Remote Work and Culture — 7 min
Welcome to Remote Stories, a show about real people working remotely all over the world. Kayrat Kaipov, frontend engineer, joins the show this week from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, to talk about his journey finding a new role and what it’s like to live and work remotely in his country.
To see the full interview, check out the video on this page or visit the Remote Stories Playlist on YouTube.
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Kayrat: About 50% of the population do not have access to the internet. That's why it's really tough to work remotely, especially from the villages. In the cities in towns, we have a lot of people who work remotely, and they work mostly as freelancers trying to look for clients in a Russian-speaking market. Mostly from Russia, Kazakhstan, and also Indian countries. They are doing engineering, designing, copywriting, etc. Of course, if the person speaks English, they try to find some clients from European countries or the United States. But most of them work as freelancers for Russian-speaking companies.
Kayrat: Well, that was pretty tough. Most of the time they have a requirement to be a U.S. citizen. Not many companies hire globally, but luckily for me, I found this job opening, and I really like it. The moment when I read the description that you’ll have a chance to have a chat with the CEO, even though you are not even employed yet, that made sense. I'm really happy to be here. And I'm really lucky enough to have a chance to work with that team, with the people.
See also: Remote’s public employee handbook
Kayrat: It’s a typical post-Soviet Union capital. We have the same problems as another 15 republics: government, economics. But the best people. Of course the Kyrgyz hospitality is the main advantage of the people here. If you are a guest here, 100% you'll be offered the best dish they can ever cook. The best cookies, the best tea. You can be sure of that.
For me, it's really important to be here. I wasn't born in Bishkek. I was born in a town called Kara Balta. For most of the people from the regions to be in Bishkek, it's already a good thing, because you are able to use fast internet. You're able to see other people. Most of the businesses, entrepreneurs, they work exactly in Bishkek, because it's really hard to work in the regions here.
Kayrat: For me personally, it's of course family. It's really important to be with my family. Let's be honest, if you are not from the United States or Europe, it's really hard to find a better job to get paid really well. And a remote job can reduce the steps of finding a better job.
You have to speak English and you have to be good at something: that's it. You can start looking for a remote job and at the same time be with your family, be home, be with your friends, be comfortable where you're comfortable. You're not thinking about other things, factors where I couldn't imagine being abroad. If you're not feeling good, you won't be good at your job. That's obvious. That's why remote work here makes me comfortable and effective.
Kayrat: It's almost two years now, but I'm still on my beginning journey. When I joined a month ago, I felt like this was a real problem in the world, because you're working with the people that are really huge in this community. Like for me, this frontend job. I'm really surprised. And I'm really happy to work with the people who have like eight, nine, 10 years experience in the frontend.
How did I come up? It was just realizing that I do want to do some other stuff like programming. I came up with tutorials on YouTube, how to make websites. That's how it started. And then I dived deeper.
Kayrat: I enjoy it because, could you imagine, a Kyrgyz guy having a chat with a colleague, AKA a friend, from San Francisco about basketball? Like there is a 12-hour difference, and still we can chat about it for hours, like who is better. I have a colleague and friend, Justin, he is a huge basketball fan, and basketball, to be honest, is not that popular here. The main sport here is soccer, football, and I have nobody to talk about basketball, and this guy can talk about it for hours.
Preston: You're a Lakers fan, right? Who’s your favorite player right now?
Kayrat: It would be so obvious if I were to name LeBron. I would say it’s Kyle Kuzma. He’s pretty good.
Kayrat: Of course, I think they should start hiring globally, without any “US only, Europe only” requirements.
I think also people should start looking for a better job more actively. Never give up, because there are companies that could offer you a better job wherever you are. Totally not depending on the city where you live. All you need is just a laptop, internet, and your willingness.
For me, it was surprising that the company can offer me those benefits that I am taking now. It was really hard to believe that there are a bunch of companies that good, really hiring globally. They don't care about whether you’re in Kyrgyzstan or the United States. That's why, my advice is for the people. Keep looking for it and never give up. You'll find a better company in the future, but just don't stop.
Kayrat: It's really important to people to work whenever they feel better for it. With a laptop, you don’t have to be at the exact hours, like four, five days a week. I think you are effective when you have a willingness. It could be an emergency, it could be something like you have to do immediately. That's why I think asynchronous work is really important for remote companies.
Kayrat: It's hard to predict because people here like a little bit old-schoolish and cannot admit the fact that a person can make better money being home. Like my father still thinks that I'm playing video games, 24/7. Which I’m not.
Of course the pandemic helps most people to understand that there is a job at home. And now I see more and more people start learning new technologies, trying to change their job to where they can work remotely from Kyrgyzstan. And it's really good. I see a lot of people who are trying to become an engineer, learning programming languages, new frameworks, and that's good. I expect it to be, at least in the cities and the towns, it must be huge in like five years, because we are on the right path.
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