In March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit Finland. Everything in the Travel industry stopped overnight as people were forced to stay home to stay safe. Businesses from all sectors were impacted but none as hard as travel. Given that we had just about developed the MVP of our travel SaaS in late 2019 once again you could argue that my timing was "uncanny".
The last time I set-up a business was in the middle of the recession, so I'm not usually too worried about what goes on in the rest of the world, more focused on what we can do and how good our chances are in the current conditions we face. However I will admit to being blind sided by the pandemic. If you're interested there is another post about that here.
In short, it meant that the strategy we had put together needed to pivot from selling in March/April. It meant we needed to move to home offices.
It meant new forms of working together. Basically a bunch of new challenges we didn't expect had to be faced, but we adapted and overcame.
The strategy didn't change, just our priorities
In the middle of doing all this one part of the strategy hadn't changed. We knew we needed more development power and had (luckily in hindsight) just secured the funding to bring in more support for our overworked CTO. So despite all the challenges associated with the spread of the virus and an uncertain future in the market we forged ahead with the recruitment of a developer.
For those of you reading in the Nordics, we put out ads on LinkedIn and via thehub.io. We had around 30 applications from the Hub, some very good people including our hire so I thoroughly recommend it.
The first call I received was from Clem Dada. He called to ask if it was Ok to send me an emailed application because at the time his LinkedIn profile wasn't up to date. I was eating lunch so replied "yeah sure, just send me it".
Getting my attention
Five minutes later he called back and to be fair I hadn't told him I was on lunch so I just outright said "I'm on lunch, can I call you back?". He was like yeah, sorry, I just checked out your LinkedIn page and saw something you should know. We're both Sunderland fans!
At this point, thoughts about eating were secondary, in fact I think I spat out a bit of pasta in shock! I am a long suffering lifelong supporter of Sunderland AFC. I wondered what on earth is a Nigerian coder living in Finland doing being a Sunderland fan?
I'm from Sunderland and I don't want to be a Sunderland fan! Aside from 3 or 4 good years around the year 2000 it's been miserable being a Sunderland fan.
So this immediately got my attention.
For all you job hunters out there, Clem had done with that one phone call one of the most difficult things there is to do, put himself on the interview list. There was no way, no matter how badly he fared at the interview that I wasn't going to hear this story. I actually told him before returning to my lunch, "Ok mate you just earned yourself an interview."
In the end I was very pleased I did interview him because he was the one we hired, and I stress again, from a very good list of candidates. What follows is how Clem reacted to a few questions I put to him for this blog post.
Steve: Can you give a little background about yourself, what you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I spent time with family, play football, work on my personal projects and when I am not doing all those. I also enjoy cooking, so I can often be found in the kitchen baking/cooking bread roll, pizza, and Nigerian snacks like Fufu and meat pies.
Steve: Where are you from and where are you living now?
Clem: I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, but I have lived in Ireland before moving to Finland, which is where I currently live now.
Steve: For the benefit of the readers when did you start working with Toristy?
Clem: I started work in Toristy in March 2020 and I am enjoying the journey so far.
Steve: What first attracted you to the company?
Clem: There was a good fit with what the team were asking for and what I could help with. I also liked what I read about the the culture at Toristy and wanted the challenge of working in a company where I could really impact the story as a growing start up.
Steve: What do you do for Toristy and how do you see your role in the future?
Clem: The first project I worked on was developing the WordPress Plugin which we published in May. This gives tour and activity operators that have Wordpress websites a point and click method of installing services from Toristy to their websites. Crucially though it means what they put into Toristy as a service is crawled by Search engines on their website, so that they benefit from SEO rankings.
In the future we'll develop other similar plugins for Wix and Squarespace so operators with those content management systems deployed can do the same. Enterprises as well will be able to implement Wordpress sales channels (where lots of operator services are available under their banner) easily using the plugin.
I am also working on the core system of Toristy. The key here is developing an API first platform so that it's easy for other development teams to work on the service. I also see it's very important to develop the processes so we simplify how we work together as a team on the code as it's a complex system.
Steve: How do you prefer to start your day?
Clem: After waking up, I make my morning smoothie then I look at the plans for the day, while I drink it. I look at GitHub to see if there are any fresh commits, to make sure my development area is up to date before I start my work.
Steve: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Clem: I am both
Steve: What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Clem: You should have started the process of being a Developer at an earlier stage and not listen to discouragement from people because of your background. I have done a lot of jobs in the past that were a waste of my time and not what I loved to do which is what I am doing now. My advice to anyone else reading is, if you can, work on what you love doing.
Steve: Finally. Why Clem? Why Sunderland?
Clem: It's quite simple. It's because we're by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen.
We're very pleased that Clem is on board and is making a positive contribution to how we develop the story.
In general the Covid-19 situation is a nightmare. However it isn't going to last forever. In Finland today, as I write restrictions are being eased every week and life is slowly returning to pre-covid conditions. We had to adapt to the changes imposed to keep people safe but there is no reason to stop doing what you planned. At least not yet.
I hope you enjoyed this story of how we continue to grow despite the challenges of the pandemic and I'll follow up with news of our next hire in June in the coming weeks.