Beyond the Code: Emmanuel Onah on Engineering at Kwara


Embark on a journey into the experiences of Emmanuel Onah, a seasoned software engineer at Kwara. With seven years in the field, Emmanuel has played a crucial role in shaping Kwara’s development landscape. Join us as he shares insights into his transition to backend development, the collaborative ethos within Kwara’s engineering teams, and the stories that fuel his dedication. This blog post peels back the layers of Emmanuel’s journey, providing a perspective on the dynamic and empowering environment defining engineering at Kwara.

Start of the interview

David: Welcome! Let’s start with a brief introduction of who you are.

Emmanuel: My name is Emmanuel Onah. I have been a JavaScript engineer for the last seven years and around its ecosystem. At Kwara, I contribute to the frontend development and, since recently, Ruby backend development. Aside from programming, I am interested in writing articles, which I do in my free time.

David: You mentioned doing backend development for that last year or so. What did the transition look like? 

Emmanuel: The transition has been smooth. One thing that stood out was the abundance of resources available for learning and improving skills at Kwara. What motivated me was avoiding situations where I’d have to wait a whole day for a quick backend task, only to find out it could have taken just 5 minutes. I prefer understanding how things work instead of just using them. This way, I can grasp the inner workings of the company’s business brain, which is the backend. It’s been beneficial to understand the company’s domain better. Overall, it’s been an exciting experience, and I look forward to further improving.

David: Let’s start at the beginning of your journey. What got you into engineering?

Emmanuel: My brother, a software engineer in Finland, sparked my interest in engineering. After high school, I could attend a university in Nigeria, study abroad, or join a skills-focused boot camp. Following my brother’s advice based on his positive experience, I opted for the boot camp to gain IT skills and see where it led. Having a clear path set by someone already in the industry felt reassuring. It turned out to be the best decision I ever made. Being an engineer feels surreal; the ability to build things at your fingertips gives you a sense of power, almost like being a creator.

David: What made you interested in joining Kwara? 

Emmanuel: A recruiter contacted me, and I decided to go through the hiring process. What drew me in and convinced me this was the right company for me was the straightforwardness and approachability of the people. The mission of digitizing credit unions, ultimately contributing to people’s financial growth and future improvement, was clearly articulated. Joining Kwara presented an opportunity to fully utilize my skills, from programming to taking on leadership roles and ownership of my work. In essence, it was the people I encountered during the recruitment process, including the founders and the engineering team, who were authentic and relatable. The recruitment process gave me valuable insights into the company’s culture and values.

David: What is the most exciting thing about engineering in Kwara?

Emmanuel: Working in engineering at Kwara feels akin to being a runner in a relay race. You’re assigned a specific leg of the race with a goal, and in your hand is a baton—the critical resource in Kwara’s case. If you lack resources, Kwara ensures you have the best available. They also provide a form of sustenance, like glucose, which, in Kwara’s context, is your well-being. Prioritizing well-being at Kwara replenishes your energy to keep you going toward your goal. And when you successfully achieve that goal, it’s like receiving your well-deserved trophy. My experience at Kwara mirrors that of a relay runner, with each step supported and rewarded.

David: How would you describe the day of an engineer at Kwara?

Emmanuel: We embrace a fully agile approach at Kwara, focusing on iterative development. Unlike traditional ticket-based sprints, our team operates cohesively with shared sprint goals. During our daily stand-up, we address any challenges in a human-centric way, steering clear of a robotic approach. I start my day with a checklist outlining tasks to accomplish. If there are no obstacles, I don’t need to speak up during the stand-up because I understand how my efforts contribute to the overall sprint goal. My day-to-day in engineering at Kwara gives me the autonomy to shape my workday as long as I ensure successful delivery by the end of the sprint.

David: What is your favorite feature and why?

Emmanuel: Among the numerous features I’ve worked on at  Kwara, my favorite is the airtime feature, mainly because of its money-back functionality. The Kwara App’s airtime feature allows SACCO members to enjoy getting some cash back into their SACCO savings after purchasing airtime. What makes it unique is that in many situations, especially when spending, you get to receive money back after making a payment, which makes this feature stand out. If you haven’t explored it yet, I recommend trying it. You can find it on the Kwara App, available on the Play Store or App Store.

David: You have to make choices and trade-offs in your work. How do you usually foster creativity and ideas?

Emmanuel: I prioritize having a clear mind, which I achieve through intentional efforts. If my mental state isn’t optimal, it affects my work and projects. I make a conscious effort to be aware of what triggers me and strive to maintain the best mental state possible. This positive mental state is crucial.

Traveling is not just a passion for Emmanuel; it’s a vital nourishment for his well-being.

David: Do you have specific people or companies that inspire you?

Emmanuel: What inspires me the most are the people I’m creating our products for. We have a significant opportunity and market to serve at Kwara, especially in emerging markets. These individuals rely on the systems we build as lifelines, shaping and supporting their way of life.

David: Are there particular stories or points of feedback you’ve ever gotten from users or team members that make you feel optimistic about what we do at Kwara?

Emmanuel: I find inspiration in several stories and share two of them. There’s the story of a sick mother who couldn’t afford the necessary treatment. Thanks to the SACCO she’s a part of, she gathered the funds needed to improve and be there for her family. Another inspiring tale is about a woman who achieved home ownership in a good neighborhood. What we do at Kwara, helping people build wealth, truly motivates me.

David: How do the product and engineering teams at Kwara work together?

Emmanuel: Our product team interacts with our customers, who share their problems and challenges. The product team then communicates this information to the engineering team, and together, we figure out how to address the customers’ issues through what we build. It’s an agile approach that ensures everyone in both teams actively contributes to problem-solving. This collaborative method ensures that solutions don’t solely come from customers or the product team; the engineering team is also actively involved in finding solutions. The relationship between Kwara’s product and engineering teams is close-knit, ensuring everyone plays a role in delivering new features.

Emmanuel at the heart of collaboration during our team offsite.

David: What is essential to know if people, clients, or team members are interested in working with Kwara?

Emmanuel: At Kwara, everyone brings their best selves, knowing that when people are at their best, they do their finest work. At Kwara, we foster a culture of approachability. If you need to talk to someone or ask for help, it’s encouraged. There’s no rigid hierarchy; regardless of their role, anyone can get things done if they’re committed. In essence, joining Kwara is meaningful if you want your work to have significance. We deal with people’s hard-earned money and livelihoods, a substantial responsibility. If you’re looking to impact people’s lives at that scale significantly, then joining Kwara might be the right choice for you.

End of interview


In closing, Emmanuel Onah and Kwara stand out in engineering excellence. Emmanuel’s commitment to understanding the backend intricacies aligns with Kwara’s broader dedication to fostering innovation and growth. This blog post offers a glimpse into Kwara’s collaborative and agile engineering world, where individuals like Emmanuel significantly contribute to the company’s success. Emmanuel’s journey is a testament to the impactful work done at Kwara, exemplifying the spirit of continuous improvement and collaboration within the company. 

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