We’ve been talking to John Hunter, exploring his journey from technical employee in the United States to consultant, writer, speaker, and sometimes programmer in Malaysia, including his minimal annual income ($16K/yr) and how he generates the revenue to pay for it.
Today I close the interview, and add a few words of my own.
Let’s get back to it.
Last time we met John Hunter, a digital migrant living in Malaysia. John is a regular human, with two mortgages in the United States, who took a ‘six month’ vacation to Southeast Asia in 2011 … and never came back.
We ended with John making the claim that he could live on $1,300/month in Malaysia. That’s $16K/yr, which, given taxes, means a minimum income around $10/hour to make a go of a forty-hour work week. At $20/hr, that’s a twenty hour work week- anything higher than that means less hours or more in savings. (Of course, that doesn’t include the cost of packing up your entire life, or the price of plane tickets …)
Still, it got me interested. Just how does John generate the income to sustain that sort of life style, plus to save up for emergencies or retirement?
I’ll let him answer in his own words.
“Move to low cost-of-living area of the world, set up shop working remote, work ten hours a week while building a huge nest egg.”
Whole books have been published on this model, along with terms like “The Nouveau Rich”, people who get to earn wealth while enjoying the easy life.
And yet …
It seems to never actually happen.
Or, at least, it doesn’t seem to happen much. Often the people living the “Jimmy Buffett Life” are already millionaires living off interest. Often the person speaking is selling something (perhaps a dream) more than a reality. We can do better.
Then I met John Hunter and learned about his technology business.
John is not independently wealthy. He did not have a big IPO, and does not have have a revenue stream. Nor does he have a best-selling book on, say, how to live cheap. Instead, he was a practicing programmer and IT program manager who moved from Virginia to Malaysia, on the expectation of taking a year long “sabbatical,” and, if he could find a way to make it work, to stay a bit longer. Continued »
It has been an interesting couple of weeks for the tech giant yahoo. First Jackie Reses, the head of HR, wrote a memo forbidding telework for the employees. Shortly after the memo appeared, the internet began to associate it with Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo and former Vice President at Google.
Last time I checked, Google didn’t have a telework policy — instead, they strived to make the atmosphere at work so wonderful, with free food, massages, a gym, showers, lectures, and on-site medical, that the employees only go home to their empty bachelor-pad like apartments to sleep for a few hours.
Combine Mayer’s background at Google, her reputation for data, and one comment that Mayer found report employees were not “checking in on the VPN” often enough, and suddenly you have a media firestorm about how the CEO of Yahoo eliminated telework at Yahoo because the VPN logs showed people weren’t working.
Bring to a boil and stir, and we quickly see the blog-o-sphere, as well as traditional media, explode in amazement at the hubris, the arrogance, and the foolishness of of Marissa Mayer. And I do mean explode; BlueJeans Video Conferencing just put up a billboard on Highway 101, on the commuting path into San Francisco, that says “The Unofficial Sponsors of WFH. Call us Marissa; we can help!” – at least that is what Kara Swisher is reporting in this blog post at AllThingsD
This leaves me wondering: What did Mayer actually say about those VPN Logs, and how did it get reported?
This is my friend, Darin Ninness. I knew him mostly in the 1990’s, when he was working on Military Cadet Programs (in Michigan) and I was working on them in Maryland. We both ended up in technology, and we see each other every few years at social events for mutual friends, so I connected with him on Linkedin.
You probably noticed that tempting box at the top, asking if I could recommend Darin for technical skills. I have no idea if Darin knows anything about SQL Server, but there is that annoying box, asking me to recommend him anyway.
This is a problem.
Before I was inspired to write by a sudden, surprise, 1% linkedin email, I was interviewing David Gewirtz, a CBS correspondent, Lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley, and author of “How to Save Jobs.”
It was the David’s work on economic policy that got me most interested in an interview. Along the way, I wanted to find out what his own life was like, and how he steers between the freedom of freelancing and the reliability of steady employment.
Let’s get back to it.
So I just got an email from Linkedin, telling me that my account is in the top 1% most viewed.
I should be happy right?
But I can’t say I am. Instead, I suspect that something is very wrong. Allow me to explain.
Last time I mentioned David Gewirtz, the author of “How To Save Jobs: Reinventing Business, Reinvigorating Work, and Reawakening the American Dream.” At the time, I was talking about mergers and acquisitions, and how without creating new companies, M&A madness will inevitably lead to layoffs and unemployment. There’s a whole lot more to David’s book than that, and while we’re at it, it turns out that David is making a living as an independent, running the U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute, but David is doing real freelance work as a contributor for CNN, instructor at the University of California at Berkeley check. Editor at ZDNet, Check.
Interesting Ideas – Check. Making a real go of it – Check.
It’s time we had this guy on for an interview.
The last time I wrote about this I was taking about Call Centers. American Companies had outsourced phone support to other countries, often India, and the results were so bad due to cultural and communications issues that the USA companies insisted on a call center across the street so the Indian Companies rented office space across the street and hired US Workers.
A month after I wrote that article, Tata consulting opened an office for three hundred technology workers in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Re-shoring isn’t coming to IT, it’s here, and the same offshore companies that started round one are taking the lead in round two.
The odd thing is, at least according to the Chicago School of Business, this shouldn’t be happening – at least on first blush.
Let me tell you why.
My friend, Peter, is an IT Contractor. Peter’s method is pretty simple — he finds a moderate to large US City that he would like to live in for six to twenty-four months at a time, then finds the largest businesses and uses his contact network to figure out which are doing large system upgrades. Then Peter finds the recruiter attached to the project, passes in his resume, and hopes to get a call.
By focusing on the kind of jobs that few people want – short-term and on-site, Peter often finds work. By living cheap, he gets to take an occasional one to three month sabbatical — taking a little bit of his retirement while he’s young enough to enjoy it. He’s also building up a resume that has a half-dozen fortune 50 companies on it; companies you’ve heard of. Once the steam-roller of a resume gets going, it’s unlikely he’ll struggle for work.
Of course, Peter lives out of an apartment and moves every year or two. If you are married, have children or family, car loans, a great deal of student loans, or have a house you want to keep for forty more years, this lifestyle might not work for you.
Last time I talked about runway — the time you have banked in case things go horribly wrong. My assumption was that you’d go independent with a contract – a single, 40-hour-a-week position, like Peter. But there are other ways to do it.