An Australian in Panama

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Across the World

In late 2016, I was working as a DevOps engineer in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia. At the time I had no idea that just four months later I would find myself living and working on the opposite side of the world in Panama City, Panama. 

I first traveled to Panama to spend time with my Panamanian girlfriend (we met while she was studying her Masters in Melbourne). However, things quickly changed and I soon found myself adjusting to my new life in Panama… and confronting some initial challenges. 

First of all, the heat. Now, this might sound strange to readers around the world who think of Australia as one large, hot outback, but the heat and unbearable humidity were the first major adjustment for me. 

Then came frustrations around not being able to do simple tasks such as buying cinema tickets without my girlfriend present to translate for me. Sometimes I would find myself in traffic jams for multiple hours traveling short distances. But things started to look up.

In February 2017, I applied to a pretty cool company: Admios. After going through their interview process, I managed to get a job offer -- much to my delight. The original idea was for me to work as a DevOps engineer. However, after talking with some of the team leads I discovered a great opportunity on one of the application development teams. 

The project focused on migrating parts of a Salesforce application to a new custom built system. It used technologies I found interesting such as: Rails API 5, AngularJS 2, Elasticsearch, Sendgrid, and Keen IO. I organized a catch-up meeting with the CEO to ask if I could be placed there, and a few weeks later I found myself starting on this San Francisco based account.

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My New Life at Admios

My new job at Admios helped me settle in quickly. They did all of my immigration paperwork, I made lots of new amigos, and they even set up a bank account for me. 

One of the first things I realized at Admios was that I could get away with speaking English all day. This was to the detriment of my Spanish, initially, but a worthwhile tradeoff for the great workmates and interesting projects. 

Arriving at Admios feels surreal some days. The office is located in the Ciudad de saber, or the City of Knowledge, in Clayton. This is the former US military base from where the canal was controlled. 

After seeing how formal most Panamanian workers dress, I never imagined I would be able to find a job in Panama where I could wear shorts. This was a blessing as I could never manage the heat. 

In addition to the climate combating dress code, the other benefits are also outstanding. We have a bus from Albrook Mall to the office, free snacks in the kitchen, free health insurance, free gym membership, work-from-home privileges, and best of all, catered lunch all week.

Day to day, Admios is a place where people are busy working and on calls with particular clients. But it’s never too busy to stop and have a bit of fun. I am a big Nintendo fan and started bringing in my Nintendo Switch and my SNES Classic. Over our lunch breaks we have had a lot of fun playing games like Street Fighter, Mario Kart, and many others. I have made some great friends from Admios and I know I’ll stay in touch with them even after I return to Australia.

Outside the office, I learned that Panama has a lot more to see and do than just watching ships go through the canal. Some of my favorite places in Panama City include Casco Viejo, Causeway, Multiplaza Mall, and Via Argentina. 

However, Panama is so much more than just a city. I have discovered some amazing destinations under two hours away. 

The islands of San Blas off the coast of the Atlantic ocean are amazingly pristine. Similarly, El Valle Anton in the mountains is a great place to get away from the intense heat of the city. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit Playa Bonita, Boquete, Volcan, and Cerro Punta during my time here so far.

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Admios and Beyond

I have been at Admios for almost a year now and I am really happy with my career development to date. It has been a amazing experience. 

It has been my first time working with clients from the US. And more importantly, it is my first time working in another country (one with a very different culture from my home). Previously, I had only worked with Ruby on Rails for about one year. I have learnt a lot and in so many different ways.

My team has a great code review process and the result is a code base that is easy to navigate and understand. Everyone on the team is very helpful and incredible with collaboration. The CTO for the account has been a brilliant mentor for me. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to learn directly from C-level staff in Silicon Valley.

Eventually I will go back to Australia, but I already have great memories from this experience that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.