Landing a job in tech and building a remote career
Landing a job in the tech industry and building a remote career can provide a wide range of benefits, from job security and competitive salaries to the flexibility of remote work and the opportunity to make a meaningful impact through innovation. It's a field that offers a wealth of opportunities for personal and professional growth.
The tech industry is known for its consistent growth and demand for skilled professionals. As businesses continue to digitize and rely on technology, there is a constant need for tech talent. This can lead to job security and opportunities for career advancement, competitive salaries, and benefits. These roles tend to pay well due to the specialized skills and knowledge required.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? But as they would classically say in an infomercial, ‘But that’s not all.’ The tech industry has also been at the forefront of the remote work trend, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Building a remote career in tech allows you to work from anywhere, offering flexibility and the ability to balance work with other aspects of life.
So now you must be saying, “Where do I sign up?” To chat about what is making a career in tech and working from home within reach of skilled professionals and those looking to cut the sometimes hefty cost of commutes and build that better work-life balance, Jennifer Bangoura, EdD, Nexford’s Director of Career Innovation, Caleb Maru, Founder of Tech Safari, and Onyinye Udoye, Business Analytics Specialist at Microsoft, put this hot topic under the microscope in an enlightening webinar.
Working for a global company in your home country
The world now knows no geographical boundaries and the global village is becoming larger and more connected than ever before. As Caleb says, “In the tech industry you can upskill from anywhere in the world and as a net result get a job from anywhere in the world, like your home country. And I think it's a really cool story of where the world is going, which is a really distributed world and kind of a global grid, which is an idea that Nexford has.”
Onyinye is like the poster boy for what Caleb was talking about as he is studying online from Lagos and working remotely as a Business Analyst Specialist for global giant Microsoft. Most people’s business Nirvana you might say, as who wouldn’t want to be in his shoes? Great job. Great prospects. And let’s face it, a great salary to boot.
From Lagos to Seattle without having to travel
So, what’s Onyinye’s story and how did he get to this auspicious place in his life and career? Well as per what is expected, it didn’t all just drop into his lap. It took a large degree of hard work and determination to go from living in Lagos, Nigeria, to working for a globally recognized billion-dollar organization. Kind of like a big step up in anyone’s book.
That said, it all had to start somewhere and with the necessary background to break into the gigantic tech industry. Onyinye told us that he has a background in tech, physics, and electronics technology. So, from the onset he had this fascination about computers because he got introduced to them through his cousin who was studying computer science at the time.
“I recall back in my university days, I got a computer, even though most of the things I did with it was just play games,” Onyinye says. “But then I got to know about the hardware and the path. After my first degree I got to understood what that was. Then like the next steppingstone in my career, that same cousin of mine who was also trained on Microsoft SQL Server Management, also he had these books laying around the house, which I picked up on SQL Server and started reading. Quite quickly I got to understand the intricacies of this area of tech even though I've not had any physical interaction with the application. I quickly realized how simple Microsoft tools are, and that gave me a solid foundation to kick on and learn more.”
But that was not enough for Onyinye to sail into his job at Microsoft. He had to do the hard yards first by starting to do grunt work at a health management organization helping people connect to the network, or making sure that their computer could see the printer. Hardly glorious. More like laborious. But then he discovered that the app being used in the organization was based on Microsoft Access, and it was there that his journey with Microsoft began, because after a couple of years, the organization improved their IT functionality and moved on to deploy a solution that ran on SQL Server back end. And that was where his data analysis journey kicked off.
Soon he was setting up local servers in their various financial and nonfinancial organizations, providing training and installing biometrics for those companies. Onyinye remarked that from there he got to know about the role in Microsoft, which he applied for, even though it took him some time to pluck up the courage to apply. He felt at the time that the role was out of his league because he imagined that there must have been 1000s of business analytics specialists in Lagos, Nigeria, so what chance did he have of landing the role? Well never say never, and today he has risen through the ranks in Microsoft and is applying his trade without having to Jappa. So he could work for a global company still from within the shores of Nigeria.
So, a valuable life lesson there. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and never give up on your dreams, because anything is possible.
Improve your skills to improve your prospects
If you think you’ve stopped having to learn, you stop increasing your chances to earn and move up the career ladder. Onyinye is testimony to that. Continue to learn and upskill and you increase your chances of working remotely for a global company like Microsoft. And that is where Onyinye’s journey with Nexford University began.
Onyinye says that this yearning to learn was how he came across Nexford, because he realized that to compliment his tech skill set, he also needed to improve his business knowledge and add that string to his bow. And that’s why he elected to do an MBA at the 100% online university.
“Tech and business need to work together seamlessly for the betterment of the organization,” Onyinye says. “So, I felt like okay, I have some knowledge and background in tech, it would be nice to also get the business knowledge and background to how a business should run effectively across all departments. So that's when I decided to do an MBA. But then that year, COVID hit, and we were all required to work remotely. So, I felt like this was the right time to do this.”
