How a Digital Agency Based in Chiang Mai Hired Three Senior Developers

by Gonzalo March 22, 2018

BUZZWOO! was facing a Senior talent shortage because of their paradisiac location. They used Jobbatical to hire three senior developers and build a junior team around them.

The gorgeous BUZZWOO! office in Chiang Mai

Location: Chiang Mai.

Positions Hired: 2 Senior Drupal Developers, 1 Senior iOS Developer.

Who was hired: Algimantas from Lithuania to Thailand as a Senior iOS Developer, Andrea from Rome to Thailand as a Senior Drupal Developer, Jaime from Stockholm to Thailand as a Senior Drupal Developer.

Despite some scattered efforts to close borders and bring back the coal industry, the world is moving towards a mobile, borderless future. As we speak, every seventh person on the planet is a migrant, and that trend won’t be stopped any time soon.

From the rise of fully distributed companies like Automattic, to entire countries like Estonia working on a digital nomad visa or France on a tech visa, there’s no doubt that people are more connected cross-border than ever.

Well, BUZZWOO!, a digital agency that’s been steadily growing since 2004 and now has more than 500 successfully completed projects in its portfolio, is the true embodiment of this international movement and the power of removing borders.

BUZZWOO! is an agency with offices in Chiang Mai and Stuttgart, developing cutting-edge tech and software for major international brands (ever heard of Porsche?), and with team members from all around the globe.

We had the pleasure to speak with Sven Ernst, one of the Managing Partners, who has been living in Chiang Mai for more than thirteen years. Yes, that’s right — way before Thailand reached the #1 spot in Nomadlist and went through the nomad transformation we all know it for today.

“I moved to Chiang Mai in 2004. At that time not many people new the place. Although it wasn’t really off the grid, it certainly was far from mainstream. Then, at some point, the nomad movement started.”

Sven thinks it’s a combination of affordability, exotic location, pleasant weather and the excellent infrastructure that Chiang Mai offers — “It’s a modern city really comparable with most cities in the West but it was able to maintain its Asian charme and feel nerveless.”

Regardless of the reasons for the Chiang Mai boom, Sven and his team have been able to build a fantastic business out of the city, spin off a new startup — Yogatrail — and attract even more people to move there.

“Now almost everyone knows Chiang Mai and people seem to have a certain attraction to it.”

Working with Jobbatical

Chiang Mai is a great place to be. A growing tech ecosystem, a laid-back lifestyle, awesome street food, and great recreational activities are just some of the perks of living in the city. It gives you the possibility to live in a tropical paradise with tons of diversity, super friendly people, and warm weather all year round.

BUZZWOO!’s offices in Chiang Mai

However, being so far away from the usual tech hubs — San Francisco, London, Paris or Sydney — does come with some challenges, specifically when it comes to technical talent shortage.

“It sometimes proves difficult to hire certain senior positions,” mentions Sven. “If we can’t fill a position with local talent we increase our radius, in some cases this means going so far, that we bring in talent from overseas.”

That’s where Jobbatical comes in. Sven isn’t sure how the Jobbatical and BUZZWOO! match happened but he’s been a happy customer ever since: “If I remember correctly, you proactively reached out to another company I co-founded… But I remembered you and we starting using your service around 2 years ago for the first time.”

Now, with a mission in sight, the Jobbatical team got to work.

Pro tip: If you are located in a unique or remote location, play up the distinctive strengths of the city.

The first chip falls

Imagine moving away from home, and to a tropical paradise like warm and sunny Chiang Mai. Not a bad choice, and I bet you’ve thought about it too. That’s what Algimantas was thinking when he applied to work at BUZZWOO! as a Senior iOS developer.

With experience in Barclays UK and Treatwell, and being a Yogatrail user, he was just the right person for the job, so when BUZZWOO! gave him the chance to join the team, he jumped on a plane and moved.

Andrea and Jaime join the party

Andrea came from the City of the Seven Hills, Rome, with a BSc in Computer Science and ten years of experience in the private sector and government under his belt. He brought his vast experience working with a variety of applications — including multimedia pay per view, ecommerce websites, CRM webs apps and Knowledge Management on huge document repositories — and immediately made an impact as a Senior Drupal Developer.

Jaime, born and raised in Stockholm, decided to swap snow and sub-zero temperatures for sipping Tiger beer in Thailand. He joined BUZZWOO! as a Senior Drupal Developer as well, and brought his experience as a full-stack developer and scrum master to the team. As a person, Jaime is very technically minded and quick to learn new things and his experience in the restaurant industry adds a unique perspective to his contributions.

Sorting onboarding challenges

A key part of the hiring process is the relocation, especially the first 30 days after someone moves to a new country. How do Sven and his team help new hires be comfortable and feel at home when they are ten thousand kilometers away?

BUZZWOO!’s team in Chiang Mai is already quite international — “ We employ team members from more than 15 countries around the world, in addition to the Thai staff,” he mentions — so they are used to adding new international team members.

“It’s always great to add member from a new country… It means even more cultural input and international influence,” mentions Sven when speaking about onboarding new employees.

The key is to understand that relocating people to a unique destination like Chiang Mai doesn’t come without its challenges — new team members getting homesick, experiencing cultural shocks or leaving their country with wrong expectations.

That said, BUZZWOO! is always a step ahead: “Our onboarding already considers some of the challenges a new member from a different country might experience.”

Pro tip: The first 30 days of a team member in a new location will have a huge influence on how he perceives the city. Make sure she is comfortable, and that immigration is seamless.

Building teams around Jobbaticlers

Once all the initial challenges are sorted, and the team members are happily relocated, the fun part begins. So when talking to Sven, I wondered how things changed for the team environment since Algimantas, Jaime and Andrea joined.

That’s when Sven hit me when something I didn’t expect. Apart from writing elegant code and making valuable individual contributions, the three senior hires have been key for the growth of the team as a whole by allowing BUZZWOO! to build a team around them.

“These staff members also play an important role in helping us build a team around a certain position and train, hire junior staff members they can transfer their know-how to”.

Win-win, if you ask me.

Pro tip: When working on a hiring campaign, define a clear set of goals and expectations from it. Hiring a junior developer is one thing, and finding a senior contributor with management skills is another. The entire process, from copy to filtering, needs to reflect it.

Jobbatical as a complement to the local market

All in all, the BUZZWOO! team is pleased with how things turned out. Using Jobbatical has allowed them to continue building a Senior team in spite of their location.

When Sven mentions that although Chiang Mai is a great place to be with a growing tech eco-system, “it sometimes proves difficult to hire certain senior positions,” Jobbatical came to his rescue.

“As mentioned, we would hire senior staff via Jobbatical. It worked quite well, and the quality of the candidates was above average. In other words: Jobbatical comes in handy when the local job market has not enough to offer.”

‘Nuff said.

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