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Business development / Immigration / Women in tech

Elise Wei is leaving Philly for New Zealand [Exit Interview]

The Ticketleap engineer and former Girl Develop It Philly co-leader got into a Kiwi immigration program aimed at poaching tech talent. She and husband Peter Marinari look back on what they learned from the local scene.

Elise Wei and her daughter EV. (Courtesy photo)
As I sit down to write this interview, former Girl Develop It Philly co-leader Elise Wei and husband Peter Marinari (formerly of RJMetrics) are watching a crew of movers pack up their entire house. Except for their luggage.

The tech duo is wrapping things up in Philly to head on a West Coast trip next week. It’s the first stop in a life-changing voyage to Wellington, New Zealand, new home to Wei, Marinari and their tiny daughter EV.

Why? Turns out that, Wei —  a former Ticketleap and Monetate software engineer — got herself a spot on a highly selective immigration program from the Pacific nation, which is aimed at attracting senior-level tech talent.

The whole idea of “New Zealand” started after Wei considered a job in Ottawa, Canada. After that fell through, the thought of an international move lingered.

“I signed up for a notification on their immigration site and I got notified in the spring of a program where the country’s trying to recruit mid- and senior-level tech talent to help seed their growing ecosystem,” Wei told “They have a lot of skilled technologists there but they’re not necessarily experienced.”

A wide net was cast. Out of 49,000 global applications, 1,100 people were put in front of employers. From that group, 94 were chosen to fly to Wellington and meet prospective employers. Wei was offered a job with accounting software company Xero, which has U.S. offices but is headquartered in Wellington.

But why now? Despite some in tech talking about politics prompting a move to another country, this is on a different level. “It just seems like a good time for a big adventure,” Wei said.

When the family finally lands in their adoptive home in September, it will be Marinari’s first time in New Zealand. He’s pretty chill about that.

“I’m more alarmed about the seasons being opposite,” said Marinari. “That’s something I’m still trying to wrap my head around.”

The former client success lead, who left RJMetrics pre-acquisition to spend quality time with EV, said he’ll be scouting out opportunities with companies that are making their initial moves in communicating with clients. “With the experience that I have I really want to get to a place that has a dozen people and is exploring what Client Success means to them,” he said.


Wei’s GDI Philly has transitioned to the command of new chapter lead Jen Dionisio. With her four years of experience in organizing, her departure serves as great time hook to ask her for input on the tech scene. Philly: Do you leave any pending tasks in Philly? What’s something you’d like Philly’s tech scene to tackle?

Elise Wei: I’d love to see Philly do more in the way of tech apprenticeships. I know people are starting to move more in that direction but I think that gap between education and high-level employability is a tough gap to jump. It’s not something GDI can wholly take on but it would benefit everyone across the board.

TP: Is there a Girl Develop It–like organization in Wellington?

EW: No, the women-in-tech scene there is not as cohesive. There are things going on but I don’t have a good sense of that yet. I wouldn’t presume to go and build something like Girl Develop It in New Zealand because I’m not sure that’s what they need. That’s a “wait and see” but obviously a cause that I care a lot about.

Peter Marinari: We’re both very invested in inclusion in the workplace, but you can’t go to a new tech scene and just assume that it’s already disinclusive. You also can’t assume that the scene is the same. We can’t go down there and assume that we can do it because we do it in Philly. That would be wrongheaded of us.

TP: Do you have any advice for people who are considering an international move?

EW: I think an important one is to recognize that tech work is not idolized in other countries as in the U.S. It’s not quite the same. We call some tech people “rock stars” and “gurus,” and that’s emblematic of how we see tech jobs in the U.S. Abroad a tech job is not necessarily more glamorized than working the phones at a support center. It can be a difficult expectation adjustments when you do things like talk about salary. In the U.S. you do great on an engineer salary, whereas elsewhere… you’d do fine.

PM: If you have an opportunity abroad and it’s time-limited, don’t sacrifice the seconds, because the secondhand keeps moving while you’re making that decision.

Companies: Girl Develop It
Series: Exit Interview

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