We Are Cloudflare
From Nigeria to the tech world. Join us this week to get to know Gift Egwuenu — she’s the new Developer Advocate at Cloudflare. Last week we’ve talked with Tom Paseka, that is celebrating his 10 year at the company, now we’re going to meet someone is only getting started.
Hello and welcome to We Are Cloudflare, our segment where we talk with employees, people that work at Cloudflare, and today my guest is Gift Egwuenu.
Did I say it correctly, Gift?
You did pretty well. It's pronounced Egwenu, but you did Egwenu. Gift Egwenu.
Oh, thank you so much for having me. Welcome. You are, as we speak, a new employee in Cloudflare, at Cloudflare.
You are a developer advocate, so two weeks in already.
So last week we talked with Tom Paseka, who is 10 years in, in terms of company, and now we are discussing what you think about the company and in terms of your path with someone who is just starting her journey, in this case, with Cloudflare.
First, let's dig a little bit in terms of your background.
I'm curious, in a sense, of where do you grow up, your place of birth? It's Nigeria, right?
Yeah, it's Nigeria. I'm from Nigeria, currently living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and I, I don't know if people would know, but I lived in one of the most popular cities called Lagos, and that was where I was born, and that was where I lived till I moved over to the Netherlands.
And my journey getting into tech is actually very interesting, and if you, if you ask me specific questions, I'm happy to answer it, but generally, I would say I have like a very traditional background, so I had, I went to university to study computer science, and that's where I started, you know, getting into tech and programming, yeah.
In terms of Lagos, Lagos is the capital of Nigeria, so it's a big city, right?
Lagos is currently not the capital, but it's one of the most, yeah, it's, it's, it's like the second most popular city, and yeah, the capital for Nigeria is Abuja.
But it's, it's a big city in terms of, your upbringing was surrounded by a city, a big city.
Yes, it's a very industrial city, that's where like, if you mention Lagos, Nigeria, I'm sure, and anybody knows about Nigeria, they would know the city, because it's one of the most popular ones, yeah, and growing up there, yeah.
Yeah, exactly, that's the question, what was growing up there, and our main focus here, when did you get to, to get to know more tech, tech and be interested in the tech area, really?
Yeah, sure, like I said before, I have like a traditional background, so I went to school for computer science, and that was basically, before then, I had like, very big interest in electronics, not even tech, because I remember back then at home, I was just interested in seeing, oh, how does this TV work, like, can I fix it, you know, all of that thing, I was quite interested in doing all of that when I was a kid, and later on, my dad got us a very, very old Windows computer at home, and we just had that one, so we usually use it for playing games, and you know, I also was interested in learning how to, you know, work with like, some Microsoft stuff, so Microsoft Word, Excel.
By the way, which Windows version did you have at that time?
I think it's 95. Oh, so, so yeah, so it's the 90s, we can situate ourselves in terms of time with the version of Windows, right?
Yeah, I would say with time, the time this was in 2000, so I would say probably 2004, but the thing is, we had the older version, so probably we're using like, you know, the 95 version, yeah, well, it was in the 2000s, yeah, so I had that, and myself, my siblings, we were all interested, mostly in playing games, but I think that's why I picked up interest in going like, one step further, so in Lagos, we have like, a very popular market for tech stuff, it's called Computer Village, and this place is where you get, go to buy like, software, you know, back in the day, you don't just go on the Internet to download software, you have to go to a shop to get like, a CD, or a diskette, because I remember I used to buy like, the small diskettes, and then I'm from the time of the diskettes, CDs were a little bit later, exactly, so we had, I had to do that a lot, I would buy CDs, then go back home, try to install it to get software, nowadays you just go and just download it so easily, but generally, I think I had a lot of interest growing up in tech stuff, and I figured it was a no-brainer to go on to study it in university, so that's why.
But more software, or hardware, or both?
In the beginning, it was a most accessible thing for me at the time, so for example, the TV remote, the TV, the, you know, all of those things were available, but eventually I moved to doing software, so when I obviously had like, a computer to play around with, I had more interest in, you know, playing with that, and that's, I think that's when my interest shifted to software.
And then, when did you realize that, hey, this is what I want to do with my life, I want to go further in the tech world, did you see the promise back in Nigeria, hey, I can do a career with this, what did you, when did you got that sense?
I think when I had that light bulb moment, wasn't even in the beginning, it was when I was done with my degree, because if I remember correctly, I was doing computer science, but I didn't know that I would finish my degree to become a developer, I was still like, you know, I had like, the idea of just working at a tech company, probably doing telecoms, because we have like, a lot of big ISPs back in Nigeria, and there was one that I had my eye on, and I told myself that after school, I definitely want, it's called MTN, I said after school, I want to work with MTN, I don't know what I would do, but because I feel like it's like, a computer tech related company, then I feel like I would be able to work there, but it was around my last, my fourth year in school, that I started playing with, you know.
What school was that, already college, was it secondary school?
Yeah, we call it university, so college, yeah. Yeah, here in Portugal, we call it university too, actually.
