Meet Eugene Doberer whose trans-pacific life takes him between his seaside home on Koh Lana, Thailand, and Vancouver, where he’s employed as a business analyst for a Mac software development company. He’s yet another nu nomad who has found the balance between living, working, and traveling after years of experimenting with telecommuting.
Seven years ago, Eugene was a well-established contract technical writer living on Gabriola Island, and telecommuting to work on various high-tech projects in Vancouver. After 9/11 hit, R&D projects came to a standstill, so he decided to move to Thailand to teach English. He enjoyed a nice break from high-tech while he was teaching. He used his savings to supplement his low-paying teaching job. But he eventually depleted his savings so he was forced to return to Vancouver to resume his writing career.
I caught up with Eugene on the island of Koh Lanta, and over lunch at a roadside seafood restaurant I asked him a few questions about his new way of working.
How did you manage to find a job that allows you to telecommute from Thailand?
Well I kind of lucked out. When I returned to Vancouver, I fell into a contract right away, but soon found myself back in the same old grind that I found myself in before I left Vancouver over 10 years ago. I completed the contract, and my bags were packed and I couldn’t wait to return to Thailand. Then I got a call from an old colleague and he ?cherry-picked? me to take on a full-time job working on software specifications at Atimi Software. I told him I was on my way back. He said, No problem. You can still live in Thailand, we just need you here some of the time.” So I grabbed the opportunity, not only because they allowed me to live in Thailand, but because it’s a great development shop?we work on Mac apps and iPhone apps. We?re under NDAs, so I can’t tell you exactly for who, but let’s just say they’re industry leaders.
What are some of the benefits of telecommuting between here and Vancouver?
In Vancouver, life is basically over at 40. People put limits on where they can go, what they can do, and who they can see. Here, it’s not like that. This is an ageist culture. Instead of being labeled as ?old?, you are actually respected by younger people and invited to participate in everything that’s going on in this country. That’s the major social benefit, but there are also economic benefits. It’s comfortable living here on a Canadian salary. And of course, the food, the beer and the smokes are considerably cheaper here than Canada. Then there’s the weather. And, not to forget, the dozens of reasons why I don\’t want to work in any over-populated metropolitan area such as Vancouver.
How does it benefit your employer?
At first I wasn’t sure they received any benefits. But now, after doing this job for a year, I can see how they clearly benefit. For one, living here makes me happy. A happy employee makes a loyal employee.
Secondly, the difference between time zones can really expedite production. We have staff in Vancouver, Las Vegas, and India. At 5pm Vancouver time, my project manager hands off the software specifications document to me. I work on it all day here, and correspond with the development team in India. At the end of my day, I upload my document to our server in Vancouver. When the Vancouver project manager comes into work in the morning, the work is already done and ready to go to the client (who is in New York). It provides for an amazing turnaround time.
What are some of the challenges you face in your day-to-day life working here in Thailand?
Well it’s never easy. I see life as a struggle no matter where you live. But it’s no more difficult here than it is anywhere. But here, I do think you have to communicate more clearly when you send out emails. You don\’t want to keep messaging back in forth as the time zone difference means the discussion could go on for days. The benefits of Skype, on the other hand, are enormous.
There are also challenges related to the infrastructure in Thailand. On Lanta, the power goes out regularly, so you really need a backup power supply. The Internet can be flakey at times, so you need a backup connection such as GPRS. It also doesn?t hurt to have a backup computer, as it may take weeks for any repairs to be done to your equipment. I have a PC that I use for backup.
In closing, do you have any advice for nu nomads in training?
Yes. Make sure you have reliable equipment, and make sure you have sufficient funds to look after yourself. You can’t rely on Thai people or other foreigners. You must be self-sufficient in every way.
If you are a nomad or know a nomad who would like to be interviewed, please contact us!