How Chisom Nwokwu, a 22-Year-Old Software Engineer at Microsoft, is Helping Other People Transition into Tech

#CreatorStories showcases the honest personal experiences of digital creators who monetize their knowledge of a skill and sell it on Selar.

We share these stories every week to inspire you to create and sell a product out of your wealth of knowledge and be a part of the digital creator economy.

This week, we turn the lights on Chisom Nwokwu, a digital creator and Software Engineer.

Let’s get to know her, shall we?

Can we meet Chisom, the tech queen?

My name is Chisom Nwokwu. I am currently a Software Engineer based in Lagos working with the sustainability team at Microsoft. I also recently published a book, which makes me an author.

I joined Microsoft as a graduate from school. Literally, after I was done with school, I joined the company and it has been a great experience. Aside from work and being an author, I also spend most of my time on social media, helping people build an early career like I did, upskilling in tech, and having career conversations.

I plan on putting out more tech content on other social media platforms like YouTube and Instagram in the coming month. That’s me in a nutshell.

What was your career journey before becoming a Software Engineer?

I started as an Intern with the Bank of America, where I worked as a Technology Analyst but it was for 3 months. And I did that while I was in school. 

But I started in tech as an Android developer when I was in my second year in school. So from that time till I did my internship, I was just building applications.

I launched my first app on Play Store during that time and I was writing articles on Android development and being active in the Android community. With that, I was able to apply for several internships. Bank of America came and I really liked what the team was doing and I accepted the offer. 

After the internship, I graduated from school and joined Microsoft immediately. So I didn’t have a long career trajectory, unlike some people. 

Why did you write a book to help techies land roles in big companies? What inspired it?

The book was a very big leap of faith. I didn’t know I would be able to pull it off. When I look at the book now, I can’t believe I did it. 

Before I wrote it I wasn’t sure I was in the right position to talk to people about it. However, I spoke to a few people and they encouraged me to share my story. 

When I announced my offer from Microsoft on Twitter and LinkedIn, I got many people flooding my DM and asking me how I did it. 

Some of the questions I got were “Is it possible to work for Microsoft? Is it possible to work for Google?

In answering these questions, I realized that many people didn’t know these opportunities existed. They could see that I graduated from a Nigerian University (UNN) and now work at Microsoft but they didn’t think it was real. 

With that, I figured that I had to enlighten people and tell them about these opportunities. So I thought of doing it in two ways. Either I start it as a YouTube series or an article series.

But when I started writing the article for the series, I saw it could also be a book. This is something I have to put together for people to see as a guide. And as I got more questions in my DM, I added them to the content. Before I knew it, I was getting to over two hundred pages. I just kept writing. 

I didn’t stop there, I invited Nigerians working at these companies (Microsoft, Google, Facebook) to contribute to the book by writing about their stories. When I gave people the book to review, I got lots of positive comments about the book. 

So yeah, that was where I got the inspiration from and so far so good, I am definitely looking forward to the success stories from the book.

Have you had moments where you wished your career journey went differently?

Of course, yes. When I joined Microsoft, my teammates will always say things like “When I was working as a Developer at other startups, this is how we do this and that. 

Then there was me who just jumped from school into a very big company and it was so overwhelming. I just figured my team members knew their way around. 

Everybody knew how things were done and just went right into doing it. I on the other hand, always had to ask “How do I do this, etc.”

Sometimes I always said to myself, maybe I should have worked in a startup or at a smaller company where I would have been more experienced in this role. But at the end of the day, I am a child of God. I believe that if there was an opportunity given to you, it means you are meant to be there at that particular time. 

So, at some point, I felt that I had to be more experienced first before joining Microsoft but now, I don’t regret it one bit. 

Would you say it’s because of the support from your team members?

Exactly, that’s it. I’m a very open person. If I don’t know something, I ask questions. Microsoft has this hand-holding culture where people can literally hold your hands till you’re able to fly. That was what helped me. I’ve been there for over a year now and I can say the support of my teammates, my manager, and the entire Microsoft ecosystem helped a lot. 

How does it feel to work at Microsoft?

It feels really good. Microsoft has always been in my head but I didn’t think it’ll come this early. My plan was once I’m done with school, I will work somewhere for 6 years before working at Microsoft. 

It came really early and because of that, I had to start dreaming of something else. So this is my dream job but I’m still very early in my career and I don’t have everything figured out yet. 

But moving forward, I’d like to take on more leadership roles in the tech space. Leadership or consulting and everything within that line but still engineering-focused. 

