Two years ago, Kyle Dolezal, a 30-something Ruby on Rails developer from Minneapolis, was at a crossroads. Should he accept the job offer from a Ruby tech company in his home country, or take the leap and move to an exotic island in Malaysia?
He was skeptical at first, but with more research and discussions with people at Piktochart – he realized that the startup might be the right fit in terms of his career goals and the lifestyle change he was looking for.
It was an unconventional move, as most developers will seek out job opportunities in central tech hubs such as New York or London.
Throwing caution to the wind, Kyle decided to move to Penang, an island on the northwest coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. It’s a place that marries eastern and western influences, as well as blending modernity and colonial traditions – and its capital, Georgetown, is listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
Culture Shock Is To Be Expected
As you can probably imagine, Kyle faced a fair amount of culture shock when he arrived in Penang. “When I arrived in Penang, I was struck by the slower pace of life, the kind people, the foods and the hot weather. Many people take a relaxed approach to daily life in Penang, I noticed that people take their time to enjoy their food every day,” he remembered.
The weather in Penang would take some getting used to. As Penang’s average temperature holds relatively steady between 75 to 89 degrees fahrenheit, and rarely falls below 72, the weather on the island is not for the faint of heart.
“Penang is much hotter than I am used to. I felt like I was entering into a blast furnace as soon as I arrived on the island,” he said. While the weather is hot, the locals are equally as warm – as Kyle quickly realized. “I felt at home right away because friendly people were ready to meet me and to show me around. I also quickly noticed the extent to which people in Penang are friendly and easy going,” he said.
What Is Life Like Living In Southeast Asia?
The gap between life in North America and Southeast Asia is vast, and adjustments needed to be made. On the “pro” side, Kyle loved the opportunity to explore a new culture and Penang’s exciting food scene is owed to its diverse population of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasian, and Siamese people. Like Europe, Southeast Asia is a region home to many small neighboring countries full of diverse cultures – which makes weekend travel exciting and accessible. One weekend you can be surfing in Bali, and another you can be eating pho in Hanoi.
The “pros” are perhaps just as colorful as the “cons.” Kyle lists “the horrible heat, exchange-rate differences, and being far from home” as some of his least favorite things about Penang. Another is “spicy foods,” although to certain palates that enjoy the chili pepper, that can be seen as a positive.
Island Life And A Company Culture To Relate To
Besides navigating culture shock, intense heat, and spicy foods on an exotic island, Kyle also notes that Piktochart’s company culture and the values that come with it – are something that deeply resonates with him. These values, called “HOPEFUL,” (stands for Humble, Open Up, Passion, Excellence, Fun, User-Focused, and Love) are values that he also sees reflected in the backend team.
“A concrete application of these values that stand out to me is the way the team is set up to help team members grow, which reflects the company`s passionate, excellence, and love values,” he said.
“My favorite part of this is an opportunity to grow my skill set as a result of new technical challenges, guidance and mentorship from my teammates, and feedback from my team leader. The team values my growth as a developer.”
Paying It Forward: Kyle’s Advice For Developers
If you are a tech worker looking to make a big change like Kyle – what else should you know?
“I would tell developers considering a change in role, geography, or company to keep an open mind and consider what is important to them at this point in their lives. Find the place where the career development, compensation, challenge, and work-life balance is right,” he advises.
“While it’s important to consider all the factors that are important to you as carefully as possible when considering making a move, some element of risk is usually involved when trying to make a change.”
Kyle hails from a public policy background, having worked for the US and Canadian government for a few years before getting into tech. A Minneapolis-native who loves tech, programming, government and politics, Kyle spends his spare time traveling, eating, staying active via hiking, swimming, cycling, and playing with cats.
Want to be like Kyle and take a leap of faith? Check out our careers page to see the roles we have open and consider joining us in Penang.