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IT In The Outback

John was in the IT industry for 25 years when, due to lifestyle reasons, he sought a career change. His lifestyle and career are what many people dream of doing. John and his wife live and work in the Kimberley region of Western Australia….a long way from his home town of Melbourne.

John says: ‘My wife Anna, who is Thai and a lover of the big city, has three really good Thai girlfriends in Derby and others in Broome that keeps her very happy. We all know that unhappy spouses in a remote location who lack personal vice-free diversions are a recipe for trouble!’

When I asked John for a few photographs to put on the Where2Now.net website, he sent a few including one of him with a Barramundi fish…and the note that 'The one of me with the Barra was from an early morning run down to the Fitzroy River (in flood) where I caught a barra in a highway culvert and was back at work before 8am'.

What a life John!…there will be a lot of us remembering this as we battle the traffic on the way to work! John says he, ‘has a three minute walk to work and even comes home to lunch. Extending the daily walk by a few minutes can include a visit to the bank, the Post Office, supermarket or the newsagancy!’.

Name: John S.
Age: 50+
Previous Occupation:
Marketing & Business Development in the IT industry for 25 years.
Location Of Your Previous Career::
[Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok
Current Occupation:
Regional Manager (Kimberley)
Regional Office: Derby, WA

How did you get the job?
I saw it advertised in ‘The Weekend Australian’ newspaper.

Describe your role
Project management, including relationship management with govt funding stakeholders and small indigenous communities (the clients), plan, design, install and maintain Remote Area Power Supply Systems (solar) in small indigenous communities throughout the Kimberley. Also: ongoing consultation and education of the indigenous people using the RAPS systems and making a major contribution towards better indigenous livelihoods through minimisation of the crippling financial burden of diesel fuel for power generation.

What's the best part of your job?
Working with the Kimberley people…this is Outback Australia where community attitudes and friendliness are excellent. I also get paid to go drive all over the Kimberley, camping, seeing fascinating country and learning the history. I love the casual friendly, non-threatening approach people have to work and the challenges of living in the Outback.

What are the challenges of your job?
Red tape. Also, the very long distance road travel in very hot conditions means you need to plan ahead and watch what you are doing lest you get into trouble in some very lonely places. It gets a bit wearing if you have to do it often.

What have you learnt in your second career?
How city people place so much importance on things that really don’t matter much. Outback people stick to the basics, especially people relationships and community. My sales and marketing skills are just as valuable in the bush as they were in the big smoke and made easier because people seem more honest and straightforward. You must be prepared to be flexible and adaptable. I don’t think you would ever go back to the previous career, so if you don’t like it in the bush, then you better look for something else again in a large country town.

Advice for people who would like to pursue a similar career?
Life in the Outback, especially in the tropical & sub-tropical areas usually means a very severe climate at certain times of the year (the Wet season build up tends to wear you down and fray tempers) but is compensated by a Dry season that is pure bliss. You need to be prepared to mail order many non-staple items to get better prices, although local business people will happily order anything special for you. Entertainment & recreational options will be limited to BBQ’s, fishing, boating, touring, camping, hobbies, watching the footy & DVD’s. Choices can be disappointing especially for teenagers if you keep a ‘city living mindset’, but great ‘mind opening’ experiences are there for those who engage.

Telstra has now provided broadband internet access to most towns. You will spend at least one or two thousand dollars a year on airfares to the big smoke, usually to see family, do shopping, major sporting events, escaping the worst weather, etc. Conversely, very little is spent on clothes and cosmetics because it just isn’t that important as the local people tend to focus on the real person not the image. Being a ‘local feral’ as I call them, is almost taken as a badge of honour by some!
Small Outback towns are not for those who pine for the city and big town life. Broome, for instance, offers a good compromise having a reputation as a ‘party town’ due to the very high peaks in the itinerant and tourist population.
Also regional WA is absolutely booming and abounds with opportunities for individuals and business people.