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Career Opportunities in the Bahamas: Don’t get your hopes up yet

In response to numerous enquiries, I present: the reality of working the Bahamas. The part on living here will come maybe tomorrow but more likely next week.

Before I start though, some background that will almost certainly break the mystique I’ve somehow built up of a software developer working in the tropics who calls himself Hillbilly.

I didn’t come here to escape the hustle and bustle and spiteful climate of urban Canada. My wife works for a fellow whose clientele is approximately 5% Canadian and he’s on site in whatever country he’s working in about ten to eleven months out of the year. He decided to move to the Bahamas because it didn’t make sense for him to pay tax in Canada when he didn’t live or work there for the most part. We came along for the ride not really knowing how I’d manage my career.

So there you have it. I’m trying to figure things out as I go, just like you are. Apologies if I’ve shattered any images you have of me. I don’t do “role model” very well.

So now, with confidence and expectations reset, let’s carry on…

I won’t sugar coat this. There are few if any career opportunities for software developers here, especially in an intermediate or senior capacity. I worked for two months for one development shop and eight months at another. Both on commercial software and both for about half my going rate outside the country. And both were very small places where you are responsible for not only development, but maintaining the company network and providing technical support. To my knowledge, these two places account for two thirds of the places that actively hire software developers as part of their core business (and I can’t confirm that one of them is even still in business). The third is a fellow who, I’ve heard, has a team of people building databases and applications specifically to manage and increase his wealth.

The overwhelmingly main industry is tourism. The biggest hotel is Atlantis which is actually based here and does hire software developers. In fact, I notice that they’ve got a recent opening for a systems analyst if you’re willing to work 45 hours a week which doesn’t mesh with my plan to take Fridays off.

The rest of the tourism industry consists mostly of: a) chains where IT solutions are mandated from above, or b) small hotels/family run activities where technology generally runs counter to the image they’re trying to portray.

The next big industry is banking. Again, much of the banks have their head office elsewhere. Two of the more popular consumer banks are, in fact, Royal Bank of Canada and ScotiaBank – both based in Canada. I know for a fact that the online banking software the Royal Bank uses is at least ten years old compared to what they use in Canada.

There is also a big insurance contingent which is somewhat more promising. I interviewed with a company that was going to hire me for a position created specifically for my skillset as a software developer with an actuarial background. Starting salary: $37k/year. (Side note: Don’t let anyone try to justify salaries here by saying, “But it’s tax-free”. Nothing, and I do mean *nothing*, is tax free.)

My experience is that in most cases, there simply isn’t the base level knowledge of what IT solutions can provide or even that the current process can be improved. When there is recognition of problems, the mentality is to hire a couple of junior developers out of college to patch something together rather than plan it out as a project.

This is why I find contracts working remotely. Not because I’ve got it all figured out. But because historically, I’ve have to if we want to continue living here. Which is a decision that changed daily in the beginning but nowadays fluctuates less frequently, changing more with the seasons.

And this is why I’m turning my focus on developing the industry here. Both in terms of generating demand locally for quality software as well as creating the infrastructure, network, and processes that will enable remote workers to live here and work elsewhere. After almost five years, I finally have a decent enough handle on things here that now is a good time to start helping the country realize its potential.

Admittedly, the main impetus for this was born out of my own frustrations and I have some not-so-altruistic reasons for it. But by the same token, there are benefits to be had by all. Myself, the country, other developers, companies willing to step outside the typical mindset.

Now there is a caveat here. At one point, someone did have a go at building a software consulting company here. Not long ago in fact. His experience was that the demand existed but that he couldn’t get people to do the work. He ended up having to hire a consulting company in the U.S. to finish the project he started, took a bit of a bath (fixed bid…brrrrr….), and got back to the business he had before which was, and is, still going strong.

This doesn’t jive with my own experience but it is encouraging. My fear is that by “get people to do the work”, he meant that he couldn’t get high-quality people to do the work for a pittance. In any case, I’ve spoken with him a couple of times and am overdue to do so again shortly.

So for those of you already packing their shorts and thongs in response to my penultimate post, hang tight unless you have an alternate source of income. And even then, you’ll want to wait until my next post on non-work life down here. As a primer for that, I’ll remind you that this *is* a third world country…

Kyle the Developer

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  • Christopher Johnson

    Hey, Kyle. OK…well, best of luck in Panama! I have heard mixed reviews about it. I am sure that you will make the best of it though.

    – Chris

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    Chris,

    Alas, I’m no longer with BookedIN or in the Bahamas. I left the former in January 2015 and the latter last August. My personal situation changed enough that I had to make the tough decision to part ways. But they’re still going strong and doing great work and I stay in contact with them.

    Moving to Panama was more of an opportunity that presented itself that we decided to take. Haven’t decided whether it’s better than the Bahamas yet. Certainly cheaper and has more variety in its industries and activities. But for now, at least, I do miss the small town feel of the Bahamas.

    — Kyle

  • Christopher Johnson

    Hi, Kyle. Still there? Still in The Bahamas? Looks like your idea came to fruition?! Congratulations! I do not see you listed as a part of the team though, unless Kyle is a pseudonym. Or did you sell the company?

    Just checking in…Chris

  • Greg Maillis

    Hello. I know this thread is old, who knows! I am a Bahamian looking for a highly skilled American (or other foreigner or local) software developer located in the Bahamas (or outside, willing to live in the Bahamas) who is interested in entrepreneurship and creating software products (mainly mobile applications) primarily for use outside the Bahamas.

    You can email me at gregory.maillis@gmail.com

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    Brian,

    Annual residency is relatively easy if you don’t apply for the right to work and don’t need a work permit. It’s also considerably cheaper. Send me an email if you have more specific questions.

