Chukwuemeka Afigbo can aptly be described as a Lion who has not only patterned his life after the sobriquet of his alma mater, ‘The University of Nigeria, Nsukka’, where he studied Electronics Engineering, but also overcame many challenges in life with the boldness of a lion who, as the saying goes, ‘will never eat grass despite the hunger pangs.
His quest for higher education made him set his eyes on Canada but unfortunately, he was denied a student visa there several times, which made him opt for the online Masters’s Degree in Technology Innovation Management by the University of Carlton as a pioneer student.
Conquering the multinational working space
He got his first taste of multinational experience in the world’s largest search engine company, Google, where he was a program manager in the developer relations team leading developer community programs in sub-Saharan Africa. His mission was to help grow the tech ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging market regions through the use of Google’s developer platforms as a “Growth Engine”.
At Facebook (now Meta) where he worked next, he worked on driving Facebook’s global developer community programs strategy, which enables the company to collaborate with the larger developer ecosystem in achieving its mission of bringing the world closer together. Also at Facebook, he led the Platform Partnerships team in the Middle East and Africa, working with different content partners and developers in the region as part of Facebook’s drive to make its platform more relevant in the day-to-day lives of people all over the world.
Today at Okta, he leads the Developer Success team for Okta’s Workforce Identity Offering. His job is to make sure that developers who are building with Okta’s Workforce product suite are successful by ensuring that they have access to the right developer content, developer support, and community programs that they need.
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“I currently manage four teams: Developer Support, Developer Content, Developer Advocacy, and Developer Community programs,” he said.
Connection to Nigeria despite several years abroad
He still feels connected to Nigeria – the land of his birth and is deeply rooted in the goings on here despite his physical presence abroad. In his words: “It is quite an interesting time to be a Nigerian. On the one hand, I cannot help but feel very concerned about the current state of the economy, and security and the fact that the people who should care about these areas do not appear to do so. On the other hand, from time to time I am buoyed by the great achievements of Nigerians both at home and abroad, especially in the fields of tech and entertainment. At the end of the day, I am proud to be Nigerian.
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I follow the news from Nigeria very closely. I have friends and family there and I do my bit to collaborate with folks there and help out where and when I can. Whether in the field of tech or elsewhere. I participate in both formal and informal organizations that are doing their bit to contribute to the overall well-being of the country ranging from Club 14, which is a syndicate of Nigerian and African professionals in the Bay Area that invests in African (including Nigerian) startups to the Society of Igbo Professionals a non-governmental, non-partisan organization that is working to bring progress to the South East of the country”.
He isn’t certain of a glass ceiling for black ethnic minority immigrants
He isn’t exactly sure if there is the existence of the infamous glass ceiling for immigrants, especially the black ethnic minorities into the US as he is still fairly new in the country. However, he says: “I guess there used to be and probably still is but since I arrived here there are so many examples of immigrants doing well in different fields and even founding successful startups. So, if that ceiling existed, it is now being broken in so many ways. For example, two of the hottest new blockchain startups to emerge in Silicon Valley in the last 1 year (Mysten Labs and Scale3 labs) have Nigerian co-founders. To be honest with you, I try not to think about the ceiling, I just focus on doing my best and working to put myself in situations where I am always learning, growing, and able to help others.”
Is the US really God’s own country?
The US or Uncle Sam is famously called ‘God’s Own Country because of the famed opportunities there. We hear from the horse’s mouth when he said: “The US is a great place because on average, if you work hard, smart and sincerely, you will not only survive but you will prosper. It is also easier to plan ahead as there is more predictability. However, it is not all roses because it lacks some of the social support systems that we used to have at home. In Nigeria, you know that in the worst case you can always ‘return to your parent’s village’ if all else fails and you will always have a home there. Here there is no village to return to. It is all or nothing”.
He went on further to say: “I will leave you with one story that lit up my heart.
Recently I attended a meetup organized by Adewale Yusuf, the founder of Techpoint and AltSchool Africa when he visited Silicon Valley. At the meetup, I met two young Nigerians in the tech space. I recognized their faces because I used to see them back in the days at Co-Creation Hub in Lagos back in the day. At the time they were still starting out in tech. They also recognized me and we sat down to chat. One of them is now working in a fintech company here, the other just founded his startup in the valley. They chatted excitedly with each other. While I listened. I could not help smiling to myself because from their conversation it was clear that it was their skills and dreams that brought them to this point and they were just getting started. In 5 years, time, there is a high chance that they will be changing the game”.
Advice for those intending to japa to the US
He said: 8 years ago, I would have said, do not do it unless you have to. When I left Nigeria in 2015, I did so reluctantly, purely for career reasons. I know the situation has changed now and so I cannot advise anyone against it.
My advice would be that if you must migrate, make sure you have something to offer and make sure you do it the right way. Things will be a lot easier for you if you have a core skill. It could range from cutting hair or computer programming. You must either have a core skill or be prepared to retrain yourself when you get here. If you chose to retrain yourself, then you must have the means to support yourself while undergoing this training. Most times it is best if you retrain yourself before leaving so that you arrive with the skills ready to go.”
Before Leaving Nigeria, Afigbo worked at Socket Works Global as a Lead Portal Developer where he worked on the proprietary J2EE portal framework (cPortal), in particular, developed the mail, workflow modules, and user management. He was later to work as a Manager of Solutions Architecture where he played an active role in more than fifty service deployments at universities in Africa and Asia.
He then became the Manager, Strategic Initiatives of Parkway Projects where he was responsible for new business development and the formation of strategic partnerships with other firms.