Working abroad in the IT industry
September 29, 2008 5:28 PM   Subscribe

I live in the United States, am 4 years out of college, and work in the software industry. I want to explore opportunities to work abroad in my field (e.g. software/web development), preferably in Europe, or South or East Asia. I currently work for one of the largest software companies in the world, so I am going to explore internal options, but I'm also willing to my employer if the opportunity is right. Does anyone have any advice on where to start my search, or any personal experiences or anecdotes?
posted by lupefiasco to Work & Money (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is an anecdote: I also work for one of the largest software companies in the world, have been there for about 4.5 years, and recently spent 4 months in China working on "rotation" program that had me working with the local team there to get them up to speed on software development processes and other technical areas where they were lacking. It was overall a positive experience for me.

Getting over there with the help of my company was much easier than getting out of the country on my own. Two of my co-workers went to Denmark to do similar things; one was over there for about a year, the other has been there going on 4 years. The caveat here is that you need skills that your employer values in order for them to justify this sort of thing. I had the necessary technical skills and experience in the relevant areas, whereas my co-workers were more on the leadership and people management side. If you happen to work for the largest software company, MeFiMail me and I can provide you with more details.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:38 PM on September 29, 2008

anecdote: I'm just graduating in software development in Australia, and there seem to be jobs littered on the side of the road. As a (presumably) young American, you can try the BUNAC program for a 12 month visit, or get a skilled immigrant visa (60 points for software development).
posted by jacalata at 12:20 AM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Four years out of college, I transferred to Paris for a one-year software development assignment. Once it was over, I didn't want to go back to the US, so I quit and started looking for another job. 20 years later, I'm still living in Europe.

0xFCAF is dead right: you want to do this with your current company. Working in a foreign culture is hard. You need lots of time to understand how to relate to your boss and your coworkers, pick up the language, navigate through immigration, the local bureaucracy and the tax system, and several hundred other things that are different from the US in ways you can't imagine yet.

When you get sent over by your company, you get a headstart on all of those things. And maybe your company can help you with a relocation package and legal support for the visa process. Even if you find a bad assignment, it might be worth taking for a couple of years to get your feet on the ground, and then look for another job.

I was lucky that when I was sent over, the whole world looked to the US as the undisputed leader in software. People were willing to listen to me mangle their language because they wanted to hear what an American had to say. Today, that's not the case anymore. If you want to look for a job overseas, you'll need to concentrate on a specialty skill that few people have, even if it's not the thing you're most interested in.

The language problem is your first and most important hurdle. One option is to try for an English-speaking country. Otherwise, you'll have to choose a language and start taking classes now. Why would a foreign company want to hire an American who can't interact with his coworkers?
posted by fuzz at 4:37 AM on September 30, 2008

If you want to do the Europe thing as a contract software developer, and you think you can cope with whatever visa requirements will be headed your way, JobServe is *the* site to find contract jobs. Be sure to select 'Europe' because they have a US presence now.

I worked around Europe for a couple of years on contracts (have an EU passport), all the jobs I got were listed on JobServe.
posted by lowlife at 5:14 AM on September 30, 2008

Seconding the idea of transferring within your company. I did it a few years ago when I came to Paris from NYC. A good company will handle a lot of the legwork. Then, if you decide to move on in a couple of years, you'll already be grounded and be in possession of some very important and hard-to-acquire things such as a EU bank account, flat-renting history, mobile phone, etc. Most importantly, you'll have international job experience, which is your golden ticket for moving from one foreign country to another.

If you have a real desire to do it then you will find a way to do it. It's one of the best decisions you'll ever make (assuming you're OK with so-so weather, language headaches, high taxes, socialism, etc ;). Good luck!
posted by DefendBrooklyn at 5:17 AM on September 30, 2008

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