AKINJIDE BANKOLE


6 min read

My Experience as a Developer in Residence

Happy Sketch

Three months ago I left my home in Lagos, Nigeria for my company’s HQ in Manhattan, New York, alongside my colleague Rehema Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya. Rehema and I spent 3 months in New York as Developers in Residence – a program designed to bring Developers from Andela’s African offices to the US to spend time with the team here, bridge the physical distance between our multiple offices, promote collaboration and friendship across the organization.

Being a Developer in Residence was far different than anything I’ve done before, and on top of that, going to New York City marked my first experience traveling outside of Nigeria. If you’ve read my blog before, you’d know I planned to do some traveling this year and this trip was a part of it.

Saying that being a Developer in Residence is different than being a programmer would be an understatement. As a programmer, my days are pretty standardized. I typically wake up, grab food, and then spend the rest of the day focusing on building a feature, fixing a bug, or handling some combination of both.

As a Developer in Residence, each day was different. I would wake up early (around 5am local time as my team/partner is based in Nigeria), pick from available project tasks and work my full developer day from home, then head out to the HQ office in the afternoon. There I focused on spending time with the partnerships team, getting to know people at the HQ, networking with the technology community, and knocking stuff off my my New York bucket list.

In short, it’s crazy! The days were long but full of variety, new experiences and people. If I had to sum up the Developer in Residence program for any interested Andelan, I’d say it’s a lifestyle (and one that you’ll really enjoy!)

The Good

I think the biggest change for me in the first few weeks was getting used to the environment, the food, the people, and the change in my day to day activities.

The first 2 weeks in particular, although I was constantly busy, it felt as though I was slacking off and not accomplishing anything – mainly because I wasn’t churning out code at the rate I’m used to doing. That was mainly because after leaving work, I wasn’t heading home to open my laptop and knock more tasks off my list - I was out exploring the city with friends, trying new food, and going to events.

Although I was still struggling with the timezone, I quickly began to see that there were other things I could do to provide value in my work and on my team other than obsessively focusing on churning out code :)

The first week at NYC I ended up checking all the things below off my list:

  • Took awesome photos :)
  • Got to know Andela’s NYC staff (they’re all awesome, by the way), found out what they were working on, and what they like about it.
  • Discussed with my partner Engineering team, what the professional/team goals would be for the coming months (what stuff we were going to be doing – how we were going to do it – and why).
  • Unpacked my bags, explored neighboring streets with Andela’s Travel Manager, India :) and generally approached my time in NYC with open mind.
  • Went to a meetup with my coworker and built a random program for fun.

Once I was settled in, I ended up picking up the pace and doing quite a few other things:

  • Went to roughly two meetups per week (mainly DevOps, and Node.js).
  • Planned out feature sets, reviewed code, and merged pull requests with my partner Engineering team.
  • Talked with lots of developers and learned about the technology community in NYC (you’d be surprised how hard it is talking to people).
  • Ate my way through the city! New York has a ton of restaurants and food options. Anytime I found myself looking through a menu handed over by a waiter and unable to understand anything on the menu, I just pick randomly. No harm in trying right?
  • Lots of other stuff I’d probably forgotten.

Overall, while I was slowly beginning to get the hang of things, every day was different – some days I’d travel to fun places, some days I went to events and met new people, some days I was in the office meeting potential partners, and everyday I was writing code of course.

Although I was still figuring things out, being a Developer in Residence is definitely one of the most fun things I’ve ever done and a change from what I was used to.

It’s pretty insane, being in a different culture and meeting new people.

The Challenges

Missing Home.

My biggest priorities in life right now are health, friends and family, then work. While in NYC, whenever I would see the NYC skyline, I would think of my family. I loved my time living in a new city, but I still missed my family a lot.

Finding a Balance.

For me, the biggest challenge as a Developer in Residence was figuring out how to maintain a workable schedule. I realized after week 2 that going to multiple meetups per week while also trying to maintain a healthy sleep and partnerships schedule (my hours were 3am to 1pm Eastern Time to maintain overlap with my team in Nigeria) was almost impossible. I had heard from some past Developers in Residence that their health went down the drain as a side effect of doing too much and not getting necessary rest, but I refused to let that happen to me.

Aside from the scheduling problems, the next biggest challenge was trying to prioritize work effectively. There were simply so many things to do (articles to write, events to attend, sales meeting to attend, libraries to build, etc.). Fortunately, I got slightly better at balancing commitments to ensure things worked sustainably! This involved maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, some days only scheduling events and changing up work hours, but maintaining a healthy schedule was definitely a challenge.

A Tip about Tips.

The other thing I found challenging is tipping culture. Normally I don’t tip more than 15%. I realized that while everyone at NYC is incredibly awesome, leaving tips is a custom due to service workers being systemically underpaid employees. Whether you’re eating in a restaurant or using an ordering app like seamless – a 15 - 20% tip is expected.

Moments

Here are some moments I captured:

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My Final Thoughts

Being a Developer in Residence gave me the opportunity to learn and grow, exposed me to a new culture and fun people who are now lifelong friends, and was an honest indicator that I really love what I’m doing here at Andela.

And oh yeah, I’ve made a list of places I visited and recommend. Feel free to shoot me an email if you need tips :)