I first met Amila on slack in our Tech Visa Alumni group. The Alumni is a networking group for those who received the Exceptional Talent Visa in Digital and Tech.
While most of the members are based in London and regularly meet up over breakfast events and social catch ups, Amila and I are based in the North, namely Newcastle of all places!
Amila’s UK adventures started in 2012 with the commencement of his master’s degree in Advanced Computer Science at Newcastle University. While he was born in Sri Lanka, he was raised in the Sultanate of Oman before moving to Malaysia and completing a Bachelor’s degree in computing, specialising in Artificial Intelligence.
After graduating at Newcastle University with a distinction, he decided to remain in Newcastle because he felt very much at home in Newcastle. He says, and I wholeheartedly agree (having just moved to Newcastle myself!) that the Geordie people are very friendly, welcoming and genuine. It is also a very peaceful city, has some great opportunities where you can share your knowledge and give back to the tech community.
And because of this, he started his tech career in Newcastle working at Bede Gaming as a software engineer where he remained for 4 years.
While he absolutely loved working at Bede, who he says helped him integrate seamlessly into the UK working culture, Amila finally decided to take the entrepreneurial plunge to start not one but 2 companies! Logbook and Voice IQ.
Achieving the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa helped him make the move because the visa provides him with a lot of flexibility and has less constraints compared to other visa categories.
However, his success of receiving the visa was met with his own challenges of whether or not he felt his experience and voluntary work would be applicable to the exceptional promise category. He felt it was too vague and generic and wasn’t sure if he met the criteria.
He owes much gratitude to his previous employer at Bede Gaming and startup co-founder Mujibur Choudhury who both supported him with his visa application process by providing most of the relevant supporting documents that made him realise that he could, on the off chance, succeed in receiving this visa. And that he did!
Looking at Amila’s Linkedin profile and his continuous contribution to the UK tech sector, namely in Newcastle, it is no wonder Amila received the Exceptional Talent Visa. His hard work, perseverance and dedication to helping other startups and immersing himself in the start up community certainly paid off not only for himself, but for all the people he helped and made an impact on.
Now that he has his right to remain in the UK to continue to be the CTO for Voice AI and Logbook, Amila’s long-term plan in the UK is to settle here and apply for the Indefinite Leave to Remain visa at the end of this year. This will allow him to continue to work for the two startups in the long term and help these two grow significantly.
In providing his advice to other applicants, he says:
1) Don’t discourage yourself thinking that you don’t meet the requirements for the Exceptional Promise category;
2) It’s not just about the work you get paid for. Mentoring, voluntary work, becoming involved in a tech startup on a part-time basis or working in your tech startup puts you in a good position to apply for this visa; and
3) If you don’t apply, you won’t know if you will get it or not. So be optimistic, be proud of the work that you have done and go for it!
Great advice Amila! It’s so great to have met Amila and know that he is in Newcastle too. If you’re ever in Newcastle, Amila is based at TusPark, a beautiful new co-working space in the city centre for tech start ups where I was based. It’s great to know that we can continue to support each other in the North and be adopted Geordies together!
For more information on Amila’s start up Voice IQ, find out more at www.voiceiq.ai.
*This is not a sponsored blog post. Amila and Michelle are recipients of the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa and maintain a genuine professional relationship.
This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Speaker, Writer and CEO & Founder of Made With Glove. In 2016, Michelle was the recipient of the Exceptional Talent Visa and is now the #TechNationVisa Ambassador. Read Michelle’s other blogs on the #TechNationVisa here.