Gabriel Kennedy | GPS-it Developer Shares his Wellington to Tauranga Story
You could say Gabriel Kennedy has always been a few steps ahead of the rest.
By the time Gabriel finished high school, he had already learned enough programming skills to make real money in the gold farming online world. During his gap year, he built an e-commerce website that became a start-up with seven employees. After that, he pivoted and decided to study computer science, but was so busy with his freelance web development business, that he opted to leave university at the end of the second year. It was time to get experience working for a company with an established tech stack, something he was ready for after the stress that accompanies start-ups.
Gabriel moved from Wellington to Tauranga, especially to take on a full-time role as a back-end developer at GPS-it, an innovative aerial land mapping, and software development company. After being a jack of all trades, he now gets to focus and specialize on back-end development, distracted only by the workplace friendships he enjoys and the lure of Flaveur cafe across the road.
This is his story.
Gabriel, where did you grow up?
I lived in Queenstown in my early years, up until age seven. I moved to Sydney with my family for a year and then returned to the South Island. I lived in Christchurch for the rest of my primary school and high school years.
Can you tell us your career story?
I got into mathematics in a big way when I was in Year 11 in high school. My uncle, who worked as a software developer for 30 years, offered to tutor me and later introduced me to programming. Thanks to his influence I got quite a into mathematics, specifically calculus, and continued that subject throughout the remainder of my study.
Towards the end of my high school years, I discovered I could quite easily make money by writing software programs to automate gold farming in popular MMOs (Massively Online Multiplayer) games. In Goldfarming the virtual currency has a real dollar value and there is real money to be made.
I wasn’t entirely certain what I wanted to do at university, so I took a gap year and developed an eCommerce website to make it easier to sell this virtual currency. A few months later the website really took off and I was managing seven employees to handle supply and sales for the platform. It was exciting to be running a small business and was essentially the equivalent of my first job.
This experience of creating my first website got me thinking about web development as a career. I began freelancing, developing websites for local businesses. By the end of my gap year I had created multiple websites and vastly improved my programming knowledge.
What happened next?
Studying Computer science at university seemed the next obvious step. I wound down my own eCommerce site when I decided to go to university, as I would no longer have time for managing it. I chose to study at Victoria University simply because it seemed like a great university and I liked the idea of living and studying in Wellington. I stayed at one of the halls of residence in my first year and had a great time, meeting plenty of great people, and progressed into flatting the next year.
While studying, I worked part-time as a web developer at an accountants firm and freelanced my web services to multiple local businesses in Wellington. Towards the end of the second year of my degree, I started working as a full-stack developer for an events ticketing startup. This progressed to full-time work over the spring and summer months of that year. Not long after that I also picked up mobile development and was becoming much more confident with my overall development skills.
I made the decision to not immediately finish my final year at university and to instead jump straight into pursuing full-time work. By now I felt I had the experience to apply for more development jobs for established companies.
How did Tauranga end up on your radar?
My job search was pretty brief. A role as a back-end developer at GPS-it in Tauranga came up online. I sent through an application, did some interviews, and here we are! I had visited Tauranga earlier that year for a new years trip and had a great time, so I was keen on the idea of living and working there. I was ready for new career opportunities and was not concerned about completely relocating.
What appealed to you about working at GPS-it?
The modern tech stack, the nice people, location, and the promising idea of free kiwifruit! Also, being part of a stress-free, the healthy working environment was important to me. Having previously worked in a startup, where operations were less structured and stress tended to be on the higher side, I was keen to find somewhere that had an established tech stack.
What does your role as a backend Developer for GPS-it involve?
I develop and maintain APIs to be used in products created by our front-end and mobile team. I enjoy the tech and that I’m helping to develop something real, that will impact agriculture in New Zealand. I enjoy working here. I like the modern development practices, cutting-edge tech, easy-going coworkers, and relaxed work environment.
What motivates you in your career?
I always thought the idea of being able to create any software platform I wanted was really intriguing and is definitely one of the reasons why I got into, and am working in tech. With a constantly evolving field, I find myself needing to be frequently staying on top of my skills and taking opportunities to learn as much as possible.
How are you settling into Tauranga?
I found a flat in the Gate Pa area. It’s not too far from work and I bought a bike to commute. I feel like I’m settling in well, however, I need to get out and about more, because I haven’t met many people outside of work! I’m finding my favourite local places. I like the Flaveur cafe and frequently go there for lunch, much to the dismay of my bank account. For fun, I play tennis, go cycling, hit the gym, and create electronics projects.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? It helped me move into a more backend-focused software development role, which I’m very happy about. I was previously doing full-stack (jack of all trades) and it is nice to specialize further.
For your wellbeing? I have an excellent work/life balance at GPS-it. I feel relaxed both in and outside of work, and it has been great for my overall well-being.
For your social life? I socialize a lot with coworkers as we have an open office plan. I enjoy that. Outside of work I’ve met a few people and am looking forward to forming new connections in Tauranga.
Ready for a Change?
“Strong growth in Tauranga has led to significant skills shortages in our AGRI-TECH sector. Key companies want to connect with Kiwi expats, migrants and tech-professionals from within New Zealand with relevant expertise.” ~ Nigel Tutt, Priority One CEO