Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

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PeterMollenburg
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Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Thu Apr 07, 2016 11:07 pm

I want to ask a question related to IT work.

It appears to me that those who work in IT are able to live and work in other countries with relative ease. In particular there are are a lot of programmers here on the forum. I'd like to ask the following...

...In your experience (particularly if you have IT or programming experience) is it a correct observation that those with IT/programming as their main source of income are quite able to find work in other countries?

I am curious as I am "trying it in for size" ie Would re-training in IT or even specifically programming open foreign doors? Naturally, like many people here, the possibility of working overseas is an attractive one- but are my (crude) observations of the IT field a little rediculous? If I could work in a position that is more free to cross borders (and learn languages of course) it would be potentially a career changing decision for me.

My profession is sold as being a rather mobile profession. Not the case for non-English speaking countries. The time it takes to reach B2-C1, have training and experience 'assessed', pass nursing exams, do conversion courses/retrain and find work although not impossible is full of hurdles that prevent one from simply finding a job and getting into the culture much sooner. Plenty of nurses come here and work and do what it takes so where there's a will there's a way, but it is a very valid statement to say that are not going from Australia to France in which the rules are very different. I don't think the IT field suffers from the same cumbersome and sometimes very valid rules as nursing.

I have NO IT experience.

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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby emk » Fri Apr 08, 2016 12:48 am

PeterMollenburg wrote:...In your experience (particularly if you have IT or programming experience) is it a correct observation that those with IT/programming as their main source of income are quite able to find work in other countries?

Some software developers do manage to find remote work, which works reasonably well if there's no more than 6 hours time difference. European programmers appear have pretty solid English reading comprehension. And I've seen major French programming conferences with policies that all presentations should be in English, so that the German and Italian programmers (for example) can understand the talks, and so that they can get internationally-known speakers. On top of all this, programming is not a field that cares much about regulation or certification. So there's definitely some flexibility here.

But there's a downside to working in Europe. Here, I'll let the French government explain:

hire-2-get-1-free.jpg
hire-2-get-1-free.jpg (70.14 KiB) Viewed 1109 times

"Remember when recruiting: Hire 2 developers, get 1 free. Only in France. No time limit."

These sheets were being handed out at a startup conference funded by the French government. Rumor says there's a lot of truth to the pay rates they promise.

As a profession, I guess I have to say that programming isn't for everybody. But you'll never know if it's for you unless you try—I met a startup founder in Boston once, a real "salesperson" personality and a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, who had taught himself to program because he couldn't find anybody to do it for him. You'd never guess that he'd become a programmer. And of course he struggled a lot at first, but he actually was making great progress.

Programming pays quite nicely maybe 7 or 8 years out of every 10, at least within my lifetime, and people in their 20s and 30s seem pretty happy. Once people hit their 40s, I hear rumors of age discrimination, though, and I suspect that we're in for another downturn between now and 2020, though I couldn't tell you which year. Downturns are not a fun time to be a very junior programmer, or one who doesn't love the work.

If you try it, and if you discover that you really like building things for people, I'd say go for it. If you read my log, you can see that I write all kinds of dodgy little throwaway programs, even when they're impossible to sell. So I've always felt lucky—I get paid respectably well to do a rewarding hobby.
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:41 am

emk wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:...In your experience (particularly if you have IT or programming experience) is it a correct observation that those with IT/programming as their main source of income are quite able to find work in other countries?

Some software developers do manage to find remote work, which works reasonably well if there's no more than 6 hours time difference. European programmers appear have pretty solid English reading comprehension. And I've seen major French programming conferences with policies that all presentations should be in English, so that the German and Italian programmers (for example) can understand the talks, and so that they can get internationally-known speakers. On top of all this, programming is not a field that cares much about regulation or certification. So there's definitely some flexibility here.

But there's a downside to working in Europe. Here, I'll let the French government explain:

hire-2-get-1-free.jpg

"Remember when recruiting: Hire 2 developers, get 1 free. Only in France. No time limit."

These sheets were being handed out at a startup conference funded by the French government. Rumor says there's a lot of truth to the pay rates they promise.

As a profession, I guess I have to say that programming isn't for everybody. But you'll never know if it's for you unless you try—I met a startup founder in Boston once, a real "salesperson" personality and a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, who had taught himself to program because he couldn't find anybody to do it for him. You'd never guess that he'd become a programmer. And of course he struggled a lot at first, but he actually was making great progress.

Programming pays quite nicely maybe 7 or 8 years out of every 10, at least within my lifetime, and people in their 20s and 30s seem pretty happy. Once people hit their 40s, I hear rumors of age discrimination, though, and I suspect that we're in for another downturn between now and 2020, though I couldn't tell you which year. Downturns are not a fun time to be a very junior programmer, or one who doesn't love the work.

