What it’s like starting a new IT job in Australia during a pandemic

Published Feb 28, 2022, 8:21 PM
Written by Amanda Brown

We’ve all read articles saying that the IT job market in Australia is booming, even during this pandemic. But it’s hard to tell if you’re going to like those jobs, or the people at those companies. Even when you’re working remotely, there’s still the social aspect of feeling part of a team, being able to ask questions, knowing your work is making a difference. Not every company is going to be a good fit for you and vice versa.

We asked five new team members at Symbiote what job hunting was like for them during the pandemic, and which things made them feel like valuable parts of our team. 

Arrow Copy

Our new staff members tell their stories:

What was it like to look for a new job during a pandemic?

Ravi (Quality Analyst): I build automation to replace manual testing and manage quality assurance of our products. There were a lot of job opportunities during the pandemic, however I was in India last year and didn’t have any guarantee I’d be able to return to Australia. When I got back here I found a job that didn’t make the best use of my automation and testing abilities.  I was happy to move to this position at Symbiote that lets me use those skills. 

Nimish (Tech Lead): Learning and researching is a big part of my role. I have 13 years of experience in a variety of new technologies, so I’m enjoying bringing this knowledge into learning all about the Silverstripe CMS and framework. I heard about this role from a recruiter. I liked the sound of Symbiote and had my interview the very next day after I spoke to the recruiter. During the interview with the management team, I found that my perception about the company, based on their website, matched reality – they are who they say they are. I could see that we were on a similar wavelength. It was very clear coming out of that meeting that I wanted to work here.

Mansi (Senior Developer): I’m a Senior Developer at Symbiote. I have a lot of contact with clients – they feel like part of the team. I wasn’t actually looking for a new job when Jem, my friend and former colleague (and now he’s my colleague again), sent me this role. The position looked interesting, so I got in touch with the Managing Director to discuss it. I’m a parent of a young child and they were happy to structure my working hours around my caring responsibilities. For me, the change was fairly easy.

Ravi - Quality Analyst
Ravi - Quality Analyst

How did you feel about working in a hybrid work environment (part on-site/part-remote or all-remote)?

Nathan (Full-stack Developer): My role involves working across the full development stack meaning I work with the CMS our customer will use and the front end that the end user will interact with. I enjoy my work because there is always something new to learn which allows me to provide a better solution for our clients. 

One of the things I wanted in a new role was flexibility. I'm really pleased to have the option of working partly on-site and partly remote as it gives me a lot of time in my week (commuting to the office takes around 1-1.5hrs in each direction). Being in lockdown, I was already working from home so remote working wasn’t new to me. What was new was meeting a whole team virtually.

Mansi (Senior Developer): I’m working 100% remotely, which I enjoy. I’ve previously been a freelancer and my husband also works at home, so I find it to be a very welcome work situation. 

Ravi (Quality Analyst): This is my first time working full-time from home. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work full-time in the office soon so I can see people face to face. I find that it helps to make connections with colleagues and to build camaraderie. There are loose ends that can be tied when you meet people. 

Chong (DevOps Engineer): I've been at Symbiote for almost 4 months. Most of my responsibility here is to maintain the CI/CD pipelines on Gitlab and provision the infrastructure on AWS with Terraform for applications. 

The pandemic made things a bit tricky for me, as I hold a temporary visa which requires me to live in a regional area. I was so happy to find a fully remote role, particularly one that allows me to choose working hours between 7 AM to 7 PM, which means I can pick up my child from school. Getting in touch with my colleagues isn’t an issue – it’s a non-hierarchical organisation and I can reach out to anyone at any time if their calendar is free. It’s been easy to build close relationships with my colleagues, because we have lots of opportunities to catch up with each other.

Nathan - Full Stack Developer
Nathan - Full Stack Developer

We’ve spent a lot of time on our onboarding process and documents. How important was onboarding to you?  

