How to recognize an opportunity and be ready to say, "YES"

In this episode, Michael Gardon, CEO of Rejoin Media and host of Career Cloud radio, chats with Ray King. Ray is the Global Head of Sales at Devbridge, a digital product and technology consultancy. A first-generation immigrant from The Gambia, Ray migrated to the US as a teen and has gained experience building and leading high-performing teams since. He has successfully led digital product delivery for Global 2000 clients in the US, Europe, and the UK. So when the opportunity to build out Devbridge’s UK practice came up, Ray accepted the challenge and grew the practice into a thriving $8M operation in just over three years. He recently transitioned from his post as the Managing Director of the London office back to the US to build a global sales team responsible for generating $20M+ a year in new business revenue for Devbridge. Soon to be a first-time dad, Ray lives in Chicago with his fiancé Megan and their dog, Crede.

Ray photo

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • Ray’s background

  • Ray’s immigration from The Gambia to the United States

  • Ray’s school journey - from graduating high school at 16

  • Why Ray got into consulting work

  • Ray’s opportunity to work as an expat in London

  • How to be present, recognize opportunities, and be ready to say yes

  • The process of starting to work as an expat

    • Immigration and moving

    • Legal working permit

    • Establish entity in UK

    • Set up office, mailing address and other details

    • Knowing when to outsource to get help

  • The pros and cons of being an expat

  • How to find opportunities to work abroad

  • How Ray is giving back and making a difference in The Gambia

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Watch the recording.

Read the transcript.

Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

Michael Gardon (00:00):

Hi everyone. And welcome back to another episode of CareerCloud Radio. I am your host Michael Gardon. I'm on a mission to help job seekers build thriving careers of their choosing. And to do that, I try to have interesting conversations with people that approach the idea of career a bit differently. Today's guest is my dear friend Ray King. Ray is the Global Head of Sales at Devbridge, a digital product and technology consultancy in Chicago. Ray's a builder at heart. He received his first computer at age 15 and has been building software and teams ever since raise also a first-generation immigrant from The Gambia. This experience has shaped his outlook on opportunity and also helped him take a big swing. When asked to build out a brand new office, thousands of miles away in the UK in three short years, Ray built this practice into a thriving $8 million operation. In this episode, we talk about Ray’s career and lessons learned from working as an ex-pat for over three and a half years. One of the big lessons recognize opportunity when it presents itself and be ready to say yes, if you're looking for a new career adventure, raise dropping all sorts of knowledge on what it's like to work overseas. I hope you enjoy this episode with my friend Ray King.

Michael Gardon:

Ray, welcome to the podcast.

Ray King (01:14):

Hey, Mike. Thanks for having me on.

Michael Gardon (01:16):

I'm excited to talk to you. I mean, number one, you and I are going on are really our second decade of friendship and keeping in touch. So I'm super happy to have this chance to catch up, but I also am excited to have you on because of your unique story and some of the things that you've done related to working overseas. I think the theme really that we're seeing over the last couple of years is the CR they've doubled the great resignation, right? People are figuring out that they have a lot of opportunities to do things differently, live their lives, maybe get a different balance. I just want to keep giving our listeners more and more information on how they can look at the idea of work a little bit differently. So I'm super excited to get your thoughts on all of that, but I really want to just start kind of with some of the basics. Can you give our listeners an idea of what it is that you currently do today and who you work for?

Ray King (02:09):

Thank you so much. As they say, I'm a long-time listener, first-time, caller. So thank you so much for having me on. My background is being a builder at heart. I'm originally from West Africa. I was born and raised in a tiny country named The Gambia. I was introduced to my first computer over two decades ago. It was FoxPro. I believe it was an early goodness measurement system, but the point is Mike I'm a builder at heart. Most of my professional career has been spent building. I started my professional career building digital products and took a stint at building teams. But now to answer your question, now I'm basically working to build an organized sales operation for Devbridge, which is a digital consultancy based here in Chicago.

Michael Gardon (03:01):

So a digital product consultancy. Your company has a whole bunch of clients and you spin up digital products. Maybe it's a website, maybe it's an app or different types of consumer experiences on behalf of clients. You work with some of the biggest companies out there, right?

