12 tips to boost your international tech career

BY Kees Kranendonk

Yes you can! Cracking the international market as a software developer is no easy feat, but it can be done. Hey, that’s kind of our thing, remember?! In this blog, we share 12 tips that will help you set your growth path to succeed across the border.

 

1. Your foundation: tech skills

Your tech career starts with your tech expertise. In other words: work on your coding skills. Some devs are completely self-taught. Others follow a training course, like those at KampaBits. Whatever you do, don’t think it’s enough to know a language. Any veteran techie will remind you, you must really know a language. Breathe it. Dream it. Live it. Amos Walugembe simply says: “Be good at what you do.” Focus on one language, and excel. Learn to write the cleanest code you ever saw. Code poetry.

And please be patient and don’t expect quick results. It takes a tremendous amount of practice. Only when you’ve truly mastered your language, you may have a peek at another one.

 

2. Keep developing yourself

You won’t get employed with obsolete know-how. Have you noticed how there’s not much call for lamplighters these days? The same goes for Pascal and COBOL programmers. Developments in IT go crazy fast, so make sure you stay on top of your game. Keep studying, keep upskilling. Own your learning. Don’t take it from me, take it from someone who hires African IT wizards: “You should have the willingness to learn and invest in yourself, even in your own time.”

 

3. Work on your soft skills

Having said all that, your programming skills are pretty much useless if you lack decent soft skills. Call them interpersonal skills, non-technical skills or transferable skills – they are essential skills. Oxford defines them as: “Personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people.”

The development of your soft skills is a compulsory part of any career growth path. They include critical thinking, problem-solving, public speaking, professional writing, teamwork, digital literacy, leadership, professional attitude, work ethic, career management and intercultural fluency.

While they cover a broader set of competencies, communication is a major part of your soft skills. Full Stack developer Amos Walugembe knows it: your potential employer will get to assess your communication skills before you have the opportunity to showcase your coding prowess. Mark van der Ploeg is the CEO of Tunga client rb2. He confirms: “In our hiring process, the soft skills are maybe more important than the hard skills, because anything else, you can learn from us.”

If you want to get hired by a company abroad, work on speaking clear and concise English. Practice presenting ideas and concepts. Think critically and learn to look at issues from other people’s perspectives. Make sure you can explain things clearly and patiently. Act professionally and be approachable and helpful. And oh-so important: excel at teamwork.

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A coach or mentor is valuable at any stage of your career

4. Build a great portfolio … and make sure everyone can access it

So you want to gain employment as a developer, huh? Well, why don’t you show us what you’ve got! By developing your own online portfolio, you can showcase your skills to the entire world.

The exact content of your portfolio website depends on your specialization. It could feature an API tool, a front end application, your documented code. Maybe you want to include a Git Repository. Whatever you do, make sure that you are critical about what you include. Some visitors will not spend more than two minutes browsing your portfolio, so you want them to see a great selection of your work and enjoy a superb experience.

Be sure to keep updating and improving it as well, so you’ll always have a current business card for anyone interested in your skills.

 

5. Master the common business tools

Of course, you’ll be using your dedicated tools for your developer magic. But don’t forget that you’ll also be using more common productivity software. How comfortable are you with those programs? The more, the better.

So dive deep into the Google Docs Editors suite, which allows you to collaborate using documents, sheets, slides, forms and more. Blow away your online conferencing partners with an attractive profile picture and complete signature for Zoom en MS Teams. And remember, people love to see the face behind the name, so turn your camera on every once in a while!

Slack is an incredibly popular tool for professional communication. You can explore it for free. And there is a whole bunch of tools and trackers for development projects. Why don’t you familiarize yourself with Jira, Microsoft Azure, Shortcut, Linear en GitHub?

 

6. Prep your interviews

What was that again about the number of chances you get to make a first impression? Right. If you want to blow your potential employer away, you better come equipped. So do your homework. Prepare your pitch very well, but keep it natural. Know the requirements and talk about how you meet, or better yet, exceed them.

