Digital Nomads: The design engineer who has worked on 4 continents

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Published: 2022-06-16
Funfere Koroye, Digital Nomads

Funfere Koroye, Digital Nomads

The modern-day equivalent of a digital nomad is a design engineer who has experience working on all four continents: North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Funfere Koroye has worked as a designer for tech-enabled gadgets and shoes for companies such as Tecno, AFA Sports, and Thando's. He currently resides in the United Kingdom, where he serves as an Ambassador for TechNation and the CEO of the hardware and innovation business Nupay Technologies ( Nupay Tech)

Koroye explains to TechCabal in a conversation that lasts for an hour and takes place on Google Meet how he has managed to make £5,000 for each project that he works on as a freelance hardware engineer.

To begin, what precisely does it mean to work as a design engineer? I'm familiar with the concepts of user interface (UI) designers, art directors, and graphics designers. My first experience will be in design engineering.

We design the hardware of things, including how they look and feel as well as the materials that are used. This is exactly what it sounds like. We will have creative control over the appearance and texture of the products you use, from computers and mobile phones to footwear and even toys.

That means you guys are practically architects, but for things that people use every day. How does one get started in the field of design engineering?

You learn about one aspect of these topics if you get a degree in design engineering. It is important for me to point out that a degree in design engineering is not limited to a single sector. During the course, you will be required to identify the field that most interests you. The United States of America, which is where I received my education, is home to four businesses that regularly hire design engineers: the furniture industry, the footwear industry, the transportation industry, and the technology industry. But even within those four categories, there are subcategories such as jewelry, luggage, and even boats. Pen and paper are the starting point for all design work, regardless of whether it's user interface (UI/UX) engineering or hardware engineering. This is true regardless of the industry in which you specialize. You first sketch up the concept that you want to develop, then you produce a 3D version of that design, and finally, the factory creates a prototype of the 3D design that you made. The prototype is often a mold that is utilized in the process of creating the pattern of the hardware. Design engineers are employed by businesses of all sizes. Both Nike and Adidas employ design engineers and product designers to assist them in the manufacturing of their footwear products. The funny thing is that the people who work on the UI and UX have stolen product design from us; design engineers are the genuine owners of the term "product design."

Do you see yourself working in the field of design engineering in the future? Or is this something that you just happened to find?

Yes! My entire life, I've imagined myself working in the field of innovation. When I made the decision to become an inventor, there weren't many opportunities in Nigeria that could assist me in achieving that objective, so I was forced to turn overseas for assistance. After looking at the United States of America, Europe, and the United Kingdom, I decided to go to San Francisco as my new home. When I initially made that journey, in 2007, I was 17 years old, and the fact that I had never traveled outside of Nigeria prior to that point made it seem a little bit crazy in and of itself. And, as you probably well know, that was the beginning for me.

So, tell me about your first experience working professionally as a design engineer. What was that like?

Moving all the way to China to work as an intern for a shoe manufacturing company was the very first true professional experience I had, and I really adored it. My final year of college was spent in the United States, but I finished my education on the campus of my college's branch in China, where I fell in love with the country. There, I worked as an intern at a shoe firm in the junior design position. Then, after I had my diploma in 2012, I left the United States and relocated to Italy for a while to work as an apprentice shoemaker, which is also a part of design engineering. I stayed in Italy for a few years. As a result of this, during my early professional experiences, I gained some exposure to several facets of design engineering.

Wow, you've already worked in the United States, Italy, and China in such a young career. How long did you spend in each of these nations?

I spent five years living in the United States, but I was forced to leave when the validity of my student visa ran out. I spent one year in Italy and a combined total of almost four years in China as a resident. I came to China as a transfer student during my first year there. After I finished my studies in Italy, I returned back to China to begin working for the same shoe firm where I had completed my internship. During that time, I was frequently traveling back and forth between China and Nigeria. In 2016, I was forced to give up my life in China.

Oh, I don't understand: why did you go? It sounds like you had a wonderful time in China.

Obtaining residency in China was a challenging process. Work and business visas in China only allow you to live in the nation for a period of thirty days; after that time has passed, you must return to your home country to submit a new application. You and your employer have the option of applying for a temporary residence visa; however, the processing time for this application is typically around six weeks, and even then the outcome is not certain. Around the time that I was there, the Chinese government also had severe laws, something to do with Nigerians flouting the rules, and as a result, it was even difficult to get Chinese employers to sponsor you in order to work there. My plea for re-entry was denied, and I found myself back in Nigeria in the year 2016, after having moved about quite a bit during the previous few years.

Moving returning to Nigeria full-time so soon after seeing success in your professional life must have been challenging for you.

To be honest, no. Because of the fact that I was already traveling back and forth between Nigeria and China, adjusting to my new environment was not too difficult for me. After I arrived back, I immediately started looking for work in the strangest possible places. However, Tecno Mobile reached out to me via email one day and expressed interest in having me join their design lab in the capacity of a phone developer and industrial designer. The employment provided me with sufficient time to work independently in my capacity. Because of this, I began to focus my design engineering efforts on a certain subfield, specifically the design of tech-enabled portable devices. So, certainly, leaving China was tough, but it set me on the path I'm on now, which led to the establishment of my very own technology firm because of it.