Ray King (03:19):

Yes. Our portfolio lists are definitely companies. You recognize they're mainly off of the Global 2000 list of companies that we will be go after, but that's precisely it. The job that we do is we build beautiful products for these customers. We either accelerate their existing capabilities or in some cases we augment their capabilities. So think of a CIO who needs to develop the next-gen banking app to keep up with the challenges, they call on us. We effectively help do the full product lifecycle for that, for a CIO, his organization, and eventually to come to market faster.

Michael Gardon (03:52):

Okay, great. So we got kind of get what you're doing now. I'm super interested in your story of your immigration story specifically. Talk to me a little bit about that coming from The Gambia. How old were you? Why did you come to the us? What was that process like?

Ray King (04:10):

I left the Gamba in 99 and when I was 15 years old. The dream there was to come to America obviously and, and be part of the great American dream. I have family that is in the US. And for us, the goal always was to leave The Gambia because unfortunately there isn't a good university system locally. There are some in West Africa, but obviously the holy grail is in the US. So I moved here when I was 15 and finished high school when I was 16. I had the opportunity to go to a local university here in Illinois, where I studied and I got a technical degree. I got a computer science degree, graduating in the mid two thousands. Now, interesting thing, Mike is back in the mid 2003.

Ray King (04:58):

We were at this weird inflection point, right? Where specifically in technology, there was a transition from a programmer's perspective to a computer science perspective. There was a transition from legacy languages to now the dot nets and Java and all that kind of fun stuff. Right? So for me, it was taking this love of computers, which I found in The Gambia from a really old computer at my high school, and extrapolating that to being able to work in the US and build software for a living, which to me was the ultimate dream. That is why, you know, I just could not wait to come out here.

Michael Gardon (05:36):

You ended high school early. I don't think I knew that about you, the timeline, but it explains a lot from our relationship. So how did you end up in the Chicagoland area in Illinois? How did your family pick that spot?

Ray King (05:55):

We all moved to North Carolina from The Gambia. Most immigrants move where your family is. That's typically what happens, right? So we moved to North Carolina. Then, my brother had opportunity to go to school here in the Midwest. So when he came, I decided, why not follow along with the smarty pants, pants, theme? I got offered money to go to school for free. I got a merit scholarship which was available here in Illinois. So of course I took that cause you know, free school, why not? So that's how I ended up in Illinois. I actually ended up liking it because after graduation, I got my first job in the Chicagoland area. I was a developer back then. Then over time, I built my roots here. I met more people and just stayed in Illinois.

Michael Gardon (06:44):

So first job right out of college, you were a developer. Who did you work for?

Ray King (06:48):

My first job was for Aon Aon Hewitt, where I was a developer building at the time, their benefits portfolio applications. Imagine I came out of college and you think you want to build is really cool, like next-gen applications. And then it gets thrown into just maintaining an existing application. It was not the most exciting first job, but I learned a lot from it.

Michael Gardon (07:10):

What was next? I want to kind of get a little bit of the arc and some of your choices or some of the things that you did differently to get where you are.

Ray King (07:19):

The big inflection point came where I realized there was more to just building a tool effectively. I was a programmer. I just built whatever was given to me somewhere along the line. I wanted to get more into the product life cycle side of things and really build an end to end product. But I then thought that I was just a technical guy. I did not have the quote-unquote business experience. The funny thing is I left a four year degree. I think I'm a relatively smart guy and I could not read a financial statement. That's how bad it was. And so for me, I was like, if I want to get into business, I have to at least know how to do basic business concepts. I ended up enrolling at DePaul where I met you at the MBA program.

Ray King (08:06):

And that set me up for where I understood technology. I had a grounding in how business is supposed to work. So fuel with that understanding of business, getting experience with the product person, my competence, as a consultant improved. When I joined Devbridge and I started doing consultancy work and working with large clients in North America, Europe, and the UK. I was in the position where I felt like I was ready for the next jump because I had both sides of the story ready, and I could do the next thing that came up.

Michael Gardon (08:40):

Did you have any light bulb moments connected to, I don't want to say lack of skills, but I'm going to say lack of skills because I don't have a better word for it? You couldn't read a financial statement. Like, was there a specific story or something that put a light bulb in your mind where you recognized I need this in order to make the next leap?

