Software engineer moves to New Zealand

Migrant stories

Time to have a life outside of work. For British software engineer Jon Leonard, having a better work/life balance is one of the best things about living in New Zealand.

Jon, who moved to Christchurch in February 2017, says he was used to working long hours until he moved to New Zealand.

“I have a tendency to work until I get tired, but at 5.30pm here I’m usually ordered to go home,” says Jon.

“In the UK, companies take whatever you give them. If you give them 60 hours a week, they’ll take it. But Kiwis say, ‘No, it’s OK, it can wait until tomorrow. Go home and enjoy your life.'"

Faster pace

Jon’s journey to New Zealand began when he met his girlfriend, Amanda Smith, on an indoor rock climbing gym in Cheltenham. Amanda is a Kiwi, and when she was ready to return to New Zealand she asked Jon to go with her.

“I’d always heard great things about New Zealand, so I said yes,” says Jon, who arrived in Christchurch in February 2017.

Back home, Jon worked on electrical power systems in the aerospace engineering industry, writing plans and procedures to prepare equipment for test certification. In Christchurch, he’s a software test engineer for Jade Software.

In the UK, his projects ran for five to seven years; in New Zealand, Jade often delivers a new application every fortnight.

“I joined Jade because I wanted to learn more about the Agile way of working, which enables quicker iterations of a project life cycle. It’s a faster pace of working, which I really enjoy,” says Jon.

Easy to fit in

Jon had no problem fitting in at Jade, which he says has a very welcoming and inclusive culture. He found that Brits and Kiwis had a similar sense of humour, so there was no culture shock to deal with.

“People like having a couple of beers and taking it easy after work. They are a lot more relaxed here, and everyone really encourages you not to overwork,” says Jon.

“One of the things I like most about the work/life balance is that you have more time to try new things and experiment. In the UK, employers tell you they want you to try doing things differently, but there’s no time and there are always too many urgent priorities.

“Having time to try new things is really important. That’s been a big plus point about New Zealand for me.”

Another difference Jon has noticed between Brits and Kiwis is that Kiwis tend to be more innovative and entrepreneurial. He’s thinking about starting his own business one day.

Outdoor adventures

Jon and Amanda enjoy exploring New Zealand’s stunning outdoors, which in Christchurch is right on their doorstep – they’re 10 minutes from the beach and 45 minutes from the mountains.

Jon’s learning to snowboard and has plans to take a sailing course. He’s also having surfing lessons from Amanda, although so far they haven’t gone too well. “For the life of me, I can’t get beyond kneeling.”

The pace of rebuilding in Christchurch after its devastating 2011 earthquake is accelerating, and Jon says there are lots of bars, restaurants and gigs to choose from. He thinks the city will become an even more exciting place to live over the next five to ten years.

While New Zealand is a long way away from Jon’s family in Cheltenham, technology makes it easy to stay in contact and his parents and sister have already been to visit. “They found it absolutely incredible and jaw-droppingly beautiful,” he says.

Two other factors make Jon’s day-to-day life in Christchurch easier and more enjoyable: sunny days, even in winter, and shorter commuting times.

“When Amanda and I were driving into Christchurch from the airport on our first day in New Zealand, Amanda said, ‘I’m really sorry about the traffic situation.’ I had to look around to try to figure out what she was talking about,” says Jon.

“A traffic jam in Christchurch lasts about five or six minutes.”

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