From IT to Art: How a Job Abroad Led to a Career Change

by Dea Martinjonis February 20, 2019
art, artist, hindu, India, Estonia

Here’s a story that proves how studying and working abroad pays off in ways one doesn’t even dare to dream sometimes. Jinesh from Mumbai who has a Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction landed a jobbatical at an Estonian tech startup, excelled at it, but then decided to do a 180 and leave his lucrative career in IT to pursue a fulfilling career in art.

young man, India, developer, artist

Photo credit: J.P.

Jinesh’s relationship with Estonia started when he studied for his Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction at Tallinn University. After graduating he returned to India to spend time with his family and friends but also started looking for jobs on Jobbatical. “It seemed like a superb concept and it seemed easy for expats to find jobs using Jobbatical,” Jinesh says. As luck would have it, the job he landed was at an Estonian startup called RebelRoam.

Nobody discusses the weather in Mumbai

Although his first few months in Estonia gave him a culture shock – “I grew up in Mumbai where it’s usually sunny every day and you have good, warm weather all the time. You don’t even discuss the weather because it’s usually always the same and quite nice and the trees are always green. So the long nights and the cold in Estonia were a shock to me,” Jinesh says – he didn’t hesitate to return there for a job.

Mumbai, Bombay, beach, Mahrashtra, sunny, palmtrees

One can understand why nobody discusses the weather in Mumbai. Photo by: alloova

What surprised Jinesh on the positive side was that people are usually “very, very much on schedule and if you have a meeting with someone, say, three weeks from now, on Thursday at 3 pm, you don’t need to remind that person again and again, it’s going to happen for sure!” He also liked how most of the Estonian work culture is zero bullshit, no-nonsense. “People get the work done, they get it done very efficiently and fast, without lots of red tape and formalities. It’s nice how fast things move.”

Lessons in time management & political correctness

Jinesh still appreciates how his colleagues inspired him to structure his thoughts. “I have too many random ideas and sometimes they need structure and planning in terms of time management and process management. My colleagues, especially the Estonian colleagues, are really good at organizing their time that way. And another thing they taught me is political correctness, maybe,” chuckles Jinesh.

Hindu, Estonians, canoe, river

Jinesh enjoying a canoe trip with his colleagues in Estonia. Photo credit: J.P.

Another thing Jinesh loved is the Estonian nature and its calm. There are so many places where you can spend time alone, in nature. “I loved traveling around the country, especially the islands and the biggest one Saaremaa. In fact, so much I moved to Saaremaa for six months and just took the time to draw amidst nature. For anyone who likes nature, Estonia is simply a paradise.”

hindu, Estonia, roadtrip

Jinesh roadtripping in Estonia with his parents. Photo credit: J.P. 

Jinesh is being modest here. He didn’t just draw in nature while in Saaremaa, he was actually an artist-in-residence for a music festival called I Land Sound where his art was presented to a crowd of 5000+ people!

Estonian culture and people, in general, bring one word to Jinesh’s mind – introverted. “But if you think of it, it’s also a new culture. Estonia has been free (again) since 1991. No wonder a lot of Estonians ask expats, “What do you think of Estonia?” This doesn’t happen in other countries so much. I think Estonians are still identifying and discovering themselves as a nation. And it’s amazing, there are so many new ideas and more amazing ideas are going to come up.”

Finding out what you don’t want to do

Jinesh says he gained a lot from his experience in Estonia. “The job I took taught me things I didn’t want to do,” he says. “During my last few years in Estonia, I spent a lot of time in nature. I would usually go and draw and somewhere down the line I realized, I don’t want to do IT – I want to focus on my art instead. So Estonia made me realize that I’m an artist who likes to be in nature and just draw.”

hindu, Indian food, Tallinn, market

Selling Indian food at a local neighborhood market in Tallinn. Photo credit: J.P.

This opened Jinesh’s eyes to a whole new world. “Estonia has some great new musicians from rap to classical singing, some amazing music, and art happening everywhere around.”

In fact, Jinesh has taken so many wonderful memories from Estonia and feels so connected to the place that he’s planning to spend every summer in Estonia. “I’m going to be working with different artists and musicians. I think I’m so connected to Estonia that I didn’t need to take something with me to India, I’m going to keep accessing it instead!”

Although there is one Estonian thing he’d love to have in India. “I miss black bread so much. Why doesn’t the whole world eat black bread?!”

From IT to art

“I do hope this was the last time I used Jobbatical,” Jinesh says. “I’ve shifted my career and now work in the art industry and I don’t do IT anymore. But I definitely recommend Jobbatical to expats who want to work abroad. It’s been fantastic how Jobbatical curates, they don’t run random ads, most of their jobs are well paid, they are from good companies.”

But isn’t life hard for artists – aren’t they all starving and struggling?

“I wouldn’t categorize it as harder or easier, it is about being honest with yourself. I think I was pretty decent as an IT guy and digital marketer but it wasn’t really me and it reflected in the fact that I wasn’t great at that. There are other people who really enjoy it. I really enjoy art. It’s just about finding who you are and the moment when you find your special niche you still get enough money to be happy and you also enjoy what you do,” Jinesh muses.

art, pointillism, facepaint

Jinesh uses a technique called pointillism – he spends hours on a picture, making multiple dots and the dots then create the image. And as you can see, he also does bodyart. Photo credit: J.P.

He also says he’s making better money as an artist than he was in IT. “It’s also because I’ve had time to invest in my art and I’ve been lucky enough to meet the right people. Most importantly I enjoy it so much. I think my artwork is way better than any of the websites I’ve made in my life cause my heart and soul is in this. It is a better life when you find what you want to do. Sometimes you just don’t want to be a developer anymore.”

Be patient, expat

If you’re still debating whether to make that leap and accept an offer from another country, Jinesh has some advice. “Being patient helps a lot of times in foreign cultures. It can be confusing at first, you don’t understand some of the things, why people do what they do, how they do it. So be calm and observe – it pays off. The answers will come to you and the more you spend time in that place, the more you access the language and start to understand the society a lot better.“


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