Want to Work Abroad? Be More Like Vandesh!
An Indian developer moves from freelancing in Goa to work at an international startup in Estonia.
Vandesh Jajoo had zero qualms in the world, freelancing as a developer in Goa — a place that is a kaleidoscopic blend of Indian and Portuguese cultures, sweetened with sun, sea, sand, nature, and spirituality — a place like no other, really. But even in an idyllic setting like this, a human being starts to miss being part of something, being part of a team.
“I was missing team interactions where you can work together on a problem. And I started feeling that I want to gain some experience in the IT industry in another country,” says Vandesh. “I was considering working in either South America or Europe. Then I found out about Estonia and was keen to find out about the startup culture there. I started looking more closely and then Jobbatical caught my eye on one of the forums I stumbled upon googling.”
Everything Vandesh read on the Internet — the local startup culture, a nation coined to be e-friendly — a pioneer in e-governance and a leader in cybersecurity — sparked further interest. And his choice was made. He applied for a front-end engineer job at Topia (former MOVE Guides and Teleport) — a company that helps other companies move and manage their global talent. The hiring process went quickly and smoothly — from application to hire it took a couple of months.
Vandesh has the best things to say about Jobbatical’s immigration specialist who helped him with the paperwork needed to get a residence and working permit and even accompanied him to the Police and Border Guard Board personally to submit it. What struck Vandesh positively is that the public transport is free for the residents of Estonia’s capital Tallinn. “Also, the locals are very helpful and nice.”
When a foreigner from a warm country moves to Estonia, the inevitable topic to cover is the weather. It’s a no-brainer, really — the average temperature in Estonia is 5.2°C, in Goa it’s 25°C. Vandesh, however, strolled around without a beanie and gloves even when the temperatures plummeted to -15°C. “I got away from the constant heat in India and I like it. Everyone has been warning me that during next winter I might not feel the same way, but I am not worried,” Vandesh says matter-of-factly.
Setting up Standards & Coding Practices
It’s been a good experience working at Topia for Vandesh. “In terms of our organization, the people are very helpful and amazing — they’ve helped me with everything, from getting my SIM card to making my office onboarding easy and are always available for any queries I have about the local processes. They have a very open mindset towards people from different cultures. In general, the vibe of the company is amazing.”
Since he joined, Vandesh has been involved in setting up front-end standards and coding practices in the company, implementing product features and redesigning their product with the new brand (Topia) and some refactoring.
“An important lesson I have learned at Topia is that “number of years” isn’t really a deciding factor in a company being startup-minded or not. You can still keep the startup culture going by working in small, independent and dedicated teams. And of course, with the right people around you. It’s also been great to work in a multicultural environment across different time-zones — you get to learn a new thing every day, not only technically, but also about people and their culture.”
Living in a new country with a very different culture isn’t all peaches and cream. “Food is sometimes difficult here. Being a vegetarian, there are generally limited options and some restaurants don’t have an English menu at all without pictures,” Vandesh admits.
“Most Estonian food seems to contain meat on some level…I don’t know what vegetarian Estonian food is. But I have made a personal map of some good vegetarian food places in Tallinn now. What is amusing to me is the overuse of buckwheat in all things vegetarian.”
Vandesh’s family cursed him for not taking any spices with him here. “I came with just one rucksack full of clothes and some books. But there are a lot of Indian restaurants in Tallinn surprisingly and an Indian store as well!”
His family & friends were, of course, concerned with more than just spices when Vandesh informed them he’d be moving to a strange country called Estonia. “None of my family and friends knew anything about Estonia. I had to explain it is one of the most advanced e-countries in the world, in the EU. They were like, “Are you sure?” But now they’ve gotten used to the idea, I send them pictures and updates regularly and they’re happy for me.”
For all of you out there considering taking a jobbatical, Vandesh says: “You should consider the company and the people you’re gonna work with, also the country and city matters a lot. Do your research about the place and the organization and if both meet your expectations, just go with it!”
What will the future bring for Vandesh? “I don’t think too much about the future but I want to work in a ‘team environment’ for a while, be outside of my country and explore new places & cultures,” he says. One thing is sure though — when Vandesh returned to Tallinn from his recent travels, a sense of “coming back to home in Tallinn” came over our jobbaticler.