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Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Old Feb 10th 2020, 7:58 pm
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Default Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

A bit of background, I (UKC) am married to a USC and we're both currently living in the UK. We're currently going through the CR1 visa process and expect to be state side in October this year (2020), initially in upstate NY but interested in the whole east coast depending on available job opportunities. I am a 21 year old software developer, mainly .NET. I have no degree as I was taken on as an apprentice at 17 and progressed from there. I am quite anxious about the job market, I've never had any issues in the UK but I am unsure on what to expect in the US. Also how did people find find transitioning from working in the UK to working in the US? I am curious to see if there's anyone on this forum who had a similar career path but also interested in how people found transitioning in general.

Many thanks in advance!
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 8:33 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

The job is largely the same, the work culture is also largely the same in the Pacific Northwest (I heard it is a little more formal in the east) although you get less time off for vacation and sickness. There is more difference between individual companies than anything else.

By far the largest differences are those that any British ex-pat has when moving to the US - healthcare, different food, different lifestyles, etc.
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 8:42 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

The work was much the same in my experience, although I'd watch out for differing social attitudes and sense of humor - HR departments here in the US would be horrified by the sort of thing that routinely passes for workplace banter in the UK.

Depending on where you are you should be prepared for religion to be openly discussed and a LOT of important than it is in the UK - I know people that have coffee mugs in their office with bible verses written on the side, which is something that you would be extremely unlikely to ever see in the UK,
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 8:45 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by Anian View Post
The job is largely the same, the work culture is also largely the same in the Pacific Northwest (I heard it is a little more formal in the east) although you get less time off for vacation and sickness. There is more difference between individual companies than anything else.

By far the largest differences are those that any British ex-pat has when moving to the US - healthcare, different food, different lifestyles, etc.
That makes sense, I feel I've got most things sorted and budgeted for health insurance for the interim the only thing which I find myself thinking about the most is finding a job how my UK experience would be viewed

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Old Feb 10th 2020, 8:50 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by TexanScot View Post
The work was much the same in my experience, although I'd watch out for differing social attitudes and sense of humor - HR departments here in the US would be horrified by the sort of thing that routinely passes for workplace banter in the UK.

Depending on where you are you should be prepared for religion to be openly discussed and a LOT of important than it is in the UK - I know people that have coffee mugs in their office with bible verses written on the side, which is something that you would be extremely unlikely to ever see in the UK,
Thanks for the response, I'm glad to be hearing it's pretty similar. I totally expect having to be a bit careful in the workplace, when over there has been a couple of times where my humour has been misunderstood in normal interactions
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 9:11 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

I'm a Senior DevOps Engineer/Solutions Architect and I make significantly more than I did in the UK.

I also don't have a degree, but for reference I hold 5x AWS Certifications, 2x Azure Certifications and a few other misc certs. Degrees for the most part in this line of work don't seem to be a huge requirement, as long as you have the experience to match. I have seen a couple of job postings where a STEM degree is a must, but I don't come across those very often. Here in Denver, CO the market for Software Engineers is insane, the salaries have skyrocketed and it seems like people are never out of work for long.

As others have said, the only real differences are the fact you have your healthcare via your employer and when negotiating salaries etc you definitely have to factor in what their healthcare options, 401k match etc is like.
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 10:12 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Not that I would rob anyone of an experience as I am a UKC living in USA as Tech Support for 16 years. I am moving back to England soon.

The biggest issue I found is lack of vacation time. At my current contract they have offered me a permanent job. I turned it down. They only offered 12 days paid vacation. This has been then norm in my entire time in America. Companies will offer 10-15 days vacation. Lol my first job in America offered 5 days for the first year and I just laughed.
My American friend who works for the US Government now gets 25 days holiday...but....but that's because she has done over 18 years of service....and it's a Government job. They are usually the golden tickets if you can them.

So, I would go for the experience, but either work for yourself or contract around if you want more control over your life work balance. I guess at 43 I am starting to realize there is more to life than just money.

You can always make more money, but you can't make more time.

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Old Feb 10th 2020, 10:43 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by UKBritExpat View Post
Not that I would rob anyone of an experience as I am a UKC living in USA as Tech Support for 16 years. I am moving back to England soon.

The biggest issue I found is lack of vacation time. At my current contract they have offered me a permanent job. I turned it down. They only offered 12 days paid vacation. This has been then norm in my entire time in America. Companies will offer 10-15 days vacation. Lol my first job in America offered 5 days for the first year and I just laughed.
My American friend who works for the US Government now gets 25 days holiday...but....but that's because she has done over 18 years of service....and it's a Government job. They are usually the golden tickets if you can them.

So, I would go for the experience, but either work for yourself or contract around if you want more control over your life work balance. I guess at 43 I am starting to realize there is more to life than just money.

