Developer In Düsseldorf: Segun’s Abroad Life.

November 8, 2019

Today’s Abroad Life is about a place and a thing I know next to nothing about – Germany and Software developing. Who better to help straighten things out that Segun Famisa, a software developer who has spent the past two years kicking butt and taking names in software development all the way in Germany.

Before this call started, I made the mistake of googling how much a developer earns and Google told me personally, that developers earn an average salary of about $106,000. Facts or nah?

Well, I live in Germany and these figures usually vary from city to city. A developer can earn more in London and earn less in New York. Or they could be balling in San Francisco. There’s no real global average. In Germany, it can go from €40,000 all the way to €100,000. It depends on certain factors like cost of living, city, company, experience level, etc.

Hold on, let me bring my calculator out real quick.
Okay oh.

I see. So one Euro makes ₦400. We will now be taking a break from Abroad Life to have a special cross-over event. Abroad life meets Naira Life meets a masterclass to make Boyin a developer in two days.

Haha. Oh really?

Really really. This bag won’t make itself. What’s the first thing I have to know to become a developer?

Probably just how computers work you know how the internet works. Like, what happens you type a tweet?

You hit send?

LOL, well yes that. But also, what makes it tick and the software behind that.

Got it! All I have to do is learn the software behind the entire internet before Sunday.

Ah, you’ll do what? I’ll say this though. Software development has one of the lowest barriers to entry. Like you could go from novice to a reasonable point in about 6 months. Getting from 0 – 1 is the hardest part, 1 – n is a lot easier.

Okay. I’ve stored that in my basket of knowledge. What made you want to become a developer? I could be wrong, but I don’t see Nigerian universities offering that as a course.

Oh, they do. I finished from OAU, and there was a Computer Science and Engineering program. Others have maybe software engineering programs. I mean you don’t need formal education to become a developer but the option is there in Nigeria.

Uh-oh. ASUU 1, Boyin 0.

So you asked about becoming a developer and I’ll say I stumbled into it. My first encounter with making things work on computers was in secondary school when a corper taught us basic computer programming, you know Q Basic etc.

*Pretends to know what Q basic is*

From there, my interest in computers was piqued. So when I attended Obafemi Awolowo University, I took some courses, like Fortran 77.

Oh ofcourse! Fortan 77. *No idea what that is*

Haha. It’s a programming language. So in my second year of Uni, OAU went on strike.

Pretends to be shocked.

Because students are stubborn, nobody went home. There was a program co-sponsored by Nokia and MIT that happened during that period. It was called EPROM. Entrepreneurial Programming and Management. There we learnt how to program Nokia Phones, S40 and S60  phones.

Wait, wait, wait. You’re talking a lot of nerd here!

LOL. Okay, so pretty much we learnt how the operating systems on Nokia phones like the N-Series and the E-Series worked, and how to build apps. All of this was during the strike oh.

So how did you go from being an undergrad tinkering with an N75, to becoming a Google developer expert for android?

So there was a person involved with the Nokia program in OAU called Fowe that started an IT program for mentees, which I joined. He pointed the members of the group in the right directions and pushed me to learn how to develop android apps. I graduated and started working in different companies associated with the craft. After that, I became very, very active in the developer community in OAU and Lagos — doing presentations on new, cool products, writing articles, giving talks, attending seminars etc. These are some of the things that kind of get you some notice.

*Furiously takes down notes*

I was also super active in the Google developer group in Lagos, used to attend and speak at events. That was where I guess I was noticed by the developer ecosystem managers at Google, first by someone here and someone in Kenya. They recommended me to the Google Developer Expert Program (GDE) and well, here I am now.

Noted and noted. So you’re currently cooling your heels in Germany. That visa, how boys dey run am?

First off, I’m actually literally cooling my heels here. It is very cold! But the visa, hmm. It was quite easy getting it when I did.

When was that?

Back in 2017. All I needed was to have the checklist of documents they prescribed and there was pretty much no stress to apply for a work visa. But these days I heard it’s war oh! I heard it can take up to ten months, just to get an appointment to apply for the visa.

Ten months? Who did we offend?

Ajuju!

LOL. So, the closest I’ve ever been to Germany is maybe riding in a BMW, how does a Yoruba from … where are you from again?

Osun State.

Ehen. How does a Yoruba boy from Osun State go from ekaaro ara-ile (good morning people of the house)  to guten morgen schönen Tag (good morning, lovely day)?

Man, let me tell you, it is no joke. Let me give an example. You see this word – Adoflstraße? That ‘ß’ is pronounced as a double ‘s’, so if you’re pronouncing it, you would ay ‘Adolfstrasse’. One day, I spent like an hour asking people for directions to ‘Adolfstrabe’.

Oh no!

Another time, I had a package and because it was boxed, it had to go through customs. Customs means paperwork, paperwork means everything is in German and I have to carry my colleague with me to their office like he’s my daddy to help translate. 

Wait, you didn’t learn the language before coming?

Look, before I came to work in Germany, I was working in Andela with a partner company in Seattle, so I was up from 1 PM to like 10 PM. Got my job in July, moved here in October, there was just no time for it. I mean I tried DuoLingo before coming, but it didn’t reach anywhere.