Ray King (08:59):

Absolutely. I was at my second job. There was a project I was working on in financial services, a credit card company. It's very, very technical. And I remember there was a project where there was just all of this talk about Spanish instruments and all the things that come with them. Yes, I was a programmer. I didn't have to understand it, but me wanting to get deeper in the lifecycle of products, I wanted to learn this stuff. I think that was the utopia for me. Like, holy crap, I gotta do something here. I don't want to be pigeonholed as a developer and never potentially exit this to do the things that I may want to do in the future.

Michael Gardon (09:37):

Okay. So you had this moment and then you said, okay, I need to rectify that situation. I need to invest in myself. I need to up-skill to get to that next level, to do what I want to do, which was more of the whole product life cycle aspect to the job and viewed that as going the MBA route and actually learning how to do a few of those things, right.

Ray King (10:00):

For me, I mean, this was 2009. And if it's 2021, I'm probably not getting an MBA because a lot of these tools are available online. But back in 2009, 2010, for me, at least this was the only viable option to learn all the things that I needed to become more confident in quote-unquote business.

Michael Gardon (10:19):

All right. So you went from Discover and ended up going into the consultancy route. I'm interested to know why the consultancy route? What was appealing about that for you?

Ray King (10:32):

There were two reasons I left Discover. The first was the consultancy route, right? Because you got to work with different clients. You get to solve different problems. Whenever you join either Devbridge or the big four, your projects are never the same. The clients you interact with are never the same. As a result, no matter how many processes we have in place, every single engagement ends up having its own flair. I wanted that. I wanted to grow dramatically in my career. I wanted to learn a bunch of different things. Like I said, I'm a builder at heart. While I was at Discover, it was literally the same thing over and over and over again. Having a chance to do so for different companies build different products. Like I'll build things from basic engagement apps to complex predictive analysis tools for large companies, right? A big, big difference in the amount of work that's involved for that, and that's what I was looking for in my career. The second piece was I wanted to make an impact. Discover had 15,000 employees. I could be gone for a whole year and they wouldn't even notice. Right. Whereas when I joined Devbridge, every single hour that I built, I saw that how that hour made it down to the bottom line. For me, that was motivation to make the move.

Michael Gardon (11:40):

It makes a lot of sense. Number one, working on a varied range of problems has always kept my interest over the years as well. And why I've done similar things in terms of always having a bit of a side project going or dabbling in a bunch of different things because multipotentialite lateral thinkers. Like we need that. To see your work product realized and see your impact, I think is another thing that, a lot of people are, these days are really thinking about and figuring out where they can go to make that impact. I think those are great themes kind of coming out of your story.

Ray King (12:19):

Yeah. It's key. Like it's key not to just to be the cognitive wheel. It's key to make sure that you're doing something that actually keeps you interested. And over the past five, six years at Devbridge, that's been exactly it.

Michael Gardon (12:30):

Talk about the freedom and ownership and not ownership in the sense of equity ownership, although that's great too. It's really ownership over what you do. And those are really fulfilling aspects of what I call work life. Being able to do what you do and see a positive impact. Those are really key themes. So at Devbridge kind of a really unique opportunity than you had been there for a little while. And then they said, Hey, Ray, we'd like you to go to London. Talk to us about like, how that opportunity came up and how you like your thought process in terms of, am I going to uproot myself and move across the Atlantic? Again, talk to me a little bit about how that went.

Ray King (13:13):

I was just having this discussion with my niece who was asking about what advice would I give to her. She's 17 looking to go to college here. This whole story about me moving to London was a clear example of being present and ready. It's an opportunity to go to London and started off by, I'd been at Devbridge a year and a half, and I'd been working with UK-based clients, European-based clients from Chicago. I would travel to the UK public once a quarter to kind of just see them and do work with them. Well, on one visit, it was myself, our CEO, and our VP of Services. And at first, I didn't want to go because this was going to be, you know, a generic sales meeting. And at the time I just didn't want to travel because I'd just come from Europe.