You can always make more money, but you can't make more time.
That’s not necessarily true for all companies though, my first job in Denver was 22 days PTO and at my new company we have unlimited PTO with the average amount being taken by members of staff being around 6 weeks PTO. Sounds like you work for a terrible corporate.
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 11:26 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by BenK91 View Post
That’s not necessarily true for all companies though, my first job in Denver was 22 days PTO and at my new company we have unlimited PTO with the average amount being taken by members of staff being around 6 weeks PTO. Sounds like you work for a terrible corporate.
Agreed. It's not true for all companies. The average is usually 10-15 days. But I have mostly always worked in California and Oregon. I can't speak for the other 48 states. But I have worked at many places and this is my experience and what others have told me they get for vacations.

My English friend works for himself in California. So he takes off what he likes. So it doesnt bother him. Hence why I advised working for yourself or contracting which may give you more freedom.
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 11:45 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Hello Craig & welcome to BE.

On your search across the east coast take a look at North Carolina:
  • The Raleigh research triangle - where you will find many blue chip companies (think IBM size) and other good sized software shops. Epic Games (Fortnite developer) is based out there for example.
  • Charlotte area - where you'll find many of the country's biggest banking and financial institutions - think Wells Fargo, Bank Of America for starters.
I moved from the UK where I was in a lead engineer / management role and took a demotion to software engineer. Frankly, I just wanted to get back into the workforce. That said, I earned MORE money and had MORE benefits. I think that there are far more opportunities here. Since then I've moved once and now a manager of 6 developers.

I agree with Ben on the PTO part. I haven't seen that as an issue in the tech field. However, I do caution "unlimited PTO". I much rather have my own PTO that I have earned where I don't feel that I need to justify the use of. I never question my team taking PTO, as long as it isn't much more than 2 weeks at a time.

I also agree on checking out the entire package. You'll find that direct hire (not through an agency) FTE (full time employment) placement will likely result in better benefits and cheaper insurances. The contract / recruitment firms insurance is normally way more expensive as it is less subsidized.

The following are things that I put into action before and after my relocation that I believe contributed to my success:
  • Have a great Linked In page, with a photo, that sells your professionalism and accomplishments
  • Find some coworkers that will give you recommendations on LinkedIn - especially if they have "snazzy" job titles (as those show on your profile)
  • Decide on a location and set your LinkedIn location as that. Start doing some googling of companies that directly hire, as well as recruitment companies, and make connections on Linked In. You'll be surprised how many just accept anyone
  • Get an American resume. You'll find plenty of pointers online. My rules would be no more than 2 pages, potentially only 1 page for you. Show the companies you've worked for, and the RESULTS that you have generated. For example, "Rearchitected login system using x technology. Resulted in a reduction in latency by 100ms". Ensure the terminology and spelling is Americanized.
Also - I do NOT have a degree. I have a similar experience to yours, started software development in High school, and managed to get on with a company, before landing a full time job at 18 with them. I'm a few years older than you, but wanted to give you some confidence that it is possible here to succeed without a degree.

Once you have a resume I don't mind reviewing it and providing pointers - just remove your actual personal information.
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Old Feb 10th 2020, 11:46 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by BenK91 View Post
That’s not necessarily true for all companies though, my first job in Denver was 22 days PTO and at my new company we have unlimited PTO with the average amount being taken by members of staff being around 6 weeks PTO. Sounds like you work for a terrible corporate.
Agreed, and I came back to note that there is considerable variability between employers, with an increasing number of employers, especially in the white collar sector, offering vacation time comparable with the UK, though commonly with little or no time ear-marked for sickness. My vacation time (I am not in IT) has varied overy the 18 years since I arrived in the US, with 21 days being the minimum, which then got bumped to 23, later 28 days, and now 30 days. If I need time off for sickness/ medical it has to come out of vacation time, unless the need qualifies for short term disability.

And the number of public holidays I get has varied, as US employers are apparently much less likely to honour all public holidays than they are in the UK, but I am currently getting all ten US Federal holidays, but there was a time when I got eight of them, and it is quite common to only get six of them: New Year, Memorial Day, 4th July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

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Old Feb 11th 2020, 4:27 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by tom169 View Post
Hello Craig & welcome to BE.

On your search across the east coast take a look at North Carolina:
  • The Raleigh research triangle - where you will find many blue chip companies (think IBM size) and other good sized software shops. Epic Games (Fortnite developer) is based out there for example.
  • Charlotte area - where you'll find many of the country's biggest banking and financial institutions - think Wells Fargo, Bank Of America for starters.
I moved from the UK where I was in a lead engineer / management role and took a demotion to software engineer. Frankly, I just wanted to get back into the workforce. That said, I earned MORE money and had MORE benefits. I think that there are far more opportunities here. Since then I've moved once and now a manager of 6 developers.

I agree with Ben on the PTO part. I haven't seen that as an issue in the tech field. However, I do caution "unlimited PTO". I much rather have my own PTO that I have earned where I don't feel that I need to justify the use of. I never question my team taking PTO, as long as it isn't much more than 2 weeks at a time.

I also agree on checking out the entire package. You'll find that direct hire (not through an agency) FTE (full time employment) placement will likely result in better benefits and cheaper insurances. The contract / recruitment firms insurance is normally way more expensive as it is less subsidized.

