Hi! My name is Kevin, I am a 30-year-old software developer who was born in the north-west part of France. I have been living in Latvia for a bit more than 5 years and am the father of a 3-year-old daughter.

Girl, of course, it’s because of a girl!

Much like the 90% of expats that I know, I am here because of a girl (actually, 2 of them by now).

My Latvian adventure begins in 2008… in its neighbouring country, Estonia. Back then I was an IT student in France and was looking for an internship abroad. After considering several options and going through a couple of interviews, I was hired as an intern in Mobisolutions, a company in Tartu, Estonia. So I would spend 4 months in Estonia from April up until the end of August.

In the middle of this internship and after some months of hard work I decided to take a break for a weekend and go just across the border to Latvia, to attend the Positivus Festival, which is one of the biggest music festivals in the Baltics. During the festival, I would meet my girlfriend. After going back to France for 3 years to finish my studies, I decided to come back to live in Latvia to be with her. And here I am, a couple of years later, in 2019, the father of a 3-year-old kid.

Freelancing: not the best idea if you want to integrate

When I arrived in Latvia, in January 2013, my idea on how to make a living was simple: freelance online as a mobile developer. Financially it worked, even if it was not the most stable situation as my income could triple or be divided by 3 from one month to the other. I could afford to live in Riga without much difficulty, but there was a big lack of social interactions in my life as I was working as a solo freelancer. The only person I would interact with aside from my girlfriend, her family, and her friends would be a cashier at the supermarket.

How did I end up in TestDevLab?

After a couple of years freelancing, I decided to look for a “real” job. In the meantime, I also became a daddy and therefore could not afford the fluctuations in my stream of income anymore. The IT market in Latvia is eager for people, so it did not take too long before I could find a job in a WEB development company. I stayed there for 1.5 years and then decided to look for new technical challenges. This is when I got in touch with TestDevLab and agreed to start working here.

How they welcomed me

The team at TestDevLab was very friendly and I feel my integration was quite smooth. The language barrier is not an issue at all, as colleagues would switch to English whenever I am joining in on a conversation. Most of the resources in the company are translated into English and when it’s not the case, there is always a colleague who is willing to help me with translations from Latvian. As I am not the only foreigner at TestDevLab, our internal events now are held in English.  I would say it took me around 2 weeks to feel comfortable at my new job.

The team is also forgiving as far as I can tell. Here is a little story to prove it: One day when I was coming back from my lunch break, I noticed a message from our co-founder Andrejs, asking why I deleted the #general channel of our internal chat. To be frank I still don’t know how I managed to do it but it probably happened while I was putting my unlocked phone in my pocket. Everybody had a good laugh and got to see my name in bold in the public chat, which probably made me the most famous TestDevLab employee at that time. A couple of hours later the general chat was renewed, I didn’t lose my job and all was back to normal.

The challenges

As I was saying earlier I was looking for new challenges when I joined TestDevLab. Here is a summarized list of what was waiting for me:

I switched the platform I was working on from Android to iOS. Which means I have to get familiar with new programming languages (Swift and Objective-c), a bunch of new frameworks and also a new IDE, switching from Android Studio to Xcode. The client I am working for is one of the biggest actors in the WebRTC world so it is also a technology I have to learn on a day to day basis.

I changed my role from developer to a role which is closer to quality engineer.  Both jobs are pretty close in terms of tools and techniques and I still do a lot of development. The biggest difference is that the test applications we are working on don’t need to be pixel perfect, as they are used only for functional testing. They just have to work precisely as intended. I was also surprised how far the TestDevLab team has been able to push test automation on quite complex products such as a voice and video over IP frameworks.

To face these challenges I try to read blog posts and listen to podcasts related to my new job as much as I can so I can get up to speed on iOS development and keep an eye on what is happening on Android. I am also not scared to ask a lot of questions to my teammates.

Living in Riga/Latvia

If you’re a European you probably won’t encounter that much of a cultural shock when living in Riga. But there are still a few surprises. For example, flower shops (some of them, at least), especially in the area near my home are open 24/7. So I can wake up in the middle of the night walk for 2 min and buy flowers for my loved ones.

The architecture in Riga is very diverse, you can find beautiful art-nouveau style buildings in one area of the city, but if you keep walking on for 500 meters you might find an old Soviet-style building which is almost falling apart.

Latvian food is not very surprising but if you like potatoes and sour cream then this country will be your food paradise.

The weather and the mood

I come from Bretagne, France, and we have a saying that in this place it only rains twice per year but each time it does, it lasts for 6 months. My point is that in Latvia the four seasons are very different compared to where I come from. Here are a few tips and suggestions to survive the weather each season:

Winter: It’s cold and usually snowy. Buy a good coat (you might get one for free if you join TestDevLab) and enjoy the winter! You can go ride a bobsleigh in Sigulda, do cross-country skiing in any park of Riga or enjoy a glass of hot mulled wine in the annual Riga Christmas market. Latvians are hardcore ice hockey fans, so I would definitely recommend you to attend a Dinamo Riga game in the Arena. Even if you don’t enjoy the game you will enjoy the atmosphere.

Spring: Probably the best season in Latvia. The days are getting longer and warmer to a point where the sun almost never sets. My tip for this season will be to buy a good window shutter because the constant daylight can drive you crazy.

Summer: Summer is also very enjoyable in Latvia. Warm days allow you to have a good time at Jurmala’s beaches and enjoy the sunlight and the fresh air. For this season I advise visiting the traditional song and dance festivals. You can also pay a visit to Positivus. You never know –  you might meet your sweetheart there.

Autumn: I am sorry but I don’t have a tip for this one. The weather is gray, the days are getting too short and snow is not there yet. You can still visit Sigulda to see the golden autumn leaves before it’s too cold. After that my advice is to take the next flight to Spain or to some other warm location for a couple of weeks.

It was totally worth it!

Deciding to leave France to come to Latvia was one of the biggest decisions of my life. However, I have no regrets about it. In fact, I encourage every young student to try this experience.

It has helped me overcome my shyness, meet a lot of awesome people and I am now facing a lot of interesting and challenging tasks in my day to day job in TestDevLab. If you are a foreigner and looking for a job in IT or internship in Latvia, we will be more than happy to welcome you to our office and help you discover this awesome country.