Success Story of Nachilila Kaluba
Product Manager at Valuechain Enterprises Ltd.
Nachilila, Turing Talent Intern
Nachilila Kaluba, Turing Talent Intern
Hello Nachi, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Let's start with your background. Could you tell me about your experience, please?

Of course! First of all, it's a pleasure to interview with you guys. I'm originally from Zambia. I came to the UK in 2015, and I started off doing a foundation program in science and engineering. And after doing that for about nine months, I started my first year in 2016, studying computer science with software development. Throughout my university, I have been really interested in any activities around campus. So that was the way that I got into doing my placement at my university as well.

I worked as tech support within the computer science department, which was fun. Working closely with the university allowed me to go and attend every woman in tech event. That's where I met Christina. She mentioned the internship program in Turing Talent. However, I had already signed up to join Turing Talent before; I came across it because the university shared it before. Then, I thought, "Oh! This is an interesting opportunity." And that's how I ended up even getting involved with every woman in tech. Yes, it is my background.

This is a great story. Did you have any previous experience before starting the Turing Talent leadership program?

I did have a few experiences, such as internships. I did one training specifically with a department at my university, which was in development. I became a development intern there for two months. Then, my placement year was about nine months. Moreover, I did a couple of miscellaneous things, like working for the university for a couple of months as a career coach.

When I took part in the program, I said to Christina that I felt like I was struggling with getting a graduate job. I felt like with everything I had done already, like on my CV and all my experience, and I had expected to have landed my graduate role at the beginning of the year. So at this point, I was just sharing that with her, and she recommended this program.

Well… What were your expectations from this leadership program?

I was terrified because they described it as something that only knowledgeable people would manage to do on the Turing Talent website. I mean, I'm not saying "I'm not intelligent," but when I read the descriptions, I was like, wow, this is tough! And I applied for the opportunity that I felt was suited to me. But then Christina brought my CV forward for a completely different prospect. It was one of the ones I initially looked at, and I thought, "I can do this."

Everyone has different traits, and every one is unique. So are you. "Christina saw this uniqueness in you."

I guess so. I think it's beautiful how other people see you vs. the way you see yourself. I didn't even think about going into that area, but then Christina insisted that it was a good match. So since I could not say no to anything, I said yes to her. However, I was afraid that it was a bit difficult and, of course, it ended up not being like that.

Nice. Can we talk about the projects you built or worked on during your internship?

It was fascinating that the start-up I was working for focused on automatic note-taking. However, they felt like it was time to pivot into something different due to the pandemic. So, I joined at an exciting point because it was a period where they were exploring other products. They were also looking at different things that they could do. When I joined them, I initially started working on user research for one of their apps which helps with automatic scheduling.

The great thing about the internship was that the founders could sort of what you liked and what you didn't like, or they didn't scare you to dive into other directions, which was great. Because I was concerned about the coding part, I was like, "I can't code! I can't code well enough!". However, I steered into helping them with other products, which they were going to focus on building. Moreover, there were other products that a business provides remote virtual reality events to companies. What they do is they create virtual spaces, team-building stuff, games, and activities. Whenever a company is signed on to them, they send them some equipment to use these activities.

That is the business model. I also helped them identify the talent they needed to make this possible. I researched former founders, built their websites, and wrote a lot of content. So it was a combination of website building, content writing, and level research.

When it comes to technologies, which technologies did you use, Nachi?

Although I've never used React before, I started with React, which was with the initial application, the scheduling one. I am not the most outstanding JavaScript developer. That's why it became a learning period for me to understand what React can do and its use. And also, I used Adobe XD. Funny enough that I didn't think I would dive into Adobe XD, but I continued using Adobe XD even after the internship. I tried Unity, a website, and Wix as well.

How did the leadership program contribute to your long-term career goals?

Before I started, I was saying to Christina that I should have been in a "graduate role now ."First of all, the leadership program and internship gave an excellent interim thing to work on. It looks great on my CV that I worked with a Silicon Valley start-up, especially here in the UK. I think in the UK, there's an entirely different idea as to what Silicon Valley start-ups are like.

I think it boosts my CV, and it showcases that I've got experience handling a start-up environment. Start-up environments are high pressure; they can change dynamically and very quickly. All of which are critical skills for anyone looking for a job.