Ray King (13:56):

But I did anyway. And this is the being present and being ready piece because that particular trip is what changed my career for the past four years. I remember we went on this trip, we met a bunch of CEOs from our clients at the time. And then over dinner, our CEO had the idea of like, I wonder if we had an office in this part of the world, will that increase our number of clients that will then increase our inaugural presence. And over that dinner, I effectively volunteered to move to the UK. Obviously, they vetted me over the month or two after that, but eventually over one dinner being in Geneva, talking about this and just being there, put me in a position to where I was offered the opportunity to move to the UK.

Michael Gardon (14:39):

Was this on your radar at all? Were you thinking about it? What if or geez you know, maybe I'd move somewhere else? Was any of that in your head?

Ray King (14:51):

No, not the move. What was in my head was I wanted to start something. I wanted to build my own practice, my own business, my own, whatever. Right. That was in my head a lot. So for me, the concept was very simple. It was, this is the ultimate build right. We have zero presence. This would be effectively a startup with zero risk for me because I got a salary regardless. Right. The company is quote-unquote funded regardless. So for me, it was like this checks the box of starting something. Oh. And it happens to be in London. I'm going to Western countries. So why not?

Michael Gardon (15:24):

So this is like a really important, I think, skillset that you can develop over time. And I just call it, like seeing the pitch basically is like how I think about it. I'm a baseball guy. So I think about it that way. It's like, you got to look like over time, you have to be able to recognize what's a good opportunity, right? Like I think a lot of times, we young people especially coming into their career or even mid-career, I think every opportunity that comes by is a good one. And I have to swing at everything a lot of times. And like, what you kind of described is you recognize like that's the fat pitch and that's the one that I can swing at right now, because, in my head, the calculus was like a really, really good downside. You're looking at an asymmetric risk-reward opportunity for you, right. Pretty much zero downside, other than moving to a foreign country, if that's a downside and an opportunity to put your career on a completely different track and really build something of value.

Ray King (16:30):

Yeah. That was precisely it. I think on the surface, you write the headline is what you got to go to Europe. But my interest was at the time not living anywhere else, but was how do I build something? And you know, I still have this itch today. I know you want to talk about this, but it's about how do I create something out of nothing. And that is effectively valuable.

Michael Gardon (16:52):

So you sort of went from thinking about building in terms of product to now I'm actually building an organization. And that's another skillset that I assume you wanted to acquire to continue building value in your career.

Ray King (17:08):

Absolutely. I think one of the things that I'm really proud of is I never chased titles. I just have the mindset of, I want to build stuff and add value. Titles came to me and I think that's a good takeaway for me at least. And this is what I talked to my niece about was do the work, figure out how to just add value to someone's life, whether it's a business or personally a customer, and then everything was kind of falls into place. And that's how I approached this move from London was yes, I'd never built a business. I'd never built anything in the UK before we'll add value. We'll make someone's life easier. So therefore it will work out for us. Three years later, it did.

Michael Gardon (17:45):

So I want to get a little tactical on this now, like of course you get the opportunity and now it's like, holy cow, I got to actually to go do this. I'm just interested in what the process was like. Obviously, put aside agreeing on the kind of terms and how it's like actually mechanically getting work permission over there, getting set up, like just kind of start to maybe tick through the process a little bit.

Ray King (18:16):

I think tactically, it was fast. I think we were set up, I believe we got them. I got the nod in August. I was in the UK in November and the office was set up in January. So in a span of six months, we were able to get a whole lot of stuff done. I think the tactical things are obviously that this was pre-Brexit. Immigration was very simple actually. As an American citizen, you are allowed to be in the UK for up to six months on a rolling basis. So I could go to the UK, by the way, this is not legal advice, but you know, I believe it can be in the UK, but for six months. When I was in the UK, we had three main goals.

Ray King (18:59):

First, I sought out my legal working permit. Second, I established the entity, right, because we didn't have anyone in there in the UK yet. And the final one would set up all the things around the entity like an office, a mailing address, all the other legal, what to do to keep the business running. We did all of that within six months. I think the key learning there was, there are times where you need to outsource things. A lot of the time it was very DIY. Like I want to do everything myself, but I think because of the compressed timeline, it was about using your resources as effectively as possible. So when it came to, for example, my immigration status, right, you can technically do it yourself, but we decided to hire a London-based lawyer who made that process go very, very quickly. Right? When he came to set up the legal entity, similarly, we found a lawyer to do that for us when it came to finding me a flat apartment to live in, right. I find an agent down there. So the point was we were able to kind of find people that would do things and that dramatically reduced the time. Now the hard part was finding people, but again, this was 2017 and luckily the internet has solved a lot of that for us.

