Move Back to Nigeria is a series on BellaNaija which aims to encourage young and not-so-young professionals in the diaspora who are trying to make the decision of whether to move back to Nigeria. In collaboration with the brilliant team at MoveBackToNigeria.com, we hope to bring you a weekly interview with individuals who have successfully made the leap, considering the leap, as well as those who have tried it and realized it is not for them.
MoveBacktoNigeria.com’s mission is to showcase stories of Nigerians abroad who have moved back home and are taking giant strides, often against all odds and to serve as inspiration to others. This, however does not preclude us from sharing stories of the people who have moved back and are facing various challenges.
This week, we bring to you Tunji Ogunkeye, Business Process Analyst at Konga Online Shopping Limited and 2-time repartriate to Nigeria. For more on his uniquely pragmatic take on ‘the big move’, do read on.
Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Tunji Ogunkeye, and I currently work for Konga Online in Lagos. I moved back to Nigeria in June 2011 and it was the best decision I made for my future, in order to achieve my goals.
Can you give a brief overview of your educational background?
I studied in Nigeria until the end of high school in 2001, after which I moved to Canada to further my studies. I started out in college out there for about 10 months to do the equivalent of the A – Level qualification, and after this I did a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology at Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada. I was in Ontario for about 3 and half years, and after graduation I moved back to Nigeria briefly, and then afterwards relocated to London, UK.
How come you moved back to Nigeria initially and then relocated to London?
After graduation in Canada, my parents wanted me to move back home. It wasn’t really my decision as I wanted to stay in Canada to find work, but my dad didn’t give me much time i.e. there wasn’t going to be any more financial support from him, so I packed my bags and came home. When I arrived, I did a few interviews with companies but nothing really materialised. Back then (2005) the IT industry in Nigeria was really about Hardware i.e. supplying Computers and all that. I wasn’t really in touch with people who exposed me to the kind of IT I studied at University i.e. Software, and so couldn’t find a job. Luckily I still had a return flight ticket to London, so when I was ready I told my dad that I was leaving. The main reason for going to London was to gain some good solid work experience. My parents believed I was better off staying and continuing to look for whatever IT job was available, but I felt leaving was the right decision for me, and that’s what I did.
So when did you move to London?
2006. I moved in with my cousin, in a shared house, because that is what I could afford at the time. However, after about a month of applying for jobs, I got my first real job at BSkyB Ltd, the leading Cable and Satellite operator in the UK, a bit similar to DSTV in Nigeria.
Please tell us about your role at BSkyB?
My initial role was as a Usability Acceptance Tester (UAT) on a software product BSkyB had just acquired off the shelf and were in the process of implementing. I was employed as a sub-contractor to test the software from a user’s perspective. After a while in this role, I became bored and quickly realised I was more technical and able to handle more complicated tasks with regards to software testing.
A Usability Acceptance Tester deals with the high level stuff i.e. after the software has been developed, they test things like how easy it is to go from one screen to another, or the aesthetics, the look and feel of the front end of the application – everything the end users sees on their monitor/ screen. A Software Tester on the other hand, tests the functionality of the Software Developer’s code. So Software Testers write requirements on how the code should work and also write automated scripts that test the code.
In summary, Software Testers focus on functionality and Usability Acceptance Testers focus on the ‘User Friendliness’. After about 8 months in the role, I was offered a permanent job at BSkyB as a Software Tester. In all I was at BSkyB for about 4 years, worked with a lot of smart “techy” guys and it was a great experience.
What came after that? Was this when you decided to move back to Nigeria?
After BskyB, I worked for another company as a contractor in a Test Consulting role. The company was contracting me out to various clients to work on a number of projects, and this gave me a lot of experience in the field, which was good. By this time, however, the itch to move back had become unbearable. Even though I was making good money, for the most part I was bored and homesick. I was no longer happy living in a country I could not call home and so I made a quick decision to move back to Nigeria. I quit my job, bought my plane ticket and made the big leap back home.
Is that it? Were there any other reasons for moving back at the time you did?
I just became extremely bored with life in the UK. The lifestyle became a routine and it didn’t feel like home. I didn’t feel like I was living life. And a lot of my friends and family had moved back, so there were less and less incentives to remain in London. I enjoy being close to family and friends; people I care about. Also I have a passion for music, and when I was fresh out of University, I called myself “Tajie”. As a means of generating my own following, I performed at quite a few shows, some of them organized by myself. It was in 2009 when I came up with the idea for a show in London called The Music Lounge, a live music show which promotes up and coming musicians and I had dreams and aspirations of making the show a success in Nigeria, so it was time for the next step with that. Additionally, I had originally given myself a maximum of 5 years of working in London, so my time was up.
A lot of people live a certain routine and lifestyle in London and then wake up one day realising they have spent 20 years out there without really ‘living life’. I felt like if I didn’t make the move then it probably wouldn’t have happened. I didn’t want to look at myself one day, 5 more years down the line having not achieved my dreams.
What was your move like? Did you land a job back home before making the leap?
No, I didn’t land a job before moving back home. Waiting to find a job was one of my excuses for not moving back earlier. Personally, I found it harder to find a job back home without actually being on the ground. Things are different now with all the various online job platforms, but back in 2011, it was much tougher. On the plus side, I had a support system back home with family, so they were going to support me a little bit during the initial months, but I also had to be realistic in that it would be up to me to make things happen i.e. finding a job and earning a living.
And how did things pan out once you hit the ground?