Funfere Koroye

And how was the situation with the money during all of this? How much does one typically make working as a design engineer?

Everyone's experience is unique, that much is obvious. When I worked at Tecno, I made around 400,000 (approximately $1,500) per month; I was 26 years old at the time, so this would have been in the year 2016, I suppose. And it wasn't exactly the perfect situation because I requested for 800,000 ($3,000) per month in the beginning, but they weren't willing to agree to that. After I left Tecno, I went on to work in other companies, where I made between 800,000 and 1 million ($3,800) each month. This carried on right up until the pandemic, at which point I had relocated to the United Kingdom. However, the fee for my freelance work varies depending on how much involvement they require from me, but it is a minimum of $5,000 each undertaking. One of my projects brought in a total of up to 20,000 pounds.

Oh, I see, so then your interest in Nigeria didn't really hold up for very long. What is different?

To put it simply, COVID arrived. Although I had been to the UK before, I never seriously considered making it my permanent home there. But as the pandemic was coming to an end, I made the decision to develop a piece of hardware for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) sector called Nugas ( Nupe energy). Despite the fact that it did not become successful, we were able to secure funds and make some progress. Consequently, it only just occurred to me that I ought to leave Nigeria in order to acquire a fresh viewpoint on the subject of building supplies.

Nupe Energy is turning gas cylinders into connected devices

How did things work out in the end?

To give you the gist of it, I have recently been a Visa Ambassador for TechNation, which is a company that supports visas for the United Kingdom's Global Talent Visa in the field of digital technology. Therefore, I'd say that everything turned out extremely nicely.

How about the backstory?

It was necessary for me to consider the means by which I could enter the technology industry in London. Because of this, I learned about the Global Talent Visa and TechNation, both of which are available to tech workers who have at least five years of expertise in the field and who have the potential to contribute to the economy of the United Kingdom. The wonderful thing about this is that there are two different categories: Exceptional Talent, which is for established leaders, and Exceptional Promise, which is for up-and-coming leaders. And the prerequisites were not particularly stringent: I only needed an impressive resume, a reference from a previous employer who could vouch for my work, and some mention of my name in the media. And do you know what the most exciting thing is?

Food in the airport?

Err, no. The fact that I would not be required to remain in the UK for the entirety of the Visa's validity was easily the finest element about it. With the Global Talent Visa, the sole requirement is that you remain in the United Kingdom for six months out of each working year that you have applied for, and you can submit an application for as many as five years at a time. It means that I have six months to go to other places and participate in additional activities.

Therefore, you may be considered the archetype of a digital nomad. In what way has this been most satisfying to you?

Now, I've worked in five different countries, but I've traveled to approximately 20. My time spent working as a freelancer for Jaza Energy, a solar hardware and solar firm based in Tanzania, has to rank as my most memorable and favorite job to date. They messaged me on LinkedIn, stating that they were interested in developing the Tesla battery pack for Africa. Therefore, they paid for my transportation to Zanzibar, where I stayed for a couple of months and took care of all of my living expenses. You're not just in Nigeria, or wherever you are; you have access to the whole globe when you're a digital nomad, and I believe that's one of the most attractive aspects of the lifestyle. Your online presence is visible to people all over the world. So long as someone is willing to hire you at some place, you won't have a problem. Do you realize that you are, in every sense of the word, a citizen of the world? I would have to answer that my all-time favorite location is Zanzibar. China, on the other hand, is by far my favorite of the places I've lived.

As an ambassador for TechNation, I get the opportunity to assist other individuals in having this experience. My job does not pay anything, but it consists primarily of spreading information about the visa and assisting applicants in the preparation of their applications.

Which component do you dislike the least and why?

I would assume that it has been settling someplace within the legal system. As Nigerians, we frequently rely on our academic credentials to secure immigration and residency in other countries. That has been increasingly challenging as of late. Even now, people have a hard time settling even after earning STEM degrees.

Finding a good career path has also been challenging for me because regardless of what field of study you choose, you will still need to make a decision regarding where you want to picture yourself working within that business. This is especially true in the technology sector.

On the other hand, it seems as though you've chosen a path that's going to work for you. Have you ever been afraid of something?

Like everyone else, I'm frightened of failure. What if I'm not capable of living up to this, you know, this whole tech bro thing? There are a lot of individuals keeping an eye on me, and they frequently get in touch with me to tell me they want to do what I do. However, I still have the typical fear that I will not succeed.

Everyone who works in the technology business is aware of the fact that in order to be successful, it is necessary to experience failure on multiple occasions. The fear is present in all of us, despite the fact that we don't talk about it nearly enough.

The current value of the dollar compares favorably to that of Nigeria's currency in 2016.

Please get in touch with me at timi@bigcabal.com if you'd be willing to tell me about your experience as a digital nomad.

Have you gotten something out of it? I would appreciate it if you could share it with your networks on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, and Telegram.