Michael Gardon (20:14):

You had a lot of resources from your company kind of helping you work through that whole process. I'm kind of interested in the personal process route. You talked about you being up and running in the UK for six months, but were there special work-related things that you and hoops you had to jump through to be able to technically work there?

Ray King (20:35):

I think the process was very simple once I was there and I got my BRP, which is the registration card that came within two months of being there. Again, this is a perspective from the US-UK relationship. It was fairly straightforward. I'm sure it's even easier now that Brexit happened. But personally for me from a work perspective, it was very, very simple. I think the difficult part in logistics was just moving all my stuff there, all my relationships, mailing addresses, you know, credit cards, like all of that stuff. Right. And moving that over there effectively, that was the more complicated things from a personal perspective, but, otherwise, it was fairly simple. Do

Michael Gardon (21:14):

Is the process basically the same throughout all of the Eurozone? Do you know, or is that a unique, really good relationship between the US and the UK in terms of working?

Ray King (21:28):

I believe it was the US-UK relationship, even while I was there, the way that the US nationals are treated and such, I think it's a really, it's a result of that. Okay.

Michael Gardon (21:41):

And how long were you stationed over there?

Ray King (21:43):

I was in the UK for three and a half years. I left in March this year. And while I was there you know, everything from moving in moving out healthcare, all that kind of fun stuff, it was interesting. I'm sure we can fill the whole podcast just about the differences between living in the UK and living here in the US. I spent two and a half years in London specifically.

Michael Gardon (22:07):

I want to know how was it? I don't want to know how was the experience from the standpoint of like, setting up your office and how well you did with all that because I'm sure you checked all those boxes and did a great job, but my listeners I think, are concerned with what was the experience like having spent three and a half years away from your home, your home country, and family?

Ray King (22:29):

The pros here are real quick, right? I think the biggest pro of living up there is it's an amazing life experience. I say that, going back to my point as an immigrant. When I left The Gambia, I wanted to move to the US and I've been here now for over 25 years. I kinda say you must've got it right. I lost the reason why this was awesome. Getting a chance to move out of here and go to go see a different Western country, such as the UK, which is still very developed, but completely different. I think to me, the experience was great because it kind of almost validated why I want to live here and why I wanted my home base to be in the US, not that England is bad. It's not, it's just different and kind of validated things for me.

Michael Gardon (23:21):

What are some of the things that maybe you just took for granted and what solidified that in your mind?

Ray King (23:27):

So for me, opportunity. You know, it's sounds cliche, but in the US, you can be what you want to be. There's very limited, in my opinion, obstacles to that, regardless of your race, color, age, whatever. I do believe that as a black man speaking in the UK, it's not at least my experience. There are a few more hoops to jump through, especially when it comes to opportunities. I may get in trouble for this, but it still is that very like societal class who, what your last name is, what school you went to kind of place. I saw it. Even the places I went to that were still startup organizations, where people don't want Oxford, for example, or people whose last names were tied to whoever naturally got put in places that potentially didn't deserve to be, and others who didn't have the opportunities weren't and so on and so forth. So that was the big one. I do feel like even with all its buts, the US does truly have that opportunity that you can do what you want to do if you work really hard for it.

Michael Gardon (24:30):

Cool. So what do you think the biggest lesson was from your time over there?

Ray King (24:36):

The big thing for me was just, it's an assault against time cliche. I hope I'm not saying anything too cliche for your listeners, but I quickly learned that for me, it was a confidence thing. My biggest takeaway was that confidence in your abilities will go a long way. I had imposter syndrome from the day I landed. I am relatively young. I was given this position that is in front of the CEO. The CIO is a global company from the UK. All of a sudden I'm in rooms, I'm not supposed to be in as a black man or whatever. I think the biggest lesson that I had to learn was it's cool to have imposter syndrome, but quite frankly, you know, confidence in your abilities will go a long way. There are smart people out there. Like there are people that are insanely brilliant, but I think the major difference that I noticed between them and me anyway, is that they did the work. They learned from their mistakes and that overall the experience that they have versus what I have, it's what made them who they are today.