And I’ll also like to go into the business side of tech, probably manage or co-found my own startup someday. I’m not sure when but it’s something I will like to do moving forward.

If you could do one thing differently in your career, what would it be?

I’d be patient and not rush the process. I’ll be patient with myself and the things that I know. Because when I was applying, I got lots of rejections and was blaming myself for not knowing the things that these people wanted me to know. 

I wasn’t patient with myself at all. I wanted to swallow everything at once as they came by. But moving forward, I’ll be more patient with myself and hope for the best, because it’s not really about the amount of hard work you put in, but about consistency and patience. 

Should people dream about working with big tech companies knowing full well that they can be laid off any time?

During the COVID period, companies were hiring a lot. I would say this because I was one of those people hired during the COVID. At that time, companies were on a hiring spree. There was COVID, people were at home, and they needed more workforce. 

But now that COVID is over, companies notice that they must have overhired people and are also going towards automation as the world progresses. Now, companies want to do more with less workforce. If they can automate, they can let go of half the company. 

So if you want to work for these companies, this is not the time to depend on your skill alone. You will have to level up to whatever skill is needed. Example; automation, big data, cloud engineering, data engineering, artificial intelligence, machine learning – all those skills that are in demand now. 

I’m not saying you should dump what you are learning, I’m saying you should try to infuse these hot skills into what you know to be more relevant. Because companies laid off staff doesn’t mean they will not hire. 

So make sure your skill sets include strategic skills for the future and make sure they are in demand. And ultimately, try to upskill because the job market is very saturated. This is not the time to relax and assume what you’ve learned is enough. Just keep upskilling and being relevant. 

What inspired you to want to help other techies land their dream jobs? Some other people will just focus on their career and move on with their lives.

It was because people helped me. People helped me so I want to help people 10 times more. I applied to lots of these big companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc. So I said if I get a role at any of them, I will be very vocal about it. Nobody is going to hear word on Social Media (laughs). 

I just want people to be aware of the opportunities that abound for them. It’s funny when I post about a Microsoft offer in the United Kingdom and someone asks if it is for Nigerians. I’m usually surprised because I have friends who travel to Dublin, US, or other places to work for different companies. 

I know I’m still figuring stuff out with work and my career, but with the little I can, I can put interested people through. So that is what really inspired me then I wrote a book about it. 

What did you do differently while applying for roles in these international companies? 

I put myself out there a lot. I was very confident, I wasn’t timid. I wouldn’t consider myself a timid person but when I knew what I wanted and what I know, I just knew that I had to give it my best shot. 

During my interviews, I was very confident when I was speaking about the things that I know and the things that I want to do in the said company. 

Also, my Microsoft job came as a referral. Somebody referred me for the role. I applied to Microsoft but the application was taking so much time to be reviewed. So my LinkedIn profile helped me. 

Someone that worked at Microsoft saw my Linkedin profile and the progress I was making throughout the month and submitted a referral. So one day, I got an email that someone referred me for the role, and it fastened the whole process of landing a job. 

In general, it was a combination of a lot of things: – confidence, social media presence, and my interview skills. 

Speaking about Interview skills, share your interview skills that helped you land a job

For tech-related jobs, you have to learn data structures and algorithms. Data structures and algorithms are something that I wrote about in my book, but you can still see it in a wider view, there are so many courses. I have resources in my book to learn data structure and algorithms and get good at it. That was something that I did.

Secondly, was behavioral interviewing. That is answering company-based questions and relationship-based questions – like work-based relationships. I have a  lot of questions like that in my book. I wrote about them as well.

Third is your enthusiasm and confidence during your interviews. Let the interviewer feel the energy you are coming with. Don’t go to an interview sounding so cold. Bring as much energy as you would do when you are gisting with a friend or gossiping and just flow with the interviewer. Be confident and energetic. 

Lastly, try to ask questions as much as possible about the company so they know that you are interested in working for that company. 

Generally,  it’s not something you just learn. You build it over time as you do more interviews. But you are definitely going to get better at it. 

Great! So what is your advice to other creators who are inspired by you?

As much as you want to help people, it is going to be a lot of work, making products that actually give value. But still put in the work because the most important thing is not really the product, the most important thing is the amount of people it impacts and the value that it gives. 

Also, it has your name on it and that is like a signature on it. So as more people benefit from the product, it causes a ripple effect that makes them recommend your product to other people to gain value from as well. 

So as much as it stresses you, if you have something valuable at heart, don’t keep it to yourself. Put it out there and try to help as many people as possible.