Ask HN: What's the tech scene like in New Zealand?

39 points by moving2nz 2 months ago

Is NZ a good place to be a software developer, all things considered? I'm curious to hear more about the tech working culture, meetup scene, any interesting startups, and popular tech choices for NZ companies and the like. I'm looking to relocate from London, UK.

The "big" tech companies seem to be TradeMe and Xero, and maybe WETA Labs. Start up wise, I've heard of Rocket Labs but not sure if they count as a start up anymore. Salaries seem to be about half what they are in London, and my impression is that most of the backend dev jobs seem to be .NET or Java focussed.

yarg 2 months ago

I'm not sure how much of what I have seen is reflective of global or even national trends, but here's what I think.

The cargo cult of pseudo-agile development is strong here. You will have long tedious meetings to discuss things that have no tangible link to anything that you're working on. Then you'll do it again tomorrow.

There're management hierarchies, but no real technical hierarchies. Ascendancy to higher technical positions requires the go-ahead from people who don't understand what people in technical positions actually do.

It might just be the companies that I've worked for, but I'm personally at the point where I just want to quit this country.

  • moving2nz 2 months ago

    Are there (m)any engineering-led companies in NZ then? Thinking Uber, Netflix... where the management have technical backgrounds themselves or at least engineers have more power to influence decisions (technical and otherwise). Where software development is part of the core culture of the company rather than just another department, so to speak.

    The cargo cult is in most places, unfortunately, though I wonder if "pseudo-agile" is on the way out. I think people have long since caught on that the term "agile" really is mostly used as a buzzword, so perhaps pseudo-agile for the sake of appearing agile might get less popular.

  • RantyDave 2 months ago

    I've had 99% good experiences with Agile in NZ. We meet to discuss what work we should do - this strikes me as an entirely relevant question.

    Management hierarchies? Yup. Ascendency of the clueless? Oh shit yes. But, really, I don't think it's any different anywhere else.

Hallucinaut 2 months ago

Where are you moving to and what is your skillset? Our staff are in both London and NZ, so I feel somewhat qualified to comment.

The NZ market is very idiosyncratic and different to London. The differences made it difficult to maintain a small development team remotely so now we just have a few people working from their homes rather than an office.

Your comment on .NET or Java makes it sound like you don't have either of those skillsets and indeed you will find it harder to get work without those. Compared to London my observations: - Microsoft stack has a very heavy adoption in NZ - heavy concentration of govt. work in Wellington, and particularly in a few consultancies like Datacom - we found it very difficult to find people who knew anything about DevOps 4-5 years ago - there are clusters of tech-only companies around different areas but most jobs are less pure tech and support functions for other businesses, with all the limitations that usually means for tech specialists, which generally limit options with NZs smaller company size - half the salary is not my experience unless you're going from front-office IB type Dev into a small private company. I'd say 75% was more accurate, but the lifestyle is attractive

  • moving2nz 2 months ago

    I'm interested in moving to Wellington (but would consider Dunedin). I realize Auckland is probably the best place career wise but am not particularly keen on it.

    Interesting you describe the NZ market as idiosyncratic - I'm guessing it's not like European or North American cities then? I didn't get a chance to go to any tech meetups or such when I was last there (2017) so couldn't get a "feel" for what the market might be like.

    I don't have any .NET experience but am using Java in my current job and am comfortable with it. 75% salary sounds reasonable considering the lifestyle tradeoff, I'd been figuring 50% as most of the software development jobs on trademe.co.nz at a glance seemed to be distributed between NZD$60k to NZD$120k, tops. Things like internet and food seem overly expensive in NZ compared to London though and rent isn't noticeably cheaper either, so I'd guess even a 25% pay cut may incur a bigger lifestyle dent than it would in London.

    EDIT: my skillset in terms of languages is roughly, in order of familiarity: Python, Java, Go, Javascript. I used to be a Django developer and now do more general backend work.

RantyDave 2 months ago

All things considered - yes, it is. But there are numerous downsides.

First off is that rent and/or house prices are sky high in the main centres. Auckland is really very bad but Wellington is catching up quickly.

Wellington is quite heavy on .net due to the government and Xero. For smaller businesses there's lots of rails still. Weta is not a big company and getting a job there is a big ask unless you're already in the VFX industry. In general, NZ likes to think of itself as being innovative but isn't. Our startup 'scene' and funders are extremely conservative.

But it's a good place. Most devs know pretty much what they're doing; there appears to be an active contract scene particularly for C# and Java; and you get to live in New Zealand :)

  • moving2nz 2 months ago

    Yeah I only found out today that Xero was a .NET shop, actually that was a bit disappointing. Same for TradeMe. So was hoping there was a startup scene using something more interesting, Python or even Go perhaps.

