Paving a Global Path to Software Engineering: 3 Tips for Digital Nomads from InDebted’s Josephine Suwanto
Josephine is no stranger to the nomad life. While she grew up swimming around her beautiful home island of Jakarta, she has dived into multiple cultures all over the world throughout her professional career, enjoying the many benefits of digital nomadism.
Innately curious about different lifestyles, Josephine chose to begin her international trajectory in her early teens—starting in Australia, then embarking on to Germany and now Canada.
We sat down with Josephine to hear about her experience and advice for anyone interested in taking that exciting, but challenging path of becoming a digital nomad.
First Steps Abroad
In her teens, Josephine always noticed the many business people who would travel to and from her home country as part of their job. She wondered about where they came from and where they were going, sparking her interest in this kind of lifestyle. When her high school offered to provide specific courses to prepare for studying abroad, she did not hesitate and signed up. “I made it my dream to travel and work,” she says.
As she began to explore different careers, a family member of hers told her about software engineering and its global expansion. “I was told it was going to be a global job. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I liked math and engineering, so I went for it.” At 18, Josephine immersed herself in software engineering and moved to Australia to pursue her undergraduate degree.
Though she had a hard time leaving her parents and culture, Josephine met many international people with whom she shared the ups and downs of living in a foreign country. And along the way, she acquired fluency in English and experienced cultural immersion.
Finding Opportunities for Growth
As soon as Josephine graduated, she joined a start-up as a software engineer. She shares, “I had a bit of imposter syndrome because I was fresh out of school. But I got really lucky with my team. They were very knowledgeable and I connected well with them.” Josephine highlights the overall relaxed vibe in the tech field.
“There’s this stereotype that software engineers are wearing hoodies and coding in the dark. If I had known about that stereotype when I first started studying, I probably would have thought twice about the career.” Josephine says that most of her colleagues are sociable, helpful, and creative.
As she began to gain more experience a colleague of hers introduced her to InDebted’s Founder and CEO.
“I spoke with the CEO and learned that he had a developer and computer science background, which was very interesting to me. It was cool to see a CEO who knew how to code as well. I connected with him and thought that I could definitely learn from him. I also felt like I could contribute to the product they were making within the FinTech industry, which was also new to me.”
Josephine joined the InDebted team and has been part of multiple exciting projects all over the world. Besides Australia, she has traveled and worked extensively in Germany, Canada, and her home in Indonesia.
Life at InDebted
Josephine finds purpose in the work she does. An emotionally and digitally-intelligent debt collection company, InDebted works with customers to help them pay back debt in a way that works for them. “I’m proud of the way we support our customers,” says Josephine. “We’ve built a sophisticated platform that provides a human, customer-centric, and personalized debt-free journey to best suit their needs.”
Initially a software engineer, part of her job consisted of building products, collaborating cross-functionally, automating workflows, building solutions, and doing regular check-ins.
As the team grew, Josephine stepped into a leadership role, after going through specific training by the company. While she still contributes to building the product, her role is now more forward-thinking and strategic. Though she holds a leadership position, she views her role as supportive and service-oriented, not hierarchical.
Besides InDebted’s purpose-driven way of working, Josephine most enjoys the flexibility that comes with her work, such as the four-day workweek, stipends for continued learning, and her favorite, travel opportunities. She says, "InDebted provides me with the flexibility, platform, time, and space that allows me freedom of mobility and to set up the work arrangement that is best for me as long as I continue to maintain InDebted standards."
Working as a Digital Nomad
“Growing up and even in college, I didn’t know what working digitally and globally would mean,” she explains. But when an opportunity came up to expand InDebted to Europe, Josephine immediately raised her hand and stepped in. She helped build and onboard engineers into the new European team in Germany. In addition, Josephine spent time immersing herself in the culture and sightseeing around the country. “I loved taking the train in Germany. It runs so smoothly and you can barely notice it moving or making a sound. Getting to experience that firsthand was great,” she says.
Josephine loves living the day-to-day life of a city, though she also acknowledges this kind of travel-work life can come with its set of challenges. “Working globally isn’t as beautiful as it seems,” she says, referring to pictures on the internet of people working on their laptops as they soak up the sun on the beach.
While this can be accurate for some, it’s important to acknowledge the bureaucracy behind digital nomadism. For example, setting yourself up in a country requires many administrative tasks, which can be hard if you don’t speak the language or you don’t have a contact that can help you. Another big challenge, according to Josephine, is finding the balance between wanting to explore the place you are visiting and still working and prioritizing tasks.
Overall, she loves this digital nomad lifestyle and offers three important pieces of advice for those interested in pursuing a similar path.
3 Tips to Successfully Work as a Global and Digital Nomad
- Know that it’s not easy. “It’s a bit of a bumpy ride at first, you have to figure out what your priorities are when traveling, and figure out a lot of details on the go.” It’s important to be realistic about both sides of digital nomadism and to learn to deal with the challenges well.
- Make sure you have a comfortable place to work. “My work requires me to be really collaborative. So finding a place that is quiet and comfortable enough to take phone calls or video calls is important.” Logistics can be tricky, but if you plan in advance and figure out a system that works, it is well worth it.
- Be ready for opportunities. “Raise your hand when any opportunities come up with your company abroad. When you look back you will be grateful for the rewarding experience.” When reflecting on her many experiences abroad, Josephine feels grateful for the opportunities and the knowledge it’s brought her.