Read up about that employer. What are some recent developments they (or their sector) are going through? Can you casually drop a reference to those in your interview, proving how hip to their game you are?

 

7. Know what is expected

The demands of the international market are tough. At Tunga, we’re well aware of that – and we prepare our developers accordingly. Because employers abroad often want more from an employee. And you’re competing with developers from … well, from all over the world, really. Only when you know those expectations, can you try to meet them.

Emmanuel Semutenga works as a training instructor at KampaBits. He knows his stuff: “You have to be proactive. Attitude matters a lot in this field.” Many employers expect you to come with input and solutions, both solicited and spontaneously. Accountability is another thing. Own your wins – and your mistakes. Be honest and open. Be a dependable and helpful colleague. Be self-motivated and learn from your errors.

And ask questions. Questions are not a sign of ignorance – they show that you’re eager to learn and perform.

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Great company promotes a great work environment

8. Create a great working environment

Oops! We know how this can be a challenge. Honestly, we do. That’s why Tunga created co-working spaces in Kampala and Lagos, to provide a good working environment with stable internet and electricity for our developers who don’t want to work at home. What else do you need? A decent computer, obviously, but also a stress-free area where you can work in peace. A good desk and chair. Think about your lighting. A filing cabinet or similar storage space. And how about your drinks? You have to stay hydrated!

Also pay attention to the things you don’t need. Keep your work area tidy and without distractions.

 

9. Join a community

Or two. Networking is so important. Developer communities can give you that support and inspiration you need. In your community of peers, you can find like-minded people who focus on similar issues. By sharing knowledge, you’re expanding your expertise. You’ll have access to resources and tools. Tutorials and coding snippets. You’ll get coding tips. It’s a good way to stay up to date. As an active community member, asking and answering questions, you’ll increase your visibility, which will help uncover new opportunities for projects and collaborations.

We asked our Tunga developers for recommendations. Here’s a selection of various communities, all based in Africa:

SheCodeAfrica (various chapters in Africa)

forLoop (Africa)

Meta Developer Circles. You can find them in: Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana), Kampala (Uganda), Harare (Zimbabwe) and many other African cities.

DevCenterSquare (Nigeria)

DevCongress (Ghana)

Google Developer Groups are also found all over the world, including in Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia en Morocco.

Kigali Dotnet Developers (Rwanda)

Besides these online communities, there is a whole world of WhatsApp communities. By nature, these are invitation-only. So expand your developer network and try to get an invitation – so that you can expand that network even further!

 

10. Find a mentor

Oh, to find that Sensei, that Grand Master who can guide you on your path to enlightenment. A mentor’s role is to encourage, support and empower you. A good mentor helps you identify and reach your goals, giving feedback and empowering you. Mentors are a source of knowledge and hold you accountable. They are a trusted ally that help you expand your network.

To be fair, Tunga tries to do many of those things for its developers as well. On our platform we support developers with the advancement of their careers, with training, coaching and actionable insights.

It is not always easy to find a mentor. It should be someone you feel safe with, and who matches your personality and your needs. The above communities are good places to start your search.

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Having a good time – one of Tunga’s specialities

11. Compete in a hackathon

Hackathons offer real-life practice for developers at any stage of their career. You work in a team, usually in sprints, to find a solution for an existing technical problem before a set deadline. Often held in the form of a competition, these events contain many of the components you’ll encounter in your tech career: agile work, teamwork, working against the clock – it’s all there. Hackathons are held on site and online, and also offer great networking opportunities. And at the end, you have a new product for your portfolio. What’s not to like?

Tunga frequently organizes hackathons that can be joined by everyone. There are various sites that list hackathons.

 

12. Make sure you enjoy free time

It’s easy to get too absorbed in your tech career. But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, remember? Well, the same goes for Safiya, Ayomide, Adamma and Abebe. Once you start in tech, there’s always something to finish. But we wouldn’t be Tunga if we didn’t emphasize the importance of having fun. Yes, we want to help unleash your talent, but we don’t want to chain you to your computer. So don’t forget to get out there and enjoy what the world has to offer. It will make you a better professional.