After starting her career in Ibadan, Nigeria, QA Engineer Amarachi Nzekwe decided to spend a year working at an ICT company in Kaunas. Three years and a global pandemic later, she has moved cities, changed jobs, and documented her journey on her YouTube channel. We sat down with Amarachi to talk about vlogging, career moves, and the tech scene in Lithuania.
If you’re looking for something new in your career, I can bet that there’s a company that does what you’re looking for or works the way you like.
At school, I was good at sciences and technical courses, like maths and physics, so I thought I might as well study something tech related. At first I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, but then I moved to Computer Science. That’s how I found myself working in tech.
When I first came across the Digital Explorers programme, I had already been working in IT for a few years. I think there’s a point where you decide that you want to find out if you’re really good at what you do or you’re just a “local champion”. That’s exactly when I discovered the opportunity to go to Lithuania and work there for a year. Before then, I had never heard of the country, but the fact that it was a one-year programme was a good enough reason to give it a shot. I thought, “If it doesn’t work, I’ll be back in a year.” So I applied, and eventually found myself in Lithuania.
My very first impression was that this place is cold. It’s always hot in Nigeria, and the day I landed in Lithuania in September 2019, it was nine degrees outside. It’s funny that back then, nine degrees seemed like the coldest thing to me. When I see nine degrees now, I think, “Oh, the weather is not so bad!” The cold was uncomfortable at first, but I’m still here!
What the Digital Explorers programme made me realise was that at the end of the day, tech is universal. There really isn’t a lot of difference across continents and cultural settings. You’re building products and solving problems wherever you are in the world, as long as you work in tech.
My company in Kaunas decided to keep me as a full-time employee when the Digital Explorers programme ended. After working for them for a while, I started to look for a new workplace. Up to that point, all my work experience had been in software consulting companies that built solutions for organisations and businesses. I wanted something different for my next career move – a company that was developing its own products. That’s how I found Revel Systems and moved to Vilnius to work there. The move was the icing on the cake – I’ve lived in a lot of cities in my life, and I start to get bored if I stay in one place for a while. Moving to Vilnius was a new adventure and I felt like I was discovering Lithuania all over again.
I’d say that Lithuania’s tech scene is really great – there are a lot of opportunities and all sorts of products and companies. If you’re looking for something new in your career, I can bet that there’s a company that does what you’re looking for or works the way you like.
A thing to keep an eye on when searching for a job in Lithuania is companies with diverse and multicultural teams. Talking to a company, I recommend asking some questions like “What is your official working language?”, “What language is your documentation and presentations in?”, and so on. When you’re not struggling with the language at work, it’s one less thing to deal with when integrating in Lithuania.
I simply looked for job ads in English on the most popular Lithuanian job ad portals. I kept sending my CV and got a call back from Revel. I don’t remember how long it took to get an offer, but I was not desperate for a job. I was okay being where I was while looking for the right thing for me, which helped a lot.
My first job in Lithuania was very similar to the work I used to do back in Nigeria. Technologically, there weren’t a lot of new things that I learned there. But moving to a different company and a different team, I learned a lot and grew as a professional.
I currently work with the Business Intelligence and Analytics team at Revel. When I started, I was pretty much thrown into the world of data, which was new to me. I began to interact with data, its architecture, pipelines, and infrastructure. I was also introduced to the process of building data models. All of this was a fresh experience for me.
But I’d say that generally, tech is evolving, and technologies and stacks can be learned. So it doesn’t really matter where you start out and what languages, frameworks or tools you’re using. As a tech professional, you should be open to change and learning new technologies. I don’t know what my next job will be – it might not necessarily be in data, but I will learn and adapt.
Right now I’m a QA Engineer, which means I try to find issues and recommend best practices to software developers. I test software so it works the way it’s supposed to, and that the user experience is ideal to whoever is using it. I do a lot of manual testing, but I also write tests for data models and front-end tests for our web app.
I already had a channel with a few videos before I came to Lithuania, but I wasn’t very active on it. During the lockdown, when I was at home and couldn’t do much, I thought I could try this YouTube thing again.
At first, I didn’t put much thought into my topics, I simply made videos about anything I could think of, just for fun. But soon I noticed that viewers are coming to my channel because I live in Lithuania, and that this fact makes them feel like I can answer their questions about Lithuania. I thought, okay, maybe this could be my niche! So I started using my videos to answer the many questions I was getting and reflect what my life in Lithuania is like.
My viewers talk to me all the time. I’m constantly getting questions about Lithuania on Instagram. Even during the time last year when I did not post any videos, I was answering questions on Instagram every other day!
I didn’t really have any preconceptions about Lithuania before coming here. But I’d say that given the size of the country, I’m really impressed by how well things work here. I’ve also travelled to other places and I realised that Lithuania is much more technologically advanced than, for example, Germany. Things just work here. I don’t need to carry cash anywhere I go, transfers are instant, the transport system works great. In Lithuania, there are also a lot of tech companies that are building advanced solutions, and many startups. I think these are all very impressive things that people don’t know much about. When they think “Lithuania”, they think “a small country”, but they don’t know how much is happening here in terms of tech.
Something that took me time to adjust to was the fact that people here are a bit reserved and tend to keep to themselves. I come from Nigeria, where we’re used to communal living. Everybody is in your business there, you know everyone that lives in your building. In Kaunas, I only knew one neighbour in my five-storey building. That would never happen where I come from. People mind their business here, but it’s not personal and doesn’t mean they do not want to interact with you specifically. They’re like that with everybody.
Lithuanian people might seem cold, but what I realised over my time here is that Lithuanians change with the weather. I noticed that people smile more and are more friendly in summer.
I like the fact that I live a very comfortable life here. I have a job that I enjoy. I can afford a comfortable lifestyle. There’s work-life balance – nobody expects you to work longer than you’re supposed to, and people value the work that you do. I have a beautiful community of people around me. This life that I’ve built for myself in terms of comforts – that’s what I like the most about being here in Lithuania.