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Working in New Zealand: A diary of a non-native English IT newbie

By Ella Halstead
March 13 2019

Posted in Student Stories

Written by Szu Han (Hank), Chou

How the story began

Before coming to Wellington, New Zealand, I was in the mechanical industry for 4 years. I worked in Taipei and Melbourne. I met a few Kiwi friends in Melbourne. They took care of me and showed me the core values of New Zealand, which motivated me to move overseas. Then I studied a Graduate Diploma in IT at Weltec in 2018. I landed my first IT job in August at Student Job Search. I left Student Job Search (SJS) in November, then joined Sharesies after a couple of weeks.

Approaching the first IT job

I was working on a React Native project with SJS when I studied at Weltec—it was for a paper in my second trimester. After operating the project for nearly one month, SJS offered me an opportunity to work with them in July. After finishing an entry test, I started working on their new products in August. The main techniques I used were React, React Native, Redux, HTML, and CSS.   

Entry Test

Before I started the job at SJS, I finished a test that included Front-End and Back-End techniques. The test required the candidate to utilize React, Node.JS, SQL DB, and upload to GitHub.

Keep participating in SoT and not be drawn by school and work

The job at SJS was a three-month contract where I helped SJS develop new products and learned Agile. However, I wasn’t confident that my contract with SJS would continue, and I’ve always been a big fan of SoT. Therefore I kept attending the events held by SoT. There were three events that I felt were really helpful to me.

Tic Toc – speaker: Charles

Before the event started, the pupils had to follow a bunch of manuals and install a few prerequisites, such as yarn, React…etc. It took me more than an hour to finish the installations.

When the tutorial started, Charles went straight to the point, teaching us how to apply React in the whole Front-End development by making a Tic Toc game.

Charles is a very good coding coach—he’s also a coach at BNZ. It was a very practical lesson.

Weekend Web Challenge with DIA

It was a two-day event. DIA gave us a few topics to pick. Our team, Team Sherry, picked the topic of improving the current website for the elderly. We embedded a chatbot and simplified the registration process for the elders who want to apply for superannuation.

There were many experienced UI/ UX designers, developers, and different roles in IT who came to mentor us. Within two days, we reported our demo product back to the DIA, mentors, and other teams.

It was a great experience. We got a lot of feedback from the mentors; Jennifer Young, Anna Watson and other experienced mentors from Trade Me, Alphero…etc.

Resume Review

Before starting to find an IT job in Wellington, I didn’t know I needed to prioritize each field for my resume: 1. Technical skills & soft skills 2. Experience 3. Projects 4. Education. Furthermore, I didn’t even know that a certain format was quite important for employers. And I never put soft skills nor traits in my resume before I came to New Zealand. New Zealanders really care about the relationship among team members, aye?

Apocalypse (but not quite yet)

After meeting and greeting the potential employers at Westpac Stadium, I was eagerly waiting for news from the employers, but I only got one invitation from StoryPark. I had an interview with Mathew and Alex. They were pretty nice, and the questions were very interesting. It was a great experience, but unfortunately, I didn’t get the job. Although I failed in getting a job from StoryPark, Mathew still gave me a call and explained the reasons why I didn’t get the job and what I could do better.

I was disappointed in myself after I didn’t get the offer from StoryPark and didn’t get a new contract from SJS, but the CTO of SJS, Ian Craigie, and the project manager at SJS, Andrew MacPherson, gave me huge support. I started to apply for jobs everywhere. I even walked into a few offices to apply for a job. After that, I got an interview with Smudge, Catalyst, Motion Design, and Sharesies. Finally, I got an offer from Sharesies. Thus, I opened a new chapter at Sharesies. Before I started at Sharesies, I had an interview with some of their co-founders, Brooke, Martyn, Richard, and Sonya. That made me feel they valued people a lot—they saw me as a member of Sharesies instead of an asset.  

Since working at Sharesies, I have learned a lot of development skills from our dev team. We have an extraordinary team. I said to our CEO Brooke, it was weird to me at first that people usually act cold when they have many years of experience of work, but the colleagues at Sharesies are the total opposite! Instead, they never hesitate to teach me and share their experience. Recently, I dressed in a shirt and leather shoes to the office and my colleagues thought I was going to another job interview. Brooke joked, “Shut the door, don’t let him leave!”. It’s quite a warm and funny story.

A huge shoutout to Santiago Bernhardt who introduced me to Sharesies. He’s the one always giving me a huge knock and told me that I have kept proving myself.


More about me on LinkedIn

React Native Project for SJS

Entry test for SJS-Front-End

Entry test for SJS-Back-End

Entry test for Motion Design

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