If you try it, and if you discover that you really like building things for people, I'd say go for it. If you read my log, you can see that I write all kinds of dodgy little throwaway programs, even when they're impossible to sell. So I've always felt lucky—I get paid respectably well to do a rewarding hobby.


Hmmm interesting indeed. Thanks emk for your detailed reply.

With my 40s not far off the prospect of age discrimination doesn't sound so fantastic, but of course there are plenty of positives from what you say from your experience as well. Is freelancing from home (wherever one might be) a realistic possibility in the field? I'm thinking if your work is quality and you're not 40 years old+ in plain sight you could potentially work around that issue.

I guess the best thing would be to try and learn some programming myself to simply see what I think if it. Any good French teach yourself programming books you know of emk? I could take a look on amazon and potentially bookmark them for a later date if my thinking evolves into more of a 'it's time to try this out' scenario.

One large reservation is I could be swapping one career I'm not entirely satisfied with for another (if I was passionate I probably would be a programmer already- but you never know)... so if I took to it and enjoyed it, the effort and time would have to show almost definite promise eventually in terms of lifestyle change. Of course I can only be the judge of that for my personal situation, but handy insights from those in the field definitely help in the decision making process.

Additionally, at times I often think I should just work in the field I love- languages (like I said swapping one career for another that I'm not passionate about... etc). Thus, the other thing I've considered is freelance translating BUT my French is waaaay too poor, I lack credentials and I haven't exactly taken to reading like a pig in mud. Still I will keep this in mind. One person on this forum made a really good suggestion- medical (texts) translation, which would kill two birds with one stone. Perhaps one day it will be possible, or perhaps not, but I'll file it away and keep learning in the meantime.

I don't think I won't ever achieve my goals of living overseas (for the most part part-time) if I continue in nursing, it's just a tricky path (particularly going to France), so I'll certainly explore other avenues in the meantime and build some mental inventory of other potential careers.
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby galaxyrocker » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:47 am

emk wrote:If you try it, and if you discover that you really like building things for people, I'd say go for it. If you read my log, you can see that I write all kinds of dodgy little throwaway programs, even when they're impossible to sell. So I've always felt lucky—I get paid respectably well to do a rewarding hobby.


I have to say, I'm kind of jealous. I've been searching for a tech job and building personal stuff since my first Python course during my senior year as a physics major. Sadly, I don't live near a tech hub, and can't afford to quit my current job (which does involve some VB (...) Access/SQL and such) and move quite yet (for various reasons).

That said, even if OP doesn't get a job as a programmer, it is fun to build stuff to help yourself/others learn a language. Like I'm currently in the middle of building an Irish verb conjugator that shows dialectal forms, since they're very rarely seen anywhere on the internet (or in easily accessible materials), but a lot of people like to learn the dialects. So even if you can't get a job, you still might be able to building something useful to help yourself/other learners.
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Fri Apr 08, 2016 1:51 am

galaxyrocker wrote:
emk wrote:If you try it, and if you discover that you really like building things for people, I'd say go for it. If you read my log, you can see that I write all kinds of dodgy little throwaway programs, even when they're impossible to sell. So I've always felt lucky—I get paid respectably well to do a rewarding hobby.


I have to say, I'm kind of jealous. I've been searching for a tech job and building personal stuff since my first Python course during my senior year as a physics major. Sadly, I don't live near a tech hub, and can't afford to quit my current job (which does involve some VB (...) Access/SQL and such) and move quite yet (for various reasons).

That said, even if OP doesn't get a job as a programmer, it is fun to build stuff to help yourself/others learn a language. Like I'm currently in the middle of building an Irish verb conjugator that shows dialectal forms, since they're very rarely seen anywhere on the internet (or in easily accessible materials), but a lot of people like to learn the dialects. So even if you can't get a job, you still might be able to building something useful to help yourself/other learners.


Good point galaxyrocker! Cheers :)
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby chokofingrz » Fri Apr 08, 2016 5:12 pm

Bear in mind that you will need to reach at least a "B1"-type level of programming (in a specific language or field, although skills are transferable), before any employer will even begin to consider employing you in a badly-paid entry-level role (in that one particular programming language or field, meaning that 75% of the IT jobs are still inaccessible to you). And you don't generally reach that B1-ish level by reading books and watching videos, you actually need to work in the language and build things, a lot of things (software/apps/websites etc), to get the experience you need to find the work (Catch-22 situation). As you can imagine, passion, determination, time and some talent are prerequisites. Getting an IT career with self-taught skills is almost as hard as getting language work with self-taught languages. And when you say that you have no IT experience and are approaching 40... I can only wish you lots of luck with it!
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby Arnaud » Fri Apr 08, 2016 6:42 pm

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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby Montmorency » Fri Apr 08, 2016 8:57 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:I want to ask a question related to IT work.

