10 October 2019

Hafiz Adewuyi

From Lagos to Kaunas

I'm writing this one from a living room, in a one- (or two-) bedroom flat which lies along on Karaliaus Mindaugo avenue, Kaunas Lithuania. I'm sat behind a stark white four-seater dining table that is right below a chandelier whose white light beautifully illuminates the keys of my silver-painted HP laptop. It's been nearly 4 hours since I closed from work today and I'm feeling cheerful, positive, happy, grateful, privileged, blessed. Right now, there are no negative feelings in here.

This living room that I write from is the one which if all goes as planned, will be my abode for the next 11 months. It is hands down the best living space (by multiple indices) that I've ever lived in since I started paying rent in late 2016. And arguably the best overall space I've ever lived in since I was born (definitely top 2 though). I moved in here last weekend: Saturday. Since then, there's been no power outage in my flat.

Digital Explorers advert from the daily TechCabal newsletter

I've come a long way to be here, 7000+ km if you draw a sort-of-straight line between Lagos and Kaunas. It's a journey which all started serendipitously in early March 2019, when I learned about Digital Explorers from the daily TechCabal newsletter. At the time, I was over my then job at Access Bank and was eager for the next thing already. The first time I noticed the Digital explorers advert, I opened the link to the website, read about the program and found my way to the application form. The form looked intimidating though: about 20 questions and on top of that, I had to submit a video of me talking about myself. I can imagine that I started filling the form; with all the basic details about myself and then I must have stopped at the "Why do you want to be a part of the Digital explorers program" question. Difficult question, you'll agree? Looks too much to me like one whose answer is most likely to make or break your application. Nonetheless, I left the Chrome tab open.

Around the same period, even though I didn't complete the Digital explorers application myself, I made sure to inform a few colleagues of mine at the Access Bank head office: budding developers who were looking for opportunities to accelerate their programming skills. As chance would have it, one of them: Bayo actually followed through and completed this application.

April 1, 2019: the day that applications were closing for the first-ever track of the Digital explorers program, I got into an office corridor chat with Bayo. That was when he told me that he had actually completed his application. Remembering that one of the reasons I didn't complete my application was that I had to record a video 🙍‍♂️, I asked Bayo for how he'd crossed that hurdle. He explained that he had not uploaded the video as the application had requested. However, he was ready to send the video when Digital explorers got back to let him know that the video was missing from his application - who's to know if that’s the only reason that he didn't move past the application stage?

Not having much to do at work that day - I'd actually already dropped a resignation notice at Access Bank, I decided to go through with it; if Bayo can do it, why can't I? And so was it that I soon made my way that fateful Monday afternoon to the loo of the staff recreation centre to record myself talking about my career and my motivation for applying to be a Digital explorer. In another one or two hours, I had submitted my application and that came with a tinge of fulfilment.

Less than 24 hours later, I received an email with a link to a Codility coding challenge which I had to complete. If I remember correctly, I had a perfect score and I finished in good time. In other words, the test was not a tough one for me - who knows, maybe it's because I've been programming professionally for almost 7 years now. Within the next two weeks, I had completed a motivation and personality interview over a phone call with a member of the Afriko team (Afriko is the Lithuanian company leading the Digital explorers program). One week after the phone interview, I was invited to the final step of the program: a week-long training and hackathon program in Abuja Nigeria, happening in the second week of May 2019.

Interestingly, when this invite came, I was less than one week away from resuming as a software engineer at Carbon. For that reason, it was impractical for me to request time off to attend the Abuja Digital Explorers event. How would it sound that I was just three weeks into a job, still learning the ropes and then I'm requesting for a whole week off of work? First, I valued the opportunity to work at Carbon quite highly. Also, one of my highest values at this time of my life is honesty (it's actually because it's hard to think up lies and I'm mentally lazy), so going the route of lying about why I could not be at work for a whole week was not an option for me.

