Lagos traffic made her leave a 13-year career!

29 || November || 2023

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#Issue 50

How Jackleen Nnely
became a project manager

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by Timi Odueso

Tech trivia questions

Some trivia before we begin. Answers are at the bottom of this newsletter. 

  1. What’s the biggest tech acquisition in history?

From Lagos to Northampton

In June 2021, Jackleen Nnely took a quick decision to pack up her bags and move from Lagos, Nigeria, to the UK. By September, she was already tucked away in the small rural town of Northampton.

Jackleen Nnely

Jackleen’s move wasn’t ignited by a grand wish to find a better job or escape Nigeria’s economic crisis…at least not at first. Before she left for the UK, Jackleen was managing African-led projects for Apple, and she had worked with some of the biggest media and entertainment companies since her undergraduate days. She was, by all means, doing very well for herself. So what made her leave? 

One word. Traffic. Long, humid hours spent in Lagos traffic.

I’ve been sitting on my interview with Jackleen for months now—mostly because I wanted to use it for another story—but given last week’s discussion on Mastery v Efficiency, I wanted to highlight the life and career of a true master at project management—managing projects for Apple, MTV Base and Bentley—who has spent the past 15 years mastering her job, and is planning her future efficiently. 

Here’s how Jackleen did it.

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How Jackleen did it

Producer/Director, Maxima Media Group Aug 2008 – Jun 2009
Project Coordinator, MyStreetz Media Mar 2010 – Jan 2013
Project Manager/Producer/Project Lead, MTV Base Feb 2013 – Mar 2020
Project Manager, One Watt Solar Apr 2020 – Sept 2021
Project Manager, Apple Jun 2020 – Dec 2021
Project Manager, Premier Foundation Feb 2022 – Feb 2023
Senior Project Manager, Bentley Systems Mar 2023 – Present

You moved countries for traffic, Jackleen?😅

If you’ve ever lived in Lagos, you’ll understand. I was on my way to work one day, and I was stuck in traffic for hours. It was very early in the morning, I think… and I just decided that I didn’t want to do that anymore. I also had been looking at skilling up as a project manager and a master’s degree looked like the next best thing to do so I started working on moving, and by September, I was gone.

Whoa! Three months? It takes people much longer. How did you do it?

Money! 😂 But a lot of planning too, you know we project managers, planning na our work! I’ve always wanted to do my master’s as most of my friends had theirs. And when you’re young and your friends are going to school, you just feel left out. I had spent years hustling, and I wanted more in terms of my education. So while in traffic, I decided to start applying for a master’s degree in project management as soon as I could, and by July, I had gotten multiple admission offers, and by September, I was in the UK. 

That sounds expensive! 

Yeah, it cost about £20,000 in total and that’s where the money comes in. So I’ve been working since I was a teenager! 

Ah, OG gang!

Lmao. So I studied computer science, and I was actually still in university when my tech journey began. In my career, I started as a production coordinator, but I quickly transitioned into a producer role. I then moved on to become a project manager within my team. I’ve always been a structured person who likes to plan and work with spreadsheets, and that made me a natural fit for project management. 

By 2016, I got a job at MTV Base Africa, and did a stint with a clean-energy tech company called OneWattSolar. People I met at my MTV Base job brought me to work at Apple for about 18 months. 

In all this time, I was rather prudent with money. I saved a lot. I didn’t know what I was saving for, but I knew that money would come in handy. With my savings, I could afford to pay my fees, travel expenses, and rent. And when I got to the UK as well, I worked part-time for a bit during my master’s before I graduated and settled for a full-time gig. 

Working and schooling? That must have been hard.

It was, but it wasn’t new. 🤷🏾‍♀️ When I first started my career in 2008, my plan was to study economics at the Lagos State University but I was given computer science instead which I ended up loving. And around the time I was an undergraduate at LASU, I was balancing work and school nicely, it got harder with my job at MTV Base but as a strong Naija babe, I ran it! Another thing that helped was being open with my bosses at work who helped me balance it all. 

Also, almost everyone in my Uni had a side gig in tech, we were all full-time professionals, juggling school and work! Phew!

So was it easy finding a job in the UK?

Finding a job as a foreigner in any country is never easy! It’s a new space, and you are still figuring things out, and then there’s the problem of a lot of companies wanting to see that UK experience on your CV. One recruiter actually asked to have a call with me to confirm if I was a “Native speaker”. I mean, my first language is English! Lol, so what was that about? This made me very intentional about my job search! I also wanted to understand the UK job market, so I played around with industries for a bit by getting a voluntary project management role with a non-profit company. This was also my way of giving back, and I loved every bit of it! Also, just to add, I had worked with some of the most important global companies in Nigeria, but I still needed some of that local UK experience.

