Senior Software Engineer Shares His Story of Moving to Tauranga, New Zealand | Daniel Oosthuizen
Daniel Oosthuizen grew up in White River, in a small town Mpumalanga, South Africa. As a senior software developer he was based in Johannseburg for most of his working life but could have lived and worked from anywhere. He sometimes dreamed of nomadic life. But it wasn’t until his wife Gillian felt ready to leave the country they loved for the sake of their daughter’s futures, that they seriously started thinking about which country they would build a new life in.
New Zealand came out on top and the hunt for technology career opportunities began. Daniel secured a job as a senior software developer with Bluelab in Tauranga and was amazed by the massive amount of innovation and cutting-edge engineering happening in New Zealand’s fastest-growing city.
Since arriving in New Zealand in April, the Oosthuizen family has spent as many daylight hours as possible at local beaches and parks. Workwise, Daniel has been enjoying the innovative culture at Bluelab, where he has the freedom to do his best work.
This is his story.
Daniel, can you tell us your career story?
I’ve worked as a developer for companies in Johannesburg for pretty much my entire career. Apart from a three-year stint where we worked onsite for the Department of Correctional Services, I was mostly writing software for the retail and financial services sector.
Over the last ten years of my career, I began specializing in mobile development with a particular focus on the Android platform. And as with almost all mobile developers in Gauteng, I ended up working for the banks.
How long had you been thinking about leaving South Africa?
I have dreamed about living a nomadic life for as long as I can remember. My wife, however, never wanted to leave her hometown. She only started considering a move about a year ago. Her change of heart came about by her desire to provide the best possible future for our daughters. There are a lot of South African ex-pats that are very negative about the country, and that’s not us. It is an amazing country with wonderful people.
But there is a certain level of frustration at a government plagued by corruption that has allowed tertiary education standards to slip and economic growth to slow to a near standstill. These issues would be manageable for my wife and me on our own, but it’s not a risk we are willing to take with our daughters’ futures.
Why drew you to New Zealand?
That was a simple process of elimination. My wife’s criteria was an English-speaking country that was not too cold. Mine was a country where common sense prevailed and that was not infested by spiders the size of your head. The intersection of these criteria ended up being New Zealand. My wife turned to me in December and said: “Let’s move to New Zealand.”
We felt that moving to New Zealand would give our daughters the biggest advantage for their future that we could offer. Several of our closest friends had also recently emigrated and were very happy with their move.
How did Tauranga end up on your radar?
Two factors came into play. Firstly, at the time that I was looking for a job in New Zealand, it was one of only two locations with Android-specific opportunities. Secondly, a colleague of mine had a brother who was living in Tauranga, and he raved about it.
Can you tell me the story of finding work in New Zealand?
I registered with just about every job website I could find. Then as opportunities appeared I applied. I averaged about two applications per day for a month. Most jobs require an existing visa, which is easier to acquire with a job offer, so most applications did not make it through the initial screening. I ended up with only two opportunities to interview. The first was an automated recorded interview with Mitre10 for a position in Auckland, the second was an actual video interview with Bluelab here in Tauranga. After a follow-up interview, they offered me a position and were kind enough to wait for me to get a visa.
What were you looking for in a potential employer?
Proper project management and flexi-time. These two things will ensure that I can maximize the time spent with my family. Following these things, understanding software development and a culture that strives for excellence allow me to do my best work.
What does Bluelab do?
We provide plant technologies to equip growers in the greenhouse, hydroponic, aquaponic, horticulture, and floriculture sectors all over the world. Our technology supports their decision-making, speeds up operations, and provides more insight into plant health. We develop technology to unlock the potential in plants while equipping growers with the freedom to pioneer in the plant age.
What did you like about Bluelab?
The fact that they were based in Tauranga, about which I had heard so many good things, really excited me. Once I had interviewed with them, I was also really impressed with their focus on excellence and continual improvement, both on an organizational and a personal level. Initially, I assumed that their international success was mostly due to good business practices, but I have since learned that they have a strong focus on innovation which has contributed just as much to their success.
What does your role as Senior Software Engineer at Bluelab involve?
I write and maintain software to support the processes and products here at Bluelab. Particularly, but not limited to, their customer-facing Android applications.
What do you enjoy about the role?
Large corporate software engineering positions are often bogged down by red tape preventing you from using the latest technologies or practices. On the flip side, small start-ups move a lot faster and have more freedom, but they tend to have very little job security. Bluelab occupies a very unique space in which they are an established company, that values excellence and innovation over processes and procedures. This means that I get to do my best work, in the best way, with the best technologies.
How would you describe Bluelab’s mission? What is your part in that?
On the wall in our office hangs the mission statement: “Inspire everyone to grow. Equip growers with the freedom to pioneer. Unlock the potential in plants.” My role for the most part is in equipping growers with the tools needed to pioneer.
What advice would you give to other tech professionals thinking about moving to Tauranga?
I was really amazed at the massive amount of innovation and cutting-edge engineering happening in Tauranga. You always hear the stories about advances made by MIT and Silicon Valley, but the Bay has just as much happened. From specialized metal 3D printing to custom-designed aquatic robots, cutting-edge robotic prosthetics, and kiwifruit picking robots. And of course, the revolutionary root zone measuring technology we develop at Bluelab. Kiwi companies really punch above their weight.
One more piece of advice… New Zealanders LOVE paperwork. Document your entire life in the smallest detail and get everything in triplicate! It’s easier to find a job if you already have a visa, so try and sort that out before you apply.
What do you enjoy about living and working in Tauranga?
I get to walk to work. I never knew what a joy that could be. Especially coming from a one-hour each way commute. It’s super easy to escape into nature. You never have to go far. We love visiting new spots every weekend as a family. Mostly beaches and parks, but sometimes restaurants and other family activities. The libraries here are amazing – that has really surprised me.
My wife has started working as a drama teacher at Papamoa College. The teaching scene is very different from what she’s used to, but she’s really enjoying it. It took her a couple of months to find a job, but she used the time very constructively to meet new people. By the time she started working, she already had a whole bunch of new friends.
My youngest is at Above and Beyond in The Lakes and she absolutely loves it. Every teacher gets a big hug goodbye in the afternoons. My eldest is at Taumata and is absolutely flourishing. Their approach to education is very different from anything we are used to, but it really suits her. She has also made a lot of very close friends already. Both my daughters are loving the vast amount of parks that they can play in and if they had their way, we would spend every day at the park or the beach.
What has moving to Tauranga meant:
For your career? I have a lot more responsibility, but also a lot more autonomy.
For your wellbeing? I have already seen a real and measurable improvement in my health. I put this down to less stress and walking to work.
For your relationships? I get to spend a lot more time with my family, and it has been amazing.
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