IT Jobs in Bangkok
I’m not really sure how I got the job, but I can tell you why. And, I guess that’s the real point.
As it’s been said elsewhere on Stick’s site, getting an IT job here is difficult (I think the words were “possibilities close to zero.”) I don’t agree with that entirely, but what I do think is that you will have to approach the job search in a Thai way. This means you cannot go into it thinking your hotshot qualifications are going to get you in. Or, that that real university degree will be a valuable addition to a developing-world office. Things don’t work that way here unless you’re a Thai, and, ah-em, you are not.
Lesson #1: You are not Thai. You don’t speak Thai, your father doesn’t own a fleet of Bangkok public bus lines nor does he rub elbows the Thai-Japanese Construction Consortium. You’re joe-guy from Chi-town who’s one hell of
a programmer, but in Bangkok you smell bad and wear ill-fitted clothes with unidentified brand names. Hell, you don’t even have a fake Chinese Rolex.
OK. Here we go. What happened to me.
Like the countless fools before and after me, I couldn’t get this place out of my system. I’d return for holidays and never want to leave. As a Thai addict, I burnt bridges and cast out the good things in my life to get what I wanted. I got Thailand. I got what I deserved.
Two years ago I came here for good. I knew I’d have to start from the ground up, so I got a TESOL and started teaching English. Oh joy. Here I was doing something I told myself I’d never do. I had no concern for my future. I didn’t care about anything other than staying here and forgetting my past.
The good thing about teaching was that I had no money or time to do what it was that I wanted to do in Thailand—Irony, oh the irony. I wised up quick and reviewed the broken bits of my life. Fortunately, I have a solid IT background, and I was only 8 or 10 months removed from my last job. And, I had the teaching experience as well.
I got the resume together, had photos made, then sent out—in pretty envelopes—a few packages to selected companies who’d been advertising in the Bangkok Post and Nation.
(OK. Let me stop right there. Now this is important. The two main points of the above sentence are: 1. Do NOT think you will get an IT job with a company here in Bangkok by responding to posts on the various job sites. Just forget about it right now. Unless you are a long-term proven farang resident of the kingdom, you will not be considered for a job by emailing your resume unless it’s for a school needing teachers. You’re going to have to send a hard copy presentation. 2. Do NOT think you will get a job with a company in Bangkok if you tri-fold your presentation into a business envelope and hand-write the address. If you learn anything about Thai culture, please know this: Pretty, pretty, fun, fun is the only way. Mai soo-aay, mai dee. You will be shut out instantly. It’s time to go back to the old days when your dad was looking for his jobs back in the 70’s and 80’s. You gotta get that paper package presentation of yourself down pat. Spend a lot of time on your pictures and the look of your resume.)
So, I was teaching a class one afternoon when the mobile buzzed in my pocket. I smiled and ran out of the room, hoping it wasn’t The Stalker from last term demanding to know if I’d gotten the album of photos (I had) she’d taken of me and arranged in a sort of Winnie-The-Pooh-come-Obsessive-Compulsive-Mass-Murder style. Thank Christ it was a secretary from my future employer instead. The sweetheart fumbled through English sentences until I finally understood clearly that Big Boss #2 wanted me in for an interview. Whoopee! I was on my way.
I was worried about my clothes, though. Being a broke teacher, I had no money to buy a suit; I’d spent everything that month banging this hot girl from Blah-Dee-Blah Go-Go on Soi Cowboy. So, I pressed my best shirt and pants, picked out the power tie, and prayed for the best.
The interview was with Big Boss #2 and a lady who’d end up being my project manager. Big Boss #2 was an “unconscionable ball breaker” (Goodfellas reference). The guy came out guns blazing, “Who are you and why do you want to work for my company!” He glared and didn’t let up for an hour. BB#2 beat me bloody. My future project manager made herself small and smiled nervously.
Looking back, I don’t blame BB#2 one fraction. This guy’s spent a lot of time in the States and knows exactly what we’re up to in this town.
Lesson #273: The label farang wear in Thailand cannot be removed. Ask anyone who knows this fact: When a Thai gets it into his head about anything, the picture can never be removed. There is no such thing as an “exception to the rule” in Thailand and people do not change. Oh yeah, I know, you’re thinking you’re the guy in Thailand who sees himself above the tempting self-destruction of Nana Soi. You love Thailand for the culture and vast tracks of opportunity.
This particular point brings me to something I hear from everyone in the office from time to time. They’ve all asked me, “Why you want work Thailand? I want work USA!” For the love of Christ, ask yourself this question and think real hard about what the ‘eff you’re doing here.
After the BB#2 berating, it was time for my questions in the interview. I had one: “Why do you want me to work in your office?” BB#2’s answer was simple: He wants his staff to start communicating using English more. That’s it. He couldn’t have given a rat’s ass about my qualifications—He doesn’t need ‘em. Lesson #008: If you think anyone in Thailand is concerned about the efficiency or improvement of something that cannot be seen, get the hell out right now. Company wastes boatloads of baht on crappy software development? Arai-na? The network’s bogged-down because silly-Somchai len game sanook chawp mak mak? Oh well. But, bring in farang to show everyone “we office number 1”? Hell yeah. Bring ‘em on.
I got the job. BB#2 called about ten days after the interview with the offer and away we go!
As things have turned, though, I do not communicate with anyone but my boss in English (there’s a subject that needs it’s own essay), and I have been able to make significant technical contributions. In the beginning I was worried that I’d be stuck teaching in an office where I should have been programming; I thought I’d made another poor choice just to stay in Thailand. But, I’ve been able to kind of mould my own status in the office by learning how to communicate in Thai and with Thais. This has become, ultimately, the most import part of my job.
So, what can I say? A final lesson: You have to decide what you want to do. Think about what you’re doing. Can you get an IT job in Bangkok? Sure, you bet. It may not be doing anything challenging or significant, but if you play the game correctly, you can get a job if you learn how to market yourself. But, is that what you want—to solely score an IT job in Bangkok? If so, OK, no problem. So you want to be able to hang out at the bars and tell the girls you’re in IT and not one of those loser teachers. Fine, whatever brings you up. But, if that’s not the case, if you’d like to see your career continue to advance, remember this: The odds are extremely high that your skills will stagnate, that you won’t get the chances to develop and learn and remain fresh. You could fall off the map and never be marketable outside of Thailand.
OK. About getting the job, let’s re-iterate: If you want to successfully attempt to get an IT job in Bangkok, #1 Present yourself well, and #2 Get your head and heart in the right place.
That last point, 2, is so important. Let’s conclude with that.
Thais are so much more sensitive than you and I. If there’s any hint that you will be a bummer to office sanook, they will not hire you, they will not want you around. A farang with anger issues or one unsure of who he is will be tested to the max. The most important part of Thai life is keeping all aspects calm and happy. Everything else will perish if the peace cannot be kept; they’ll just flat-out walk away from things that bum them out. If that means shit-canning a project, they’ll do it. If that means walking away from you because you’re mai sanook, jai dum, they’ll pretend you don’t exist. So, get your shit together—What’s the worst thing that could happen? You’ll end up happy? Oi, we should all be so lucky.
Very good submission, with some very good advice.