Tech and remote jobs in Sussex County are becoming more accessible, but challenges remain - Technical.ly Delaware

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Tech and remote jobs in Sussex County are becoming more accessible, but challenges remain

Jeremy Sabina of Georgetown landed a work-from-home tech job with Wilmington's CSC. If he becomes part of a trend, it could change the culture and acceptance of remote work there.

Jeremy Sabina

(Courtesy photo)

When Jeremy Sabina was a teenager in Las Vegas, he had two interests: technology and cooking.

When he wasn’t gaming (and figuring out how to code), he was watching Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” or spending time in the kitchen baking cakes. His technical high school offered culinary arts, which eventually led him to culinary school in Hyde Park, New York. There, he earned two associates degrees and met his now-wife.

Sabina had planned to return to Las Vegas, but his wife wanted to be near her family in Sussex County, Delaware. The pair moved to Salisbury, Maryland, where Sabina worked his way up to sous chef at Evolution Craft Brewery.

They were settling in and expecting their first child when the pandemic hit. Sabina saw the writing on the wall — the restaurant industry was going to be hit hard. It was time to re-assess and look at ways to turn his aptitude for technology into a more pandemic-proof job.

He found Zip Code Wilmington, but early on in the pandemic, it looked like the program was going to stick with an in-person model, something that would be too difficult to take on without physically moving to the city. But as the pandemic wore on, Zip Code also reassessed, and switched to a full remote model in the spring of 2020.

The global event that had made his previous job unstable was opening a door that people in Georgetown don’t usually have access to — high-quality coding programming complete with job placement assistance. Sabina received three job offers within several weeks of graduating from Zip Code, and accepted a software engineer role with CSC because they were open to allowing him to work remotely full-time after a few initial weeks working a hybrid model.

It’s a story with a happy outcome, but it’s not without challenges.

“I’m hoping the high speed broadband will come down a little bit more to Georgetown,” Sabina said in an interview with Technical.ly. The challenge was apparent — the interview for this story happened by phone, because he’d been having connection issues with Zoom. “The service here is a little bit rougher, and that’s something I’ve been dealing with,” he said.

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To that end, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Delaware has ongoing projects to achieve universal rural broadband, and a $110 million investment in Delaware broadband from the American Rescue Plan Act was announced in September. Not to mention that $65 billion is dedicated to broadband infrastructure as part of the recently-passed Federal infrastructure package.

Still, to live in Sussex County and work in tech, you’ll still need significant connection to a larger city like Wilmington.

“There is a vast difference between the economy of Wilmington and the economy of Sussex County,” Sabina said. “For example, I had one interview right after Zip Code with a company in Laurel. The offer they gave me was so low it was almost like a minimum wage job. When I spoke to them, they said that they don’t have the money to afford what Wilmington and Philadelphia can afford. So my best advice is to connect with the larger cities and look for something that is hybrid or full remote.”

Full remote work can be a challenge for some people wherever they live, requiring self-motivation and diligence because there often isn’t a lot of oversight over what they’re doing. For Sabina, those challenges are worth being able to live in Georgetown and have the opportunity to spend more time with his young son.

Remote work in the tech industry in Sussex County is rare at this point, but Sabina hopes he becomes part of a larger downstate trend as more coding schools have come to Delaware to take advantage of its CARES Act workforce development funding and help get local technologists into the many vacant tech jobs at Wilmington’s banks and large corporations.

“If a hundred other people also got jobs in Georgetown, that would immediately boost the local economy because I can now utilize my resources to expand what is happening locally,” he said. “It would help all companies grow. Now I’m able to possibly help people in Georgetown with the money I’m gaining — if this grows more and more, it would have a very positive outcome.”

Ultimately, Sabina hopes to bring everything full circle and combine his passions for technology and baking.

“I’ve moved on from the restaurant industry for now, but my goal was always to open up my own bakery and those plans are still going to continue on,” he said. “It would be great to grow my technical skill now and in five or ten years utilize with for my previous skills. With the assistance Wilmington is giving me I could give something back to Georgetown in the form of a bakery.”

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