Chong (DevOps Engineer): This is, by far, the most thoughtful company I've worked for – not just because of the onboarding process. The wiki system has almost everything a new employee needs. With the proper permission from the Okta auth system, it’s possible to start the journey yourself by following the steps. At first, I was a little bit nervous about the new environment here, but when I embarked on the journey, only joyfulness was left.

Ravi (Quality Analyst): This was one of the best onboarding processes I’ve seen in Australia. It was a good transition to get used to the whole environment – team members, technology, products and clients.

Nimish (Tech Lead): The onboarding process was a highlight. It was organised into different stages, so all the information I needed was introduced at the right time, so I wasn’t overwhelmed. They managed to organise and introduce the information at the right time. From Day 1 all the documentation was there for almost everything, which is very rare. My first week was already booked with a lot of one on one catchups, induction sessions, and coaching sessions, which I think was a very effective way to be introduced to the people and technology. Everybody contributed towards a smooth Onboarding process. Everyone, especially, Amanda, our head of Strategy and Projects, put in a huge effort to introduce me individually to everyone in the team.

It’s made my journey as a new starter much easier knowing that there are people who will help. Also, having a one on one coach has made the process lot easier.

Chong - DevOps Engineer
Chong - DevOps Engineer

What’s helped you to feel part of the team and get up and running with your tasks?

Mansi (Senior Developer): The onboarding process gave me a chance to meet everyone and for each of my colleagues to show me how they do things at Symbiote. I met my team via video chats. The first two weeks of my onboarding allowed me to talk to and get to know everyone, and learn what their roles were. This helped me to get a good sense of the bigger picture of Symbiote. 

Ravi (Quality Analyst): The things I’ve found most helpful are interactions with all the team members, including one-on-one calls with everyone in the company, knowing how to get documents and receiving constant feedback from management. 

Nimish (Tech Lead): Before I came to Symbiote I read on the website about their human-centred approach. During the interview process and after working here for some time I've realised that Symbiote really does make sure that the team’s needs and the client’s needs are met, and does take a very human centered approach. A few things I could highlight are having a one-on-one coach, supportive culture, documentation, and defined channels for communication. It has really made me feel like an integral part of the team. Also, it has greatly minimized ambiguity for new starters.

Nathan (Full-stack Developer): The staged introduction to processes and team members really helped me feel at ease and not overwhelmed with starting a new role and trying to remember everything all at once.

Mansi - Senior Developer
Mansi - Senior Developer

Do you have any advice to anyone else in IT thinking of changing jobs? 

Chong (DevOps Engineer): As a technical person, I think it’s good to embrace new things when they emerge and get used to them, especially in the software industry. Be a fast learner with an open-source mind. Learn by sharing. If you run fast enough you can find a problem quickly then revise it, which makes you go further, with better results.

Mansi (Senior Developer): People see this industry as being very demanding with long hours – but if you look around you’ll find many organisations where they’re willing to offer flexibility around hours. 

If you’re looking for a job, be clear about your expectations and limitations. My experience is as a mother of a young child. Two years ago there weren’t many remote roles. However, now I am seeing a lot of jobs that are totally remote. I think this has changed because of the pandemic and I don’t think it’ll change back. 

Ravi (Quality Analyst): There are a lot of opportunities at the moment, with many companies looking for people with the right skills. I’d advise someone to look for a role which is in line with their career goals.

Nimish (Tech Lead): The offering could be different from company to company. For example salary, perks or learning opportunities, etc. An offering that is appealing to one person may not be as appealing to another. You have to find out what is right for you and whether it is the right fit for you. In order for company-employee pairing to work, it should work for both parties. An interview is a great platform to explore this and should be leveraged. For me, speaking to senior managers at Symbiote made it easy to find out the way they think. The way Symbiote carries itself as a business helped me discover that it was the right fit for me.

Nimish - Tech Lead
Nimish - Tech Lead