Developer careers

What’s it like to work as a developer in Scotland?

Coman Hamilton
Glasgow panorama via Shutterstock

Scottish UX designer Ross Gledhill says there’s no place he’d rather work than in Scotland.

In the shadow of London’s sizeable programming community, lucrative financial employers and innovative startups, Scotland has often been overlooked as a tech hub. But that might well be what makes it a great place to work as a programmer. UX designer and local programmer Ross Gledhill tells JAXenter he never had to think about leaving.

JAXenter: What area of programming are you working in?

Ross Gledhill: I am the Head of Product Design for Gael, a software company that specialises in Quality, Safety and Risk Management. We have several products that I work across, but my current focus is Gael Enlighten. Enlighten is our new offering, and it’s been designed from the ground up to be a highly configurable and scalable SaaS (Cloud) product.

My focus is ensuring the front-end we’re designing and developing is easy to use, highly performant and, of course, looks good! Day to day that involves working across our design and development teams and usually writing lots of JavaScript.

Did you ever consider leaving Scotland to work elsewhere?

When I graduated in 2009, I was lucky enough to get a job straight out of University. I think the same can be said for most of my peers from University, there was never the need to look outside Scotland as the jobs already were here.

Over the years the tech scene in Scotland continued to grow and improve, to the point where it’s now vibrant. You will see this everywhere, in the number of jobs advertised, in the events Scotland hosts (Turing Fest, EIE, Dare to be Digital, etc.) and the various tech communities in our cities.

One hears plenty about Silicon Glen – is the Scottish tech scene as big as it sounds? And is there much of a startup scene?

We have a host of excellent starts ups such as Add Jam, Insurance by Jack, Farm Geek, IC Mobile Labs and more all working in diverse industries using a diverse mix of technologies.

“tech meetups for everything you can imagine”

We also have success stories, Skyscanner, Fan Duel and FreeAgent are all high profile. These serve to spur on younger businesses but also act as a way for finance to come back into the local community.

If you are interested in the start-up scene in Glasgow, you should pop along to the Rookie Oven monthly meet up. They are working on a new centralised ‘home’ with the opening of the RookieOven Space on in the Fairfield Shipyard Offices. Once the largest shipyard on the Clyde, the space will once again provide host to innovation in the city.

Is there a lot of native Scottish programming talent coming out of Scottish universities? Does that make it easy or hard for developers to find work?

Scotland has some world renowned Universities, which are producing a new group of highly skilled graduates every year. Employers work closely with the Universities, providing students with an insight into what their life could be like in their chosen career.

There now so many different career paths available to graduates. Do they want to work with desktop, or web or mobile? Do they want to continue with programming or branch off into design or a business analyst style role? And finally where do they want to work? A large software company? A start up? Or even a media agency? There is an abundance of choices available to graduates, and Scottish employers are helping them to make that decision.

Say for example I move to Scotland to start a job as a Java programmer – and for whatever reason the job doesn’t work out. How high are my chances of finding work in another company in Scotland?

If you know your stuff then pretty good! There seems to be a shortage of good developers at the moment. There are worldwide brands based in Scotland like Gael, SkyScanner, Fan Duel and FreeAgent and they are hiring all the time.

SEE ALSO: What’s it like to work as a developer in Seattle?

Plus for me, employers value good developers over experience of a particular technology. So, even if you can’t find a Java Development job that suits, moving to a new company that uses another language like C#, Ruby, PHP, etc. would not be a problem.

How about user groups and the developer community – do programmers get the chance to share their experiences with peers?

Yes, for a developer it’s great. There are tech meet-ups for everything you could imagine. Focusing on Glasgow alone for a second, there are different meet-ups schedules for most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays evenings. For more information on some of the meet-ups coming up, you should definitely check out the Open Tech Calendar.

What would you say are the main pros and cons of working in Scotland (and from the perspective of a developer)?

The developer community in Scotland is second to none. No matter what your level in a particular field or technology, there will be plenty of user groups or meet ups of interest.

Career wise, Scotland is a great place to be. Developers are in high demand at the moment, with lots of existing technology companies looking to grow, and start-ups looking to establish themselves. Gael alone hired 12 developers last year, and are looking to hire another 11 developers this year.

“Compared to London, everyday living is more affordable, while developer salaries remain high.”

With this abundance of choice, employers have had to react and up their game in order to attract the best developers. Employers now have to sell themselves, their processes, their products and of course their culture. Good developers have the luxury of choosing a company that suits them, and will offer them things like a training allowance and career progression.

The lower living cost in Scotland is definitely helps as well. Compared to London, Scottish everyday living is much more affordable, while developer salaries still remain high.

Away from work, one of my favourite things about living in Scotland is the scenery. If you want to get outside and into the fresh air there’s plenty of activities to choose from. Mountain biking, snowboarding, hill walking, kayaking or climbing are all great ways to let off some steam.

The downside would probably be the weather, though I suppose that can’t be helped! All in all, Scotland is a great place to both live and work. If you are looking for work, and want to work for a company with interesting projects, good training budgets and values its developers, send me a Tweet.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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