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by Timi Odueso
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’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.
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.