The Rise of the Digital Nomad

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Work from home. The gig economy. Remote employee. You’re probably already familiar with these terms, as the desire for work/life balance continues to be a top priority for employees. The concept of digital nomads—the latest entry into the tech world lexicon—takes it a step further. It’s a career path that is completely untethered by traditional office culture, leaving the employee free to live and travel wherever they chose, while bringing in reliable income and furthering their professional pedigree.

In this two-part series, we spoke to digital nomads working in tech to get a better idea of the expectations versus the reality of this lifestyle and career choice. Here’s what they had to say.

The Draw

For people in tech, flexibility and adaptability are integral skills for a progressing career path. With new innovations happening instantaneously, being able to recognize and learn the latest developments and systems, then pivot the work to effectively maximize this new information makes a tech careers a natural fit for a remote-work lifestyle. The only requirement is a Wi-Fi connection and a power source.

According to a recent report from Upwork about the future workforce, more companies are turning to “remote, agile” teams to supplement extra work load and help complete projects. More than 1,000 U.S.-based managers surveyed noted that the continuing “skills gap” is helping push the trend of hiring virtual workers; location is not determining factor for employees when the skill-base matters more.

Starting Out

Sivan Lev-Eyal, a UI designer based in Israel, is just starting out her work-from-anywhere career after first working in-house with digital advertising agencies. In 2004, she moved into a freelance web designer role and found her niche collaborating on branding and UI strategies with startups, digital agencies, interactive design, and e-commerce businesses.

“In 2008, I was working remotely with a startup located in New York. It was a great experience but unfortunately, the startup had to cut expenses.” While she lost the job, she fell in love with the freedom and rhythm of remote work.

“I am an adaptable professional and I find that working remotely with people from around the world dramatically expands the variety of people I will collaborate with and the variety of projects I work on.” She adds, “And there’s no traffic to deal with!”

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iOs developer and digital nomad Skyler Seamans echoes the same perks—in fact, having no commute is a detail that came up frequently. More importantly, Seamans says that a remote-capable career allows him a quality of life that he had been searching for. 

“After I graduated, I got a job and bought a house but I felt unfulfilled and restless. I had checked all the boxes…but something was missing. That summer, I went on a motorcycle camping trip with a friend. I felt like I had lived more in those few days than in the entire past year and I started to examine what had made those few days special because I wanted to duplicate it.

He continues, "I eventually decided that I needed to live a more intentional way. I needed to get away from the routine, from the hours in traffic, and the demanding schedules that made every day blend into the next.”

After assessing the options, Seamans and his wife bought a vintage Airstream and travel around North America. Being mobile meant he needed a job that went with him, and working in tech—specifically on iOS apps—has allowed him this freedom.

Digital Nomad = Dream Career? 

Digital nomads need only an Internet connection to work, thus affording the freedom and autonomy to travel, to set own hours, and to create an individually tailored work-life balance. But is it the right career path for you? Stay tuned for part 2 of the Digital Nomad breakdown, where we cover the drawbacks and the important things to consider when thinking about this career path.