If you're able to demonstrate that you can react quickly to change, and if that change doesn't phase you, you're resilient. Moreover, you're able to work in a small team, which is a challenge because there's always more work than resources. To begin with, that helped me a lot, the reputation of working with a start-up and learning about product development. Those are so much into it with the UX UI design and learning about users and what they want. There were enough skills to use and demonstrate that I could get into a product management role. And that's how I was able to essentially talk about my experience in my current position to get my current role. I currently work as a product manager in the software space within manufacturing.

It's fascinating because I would have never thought in my wildest dreams that straight out of university, I would be working as a product manager in software and manufacturing, which is an excellent experience. The start-up experience Turing Talent provided for me honestly, even now, really helped me out on so many levels. I've learned from the start-up guys because I could see how to do a business. I just had a completely different perspective of how it works.

Now I'm able to incorporate those things into my everyday project. And I'm doing so much better now in terms of applying for funding and opportunities. To be specific, I was a finalist for Samsung, thanks to start-up guys. So having this name on my CV makes me look serious.

Excellent! This is a perfect chance for you!

Yeah, I can just pull out so many things, and I can recognise that I learned this from this experience. So, definitely.

I also wonder about the qualities you gained. You have already answered some of them, but what qualities did you gain during the leadership program?

One of the things that I learned was learning to accept criticism in the work environment. Sometimes as an employee, you want to talk about the ways that you're right, and you're probably right. However, this is not beneficial to anyone sometimes. It feels like it's helpful to you, but it's not. That's something I learned in this start-up. And I am grateful that I discovered it at this time rather than later on in life.

It also has to do with just focusing on your work and seeing how you could have done things better. Even in a position where you think you're correct and maybe all the evidence points towards you being right, there is still room for improvement, especially at the beginning of our careers. I also learned that it's essential to ask yourself before you begin something, "How much effort do you want to put into something?" because that helps you not set unrealistic expectations.

When you set unrealistic expectations, the people working within a team don't see this as your unrealistic expectations, seeing this as your standard working style. So I think it's vital for you to know the sustainable amount of work you're going to put in; otherwise, you deceive the people you work with. And when people have a different idea of your average energy, it just puts a lot of pressure on you, which is entirely unnecessary.

Exactly! Both of them are precious information. They are inspirational lessons for all of us, as well.

Yeah, thank you.

How did Turing Talent play a role in finding an internship for you and helping you during the application process?

Christina helped me a lot with building my CV in terms of just things to highlight to begin with. But beyond just things to highlight and how to improve my CV, she tried.

First of all, I'm privileged to work with Christina directly. I was fortunate in that sense. Christina is just the type of person that she's so committed to. She applies herself so much that she takes every student into Turing Talent as if it's like a one-on-one relationship; this is how I felt. It's such a personalized experience. Christina did her best to present all the options I have and gave me all the opportunities. Also, she gave me the idea of creating a website, which I was able to pass on to my friends. I remember that everything you get involved in and every step matters towards the next step.

That's why I feel like Turing Talent gave me more than one step. They did many things, from the course to my internship with Silicon Valley and the website advice. Those are three different big things that even one of them could have made a difference, but all three were big, and they helped me move forward.

It is incredible to hear that you have gained all these experiences thanks to Turing Talent! Lastly, what do you say to new talents considering joining the leadership program?

I would say be "open minded," especially for international students. We, international students, struggle more than home students while looking for placement or jobs. And I think it's for various reasons such as different working environments, different cultures, lacking confidence, unconscious bias.

In this way, Turing Talent is excellent because it's a company that gives you so much information, which is helpful for confidence building, understanding how the workplace works, and what to expect in a recruitment process even before you start your program. Also, Turing Talent has a unique opportunity to be honest with students. For example, international students sometimes feel like they need experience in the UK to bring out to potential employers, which Turing Talent provides for international students.

You are right! Turing Talent offers fantastic opportunities for international students.

Exactly. You never know where the opportunity leads you, and Turing Talent is established for international students. Moreover, it's very encouraging to see Christina as a founder who had come to the UK as an international student. She hasn't only built a great company, but she's helping many students as well. So Christina is there for you. Like I said earlier, I felt like I was the only one involved. That's why I keep on even just addressing her directly.

Thank you, Nachi, for sharing your genuinely inspiring journey in tech.

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