    I actually don't mind Java at all, perhaps Java skills are better to focus on then in terms of it being more useful in moving to New Zealand :)

    • navs 2 months ago

      Vend [1] and Movio [2] are two companies I know of that use Go. I know people in both companies and they've got a friendly culture.

      I believe Centrality (blockchain company) and Soul Machines use Python.

      You'll see a lot more NodeJS in the startups. Someone from Xero might be able to correct me here, but I've heard from friends at Xero that they're exploring Rust atm.

      [1] https://www.vendhq.com/

      [2] https://movio.co/

      [3] https://centrality.ai/

      [4] https://www.soulmachines.com/

      • moving2nz 2 months ago

        Thanks for this, I need to reconsider Auckland then as a final destination as the companies there in general look much more interesting than in Wellington.

tomhoward 2 months ago

There are many great developers and communities (co-working spaces, meetup groups) in NZ in my experience.

I’ve worked with several developers from there (I’m in Australia), and they’ve all been very capable and great to work with.

Due to its lifestyle and culture, NZ attracts/keeps the kinds of people who care about interesting tech and worthwhile projects, rather than raw dollars.

Local salaries may be lower but cost of living is lower and work-life balance is likely to be better.

But timezone proximity to California and eastern Australia means you could seek remote work with bigger foreign companies that may pay better.

  • moving2nz 2 months ago

    Actually last time I was in NZ I ended up doing remote work for companies in the UK/Europe, it was a big factor in why I returned to London. It's a couple years later and while things are comfy here I do kick myself sometimes for not giving NZ a proper go re. a software dev job while I was on my WHV (working holiday visa). I think if I moved to NZ, I would have to work for an NZ company in order to possibly eventually qualify for residence, as I don't have any other ties to the country. Otherwise, I would definitely consider remoting for a foreign company.

    I would've thought NZ would more attract people who are more interested in work/life balance and an outdoorsy lifestyle than people who are more interested in interesting tech/projects, for that you need to go to California or to metropolises like Melbourne/London/Berlin. At least this is what my stereotyped view has been.

    EDIT: I misread that you were from Australia but in NZ, but actually you're in Aus.

    • tomhoward 2 months ago

      Confirming I live in Australia but have worked/still do work with devs based in NZ.

      > people who are more interested in work/life balance and an outdoorsy lifestyle than people who are more interested in interesting tech/projects

      From what I've seen it attracts/retains plenty of people who are interested in all those things, rather than being primarily motivated by money or career status. There's a big intersect of people who care about well-designed software/technology, healthy culture and outdoorsy lifestyle.

navs 2 months ago

I'm a senior dev in Auckland (agency, not product).

Auckland is expensive, especially when it comes to rent. You'll be spending a large percentage of your income on rent alone.

It's a relatively relaxed environment and many of my dev friends don't tend to spend late hours at the office.

There's plenty of meetups and you'll likely bump into the same people, making friends real quick. I personally run a CSS meetup and meet people from the biggest companies like Xero to the smaller boutique agencies. There's a lot more intimacy.

weishigoname 2 months ago

NZ is very attractive place, I had long planed to move into there, and one of my ex-colleague made it, he found one job in Wellington.

but my work is pretty low-level, high performance and chip level stuff, mostly with Linux kernel driver, and network, I encounter the same issue with you, jobs related there are raw.

I plan to start a startup there if there are proper chances one day. the most important thing for me is investigate that market, what may be the real requirement there.

willnz 2 months ago

NZ is a great place to live, the quality of life is pretty hard to beat. We have moderate summers (but still plenty hot enough to enjoy the ocean) and moderate winters (but still plenty of places to enjoy the snow).

I live in Auckland, and if you're willing to try out the city of sails, I'd suggest going to the various co-working spaces such as:

- https://www.theicehouse.co.nz - https://generatornz.com - https://smalesfarm.co.nz/bhive/

There are lots of startups that build in Nodejs, Rails etc, ask around and you'll probably find yourself some job offers or short term contracts to start you off.

CyberFonic 2 months ago

I'm originally from NZ, but have been living in Australia for a long-time.

NZ is a small country so startups need to focus on the global market and being more or less in Asia timezone many choose that as the first foray rather than Europe or USA.

As far as lifestyle goes, NZ is a terrific country. As many have pointed out Auckland is expensive, becoming comparable to Sydney, AU when you take salaries into account. Therein lies the big consideration: do you choose to live in a high-cost city and enjoy greater job-opportunities, or do you move to a smaller city and accept that fewer jobs are available and that you might need to focus on doing remote work.

70122-_6 2 months ago

You'd have to snout it out, alarm AF.