Chilling with the big boys: A remote software developer shares his experiences as a Tunga coder

BY Mifa Adejumo

“So, let me start this off by asking the most important question in history…how much does an African software developer actually make?

On the left side of my Zoom screen, a bespectacled Mark Akampurira – a full stack software developer of four years – sits against the backdrop of white walls. He first smiles brightly and then laughs. “Do you mean working for Tunga or in general,” the 26-year-old replies, sounding amused as he leans forward in his seat. “Both,” I reply and again he laughs. “Well, it depends, but I would use Ugandan standards. I’d say about 1000USD to 1500USD per month.” “That sounds encouraging,” I quickly chip in, to which he laughs and nods his head in agreement.

Developing software to create impact

As a kid, Mark was more interested in learning about aeronautics engineering. After finishing high school, however, he developed an interest in software development. He felt this presented more opportunities to impact the everyday lives of those around him. He hooked up with people who knew about programming and discovered that he loved it. In 2015, he enrolled in university to study Software Engineering. Two years later, one of his professors – impressed with some of the stuff Mark had already created – linked him to a professional project that he was working on. So, whilst still at uni, he already began making money off software development projects – although Mark is quick to clarify that it was more like a paid internship than anything else. Nevertheless, he was excited to put his mathematical knowledge to practical use.

Mark Akampurira

Remote work for a reputable employer

“So how did you get to know Tunga?” I ask. “I met Tunga through Daniel Afedra. We were in the same class at university and we were friends. I got to know Tunga after he joined. He told me I’d probably be a good fit and I went through the interviews and here I am.”

By the time we speak, Mark has been with Tunga for more than a year. I am curious about his first impressions. “I received the developer guide. It was a huge PDF and I went through it and was like ah…” He chuckles. “But because I had someone on the inside who was a developer there, he actually addressed all these questions that I had, so I didn’t have to wait for a Talent Manager to answer them. I think the first thing I appreciated there, was that they had standards and there was a clear path in terms of working as a developer. It was well planned and well thought out. They were really organized and I also trusted that Daniel wouldn’t link me up with something that wasn’t good”

There is no doubt that for most developers in Africa and across the world, the reputation of the company you choose to join matters. Not just because of personal preferences but also for the fact that it helps build trust between developer and the company. This is why Tunga has made a name for itself in the African developer scene as a tech company where what you see is what you get. For Mark, it was another reason for joining the Dutch IT outstaffer.

Developers can work remotely or at one of Tunga's offices.

Keep up or close shop

“After joining in November, I got my first international client in January the following year. Starting up with the client was a bit hard because I was probably the least experienced of the team. I felt like I had to prove myself and do more than everyone because I was chilling with the big boys.” We both burst out laughing, catching on to the reference he makes to Goya Menor’s viral hit.

Working for his first international client, Mark knew he needed to play his part well despite his limited experience. Asked about how he developed the confidence to perform, he explains: “When you get into a place and you are probably the underdog, you can do two things: you either have to keep up or close shop and go home. And closing shop and going home wasn’t an option for me,” he laughs. “In the beginning, my biggest issue was the time zones. By the time they got up, I’d already been working for two hours. But I soon was using that time difference to get more information about my task. And with time, I started learning. I was learning from my teammates. Understanding my task. Understanding what the client wants and what the team wants. It’s mostly the people skills that you are trying to improve so that you can have a relationship with the client and your teammates.

The technical side, you may be confident but then you also need to translate that side into something they can relate to, and that’s where the challenge lied. But our team was very helpful. It was an easy transition in terms of the tech because I was confident about my skills.”


Coders need people skills

Delving deeper, Mark talks about how he developed his oh-so-important people skills. In the first weeks he took time to understand each member of the team and their work style. He also learned about what the client appreciated; the kind of output they valued. “If I know what you like, then I’ll talk to you in those terms so it will be easier for you to understand what I am doing.”

During our talk, it becomes evident that one of Mark’s greatest personality traits is his adaptability. Depending on the environment he is in, he knows just how to fit in. “You have to adapt because right now, there’s nothing set in stone.”

We speak about his current Tunga gig with another international client. It is a different experience as he now has more direct access to the client and their developers. Here, he learned to manage expectations from both sides while still delivering quality.

Aspiring software developers at Tunga's Women in Tech graduation celebration.

Advice for ambitious software developer

Mark has some good advice for ambitious software developers who want to work with international clients. “Build your technical skills and be confident in it. Because the technical skills are why you are being hired. And the other thing would be to make sure you communicate well, because working remotely is not the traditional jump into the office where colleagues pass by your desk to see what you’re doing. So the clients rely on output more than on you showing up. You have to manage expectations by communicating. You have to communicate extensively to understand the requirements.”
He went on to add that, “You also have to learn and appreciate the business model the clients are running, for you to be able to appreciate the kind of problems they are trying to solve. And that comes with asking a lot of questions.”

Mark clearly enjoyed talking about his journey in software development. Working for an international client can seem daunting – regardless of how skilled you are. But as he explained, the trick is to be confident in your skills and open to learning and improving your people and communication skills.

Are you ready to chill with the big boys? Jump on over and see if you have what it takes!

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