Auburn alumnus Jody Nichols reflects on his career abroad and how Auburn uniquely prepares students for a global workforce
Jody Nichols, a 2008 graduate of Auburn University and native of Hoover, Alabama, took his talents and expertise abroad and has spent the last seven years working as a software sales engineer in Australia and Asia. Currently, he lives with his wife and daughter in Singapore, where he serves as the head of solutions engineering at Confluent, a software company that created a cloud-native platform designed to unleash real-time data.
As a software engineering major, Nichols gained considerable technical skills while studying at Auburn. And while those skills and the proper training helped kickstart his career, Nichols believes that what sets Auburn apart from other institutions and training resources is its emphasis on building relationships and expanding one’s personal and professional networks. He firmly believes that establishing and maintaining the right network helps to accelerate one’s career and create opportunities, especially in an international context. Auburn is an institution that prioritizes those relationships, and for Nichols it made a formidable impact on his career. He is grateful to be part of the Auburn Family that has proven to span beyond “the loveliest village on the plains” and even transcend borders.
Having worked with and managed individuals hailing from India, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia, “your casual 1:1s and team syncs are full of surprises.” Besides the usual small talk, he’s heard about family members dealing with dengue fever, newborns who don’t get named for a period of time due to culture norms, geo-political issues, who has the best chicken rice in Singapore, and of course, all things cricket and footie in Australia. Not to mention, the unique ways this part of the world experienced and handled COVID.
"Living and working abroad for an extended period (at least a year) is a life-changing experience in all the right ways," said Nichols. However, "the move can start out rough; it takes time to acclimate to the concept that this is your new life. There are things you won't like and need to accept, but hopefully, they are outweighed by the vast benefits you start to uncover and experience first-hand."
One of the benefits Nichols discovered during his international career is the different definitions and practical approaches to business culture and work-life balance around the world. He learned to embrace leisurely but more personable Aussie coffee catch-up in lieu of the classic American conference room meeting. In Singapore things aren’t quite as loose, but it is yet another experience that has helped him learn that there are many ways to arrive at the same outcome— “the world doesn’t subscribe to one size fits all approach.” Through it all, two truths have remained constant and unwavering: his love for Auburn and his hatred for matcha.
In addition, since moving abroad, Nichols and his family have been fortunate to visit several previously considered “exotic” countries. Nichols proudly mentions that his three-year-old daughter has already been to six countries and counting. “Our favorites have to be Vanuatu for diving, the Maldives for just pure opulence and beauty, and Vietnam/Thailand for the great beaches, food and people." While having some of these locales at your doorstep is a perk of living abroad, in some instances you don’t even need to leave your residential area to experience diversity. In Nichols’ case, his family lives in a popular location for expats, resulting in new friendships with people from all around the world, including Australia, Great Britain, Singapore, China, India, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Croatia, Brazil, and Italy.
With any worthwhile adventure though, there are obstacles. When moving abroad, it can initially feel like a vacation, but then everyday rhythms and routine set in and it becomes a new way of life. That transition from retreat to reality can be difficult, but for those who are willing to embrace the challenge, an international career is undoubtedly worthwhile.
“You will broaden your horizons, gain new perspectives, and genuinely comprehend what it means to be a global citizen,” said Nichols. “It's an invaluable experience you'll cherish forever.”
To the Auburn student aspiring to live and work abroad, it might seem like a far-flung reality, but rest assured that the opportunities are out there. Nichols advises you to insert yourself among the right crowds, invest in the right relationships and have intentional conversations.
One of the ways Auburn students can form those relationships and invest in their future career is through the Auburn International Mentoring Program. This fall, the Office of International Programs will be accepting student applicants and mentor volunteers for the 2023-24 academic year.
Learn more or contact manager of international initiatives Kalani Long at firstname.lastname@example.org
Submitted by: Danielle Johnston