That was university, so I had like, four years to do computer science there, and actually, I was introduced to programming by then, because if you're doing like, a computer science degree, you would get to work on courses like, you know, Python, I did Pascal, but the problem was, I was doing like, they were teaching us like, very old stuff, that you would actually not get to use in real life.
I remember that it was a three -month program, but I wanted to stay longer, but I had to go back to school, so yeah, it was, it was very nice, and after that, I would still attend classes, but I took it one step further by going back home to learn more stuff on my own, so I had like this, it's, it's now outdated, I wouldn't recommend you use it, but I used to use the, I think it's called W3 Schools website to learn stuff, and yeah, that was my go-to, and it was not a very consistent journey at the beginning, because I had like some factors coming in, for example, I was in school, Internet was very, very expensive, sometimes you have to struggle with electricity, so the resources were difficult to, to get, so that kept like, that's, that's added like, that was like a barrier in the whole process.
Of course, actually, we discussed this a few days ago, when we were setting up the, this conversation in Africa, but not only in Africa, even in Europe, there are parts of Europe where people that are in the place of, in a country, or in a place of a country, specific country, that the Internet is bad in terms of being quick, being secure, of course, and being expensive, that changes the access, even if we say you have access to the Internet, of course, you have, but if it's expensive, it's, if it's low, what you, you are going to be able to do with Internet is different from someone that has a higher speed.
The experience is definitely different, like comparing to what I have now, but I, I was aware of that, so I would try to always, you know, optimize for what I can get, you know, so I remember that I would go to cafes, so like cyber cafes, where you can go pay for like, like an hour or two to get on the Internet.
I used to do that a lot, and when I have like money, then I would pay for subscription to have my own Internet, but yeah, I did that a lot, just to get like access to these resources that I was using to learn, and then, let's say, fast forward a year later, I finished my degree, got my certificate.
This was at around what time, in terms of years?
In terms of year, it was 2014, through 2015. Okay.
Yeah, that was, that was, that was that period, and I went back home, so where I schooled was actually a different country.
I wasn't schooling in Nigeria, but it was a, a very close country to Nigeria.
It's called Benin Republic, and they also like have very similar, like if you live there, the only difference for me was that they speak French, and I speak English, but everything was super, super similar, like the resources that I complained about was also the same experience.
Even the difficulties were the same. Yeah, exactly, it was the same, so I went back home after school, and I think it was a little bit better, because I was home, and I could ask my parents for money, you know, if I needed to, and in Nigeria, we have this very compulsory thing, program that everybody, every youth has to, it's called NYSC, so it's basically the government saying after university, you have to serve the country for one year, so you can either go to like a, they post you to like a different state in the country, so if you're from, if you probably live in Lagos, you're going to be posted to somewhere far north, or somewhere far west, to serve for a year, so I was posted north, and I, after the, during the program, you'd like, get like a one month orientation, and in the process, they'll teach you about, you know, what the state is like, culture of the states, what you can do there, so at the time, I already knew computer science, and I thought it would be nice for me to teach at a secondary school, like a high school, so I took up that opportunity to teach computer science for a year at a very remote high school, but it was a very nice experience, because I felt like I was filling a void.
At the time, they didn't have any, they didn't have any teacher to teach the secondary school students computer science, so I came in, and I was able to help, and it's like a voluntary service that you do, but also you get paid for it, or very, you get paid very small, you know, amounts, but it was very nice, and I think what I took out, what I took away from the experience was leaving my base to go somewhere I've never been before, and also meeting new people, you know, trying to learn a new language, trying to integrate into a different, you know, culture, it was very nice, and yeah, I loved the experience.
And teaching, spreading the word of what you've learned, in the sense, right?
It was good, because, funny story, yesterday, I had like an email from one of my students in Nigeria, and he sent me a message that if, he was asking if I remembered him, that he found me on LinkedIn, that he now works after school, he now works with a remote company in the US, and I was like, as a software engineer, so now he's a software engineer, so incredible, yeah, that message made me so happy.
Yeah, that's goosebumps over there, in terms of, you made an impact, even just teaching, just doing what was your job, you made an impact in that person, it's incredible.
Yeah, it made me so happy, because I felt, if I had not done that, probably I wouldn't have, like you just said, made that impact in that person, because they also said that they found me doing this, and give them like the, you know, interest to go into engineering as a career, so that's very motivating, I would say.
Of course, you said there, one thing that I found very interesting, even I was at the office here in Lisbon this Tuesday, so I'm going Tuesdays for the office, just to mingle with people, and meet people, and there was this Portuguese young man, actually, called Bernardo, he was explaining to me, that he did an internship at Colfair last year, and it was very successful, he got shout outs from the CEO, and he was an intern for his job, and he was saying that, I don't think Portuguese young men, that finish up the university, they don't know how useful an internship can be, for them to learn, for them to meet the right people in the short period of time, even summer internships, you were talking about boot camps back there, sometimes a less traditional path, if you do boot camps, if you meet people, if you do different things, sometimes get you the experience you need, even outside the university, outside college.