    As for the links, it’s the product of the blog having moved platforms a couple of times over the years and I think at least one hard drive crash.

    — Kyle

  • http://resolvingarchitecture.com Brian Taylor

    Hi Kyle, interesting discussion. How hard would it be to get residency if I have a software product producing enough income to support my family there? BTW, some of your links are broken on your site.

  • Christopher Johnson

    Thanks for the reply, Kyle.

    My background…I grew up in The Bahamas and all of my family still lives there. I have never worked there (I live in Atlanta with stops in North Carolina and Puerto Rico), and it is interesting to read your perspective. Thanks for the candor, and best of luck!

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    Yes, I’m still here. I’ve had a follow-up post started for a few months now but it’s more on living here rather than working. I’m working on my own software (www.getbookedin.com) so I’m kind of out of the loop with respect to local opportunities. But my sense is that it’s still pretty stagnant. IT is simple not a priority for the Bahamian government and given the size of the country, I wouldn’t count on that changing soon. As a place to live, I can say after almost 11 years that it rocks. But if you’re in IT, you’d best have a network of contacts you can ping for remote work.

    Which, incidentally, is EXACTLY the type of person I’ve always felt the Bahamian government should be catering to: professionals in a very mobile industry that chooses to live here but doesn’t take jobs away from Bahamians.

  • Christopher Johnson

    Same question to you IT Lady. Any changes in the I.T. environment in The Bahamas since this original post? Are you still at Atlantis?

  • Christopher Johnson

    So, are you still in The Bahamas working? Any inroads or improvements made in the I.T. field?

  • Yamblasta

    Tell me how the Bahamas does not fit the description of Third World Developing Nation?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World

  • Yamblasta

    It is very much third world bahamians are just to proud to admit it. Don’t believe the hype

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    C’mon, man, seriously? Five years after this was written, you can’t read the rest of the comments on here before trolling? Here’s what I want you to do: repeat what you’ve written out loud until it sounds as ridiculous to you as it does to me.

  • Vimbai

    The Bahamas is not a third world country… Unless if of course you mean to say a [black] country

  • http://kyle.baley.org Kyle Baley

    Yes, I recanted slightly already. See my comment below to Some Dude from right after this was posted. The link from that comment should be: http://www.bahamapundit.com/2005/12/repercussions_o.html

  • Butler Jacoby

    The Bahamas is not A third world country. I think you need to do some more research. It is the fourth richest country in the Americas with *DEVELOPED* industries. Career opportunities are limited, but it is far from a third world country.

  • sam

    Hey Bro,

    I was working in hawaii 1 months back.I just came to Nashville,USA here.

    I work in BizTalk,.NET,Sharepoint,SQl Server……..

    If you dont mind please send me any reference for any Bahamas Requirement.

    I have a dream to go bahamas and work over there.

    I dont know how…….

    Please help me if you have any reference

    Email me at saambiswal@gmail.com

    Thanks
    Sam

  • Joe Zeitouny

    I’m a senior .net & Java Developer with 5 years of experience and a bachelor degree in computer science (currently pursuing a master in software engineering).

    I’m interested in finding a software development company in the Bahamas.

    I have a dream to live and work in the bahamas (i don’t mind if i work in another field, other than the development).

    If you know any reference, this is my email address:
    joezeitouny@gmail.com

    Thanks

  • YoungIT

    so sames like you started Bahamas . NET user group, never got a chance to come to any of the meetings as yet, (finishing up school) but I like the direction it seems you guys are taking/ want to take everything

  • Kyle Baley

    @IT Lady

    Yeah, the salary structure here is whacked to say the least. The “two juniors is better than one senior” mentality is alive and strong.

    Hope you can make it to the user group meeting in April. We’re changing the attitude one Bahamian at a time. And I definitely want Atlantis represented.

  • IT Lady

    I have to agree completely with this post… being a person with a background in software development, and also being born, raised and currently residing in the Bahamas. In Nassau also, to be exact. When I came back home from college almost 10 years ago with my shiny new programming degree, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I had absolutely no use for it here. None. With it, along with several more years of hardware and software experience, it took me 3 years to land a job that was in the IT field (where I wasn’t just a sales rep… no offense to sales reps!) I now work in that very same IT department at Atlantis as a telecom technician, bringing in a whopping 30,000+ a year. Fabulous. It makes me think that maybe I should have stayed in Florida….

  • http://codebetter.com/blogs/kyle.baley Kyle Baley

    @Some Dude: I’m basing that on discussions with Bahamians (example: http://www.bahamapundit.com/2005/12/repercussions_o.html). It surprised me too when I heard that. It certainly doesn’t seem like my traditional definition of one.

    But you’re right, I should have done some research on that. As it turns out, the term “third world” isn’t even in vogue anymore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Third_World). Having said that, the Bahamas is still on the list of “developing countries” which is the replacement term (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Developing_country).

    This jives more with my experience because there is tremendous potential for the country. It’s only been truly independent for some 30-odd years so they’re still finding their way. And it must be tough trying to define yourself as a country in this day and age. Especially being so close to the U.S.

  • Some Dude

    The Bahamas is a third world country? That kind of suprises me …
    According to the IMF, The Bahamas GDP per capita is approx. $20,000 US dollars, contrast this with Canada at approx. $35,500 US dollars further contrasted with the USA at $43,000. When I think of third world countries I think of Ethiopia (approx. $1,100 per capita GDP) and similar countries in that GDP per cap range.

    Is all the wealth tied up in the few who run the tourism empires? Is the gap between the rich and the poor really that wide over there? Really I’m just curious as to why you see it that way; I’ve never been to the Bahamas but also never thought of it as a third world country.

  • http://dotnet.kapenilattex.com Jon Limjap

    Hmmm. That kinda makes me feel a little bit better for my own third world country.