When I arrived in Nigeria, one of the first things I did was register for NYSC. The NYSC experience was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, even though I served in Lagos. When I first started NYSC, I was being paid the monthly allowance, but also some additional income from the company I was working for. The company needed someone with my skills but they weren’t doing very well, not paying salaries promptly, and in 2012, the pay checks stopped all together. Despite this, I was still expected to turn up at work every day, so it was tough and frustrating. It was tough getting used to this kind of situation which would never occur in the UK, eventually I had to quit that job.
After NYSC, I searched for a job but there were no vacancies, it was so hard. I think this is because there are not many companies here that value the skills I have as a software tester. Not many companies here develop their own software, so there are not many opportunities for in house software testers. So I enrolled in a Computer Networking course called CCNA, after which I ended up taking an IT support job for another company which provided VSAT, Fibre and E1 communications to various banks across Nigeria. This job offered little challenge for me, and they also paid their staff poorly for the amount of hours we worked (Night shifts included). It baffled me how after speaking with so many friends, this kind of treatment was very common amongst many employers. So once again I had to move on.
How did things turn around? When did you finally find a job you enjoyed?
A friend of mine (Seni Sulyman) was interning at Konga Online Shopping Ltd in the summer of 2013, and I asked him if he would hand my CV in to the company. He did that and to cut a long story short, that’s how I got offered a job as a Business Process Analyst. This happened within a week and half. Had I been living in the UK looking for a job in Nigeria, there’s no way I would have been able to get this job, due to the delays in my travel and the company’s need to fill the role quickly. It just goes to show that sometimes you have to make a move and stop procrastinating and over analysing, otherwise you’ll never move forward.
Congratulations on that. Can you elaborate a bit more on your role at Konga?
Yes of course, I am a Business Process Analyst at Konga. The role is basically about improving, designing and implementing business processes within the company with the aid of technology. These processes can be both internal (processes that help the company run efficiently) and external (processes which directly affect the consumer). Of course this involves software development so my previous UK work experience has come in very handy for me. I work with quite a few in-house developers and other Project Managers within the IT dept to achieve various objectives and goals set by the Senior Executives (CEO, CFO etc.).
Everyone is learning and improving on the quality and delivery of our software as well as improving our business processes and I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been at the company.
Great Stuff! E-commerce is blowing up in Nigeria, how do you feel about being a part of this revolution?
I feel proud to be a part of this new generation of e-commerce in Nigeria. It’s great to be a part of a company pioneering this in Nigeria. Not many people have the opportunity to be a part of an organization that not only develops you as an individual, but one that will play an important role in building a sustainable e-commerce platform which ultimately changes the way we as Africans will be viewed by the world of e-commerce.
The CEO of the company Sim Shagaya is undoubtedly one of the most passionate and driven individuals I have ever had the pleasure of speaking and working with. Every speech he’s given us within the company has truly inspired me and made me look within myself as to how I can improve as a person. One thing that his dream has affirmed for me is that a great dream is one which not only improves your life but also the lives of others.
But what about the lifestyle? Are you happier now being closer to friends and family in Nigeria?
Now that I have moved back and have a job, I feel a lot better. There’s good weather, good food, and obviously its great being close to family and friends. In terms of the challenges, I think it’s part of the package of living in Nigeria. There will always be frustrations regardless of where you live. Even a Londoner will have issues about his or her city. The way I deal with Nigeria’s issues is to look at it from a different perspective.
The challenges Nigeria faces adds some colour to the life of a Nigerian. There will always be positives and negatives and as long as the positives outweigh the negatives then I have no issues. Let’s take traffic as an example, yes you might get stuck in traffic, but again if you work hard and are successful, you could hire a driver and use the time stuck in traffic to catch up on some work on your iPad, or read the newspaper, or even watch a movie on your smart device. There are so many opportunities in this country to make a good living. Overall, I feel like I made the right choice. Don’t get me wrong I almost moved back to London due to the frustrations I faced in 2011/2012, but in the end it all worked out.
You mentioned your Music Lounge initiative, what is this all about?
Have you ever seen a live music performance from a favourite artist? Take for example Boys II Men. Now imagine you were attending a live music show and a young male singing group you’ve never heard of called Boys II Men came on the stage and blew you away with their voices. A male singing group that had not yet gone mainstream and yet you saw them at The Music Lounge show.
Now imagine that you loved their music so much that you went and told every single person you knew about them, you would have played a major part in helping that group fulfill their dreams. This is what The Music Lounge is about, providing its audience with the best upcoming talents while at the same time giving these artists a platform to let their music be heard, not only by those who appreciate live music but also by those looking for the next Boys II Men. The Music Lounge show aims to give people an authentic musical experience they will never forget. I’ve already done 2 shows since moving back to Nigeria and the next one will be on the 1st of March, 2014 at 284 Bar and Lounge in Victoria Island Lagos.
For more info you can visit the website, which is currently under construction, here: www.tmllagos.com.
Finally what advice will you give those thinking of moving back?
My advice is that, you must do whatever is within your power to make your transition as smooth as possible. You have to be realistic about your support system i.e. people who will help you get through the moving back process. If you can get a job before you move back great! But don’t kid yourself and keep waiting for this ideal job. If you are convinced that you want to make Nigeria your home and where you want to build your family, then don’t let your fear of the unknown hamper your decision. Even though it was extremely tough for me moving back initially, at the end of the day it all worked out fine.
Just be realistic and adjust your expectations. No matter how easy you think it is to find a job, you will be frustrated. Think about how frustrated you will be, multiply it by two or three, and prepare yourself for that. There is no one, and I mean NO ONE who ever achieved their dreams without a little blood, sweat and tears. So make a plan for yourself, work hard, pray and with a little faith everything is possible.
Many thanks for your time and best wishes moving forward.
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