Becoming a Remote Developer in NZ: 7 Things to Know
Software developers get paid well for coding computer software. Increasingly, they can work from anywhere in the world – all you need is solid hardware and a stable internet connection.
Software developers are some of the top paid professionals in New Zealand, with a median starting salary of $57,000 and average earnings of between $72-100k. They’re also in high demand given the growing need for tech skills and persistent skill shortages in the industry.
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become increasingly desirable for both employees and employers. Software development is well-suited to a home office environment and is a top working from home job. Pre-pandemic (and post-pandemic, hopefully!), software development is a common career among digital nomads – people who travel the world while they work remotely.
Here are the things you need to know about becoming a remote software developer in New Zealand.
Remote work and the tech industry
Even before the pandemic, the tech industry has started to embrace remote working options. According to a Buffer survey, remote work is popular – 98% of people at software companies hope to work remotely at least at some point in their career – and here to stay.
Remote workers enjoy the freedom and flexibility of choosing when and where to work and being closer to family.
There are gains from the employer’s perspective too. A University of Otago study found that New Zealanders who worked from home during lockdown were overwhelmingly either just as productive, if not more so, than those commuting into the office. Companies that allow remote work also have happier employees on average, and lower employee turnover.
Remote work is especially well-suited to software developers and programmers because many coding tasks can be done independently, and collaboration tools to communicate among teams are widely available.
Types of software developers, and the skills they need
There are many types of software developers, including:
Front-end web developers
(such as Ruby on Rails developers) are responsible for server-side coding that users won’t see, so they need to understand web hosting, database administration, APIs, backups, and security. They think logically and can communicate well with front-end teams. Senior backend engineers are involved in higher-level supervision, collaboration with other teams, and mentorship.
(including PHP developers) are proficient in both front and back-end development and so can work on both sides, either by themselves or within a team. They’re skilled at handling complex projects with many moving parts. Senior full-stack engineers tend to supervise more junior staff.
(including C/C++, Golang, Scala, and Java developers) write software that runs on computer operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and Linux, which can be paid or open source. They have a proven ability to solve problems and think logically.
Mobile and games application developers
A software development engineer in test
writes code to test applications, making sure they work properly. This involves critical thinking skills, and being able to explore every aspect of the application they’re testing.
Data scientists and data engineers
write code (in languages such as Python, R, and SQL) to analyse and visualise datasets, and make future predictions with existing data. These specialists need to understand how to make giant grids of numbers tell you something useful.
Lead developers and lead software engineers
have the skills and experience of senior developers. They are also involved with guiding and directing a project from the foundational stages and communicating with others in the company like DevOps engineers, product managers and project managers.
How to set yourself up for remote work success
Here are our tips for setting yourself up as a remote software developer.
1. Consider the challenges and benefits
Remote working has excellent benefits, but it also requires self-motivation and discipline. You have to make sure you can keep yourself on track to meet goals and deadlines. You’ll need to maintain your work even in times when it’s tedious or frustrating, which can be difficult on your own.
It’s essential to have a plan for approaching your work, and regularly reviewing it to see if you’re getting the outcomes you need.
2. Training options: degree, VET/TAFE, bootcamp – which is best?
It’s possible to get a software development job without formal qualifications, though they are generally preferred. Those in the industry typically have university or TAFE qualifications in computer science, software engineering, IT, or software development.
They also may have more specialised training in a particular software development sub-field under their belt – so many options are available!
Some examples of niche skillsets include:
Do you need a university degree?
University degrees give a thorough overview of topics such as coding, databases and networking, algorithms, and how hardware works. All of this is relevant to people who are interested in technology, but the depth and breadth of topics may not be necessary for the day-to-day work of all software developers. Degrees are a great option if you have the time to study, but they aren’t the only pathway into tech.
VET and TAFE
Vocational training such as VET or TAFE courses offer practical information that’s directly relevant to professional roles and recognised qualifications. There are many course options, so you can choose something that suits your current abilities and career plans, at either a beginner level or to upskill. You can often choose to either attend online, in-person or a mix.
Bootcamps are another option – these are intensive coding courses that provide practical instruction.
The structure of the courses varies widely, from cost-effective (or even free!) self-guided courses that allow you to teach yourself material from pre-recorded lectures and tutorials, to more expensive, immersive, mentor-driven courses. Many of these are conducted online, especially in the current pandemic.
If you choose to do a bootcamp, it’s a good idea to check out reviews as quality can be variable. Many are appropriate for beginners, but others require experience. Some boot camps have links to top tech companies, job placement opportunities, or even job guarantees upon completion.
3. Searching for a remote job
Freelance/project-based work can be found using online remote work platforms and job forums, by building your own website, or through searching more traditional startup or big tech job ads.
There is a variety of employment arrangements in software development. Some workers are primarily office-based but have flexible arrangements allowing them to work at home some or most of the time. Or you can work for a remote company, with remote teams that may be in the same, or a different time zone to your colleagues.
As well, remote developer job options include ongoing employment – just like a traditional full-time office job, except at home – or working as a freelancer doing project-based work.
4. Setting up your workspace
There’s lots to consider when designing a remote working space that suits you:
5. Setting your schedule
Remote work is often perceived as an opportunity to laze around the house, no pants required. But regardless of attire, it’s crucial to meet deadlines and communicate regularly about what you’re up to, and any challenges you might be having.
Some remote companies will let you work whatever hours you like, which may result in asynchronous interactions with your remote team – you might not get a reply to an email you sent until you’re fast asleep. Other employers expect you to be available during core work hours so that remote teams can still collaborate in real-time.
6. Getting feedback
One of the difficulties of being a remote worker or freelancer is that it can be isolating – colleagues aren’t around to offer guidance or feedback. This makes it essential to have structured time when you can improve on your work like code reviews, meeting with mentors, finding a network of freelancers, and looking for training opportunities.
7. Protect your data
Cybersecurity is crucial for remote developers. Security breaches like malware and information leaks don’t just affect your data, but also commercial data. Make sure you have good antivirus software and privacy settings and be cautious of potential scams.
With preparation, existing IT skills that you’re enthusiastic about building on, and plenty of self-motivation, software development is a desirable, well-paid opportunity that allows you to work flexibly from home. As more companies embrace remote work, now is the perfect time to investigate becoming a remote developer.
Ready to join over one-third of all New Zealand employees who work from home? Here’s a list of the ten best working from home jobs.
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