Nadia Odunayo is the founder of The StoryGraph, where you find books to fit your mood. After you read the interview, remember to head over to The StoryGraph, to find your next read.
Have you been a book lover all of your life?
I have! My mum was really into books and so she got me into reading very young! One of the reasons I need glasses/contact lenses now is because I spent a lot of time reading books with a torch under the covers when I was supposed to be sleeping!
They say readers are leaders, do you believe your love for books helped develop the skill set you utilize as a technologist and founder?
In a way, I guess so! I read very widely, across fiction and nonfiction, and with the latter category of books I’ve read books on starting a company, being a leader, giving and receiving feedback, cultivating good habits, having better focus, and more! In general I’m quite academic and like studying so I’ve also worked through a bunch of technical books as well. All of these things have helped me be a better developer and startup founder.
The StoryGraph solves the problem "what am I in the mood to read," can you share how your love for books and experience as a software engineer led to translating the StoryGraph publication into the most customized reading tool available today?
The StoryGraph started life as a creative writing e-publication while I was at university. I shut that down a year or so after leaving university but my mum encouraged me to keep the company lying dormant. After a year and a half as a software consultant, and then two failed business partnerships, it was 2019 and I found myself with four years of runway. So, I decided to start working on some side projects that I had, instead of getting a job. One was a running app and the other was a reading lists app.
Reading was the bigger hobby for me so I was drawn to working on that project first. That first week coding away on a basic version of my app was amazing. I had the most fun I’d ever had coding and I realized that a big part of it was that I, as a reader, was so excited to use the tool I was building myself. I haven’t stopped working on what was that “side project” since and it’s developed into The StoryGraph you see today.
Through working at Pivotal Labs, I developed product management and customer research skills, which have helped me effectively iterate on the product and continually make it better for our users.
Several companies, ERGs, and communities have book clubs, please share what's coming soon to The StoryGraph to benefit communal readers? (Proverbial wave to WWCode Boston's Book Club)
We already have our popular buddy reads feature, where you can read a book alongside up to eight other users, adding comments as you go, and the comments are only accessible once a reader reaches that part in the book, allowing you to discuss every specific detail, without it being spoiled as people read at different paces.
Some time this year we hope to launch a full-blown book club feature, including new ways to choose books, schedule meetings, and get an overview of the group’s opinions. We imagine that the discussion portion of this feature will build on top of buddy reads. We’ll also allow for much larger groups!
Many technologists love to read and write, several have authored books, does The StoryGraph offer benefits to authors?
Right now, the main way authors can get involved with the product is by hosting a giveaway! We’re currently beta testing our giveaways platform and hope to launch it fully some time this year. We’ve got giveaways running all over the world with print, digital, and audio prizes on offer.
(Authors can find out more by visiting the giveaways page on StoryGraph or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Please share one (or up to three) book(s) you think every technologist should read?
Definitely Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg!
Communication is the most important when working on teams and I think we’d have a lot more happier and healthier teams if everyone knew about this approach to having difficult conversations.
What pro-tip would you give software engineers working on passion projects alongside working in a full-time role?
Make some time for it each week, even if it’s just an hour! Put it in your calendar at a time when you’re unlikely to have other obligations. It could be very early on a weekend morning or even your lunch hour during the week day.
If it’s just a passion project for you, then be free and build whatever features you want.
If you know you’d love to turn it into a business if given the chance then, as I did, learn how to have customer interviews on the side (start with The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick) and be prepared to move away from your initial vision if your user research is suggesting that that’s what you need to do to make a compelling product for others.
Where can readers sign up for StoryGraph?
Readers can head to thestorygraph.com to find out more about what we have to offer and there’s a button to sign up from there!
You can also get the app straight from the App Store or Play Store!