Learn and earn at the same time
As we mentioned, Onyinye knew what he wanted from higher education, but having worked so hard to land the job at Microsoft he didn’t want to put that in jeopardy by having to attend physical lectures at a brick-and-mortar university. He wanted to study and work at the same time and Nexford ticked that box. It quenched his insatiable hunger to learn more about trending things like AI, which if you don’t do in the field of tech, you’re dead in the water and tossed onto the dinosaur pile. Coming into Microsoft, with news skill sets meant that Onyinye was not just going to end up in the role that brought him into the organization. After graduating with his MBA in February last year he began to eye out several other roles within the organization he could transition into.
“So don't just sit there, right and say, nothing is going to happen and I'm fine with my role,” Onyinye says. “Always look to learn new things. That’s very important. Everyone needs at least a skill. And with the right skills under your belt, I do recommend getting into tech, as it is one of those fields where you can ply your trade remotely and there are several roles within tech where you can do that. You might not start off with software engineering, you can start off with studying about cybersecurity, or data analytics. You can start with any of them to see how you can use it to improve on your current job before you start thinking about expanding or taking it further.
How to go about landing a job at a global company
When asked about how people who want to get into tech can break in and break the glass ceiling to land bigger roles at global companies and still work remotely, Onyinye had these pearls of wisdom.
“It sounds obvious to say but you need to start out by finding what you are passionate about, then move forward from there, then research what roles exist in tech and see if there's one that matches your passion. Because passion is one of the things that we really need when it comes to tech. After that identify the skills, trends, and area of expertise within the tech field that you want to go into. It could be software development, data analysis, or cybersecurity that aligns with what you want to do. Once I got that sorted it was time to go after that dream job at Microsoft.”
But Onyinye was quick to point out that skills are just one part of the equation. You also need to show that you can do something with the skills that you've acquired. Even if you don't have the opportunity to work in an organization where you can use these skills, you can create new personal projects or contribute to open-source projects, or even maybe freelance projects. In his early tech days, he enrolled as a United Nations online volunteer.
Something extremely valuable that Onyinye pointed out to land a global remote role was that once you have acquired the relevant skills, you need to tailor your profile whether it's your own My Profile, LinkedIn or CV, using keywords that match the role, because recruiters are looking at your profile, especially your online profile. Never use one CV for all roles you apply to! He says that by using the right keywords he has had a couple of recruiters reach out to him even when he’s not applied for a role. In fact, he says that about 70% of the roles that he got at organizations he never applied for but rather just walked into. So that's when networking is very important.
Onyinye also says that what landed him the job at Microsoft was to really prepare for the interview. He did a lot of research about the organization, their vision, their mission, their culture. And he also came across what is called a star strategy of answering behavioural questions.
Working remotely is almost a skill in itself
Even though Onyinye applied to work at Microsoft, at the time he wasn’t planning to work remotely, but that had to change quickly when Covid entered the frame. He tells us that at first it took some getting used to but soon the pros began to shine through. One of which is reduced commuting and the removal of costs associated with that. If you’re unlucky to have had to endure Lagos traffic, it is one of the worst in the world.
Onyinye recounts this pre-remote hardship by saying, “Before working remotely I had to leave the house at 6am so that I could be at the office by eight, and then repeat the dose of stress when coming back from work that day. That was the one benefit, but linked to that was a significant increase in productivity. All those hours wasted in transit, I could put it into my work and do something impactful that adds value to the business and progresses my career. And, what’s really important to me is the enhanced work-life balance that only really comes with remote working because I have extra time for myself, my hobbies, and family.”
But with all the pros, there are a few cons to remote working for Onyinye and one of those is the time zone difference between Lagos and Seattle. Working with people from different time zones, you are supposed to collaborate and take decisions together, but sometimes it's difficult to find a time that works with everyone, so he says that they just have to find a common time that works for everybody.
And there’s the self-discipline side as well. There are so many distractions at home such as the TV, washing piling up, and the dishwasher to be emptied. But you must be self-disciplined, or it might end up costing your team, and costing you your job. Also, you have to set boundaries, such as when to clock off from the working day. In the office you would leave at 5, but at home it’s easy to just work into the night, so you must establish a primary routine and stick to it. Start at a particular time, take breaks at particular times, and end work at roughly the same time. If not, you will burn yourself out.
Finally, foster a great relationship with your manager. If they trust you, they will leave you alone to do what you need to do. And that will be good for both parties and the business in the long run.
Ready to upskill and start you career in tech with a remote job working for a global company, a great place to start is with a Nexford MBA that will ensure that you are always relevant and employable.
Mark is a college graduate with Honours in Copywriting. He is the Content Marketing Manager at Nexford, creating engaging, thought-provoking, and action-oriented content.
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