Doing DevOps in New Zealand

I was offered the opportunity to travel to New Zealand back in May to interview with three companies for a position as part of the LookSee campaign – which I wrote about in the blog post “Long Time No Blog – I won a trip to New Zealand”. That process started what would eventually lead to moving to the other side of the planet.

After I returned to the States there was a bit of a lull. Eventually, one of the companies responded – they weren’t ready for a DevOps specialist. Doh!  Then a second one didn’t respond with an offer. I was beginning to feel a bit dejected. But hey, I got a free trip to New Zealand.

Then, nearly 6 weeks later, the company I was most impressed with – Assurity Consulting – came back with “we are ready to move forward”. After checking my references, Assurity made an offer for me to practice DevOps with them and their clients. What an opportunity! Assurity has a talented group of folks and a well developed network of clients all over New Zealand. I readily accepted their offer and began the process of acquiring a work visa to pack up and move to New Zealand.

Visa – You Cant Leave Without It

If you’ve ever gone through the process of acquiring a work visa you know it is a ridiculously invasive process. For New Zealand, it requires blood tests for a variety of viral and bacterial diseases, a FBI Fingerprint background check, and a chest x-ray screening for tuberculosis.  After chucking over $600 for this poking and prodding that included giving 6 vials of my blood… I was given the medical and criminal all clear to apply for a visa to New Zealand.

Once I applied, within a week I had a work visa to New Zealand. This crazy idea about packing up my life and moving it all the way to the opposite side of the planet – from winning a highly selective, free trip on the internet was about to become a reality.

The Move

I planned the trip such that I would skip ahead a day and land in Wellington on my birthday. I came over on Air New Zealand, which is likely the most pleasant flying experience I’ve ever been on. Everything about that airline exudes quality and thoughtfulness – from how the lights are managed in the cabin, to the fairness in which the meals are served in the cabin. Top notch experience.

My new colleague was so kind to meet me at the airport. I had reduced all my belongings to 2 bags and a carry on.  I arrived at 8am and check in wasn’t till 3pm. I was dog tired – even though I slept the entire way over. My colleague brought me to his house where his wife cooked me a breakfast of poached eggs, toast, and steamed mushrooms. Im not exactly sure to this day how one poaches an egg – it isn’t a way I’ve ever eaten an egg – but it was pretty delicious.

I certainly wasn’t in Denver anymore. Or America for that matter. Poached eggs.  My inner monolog starts laughing at the absurdity of such a thing. One poaches eggs in a British TV sitcom. In New Zealand – they poach eggs in real life.

The first day of relocating to – what all intents and purposes – is the polar opposite place is surreal. Everything is backwards in New Zealand. You drive on the opposite side of the road. The seasons are flipped. Even the moon… is upside down.

Its like I was watching myself from a distance. Who am I here? I certainly don’t judge myself or my identity in the same lens… barely in the same language.

“What do I sound like to these people?”


Wellington is an amazing city. It is pretty much walkable from the stadium at one end to Mt Victoria on the other end. On my first full day I decided to go find the beach and walk up to the top of Mt Victoria, where the view is… ai-ight.

The food in Wellington was immediately a problem. Those of you who know me, know i’m already a bit hefty of a person. I have poor self control when it comes to delicious food. I recognise that about myself. Im fine with it. I manage it accordingly. But never, NEVER, have I been challenged like Wellington. Every corner – a delicious offering of baked goods. A coffee shop. A delicious authentic dumpling shop. Every single corner has delicious food on it. It’s seriously the most delicious place on the planet.  That first week, I feasted like a king of my own newly relocated kingdom.

The second problem I encountered, was even though I had been hitting the Orange Theory high intensity training for the two months prior to arriving here – I was not in shape for this city. You walk everywhere. A good day of walking around here can net you a good 25-30k steps. By day three, I was stuffed, my feet ached, and the jet lag had caught up. I slept for 14 hours straight. I woke up and joined a Les Mills gym the next day and began a pretty extensive exercise program – to hopefully counteract the extensive feasting program.

The following week I started work.

Assurity and the Wellington Technology Community

If you’ve worked with Assurity, you know its a consultancy that is not like most. The folks here are top notch. They are experts in their field. They are respected in the community. Within my first week, I knew I had made a wise decision. Everyone I worked with was so knowledgeable about the field of DevOps – everything from cloud native applications and platforms, to configuration management systems, to cloud infrastructure and security. There was someone who was an expert at just about every topic.

To work with people that make you challenge yourself to be more knowledgable and thoughtful about what you do is a blessing.

To have several client engagements where every team member can practise applying this knowledge is a blessing.

To have the kind of team driven mentality they have at Assurity is a blessing.

To have a beer every Friday with your coworkers to decompress and reconnect after a week on client site is a blessing.

Assurity put me straight to work on a client site and some internal projects. Within a month – I had easily settled in to the new Kiwi way of working. I felt good that I was able to contribute and I was professionally satisfied. The work is technically relevant, challenging, and the people are amazing. But, due to the work being primarily in the government sector, if I told you more… I’d have to kill you.

And its not just the folks at Assurity. The whole city exudes the spirit found at Assurity. The tech sector in Wellington is diverse – with meetup groups for R, Haskell, to DevOps, and the occasional Chef meetup. They are highly engaged – and you begin to form a professional network very quickly. People remember your name, your story, and your expertise. The craft of networking is clearly practised on a daily basis.

Within the first month of being here, Assurity sent me off to DevOps Days in Auckland where I got to mingle with the market here in New Zealand. There are companies doing interesting things here, from start up level to large banks. There were presentations from people who are practicing continuous integration and delivery on high speed embedded systems. There were presentations from folks that created a ChatOps infrastructure for their triage management. Diverse, innovative solutions that you would expect at the most talented companies in the States.

New Zealand and Wellington’s technology sector is incredibly diverse. New Zealand scale isn’t huge, but New Zealand quality is.  You may not be delivering an application to 400,000 concurrent users very often here, but you will be delivering an application continuously integrated and delivered, with near 100% test coverage, resilient to failure at all levels. Quality is paramount in everything New Zealanders do.  From writing and delivering software, to making coffee, to  serving meals on Air New Zealand.

New Zealand is quality.

I have been here nearly 3 months now. I have assimilated to the culture. I can no longer hear accents. I am distinctly conscious of how much it costs for everything I consume to be transported and manufactured on this island. I am distinctly conscious of the carbon footprint of everything I do. I am distinctly conscious of how much energy I use, and how much trash I create. These are all things that happen when you reduce the scale and availability of your natural resources. Every citizen’s behaviour has larger effects and consequences on the environment which we live – and that is readily apparent in how New Zealander’s go about their daily life.

I love it here. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t been immensely thankful that somewhere on the other side of the world, on an isolated island in a little city, a group of folks put together a contest to bring me to Wellington.  It has been an amazing experience thus far. What a blessing the folks LookSee, Assurity, and WREDA have been for delivering such a life changing experience.

How bout that dragon?