Ray King (25:37):

I think going through these three and a half years, whether it's professionally or personally, just being confident in what I'm doing, being confident in what I'm supposed to be accomplishing, getting that checklist, that daily list done is what I attribute my success to. I think I learned that by being there and by being alone and by, by figuring it out myself.

Michael Gardon (25:55):

So instead of having confidence, I'm going to put words in your mouth, you had the skills, what it takes all along. You just uncovered that you had it. You learned a bunch of stuff along the way, what you had to, but you were always capable of doing that. And this experience just uncovered this.

Ray King (26:21):

Yes. In a more elegant way, I think that's probably right. I think the skillset was always there. And again, that's the whole point of being an imposter, right? You just don't think you have it and this opportunity kind of exposed it to use your word. Now I realize it, and I'm a much better person for it.

Michael Gardon (26:37):

Do you think there was anything particular about being overseas that unlocks that? Or do you think if you had the same type of opportunity in a state, like you had to move in Texas and open up an office, that you would have uncovered that about yourself?

Ray King (26:54):

I doubt it. I think being far away, being by yourself, not having a network yet, like all of these crucibles, if you want to call it, being thrown in there, I think is what unlocked it, to be honest. I think if I was close enough to home where I had the networks still, where I could just, you know, reach out for help if I needed it. It probably wouldn't have forced me to dig as hard. I believe that it's because I was away, I was in a completely different culture, with a completely different way of doing business, in a completely different country. Therefore I had to adapt. I think going into that process as well, I loved it.

Michael Gardon (27:26):

So for listeners that are like listening to your story right now, and they're pretty jacked about what opportunities exist for people. Your story is specific and you had this opportunity and you were there, you swung at the fat pitch. We can talk about it, but what opportunities are there a large amount of opportunities for people based in the US to go abroad and follow a similar track? Is there an alchemy to this?

Ray King (27:55):

Absolutely. Especially in London, I was surprised at the number of ex-pats that were working for both large companies that you recognize, and also smaller startups that you'll see here in the US that had offices in the UK. So the answer is yes, there are actually a lot of opportunities for people that want to do this, potentially with the existing company that you work may even have an opportunity for you to go out. You just have to ask and be ready if they've answered. I'll definitely say, start by asking. Start by putting yourself in this position because your company probably does it. And if your company doesn't do it today and you want to go by yourself, as I mentioned earlier, you get six months a year as a US citizen to live in the UK. You can go there and potentially get a job in the UK.

Ray King (28:46):

There is this program called the global talent program that the UK has spun up as part of Brexit. And we were using it because we were trying to hire when the UK as well. If you go down to the UK, you'll spend six months there, network chances are, you will find a UK company that is potentially looking to hire an expert as well. So there are options. You can do it from your company here. You can hire, if we can find a company locally, I'll send you over, or you can go over by yourself and then potentially network your way around and get a visa from one of the companies that already are down there.

Michael Gardon (29:17):

Are there advantages for companies to hire ex-pats?

Ray King (29:20):

Yes. I mean, a lot of it is DEI, right? The idea of having different folks in your company, different experiences. So that alone is an incentive for companies to do that, but also American is still a beacon. And while I was there, a lot of companies were trying to break into the American market. So having an American who can help facilitate that by being local is something that I think is quite beneficial and vice versa. I mean, we are different when we go there. So people want to talk to us as muses and so on and so forth. So companies are looking for us. I think as a matter of, if you want to try this, the stuff that you just mentioned could be opportunity for you.

Michael Gardon (30:01):

Then are there any particular industries that are just going bananas in the UK that we might not really be thinking about in the US,

Ray King (30:10):

There was FinTech for London specifically. London's a big financial hub and there's a ton of Fintechs that are there, FinTech startups that are there specifically. So that's one industry for sure, which I'm sure we were there. The other one also is InsureTech. There's a lot of InsureTech challenges out there and going after the big insurance companies. Most recently, there has been more power supply. In Chicago, similarly, there are companies that are looking to disrupt either the supply side or the power generation side by making the customer first.

Michael Gardon (30:51):

Within FinTech is that primarily like payments current infrastructure, or also including like defy blockchain-based stuff?