My response to the invite from Digital explorers was first of all tentative, then after I had discussed with my manager about me wanting to try out this opportunity to work abroad, I decided not to take time off work to attend the Abuja event. "Abroad work opportunity will come when I become even more adept at what I do through my job at Carbon", I consoled myself. However, the strong, personable and empathetic people of Afriko would not have it and they ensured that I attended the program, even if only for the last day. "The trip from Lagos to Abuja is an all-expense-paid one", they said. I had nothing to lose, so I said yes and flew to Abuja after work on May 10, 2019, for a jolly weekend of mixing with an ambitious crop of Nigerian techies and sleeping two nights in a room that is much nicer than my Lagos one at the time. Since I was aware that my chances of getting a job offer from a Lithuanian company after the program were slightly reduced as I was not able to participate in most of the week-long program, my main mission in Abuja was to chillax big time; mini-vacation if you will.

Just as I had expected, at the end of the hackathon Saturday (May 11, 2019), none of the companies who had representatives in Abuja had offered to interview me. I resigned myself to one more night of blissful sleep in a nice big Abuja hotel room and promised myself to double-down on my new Carbon job so I'd be better prepared to grab the next desirable abroad-work opportunity that I found.

Roughly one month after the Abuja hackathon - when I had absolutely no more hopes of becoming a Digital explorer, I got an email from an Afriko person. Receiving that email made my day. I remember jumping up from my office chair and telling my colleague Precious that I had just received an email that has made my day. This was before 8:00 in Lagos and I felt fulfilled enough to not do any other work for that day. Of course, my employer would have begged to differ, so as you would expect, I stayed back at work.

The email said that I had been invited for an interview for next week Tuesday by a hiring Manager at TransUnion Baltics. I confirmed my availability for the proposed time and went ahead to prepare for the interview. I went to the company website, read enough to get a sense of what they are all about - I was interested. Afterwards, I compiled a few questions that I would like to ask the panel during the interview.

Because the interview was on a weekday morning, I asked a friend to let me use his office for the interview. My plan was to complete the interview - which based on schedule would eat at most, one hour deep into my workday and then head to my office. My interview with three members of the engineering team at TransUnion went well, even though I couldn't place a bet on that I would proceed to the next stage. I made a few oversights in the live coding session and I didn’t even finish the tasks in the allotted time. I considered it a positive sign though that the hiring manager took his time to explain to me what it was like to work at his company and in his team after I had asked one or two of the plenty questions that I had prepared beforehand.

Roughly a week after the interview, I got an offer letter to join the TransUnion Baltics as a Senior Software Engineer 😭😭😭. After a bit of back and forth, I accepted the offer and well, here we are.

Welcome to Lithuania picture - Vilnius Airport

Tomorrow (Friday) marks the start of my second week in Lithuania. I am a pacesetter and I would love it to be that at the end of this journey, my company is happy to hire many more willing people from Nigeria who want to explore their world through working abroad. I am an ambassador for millions of talented humans back home with inadequate opportunities and I will be keeping some doors closed if I mess up this opportunity. Hopefully, I don't get carried away and I am able to keep that active in my subconscious throughout my time in Lithuania. Also, I am in for a year-long adventurous time in this beautiful and cold Baltic country. Care to come along?



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Write comments
12 October 2019 at 07:40 delete

What a journey Hafiz. I'm glad you did all you did and I'm grateful for what you plan to do cause either ways both home and abroad you are and will be an ambassador. Keep winning 💪🙌

13 October 2019 at 15:06 delete

Wow, what a read, emotions carefully catered for and transferred to the reader, exceptional article.
Wish you all the best in your new endeavour.

28 October 2019 at 15:19 delete

I only lived in Lithuania for a year, but I absolutely loved it.
And Kaunas is a beautiful city, even selected as European Capital of Culture for 2022: https://andreasmoser.blog/2017/04/04/kaunas-2022/

8 November 2019 at 08:37 delete

Pure Inspiration. Thanks for sharing.

8 November 2019 at 09:57 delete

My pleasure. thanks for commenting 😄

17 January 2020 at 16:14 delete

Imporessive... Keep flying the flag high. All the best wishes