. When I told my friends that I missed it because I couldn't afford the cost, I was blamed for not asking for help from them. Fast forward to the present, whenever I ask for something or I make a request I remind myself that there is a possibility of Yes or No and how can I know if I don't ask.. So it's a season of Asking for me...Thank you sir for resounding it in our mind...

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you for sharing your story!

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unkletayo profile image
Adetayo Akinsanya

Funny enough fear of being rejected has denied me many opportunities, but it has also made me learn that the worst answer I can get is a No and that doesn't mean it is the end or there won't be another way out it's just one of those bad days. Lately have been asking for solutions, ideas from people and have been getting positive reply most times, but I just realised that maybe they are just cookies and its time for me to start asking for things that scare me.

Sir, please I would love to ask for something.

I am new to the programming world, I have been trying to do things on improving on myself but I am yet to really get the right track to follow, please Sir I need a mentor, someone who would help me not make the same mistake that newbies do make and also help me in fast-tracking my learning career. Because there is this saying that "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on shoulders of giants".

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Hello, Adetayo. It's great to get a mentor but don't spend all your time looking for one. One thing I have consistently done that has helped me is sit down to compile names of people I look up to on the internet.

I follow them on all major platforms, read their works, see their thought processes, look up what they are working on, study their codebase, and keep asking them questions about different things that I might not be clear on.

You might accidentally get a mentor that way, if no one is practically looking to take you under their wings directly.

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laviedegeorge profile image
Apugo george k.

This struck me hard, I just read Mattew 7:7-10. We mostly use that verse to pray to God. In reality, it says ask and it shall be given you... the verse doesn't say "ask from God" but ASK!

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Yes!!!!!

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adroitcoder profile image
John Samuel Obinna

After reading this the only thing that came into mind to ask is a faster laptop. Something within 16 GB ram😢

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Ask, Ask and keep asking. You might just be lucky to get one.

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adroitcoder profile image
John Samuel Obinna

Boss I'm now asking you. I need a faster laptop the one here is very very slow.

Make my Matthew 7 Vs 7 come through. 😭😭😭

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Solomon Osadolo

This!!!! This is a fantastic and timely message, Prosper. You are absolutely right, we actually limit ourselves by anticipating unfavourable outcomes before even trying. Just ask. Just ask!

Thanks for putting this out.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you so much, Solomon. I'm glad you enjoyed it

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Mustapha Abdul-Rasaq

Thanks @unicodeveloper , REACT here i come

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

You are welcome, Chief

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themsaid profile image
Mohamed Said

This is gold! Very well written and very well thought of. Thanks :)

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you so much, Said!

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peerichie profile image
Richard Nelson Pepple

Thank You Sir, for this timely piece, I find asking to be a herculean task, but lately, I've had to build up boldness and take up the challenge to ask, not just for little but for much more than my little mind could grasp. I relate to everything that you shared.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Yes!!! That's the spirit

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naskkotech profile image
Olohundare Nasirudeen

Thanks @unicodedeveloper for coming up with a very nice post. Pls can i get a link to your DM ?

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Hello Chief, DM here or on Twitter?

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naskkotech profile image
Olohundare Nasirudeen

ok thanks.

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mr_cea profile image
Ogbonna Basil

Keep on asking and it shall be given.Wonderful reminders prosper

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you, Ogbonna!

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tokstesla profile image
David

I really needed this at this moment, especially as a Christian. Thanks bro

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Yes. Remember the story of the Judge and the woman in the bible? Remember the story of the woman and Elisha? Remember Jacob and the Angel? They kept asking!

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Chukwunonso Orjiakor

Always on point boss. The few times I've summoned the courage to ask, I have really not been disappointed. GOD Is always Faithfully and HE works through people around us.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Yes. God is faithful.

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Chidume Nnamdi

Now I am emboldened and know I am doing the right thing. I'll keep asking, and asking for more till I get a YES.

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Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you, Nnamdi. Yes, please asking!

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Johnson Ogwuru

Thanks Prosper, this was actually very timely.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you so much, Johnson!

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Ndifreke Friday

This is all the push I need, thank you Prosper.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

You are welcome. Thank you, Ndifreke

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Rukee Ojigbo

Prosper. 🥺🙌

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Chief!!!

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isherwood profile image
Clint Buhs • Edited on

Thank you for the encouragement. It's difficult to keep the message in mind every day, and your reminder is appreciated.

Typo: "Steve Job" >> "Steve Jobs"

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you for catching that! Updated.

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Gabriella Amaefule

Reading this on a Monday morning and the beginning of the month is a plus. I am one to be on the side of not asking and being scared of rejection.

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Ask. Ask. Ask and keep asking!

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Ajeigbe John Oluwaseyi

God bless you for this wonderful article sir, I celebrate the anointing of God on you. You are a blessing to me, Nigeria, Africa, and the world!

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you so much for your kind words, John. I really appreciate it.

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Destiny Ajakaiye

Thanks boss for this, it was indeed inspiring..

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Thank you for reading

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Ayobami Ogundiran

Wow. This is awesome. I want to convert this and your other post to visual stuff and you will be credited for the job well done. Do you permit me to do that?

Thanks in advance!

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Sure. Feel free!

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Emeka boris ama • Edited on

This is great Man, the same way I ask and I got some support for AI Festival Nigeria 😁

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unicodeveloper profile image
Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

Exactly! Thank you.

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Sylvester Nkeze

Thanks a lot. Truely inspirational as always

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Prosper Otemuyiwa Author

I'm glad you found it inspiring. Thanks Sylvester.