What it’s like to work as a developer in Wellington

New Zealand’s home to plenty of tech innovation and activity right across the country. Wellington’s vibrant scene can be a great place to ply your trade as a developer of any experience level. In this guide we give some reason why that is!

A hub of New Zealand tech

Wellington’s been at the forefront of many great tech products and exports for years now. With companies like Xero and TradeMe becoming household brands, it’s a city with plenty of opportunities for innovation and start-up success. Geographically, it’s well laid out for chance meetings and community participation. Developers will often work alongside others in the same field, and collaboration is celebrated.

It’s not simply digital-based product businesses that present work opportunities to developers though. The makeup of the Wellington region’s workforce is a unique blend of public sector functions, larger enterprise, startups, arts and culture and agencies that deliver services to multiple clients. As a developer with skills in certain programming languages and platforms, you’ll likely find a demand for your skillset in more than one sector.

Choose your adventure – the public and private sectors

What we love so much about the capital is that there’s a wonderful synergy between public and private organisations, particularly in the capital. We work amongst each other and often will engage on digital projects and challenges.

Government work as a developer

As a developer looking for a new challenge, you’ll have no issue finding interesting work in private or public sectors. Don’t assume that you need to go private for the biggest roles – much of New Zealand’s government sector is prioritising digital transformation and improvement of systems and platforms. Many devs we talk to enjoy participating in government projects given the broad impact of this work on making life in New Zealand better.

Private sector

Going into the private sector presents many other options for development work. Many enterprise level organisations’ tech functions will feel similar at times to public sector work in terms of the structure, pace and project delivery. But for many private sector businesses in Wellington, the teams are smaller and the product or service more niche to a specific customer type. If you enjoy connecting your work with commercial success then you’ll find jobs that offer this in Wellington.

A mixture of both

And what if you enjoy a healthy mix between business and government work? There’s no ‘right’ answer here, and many in tech enjoy variety as a cornerstone of a rewarding career. If that sounds like you, then you also have options.

The first option is to contract as a developer, meaning you’ll not be a permanent employee and move to different organisations and projects as your work is completed. Wellington’s contractor scene is a key part of the workforce. This is a great way to not only get variety in work, but you’ll build up your list of contacts in the tech space quickly this way.

But another choice you can make is to join a digital or IT agency that services a portfolio of clients. For many of these agencies, you’ll be expected to be across multiple businesses at one time, applying your skills to each. A benefit of this is the learnings gained from one client can almost instantly be applied in the thinking and development work for another.

A close knit community of devs

We don’t need to tell any developer just how integral communities are for being successful in this field. Sharing challenges and solutions is simply part of the gig. And while online collaboration through GitHub, reddit and open source projects is part of this, the real world community in Wellington is very strong, too. Perhaps more than most disciplines within tech, devs commonly come together to try and solve challenges together. You’ll find in most roles where you’re working around other developers, there’s a good amount of support and encouragement.

Meetups are part of the developer culture in Wellington. And now after the worst of the pandemic has passed, this scene is picking back up pace again. Despite being a relatively small city compared to Auckland, there are still plenty of events and meetups including those specifically for Full Stack, Game developers, Software, DevOps and junior developers to name but a few.

Good earning opportunities

Wellington’s software developers routinely earn over $100,000/year, although there’s a big range depending on the employer and level of experience required for the role. But maybe the most encouraging part of working as a developer in Wellington is the natural career progression that most will enjoy. By working over a period of years on different projects and constantly adding to your toolbelt of problem solving, it’s common to move up through different levels of development work in the same business or between different employers.

Just note that in the public sector there will be more rigid salary bands simply by nature of how employment and pay for government work is structured. That doesn’t mean that you can’t earn a good living through Wellington’s public sector, and you can still negotiate to a point in many cases. Many large companies work with similar frameworks. For many other private employers, you’ve got more scope to negotiate. All employers regardless of type will keep up to date with market rates and know that to attract good development talent, they need to stay competitive with pay.

A strong contracting culture

Another popular choice for maximising earnings potential is through contracting which we touched on earlier. Contracting as a developer or other technical IT discipline has been popular in Wellington for a long time.

While the availability of contracting work goes through peaks and valleys, the appeal to many is worth the risk of not being permanently employed:

  • Charge an hourly rate – pro rata this will usually outstrip a salary
  • Focus on your specialised skill area only – fewer distractions unrelated to the job at hand.
  • Lower commitment – developers may only be involved for a project or even a phase of a project then move on to something else.
  • Often good flexibility over hours. While there will be meetings and commitments for a contractor developer, usually the primary metric of success is whether progress is being delivered. Commonly developers will work between home, the office and on the go.
  • Contractors are able to build good experiences across different areas in a relatively short period of time, which in turn can support with lifting their hourly rate and remaining highly in demand.

Flexible employers and work-life balance

It’s not just contractors that are given flexibility in Wellington’s developer community however. Depending on the employer and their approach to work hours, you may very well find a role that offers both salary stability and the freedom to choose more about when and where you work. It’s an increasingly common ‘benefit’ for employers to offer ‘hybrid’ work models where staff are expected to be in the office at certain times across the week, but able to work remotely other times. This is something you’ll be able to discuss with potential employers as you start applying for roles.

Since 2020, the attitudes around work location and hours have certainly evolved. In an area like development which can have long stretches of ‘on the tools’ solo work, a hybrid working arrangement just makes sense – and employers are adapting accordingly to ensure they appeal to devs.

Sharing of knowledge and learning from others

Like any community, there’s always different opinions and ideas with Wellington’s developer scene. With that said, there are some common themes that we come across in working with developers of all backgrounds and experience levels. One of these is the emphasis on open source, sharing and positive impact in work. Wellington’s workforce is tremendously collaborative; while we’d never claim that there aren’t egos in any profession, we love the fact that devs in this city are always networking, sharing and helping to build a supportive ecosystem.

If you value learning in your work from others and not just online resources and tools, then this city is a great place to do just that.

Looking for a developer job in Wellington?

Developers are regularly in demand across the region. Get in touch with our team today to chat about Wellington IT work opportunities, and feel free to ask us any questions about your CV, market fit, or interview tips.