I did that for a while, and then, in September 2022, I got ready to start my search for a full-time job back in tech. I had a couple of rules: I wanted to work with a quality company, and I wouldn’t apply for a job if over 20 people had applied for it. The market here is very competitive, especially in project management, and you have to be intentional about it. I also decided that I wanted to work remotely, and I set a base salary for myself. I used LinkedIn a lot—it was my best friend—and I applied to multiple jobs a day but they had to be the right fit. A couple of months later, I had 3 job offers from some major companies and I accepted to work at Bentley Systems.

Wow. That’s a huge win! Let’s talk about your UK experience now. What are the biggest changes?

There’s no traffic, for one. 

But I’d also say Internet connectivity is a big one for me. I don’t have to worry about connecting to the internet or if I’ll have to buy three modems. Everything just works here. 

Another shock was how welcoming the lecturers were. In Nigeria, you could get punished for challenging lecturers but here, they welcome it and that made getting my master’s seamless.

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Jackleen’s Notes

So Jackleen and I had an interesting 90-minute conversation—it’s 9,000 words long btw—but I’m going to stop here because I’d like to highlight the most critical points she made during our conversation.

  1. You’re not alone: When I asked Jackleen how stressful it was working through school as a young Nigerian, she said, “Everyone I know had a side gig even in the early 2010s.” We often think that we’re the first ones to struggle through school + work but success stories like Jackleen’s tell us we’re not. It’s easy to feel like we’re alone in our job hunt or work struggles, but stories like Jackleen’s tell us that we’re not. More importantly, they show us that we can succeed.
  2. GIF source: Tenor
  3. Tech doesn’t have to be design or coding: The fact that Jackleen’s made a career working in tech without coding tells us that there are several career paths in tech. It also tells us one thing: you can work in companies that are not startups or conventional tech companies. While she works in a tech company now, Jackleen started off in media and entertainment. There’s a way for everyone!

  4. Be audacious: NGL, even I thought Jackleen’s rules of job finding would make job hunting hard at first. “People thought I was arrogant,” she said. But she also says she knew what she wanted in life and would not compromise for it. She knew it would take time, and a lot of effort—she spent 5 months hunting, and she already had 13 years of experience at the time! She mentioned that she knew her value and what she could bring to the table, and that she wasn’t going to let anyone make her feel small. You shouldn’t either.

The great thing here is that Jackleen is open to helping people and mentoring them through her mentorship platform, Immigrants in Tech. She can’t take all of us—because I also want to be mentored—but she’s happy to answer career questions via LinkedIn or through her mentorship platform. She’s also published a book, A Newcomer’s Guide to the United Kingdom, with Blessing Ashimi to help anyone who’s thinking of moving to the UK. 

That’s all for this week. Once again, if you have thoughts on this edition, please send them to me at

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Ask a techie

Q. How can I marry my studies in school and my development in tech?

The first thing to note is that you should be transparent with your employers; let them know about your school schedule. This way, no one is blindsided. 

Next, partition your time. The great thing about school—or most schools—are schedules, there are predetermined classes. You want to make calendars that outline your working hours and your class hours. Also, make sure that you have a few hours in between for rest; both work and school take a huge chunk of brain power. Communicate this schedule to your employers as well, and redefine deadlines. If it’s possible to work out an asynchronous schedule, do that. What should matter is that you get the job done within the given timeline. 

The same goes for your tech courses. Divide your time well. 

Rest and play hard. This might sound counter-productive but it’s not. Being in school and growing your tech career will take a lot of focus, and if you don’t rest enough, you will burn out and lose both battles. So take regular breaks and do things that relax you.

That’s all we can take this week. Have any questions about working in tech? Ask away and we’ll find answers for you.👇🏾

Ask a question

Tech trivia answers

It’s Dell’s acquisition of EMC Corporation in October 2016 for a world record (at the time) of $67 billion.


  • The citizens of Commonwealth countries in Africa can now apply for the Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship Programme 2024. Selected experts will serve as fellows for a year, and get exclusive access to academic research opportunities, networking events and annual conferences, with a focus on enhancing cybersecurity policies and institutions across Commonwealth countries in Africa. Apply by December 10.

  • Applications are open for the Mastercard Foundations Scholars Program 2023/2024 at the Carnegie Melon University Africa. The program provides generous financial, social, and academic support for students whose talents and promise exceed their financial resources. Apply by January 15, 2024.

  • Applications are open for the Aurora Tech Award 2024. The Award is an annual global prize for women founders of tech startups. Winners of the first prize get $30,000, the second prize gets $20,000 and the third prize gets $10,000. Apply by December 1.


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