Before!

Now, I have an A2.1 certification in the German language which is like an advanced beginner, but when I first came, little things like grocery shopping confused. So you see these Germans, they have like 50 different kinds of salt?

Who needs 50 different kinds of salt? 

See, that’s how they ask questions oh! I went to the grocers to get Kartoffeln and Salz which are potatoes and salt. Please tell me why I saw garlic salt, sea salts etc all marked ‘salz’. And the thing with the packaging here is, they’re sealed at the top so I couldn’t open to confirm what kind of salt it was. Went home and found that I had bought something like stone, had to grind the salt just to be able to use it.

Uh-oh. So is language the most difficult thing about living in Germany?

I mean, if you’re talking about difficult. I used to live in Ajah and I had to work in Yaba. I faced like two-hour traffic going and coming every single day, so that was something. If I travel two hours from where I live in Düsseldorf, I’d probably land in Dortmund. So yeah, language is small. The cold, now that’s difficult.

How bad is it?

It gets pretty cold, but it’s just to wear jacket and shake it off you’ll be fine. Now the people of Germany, that’s an interesting topic.

Ah, what did they do?

Nobody greets here. And it’s not in the dobale or kneel down way. Like if you enter an elevator everyone just averts their eyes to avoid looking at you. They can lead very isolated lives. Like I’ve had my neighbour for two years and I think I’ve only seen him once. Maybe he has a baby? I saw a stroller outside his house one time.

What.Can.This.Mean?

It’s a cold place out here oh. Literally and figuratively. Some Germans can be chatty, but the majority aren’t. And it spreads to even immigrants, everyone is just eyes front on the streets. But before I enter that, there’s something I didn’t add about the language. 

What’s that?

They have like 12 different ways of saying ’the’

Huh?

So it depends on if the is a subject or object, you’ll use a different ‘the’. If you’re referring to a masculine object, you use one type of the, if it’s the subject, you use another the.

Then prepositions matter too. There’s a whole thing with cases in German – Dativ,  Akkusativ, Nominativ, Genutiv. All these things affect the type of ‘the’ used.

A2.1 Certification is showing!

That’s us! Apart from that, there’s this thing where you have to capitalise all proper nouns in German, even if it’s in the middle of a sentence. So say you want to write, ‘I think that table is far’, in German, the ‘Table’ must be capitalised. The language is interesting sha.

It really is. So how does a German developer like you spend his day?

Doing normal developer things. There’s this trope that developers don’t need human interaction, but they really do. So most of the day, you can spend it writing code. But you need to interact with other developers because the developer spectrum is too wide to know everything. Then you  talk to key stakeholders, like CEOs of the product you’re helping to build. So it’s about the same thing in Germany and everywhere else.

Got it. And if you want to unwind? What would you do? What would you eat? What do they eat over in Germany actually?

Haha, funny you should ask about food. I love the food here, but it might be because I’m open to trying new things. It’s a lot of sausages and pork and vegetables. My favourite thing to eat is maybe the Schnitzel mit Pommes, which is like chicken breasts, breaded and flat. Then there’s a lot of street food with sausage, like Bratwurst, Currywurst. The food actually bangs here.

Amala and ewedu who?

Haha. There are African stores you can get all the produce and things, but like I said, I like trying new things. Now to unwinding in Germany…

Yep?

There are clubs with Afrobeats and you see a lot of immigrants and black people there. Which is a notable thing, there are a lot of Ghanaians or people of Ghanaian ancestry here. Then Eritreans, not that many Nigerians. Sha, everyone goes to these clubs and while you know, the German way has infected everyone and no one is as chummy, there’s always the friendly nod, so that’s good. Oh another thing about,nobody really drives in Düsseldorf where I live.

Even with their BMWs?

Yes oh. The transport system is so efficient that you don’t need to own one. Only families that go on maybe road trips and do a lot of cross-country travel actually bother with them. Because you’d have to pay tax on the car and find parking and these Germans do not like that kind of stress, so that’s their way.

An efficient transport system. God when? Now speaking of the German people, you’re from a country and you’re now living in a country with a terrible track record of human genocide essentially. Is there a difference in how both countries treat their history?

Well, for one thing, World War 2 is taught in schools here. Nigeria doesn’t even have history in her curriculum to begin with, so that’s one way knowledge of the Civil War is kept shuttered. But over here, there’s a whole sense of shame about it and just a deliberate attempt to make sure history never repeats itself.

What kind of attempts?

Well, in Berlin, you can see people from one section of society, putting out racist posters in public spaces, you know just trying to start some drama and hate. But these same Germans, from another section of society will place other posters on top of those, just spreading positivity and making it abundantly clear, there’s no tolerance for that kind of hate. That’s not to say 

I don’t experience racism every now and then — sometimes overt, other times micro-aggressions.

Terrible. Any chance you’ll be telling Germans to carry their country and go anytime soon?

Well, I’m still young so I’m open to the idea of moving to other places and exploring the world, so we’ll see.

Energy! Meanwhile, I’ll tell you how becoming a developer by Sunday works for me.

Haha. Sure thing!

Want more Abroad Life? Check in every Friday at 12 PM (WAT) for a new episode. Until then, read every story of the series here.

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