On Track with Thomas: 3 Ways to Launch Your Tech Career & Rock Relocation
Thomas works in our headquarters in Hamburg after working remotely for a Seattle-based company to join our engineering team last year. Originally from Kenya, Thomas talks about his career over the last few years, the path that led him to FREE NOW and the experience of relocating to a city he had never been to.
I was over the moon once I got the offer from FREE NOW! What I didn’t expect was my celebratory tweet to go viral: all of my friends from the tech scene back home got on the hype and started re-tweeting my status, so my good news snowballed a bit and even caught the eye of my new colleagues in Hamburg, which was quite funny.
Home for me is Kenya; previously, I had been working remotely for a company based in Seattle. I am a natural introvert, so moving to Hamburg has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone! I have enjoyed the challenge though- starting from scratch and figuring everything out is a great way to start things over and define a new chapter for yourself. Also, the culture here is very people-orientated, which has helped me to grow a lot. Even during the interview stages, it was clear that at FREE NOW, taking time to get to know the person is important. Team lunches, offsite, after-work events (like inner-city cycling) and the way people communicate with each other in person was a nice change from the working life I had become accustomed to, which involved a lot of Skype calls and working alone.
Ahead of moving to Hamburg, I started researching the city and trying to work out how I would set up a life there. As part of the FREE NOW relocation assistance, I lived in a company apartment for one month, which really helped me find my footing and have enough time to find a flat to live in. Since then, I have really settled into life in Hamburg; I cycle here much more than I expected and I enjoy how organized the culture is here, for example, I notice that I now take some time to plan certain things more in advance.
What attracted you to FREE NOW?
I have always found the transport sector interesting because people move and travel every single day. Therefore, writing code or working on an application that people use every day is exciting because you know that your work has a direct impact. I also found the tech stack particularly intriguing; we work with the latest stuff, have an open attitude to using new things and trying out new libraries or attending international conferences. In Engineering, the culture is that we huddle together and see what’s new.
For example, someone will pick a video on what’s new and talk about this. There is a willingness to try out new stuff.
What accomplishment are you proud of since working for FREE NOW?
First of all, I am really happy about the launch of e-scooters. Secondly, I am happy that my transition to the team has been so smooth- it’s not often that you get to work with a team that is so welcoming!
From a personal perspective, I am really happy that I have settled into a totally new city so successfully. I think this is down to how amazing Hamburg is for cycling- it’s my major passion and the roads and routes are awesome. I even discovered some tracks for mountain biking in the Harburger Hills!
What do you recommend to people who are looking to launch their tech career?
Firstly, build your own professional brand; a lot of the devs that I admire are, of course, technically, very talented yet they show that it is okay to be human; to enjoy spending time with their family, to pursue their hobbies, to go travelling. Basically, they show people that you can be successful and enjoy your life without coding for 48 hours straight every other day.
Secondly, utilise social media! This is a bit controversial, because often social media is a distraction yet, if you follow the right people, you will always learn something. Twitter is especially useful as users are often conversant on this platform so if you want to share an update or hear about the latest tech news or jobs, this is the fastest way to do so.
Lastly, be willing to give back. When I was back in Kenya, I also took part in a tech mentoring programme, Akirachix. The programme was aimed at teaching women from under-privileged backgrounds useful tech skills so that they could pursue a career in tech. I took part in this for around four years, either by giving talks or simply sharing my knowledge. For me, it’s important to let anyone starting out in the tech industry know that it’s okay to make mistakes and to keep going in order to build yourself up slowly. I have taken a break from this during relocation but I will be looking for new mentoring projects soon.
Would you like to get the chance to work in our Hamburg HQ? Check out our open opportunities here.