Ray King (31:00):

Blockchain is big there, but more infrastructure. A lot of companies were in the open banking space where they were trying to solve the infrastructure that's required for that open banking in the UK. So there's a lot of space there. I didn't play too much into the blockchain space, but with Mike. So while I'm aware of it and stuff that's going on, I cannot really say for sure how big the market is there.

Michael Gardon (31:26):

Okay. And so now you're back stateside. What brought you full circle? How'd you get back?

Ray King (31:32):

Well, the plan was always to do three to five years. So once I hit one thing, once I hit the three-year mark, I started thinking about what to do next. The builder in me was like, okay, I've done this now, it's working. I want to do something else. I met a girl who wanted to come to America. So that also drove a personal decision. But I think the big thing was just, I wanted a different challenge. I want it to build something else. So the company I work for, we've had a need to build a sales organization. I had never built a sales organization before, but similarly to my previous roles, the idea of build, measure, learn, entices me. So I decided to move back and take on this new challenge.

Michael Gardon (32:13):

Fantastic. So I know you're also involved in a little bit of work to kind of bring this full circle with some programs in your home country of The Gambia. Talk to us a little bit about what you're doing, what Devbridge is doing and the impact that you guys are making there.

Ray King (32:32):

My whole career in technology wouldn't have happened if I hadn't had access to that really old windows 95 computer in 1997, where I learned, where I saw FoxPro for the first time, and realized that I could build a simple app now automate in numbers. Unfortunately, technology in West Africa, specifically The Gambia, it's not where it's supposed to be. The education system is not creating technologists. People are interested in building stuff, but they can't because there's no access to the computers to the learning and so on and so forth. So for me, I'm at a point right now where I have influence within a company. Last year, the black lives matter was an awful thing that happened. And I saw it as a way of like, okay, black lives do matter.

Ray King (33:24):

However, the way we solve this, in my opinion, is by creating opportunities for people who don't have opportunities, where better to look than where I'm from. So I reached out to my work, my CEO, and VP. I was like, we gotta do something about this. We gotta figure out how to create the next technologists in West Africa. That's what started the process. So Devbridge today, our founders are not from America. They did the exact same thing eight years ago, where they have a program where they teach college students how to become professional developers. And we did this partially to get it back, but also to build a pipeline of engineers right for our company. So that program was available. And effectively, I asked for the rights to implement that program in The Gambia. So starting this may in 2021, we took the program, we enrolled 10 students.

Ray King (34:18):

Then as a pilot, and the idea was just to see if we would get interested students, if the students would actually learn something, and would become developers. Well, all those three things happened. We had 140 students apply. We only picked 10 for the pilot. Those 10 students attended every single class for 12 weeks on time. Then they did demo day, like two weeks ago where they built actual working software that was hosted on Azure that is usable. And to me, I was like, this is the goal. We've done it. And one of them got a full-time job immediately following the program. The other nine have been put into internships with local technology companies in the region.

Michael Gardon (35:00):

That's awesome. As you said that you were choking up. I'm glad I didn't have to talk because you're the man. That's amazing. I'm super proud of you. That's fantastic. Very cool. So for anyone out there listening, that wants to learn a little bit more about you, or your company, where should they wish they go to look?

Ray King (35:20):

Devbridge for sure is my focus right now. Devbridge.com is where you'd go to learn more about the company and what I do. I've kind of given up on social. The only social space I play in now is LinkedIn. So the best place to find me is on LinkedIn. Raymond King. Reach out. Send me a DM. I'll be happy to talk to you more about what I do now about potentially moving overseas or just getting any advice when it comes to building because that's what I like to do right now.

Michael Gardon (35:51):

We'll link to all that stuff in the show notes.

Ray King (35:54):

Thank you for the opportunity. Thank you for bringing up The Sourcery Academy, the program back in The Gambia. Cause you know, that's definitely a side thing that is very important to me. So even though going to London was cool building office was cool, the thing I'm most proud of so far is that we are creating opportunities for people that look like me. And again, who hopefully may end up like me right in the next, 10 years. They may be doing stuff better. Thank you for having me talk about that.

Michael Gardon (36:20):

Oh man. Absolutely. Couldn't be more proud of you. I love it. And I can't wait to catch up in person soon. Thanks so much for coming on.

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