Meet Chinua Katchy, a mentor for Springboard’s Cyber Security Bootcamp.
Chinua Katchy has been traveling while doing remote work for the last two years. While he loves the freedom of location independence, he knows he’ll eventually crave more stability. He plans to continue traveling for the next five years or so before settling down somewhere.
Remote work requires self-discipline–planning trips around meetings and deadlines, managing your budget, and finding work/life balance. “When I’m traveling, I usually want to go sightseeing during the day, but that’s when I have to work,” says Katchy, a security operations analyst at Algolia, an AI-powered search engine, and a mentor for Springboard’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp.
He recommends would-be digital nomads or remote workers familiarize themselves with the tax regulations and immigration requirements of their destination country before planning their trip.
What is a digital nomad, and why do you consider yourself one?
A digital nomad is someone who does not work from a fixed location. I consider myself a digital nomad because my job lets me work from pretty much anywhere, and I like to travel a lot.
Where have you been since you started working remotely?
I’ve visited 12 countries, including Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the UK, and the Czech Republic.
What was your favorite place?
I enjoyed the UK the most because it was the closest thing to my home country, Nigeria, in terms of its culture. There are a lot of English-speaking Nigerians there.
Where do you like to work when you’re traveling? Coffee shops? The beach?
I work from coffee shops or at my Airbnb.
What inspired you to become a digital nomad?
Before the COVID pandemic, I worked from the office full-time. After that, I never wanted to go back. I enjoy the freedom remote work gives you. It was perfect for me because I like to travel and work simultaneously.
How does being a digital nomad impact your work/life balance, especially in contrast to your last in-office job?
I’m not going to lie, it can be tough to find a good balance. When I’m traveling, I usually go sightseeing during the day, but that’s also when I have to work. It takes self-discipline. When you travel, you must realize that you’re not on vacation; you must still get your job done. My company gives me much flexibility because my job isn’t time-based.
Can you give an example of a time when you successfully blended working and sightseeing?
When I was in Ibiza, I did my work on the beach and even took a couple of calls with Springboard students. Thankfully, my apartment was close to the beach. When it was time for a meeting, I would just rush back to the apartment and then head back to the beach.
What are some downsides to being a digital nomad that people might not know about?
Traveling can cost a lot of money. You have to pay for airline tickets, accommodations, and food. Also, I recommend staying in a central location when traveling to get to places quickly, but that costs money. If you want to live a digital nomad lifestyle, you need to have a lot of money saved up, to be honest.
Do you ever miss having a home base or a more stable lifestyle?
Sometimes. I don’t see myself doing this in the next 5-10 years. Eventually, I will crave stability and decide to stay in one place. But I’m at that age where I still want to explore and see the world.
What made you decide to start traveling instead of just working remotely?
I moved to Germany from Nigeria last year, but I didn’t have many friends there, so I was bored. After finishing work at 5 p.m., I had nowhere to go and no one to talk to. That’s what triggered me to start traveling.
How has your social life changed since you started traveling?
My social life has changed a lot. It’s easier for me to converse now because it’s common in Europe to discuss your travel plans. When I travel to a different country, I usually try to meet people. I’ll use social media to look up people in tech who live in that city and connect with them.
How has being a remote worker impacted your personal growth?
I have more activities outside of work. I mentor for Springboard, go to the gym, swim, and play tennis. A fully remote job lets you combine your personal and professional lives. Coming home from the office, I would be too tired to do anything else.
How does being a springboard mentor fit into your digital nomad lifestyle?
Springboard gives you the flexibility to set your schedule. If I need to reschedule a call with a mentee because I’m flying that day or I have an appointment, I just let them know ahead of time.
Do you tell your employer when you travel?
My team is very open, so I don’t have to tell them or ask permission, but that conversation comes up during our standup meetings. So yes, I tell them, but I don’t need to seek formal approval from my employer before I move to another country.
What advice do you have for Springboard students seeking remote work?
If it’s a remote-first company, it’s very easy to ask those questions during the interview. Most companies will be upfront if their work culture is hybrid or fully remote. When I started working at my company while living in Germany, the company didn’t even have an office there, so it’s not like they would ask people to return to the office because there wasn’t one.
Do you have any horror stories about trying to get work done from the beach, an airport lounge, or on a cruise ship?
I went home to Nigeria a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, the electricity and internet are unstable there. My first week was a nightmare because there was no electricity. It was challenging to get anything done, to be honest. I had just flown eight hours from Germany to Nigeria, and I was tired, but I had to go and find a cafe to work from.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a remote worker?
Flying takes a lot of time, mainly because you have to get to the airport three hours ahead of your flight. I’ve missed flights several times, which messed up my entire plan. You also have to plan ahead. When I traveled to Barcelona, I stayed on the city’s outskirts, so I didn’t get to see much.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the biggest advantages of a tech career is you can work entirely remotely and earn a good salary. But I usually advise my mentees to go to the office when they get their first job. At least choose a hybrid role or even one that’s fully onsite. When you’re new, you require a lot of guidance and handholding, and it’s easier to ask your teammates for help when you’re in an office.
Maybe a few years down the line, when you have more experience, and you’re confident about being able to work on your own, you can take a fully remote job.