It appears to me that those who work in IT are able to live and work in other countries with relative ease. In particular there are are a lot of programmers here on the forum. I'd like to ask the following...

...In your experience (particularly if you have IT or programming experience) is it a correct observation that those with IT/programming as their main source of income are quite able to find work in other countries?

I am curious as I am "trying it in for size" ie Would re-training in IT or even specifically programming open foreign doors? Naturally, like many people here, the possibility of working overseas is an attractive one- but are my (crude) observations of the IT field a little rediculous? If I could work in a position that is more free to cross borders (and learn languages of course) it would be potentially a career changing decision for me.

My profession is sold as being a rather mobile profession. Not the case for non-English speaking countries. The time it takes to reach B2-C1, have training and experience 'assessed', pass nursing exams, do conversion courses/retrain and find work although not impossible is full of hurdles that prevent one from simply finding a job and getting into the culture much sooner. Plenty of nurses come here and work and do what it takes so where there's a will there's a way, but it is a very valid statement to say that are not going from Australia to France in which the rules are very different. I don't think the IT field suffers from the same cumbersome and sometimes very valid rules as nursing.

I have NO IT experience.

PM



I've been out of the IT world professionally for quite a few years now, so bear that in mind when reading what follows:

Generally speaking, people don't learn "programming", they learn one or more programming languages or systems. However, if one really knows nothing about IT, then it might pay to start reading about IT systems in general. While a lot obviously changed in my 3 decades + in the business, certain principles haven't changed, and it's worth finding out what those are.

At this stage, I wouldn't spend money on expensive courses (maybe do that later when you have a better idea what you want to do), but it would be worth investing in a few books. The O'Reilly series comes to mind. If you have any friends in the IT world, it might be worth asking around for suggestions.

In many ways, the most important thing about being a programmer is not so much writing code, but in being able to see the big picture, and being able to see how your code module(s) fit into the total system. If you advance far enough it may be you designing and building that system from parts built by other programmers which you specified. You have to be both detail-oriented, but also able to "zoom out". This becomes even more important when things start to go wrong and you have to debug the system. All systems have bugs...

While in many ways, I preferred the smaller, simpler IT world that I "grew up in", the advantage of today's world is that it's pretty easy to learn to program from scratch in the comfort of one's own home. (I started on punched-card machines in large draughty noisy machine-rooms :) ).

Perhaps you could think of some task you want to perform - it could be language-related - prepare a parallel-text perhaps? Count the number of times a particular verb or noun appears in a book in your TL? Maybe develop that into a word-frequency list?

The above, like a lot of tasks that seem to come the programmer's way are about text-processing of course (and that's all got a bit more complicated since "my" day with much more awareness of national/international character sets). When I was still at work, PERL was all the rage for this kind of thing. Python was also around, but it seems to be talked about a bit more now. Well, those and other programming languages and text editors depend on something called "regular expressions" which is a fascinating subject in itself, and a book I'd like to recommend is Mastering Regular Expressions by Jeffrey Friedl. It's now in its 3rd edition. I have the 1st and 2nd, but the 1st edition would be fine for getting an idea of what it's all about. What you learn in there would help in Python, Perl, several other languages, and several text editors.

Well, anyway, however exactly you choose to go about it, I'd get a little programming experience in the comfort of your own home, as it were, and see if you like it. In the meantime, talk to any friends you may have in the business; try to find out what they do (and if they like the work!).
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby Xmmm » Fri Apr 08, 2016 9:49 pm

"The [false] conclusion is ... that programming is somehow fabulously easier to learn than anything else"

Teach Yourself Programming in Ten Years:http://norvig.com/21-days.html
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Re: Does IT/programming facilitate an international lifestyle?

Postby PeterMollenburg » Fri Apr 08, 2016 10:20 pm

chokofingrz wrote:Bear in mind that you will need to reach at least a "B1"-type level of programming (in a specific language or field, although skills are transferable), before any employer will even begin to consider employing you in a badly-paid entry-level role (in that one particular programming language or field, meaning that 75% of the IT jobs are still inaccessible to you). And you don't generally reach that B1-ish level by reading books and watching videos, you actually need to work in the language and build things, a lot of things (software/apps/websites etc), to get the experience you need to find the work (Catch-22 situation). As you can imagine, passion, determination, time and some talent are prerequisites. Getting an IT career with self-taught skills is almost as hard as getting language work with self-taught languages. And when you say that you have no IT experience and are approaching 40... I can only wish you lots of luck with it!


Thanks chokofingrz,

I suspected hard work was required otherwise everyone would be flocking to IT like flies doing something that flies love to do. I appreciate the reality of the situation and this is exactly what I need to be aware of, thank you :)
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