The following are things that I put into action before and after my relocation that I believe contributed to my success:
  • Have a great Linked In page, with a photo, that sells your professionalism and accomplishments
  • Find some coworkers that will give you recommendations on LinkedIn - especially if they have "snazzy" job titles (as those show on your profile)
  • Decide on a location and set your LinkedIn location as that. Start doing some googling of companies that directly hire, as well as recruitment companies, and make connections on Linked In. You'll be surprised how many just accept anyone
  • Get an American resume. You'll find plenty of pointers online. My rules would be no more than 2 pages, potentially only 1 page for you. Show the companies you've worked for, and the RESULTS that you have generated. For example, "Rearchitected login system using x technology. Resulted in a reduction in latency by 100ms". Ensure the terminology and spelling is Americanized.
Also - I do NOT have a degree. I have a similar experience to yours, started software development in High school, and managed to get on with a company, before landing a full time job at 18 with them. I'm a few years older than you, but wanted to give you some confidence that it is possible here to succeed without a degree.

Once you have a resume I don't mind reviewing it and providing pointers - just remove your actual personal information.
Hi Tom,

Thanks for the extensive reply, I'm glad to hear that the lack of a degree didn't pose any issues. North Carolina is definitely up on our list of places at the moment, my wife is currently doing her masters in forensic science and wants to work in the DNA area, we suspect it's going to be a lot harder for her to find the right job at first however we did see a lot of opportunities for both of us in North Carolina, as well as Virginia. However with Virginia a lot of positions seem to require citizenship and security clearance (my guess is a lot of government contracts) which puts me off there. I really appreciate the offer to take a lot at my resume, I will take you up on that at some point closer to the time!
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 7:19 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by UKBritExpat View Post
Not that I would rob anyone of an experience as I am a UKC living in USA as Tech Support for 16 years. I am moving back to England soon.

The biggest issue I found is lack of vacation time. At my current contract they have offered me a permanent job. I turned it down. They only offered 12 days paid vacation.
This has been pretty much my experience too. The most I've had was 10 days which was PTO and sick days combined. Most places were between 0 and 10. One offered "unlimited" PTO, but in reality never granted any because it was never "a good time."

Things may have changed in the UK since I left, but my experience was that in the UK, employers staffed up enough that time off was feasible. In the US, they prefer to make their employees work more to cover. I know. Generalisations and all that.
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 7:33 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by cluedweasel View Post
This has been pretty much my experience too. The most I've had was 10 days which was PTO and sick days combined. Most places were between 0 and 10. One offered "unlimited" PTO, but in reality never granted any because it was never "a good time."

Things may have changed in the UK since I left, but my experience was that in the UK, employers staffed up enough that time off was feasible. In the US, they prefer to make their employees work more to cover. I know. Generalisations and all that.
Days off in the UK are mandated by law, well until the Tories change them, so employers have to grant them or pay extra, in lieu. However holiday allowances and holiday pay are some of the things the government want to remove the current rights to by removing the working rights and human rights negotiated by the EU.
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Old Feb 11th 2020, 7:53 pm
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Default Re: Work life in the USA compared to the UK, Software/IT Field

Originally Posted by craig10104 View Post
A bit of background, I (UKC) am married to a USC and we're both currently living in the UK. We're currently going through the CR1 visa process and expect to be state side in October this year (2020), initially in upstate NY but interested in the whole east coast depending on available job opportunities. I am a 21 year old software developer, mainly .NET. I have no degree as I was taken on as an apprentice at 17 and progressed from there. I am quite anxious about the job market, I've never had any issues in the UK but I am unsure on what to expect in the US. Also how did people find find transitioning from working in the UK to working in the US? I am curious to see if there's anyone on this forum who had a similar career path but also interested in how people found transitioning in general.

Many thanks in advance!
I work in Technology in the Denver area. The degree thing may or may not be an issue. I don't have a degree, but I've got close to 20 years experience and a fairly unique skillset, whereas you're still quite young. I've had 3 jobs in my 12 years here, and each one has said 'Bachelors Required', but it hasn't been a problem and I get the impression has been on kind of a 'don't ask/don't tell' basis. That being said, I moved to the US with my first job in New York, and for my last job and my current job (Colorado), I was approached by the company, I didn't just apply out of the blue. Lots of companies have application systems where they will auto filter out anyone without a bachelors. Not saying you'll have a problem, as we're crying out for good devs, but you'll definitely want to try and do some networking and/or speak to some recruiters to get on their books. This could be wrong, but I'm getting the vague impression, just anecdotally, that some companies are loosening up degree requirements, but it's still extremely uncommon to meet anyone in a technical/corporate/white collar job who doesn't have a degree, whereas it isn't quite as unusual in the UK imo.

Some companies are moving towards more or even unlimited PTO, but generally speaking, it's still not competitive when compared to the UK. Don't be surprised if you're offered 15 days, including sick time. Something that occasionally counterbalances that is the individual firm's approach to PTO use. e.g. some places might not have much PTO, but are very flexible about working from home, going to doctors appointments etc, so you only really use them for genuine time off. It really just depends on the organization.
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