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