Yeah, I agree, because I also had like, in my experience, I also had like different different paths, that I would go, like for example, I joined a boot camp, like I said, I also did like two internships following that, you know, so all of these experiences kind of shaped me to this point, and added to my experience, so it's important, I agree.
Well, you were saying one thing that I found very interesting, actually, the first day you entered at Colfair, the company, Erwin van der Kolk, and I'm saying his name wrong, completely, I'm sorry, but he was telling a story for us, all of us to hear about, when he met you a few years ago, and you were doing some work from him, and you evolved since then, and now you're at Colfair, and he was telling this story, can you sum up a little bit this story, which I find very interesting?
He gave you the guidelines for you to learn, to get better.
Yeah, he gave me, like, yeah, he provided me with good advice as well, which was something that I really appreciated, and something he probably did not know, he never stopped paying for those courses for me, like, yeah, he never stopped, and that was also something I said, okay, this is very rare to find, but I didn't take it for granted, and I said I was going to pay it forward to other people as well, so if I have the opportunity to also help other people with that, so that's how I met Erwin, and that's how that story went, but I, like I said, I still try to keep in touch, and, yeah, you also have a YouTube popular channel, a GitHub page that is very popular, you communicate what you do, you inspire others communicating in that sense, but before you go to the YouTube part, can you explain this a little bit, what does the developer advocate do, and how did you end up at Cloudflare?
Sure, I can, interesting, how I like to explain developer advocates, because it's a bit grainy, and some people have different definitions for it, but I like to say a developer advocate is a developer, right, but what they do is they advocate for a product back to developers, so in this case, I'm working for Cloudflare, Cloudflare has different products for developers, like workers, you know, pages, and the rest, so my job here at Cloudflare is to get developers to use this product, and it's a two-way street as well, I would also communicate feedback from developers using this product back to the engineers building it, and also getting, like creating resources, like blogs, videos, speaking at conferences to get adoption from developers as well, so I'm kind of like advocating for developers, as well as for more people to use our products.
Of course, and you're only getting started, so your role will get bigger as time goes by.
Also curious, you are one year now in Amsterdam, so you moved there, you discussed that also in a popular YouTube video that you shared, can you share with us first moving to Amsterdam, and then the YouTube way of you communicating, even your journey to Amsterdam?
Yeah, sure, my move to Amsterdam came as a surprise to, for me, two years ago actually, in 2019, 2020, yeah, I was looking for a job, and I posted on Twitter that, hey everybody, I'm looking for a job, this is my CV, you know, and then somebody reached out to me, my previous employer, and they were like, they would like to hire me, and we should get on a call to have an interview, and I was happy to do that, but at the time, I thought it was going to be a remote job, so I was happy to do the interview, we did the interviews leading up to the last, you know, call, and then we started having conversation about moving, and it was a shock, because in my head, I was thinking, oh, it's fine, I'm going to be working from Lagos, you know, and my teammates would be in Amsterdam, I didn't know that I was going to be moving to Amsterdam as well, yeah, I got that job, and then I moved, this is a video I made the day I was leaving Nigeria, but yeah, this video got quite a lot of views, and people were actually very interested, because I talked about the process of getting the job, I also talked about logistics, how to move from, how to get your visa, and how to relocate to the Netherlands, all my experience was packed in that, so I think it gave value to people, that's why people kept watching it.
Of course, yeah, absolutely, and the way you use your tools of communicating things, GitHub, Twitter, YouTube, how is it in terms of feedback you got from people?
So, they're like, I use different mediums for sharing stuff, for example, on YouTube, how I get feedback is from the comments, and a lot of times, I get very nice feedback, probably people telling me they found what I shared helpful, other times, people might point out things that I probably did not do correctly, like for example, my microphone, maybe the sound is not coming off well, and to be honest, when I started YouTube, I was using my phone, and I wasn't even using this, I was using like a lower-ended phone, so obviously, the quality would not be as good, yeah, I would get feedback on that, and I'm always happy to receive feedback, as long as it's constructive.
Of course, and like you were saying, when you teach, one year or two years from now, you will probably get feedback from someone that was inspired by some of the experience you were sharing in the tech world, what you were doing in the tech world, right?
By the way, we're almost finishing up, do you have any advices for anyone who is joining, who is hoping to join Cloudflare?
Yeah, obviously, I think spending two weeks here, I already feel like this is like the best place to work, I'm not being biased, right?
I have like some of the best teammates, and yeah, so far, my experience has been great.
I would say, if you're looking at joining Cloudflare, first, the career space should be where you are, because since I joined, I think I've seen a lot of like hiring going on, and in order for you to be like, to put your first, your best foot forward, I would say, if you're a developer, because I was, I am a developer, right?
Try to always, you know, share the stuff you're doing, like if you're building good projects, if you're creating videos, of course, gift, we're wrapping up, thank you so much for your time, it was quick, thank you for the amazing conversation.