Thank you to some of the best and brightest tech talent in London for taking the time to discuss the local market, your views and opinions on the Sydney tech scene and the viability of relocation, it was a pleasure.
Disclaimer — these are my opinions based on circa 400–500 interactions with engineers, designers, product managers and tech leaders in London and having operated in Talent Acquisition within Sydney tech companies for the past 4 years.
- We’re the world’s best kept secret!
- Message to the Government — The time is now!
- Challenges overseas talent face in relocating
- Challenges companies face hiring in overseas talent
First, some noticeable observations;
- London’s tech ecosystem is thriving with disruption by neobanks like Monzo (I even signed up, what a seamless experience!!!) Starling Bankand Revolut, funding marketplace Funding Circle, digital healthcare service Babylon Health and Benevolent AI leading the way in the development and application of AI for scientific innovation. There are many many more but I will say the scale of the product teams at Just Eatand Deliveroo indicate the British population are going to need healthtech to make giant strides quickly! Tip of the hat to Citymapper as well as Transferwise which I utilised on my trip (founded by Estonians; did you know?!)
- Diversity in spades — I spoke to professionals from all parts of the globe who have been attracted to the capital city by its investment in the tech industry, the career opportunities created and ease of visa access, not for the weather!
- Salaries are healthy but essentially on par with Sydney in the majority of disciplines, the exception being the thriving engineering contractor market ($900–1,050 per day is very attainable) and senior leadership positions. Given most engineers relocating to Sydney will be on a sponsored visa and therefore in a permanent role it is a significant pool of contract talent that is out of our reach.
- The loom of Brexit — with a heavy influence from Europe there are many eagerly awaiting an outcome and the impact, “we’re holding fire but considering a backup plan” was quite common to hear. Interestingly very little mention of the US (can’t imagine why) however Canada frequently came up as a destination of interest.
- Three month notice periods at a number of major players for engineers, product managers and designers, whilst negotiable will impact timescales for relocation.
- We’re the world’s best kept secret!
As I approached professionals at London’s leading companies from startups to corporates I was eager to know what they knew or who they knew in the Sydney tech scene.
Ruling out those that had previously lived in our beautiful city there were a lot of blank faces. A hint on the collaboration software they use prompted a few “oh yeah, Atlassian” with some following up with “oh I thought they were American” (they are listed on the Nasdaq after all).
Very little mention of the market darling Canva, even less awareness of Freelancer, Finder or Airtasker with their advertising plastered all over the major underground stations and London buses. (I’ve left out B2B as you’d need to be industry specific to know them.)
So should we be surprised?
No. The alarming part isn’t the lack of awareness of specific Australian tech companies (although we do need to address this), it is more that Sydney is just not considered or viewed as a viable destination to progress your career in the tech industry.
Whilst the lure of beaches, sunshine and well, who doesn’t love the aussie folk, there is just no awareness of the opportunity to relocate for what I would describe as “the best of both worlds”. Work for innovative tech companies competing on the global stage whilst enjoying a quality of life that only Sydney can offer (I realise having lived here for a decade that it isn’t perfect but we’re very lucky on a global comparison).
There were very few misinformed remarks, isolated cases of “do they work in Agile?” and “are they working with cloud technologies?” but to dispel the image of a kangaroo prodding a server with a didgeridoo I talked through the growth in automation, containerisation in the cloud, highly scalable distributed systems, functional programming, to name a few and we certainly aren’t behind when it comes to how products are built.
I wouldn’t expect the vast majority of tech professionals in Sydney to name the rising stars of the London scene but if asked “is there a career opportunity there?”, they would know purely by reputation that there is. A reputation we don’t yet have!
2. Message to the Government — The time is now!
With Brexit reaching boiling point and Trump busy building walls the timing has never been better to present migrants a new destination to fulfill their hopes and dreams…BUT.
We aren’t making it easy for the best tech talent around the world to move to Sydney with visa timelines and restrictions, and we certainly aren’t making it easy for companies to hire from overseas either. Due to our geographical location the vast majority won’t have visited Sydney before, unlike Europe where you can fly to another country and back in a day, it just isn’t feasible with Sydney, so there is already a huge barrier to overcome without visa related obstacles.
The visa system changed July 1st 2018 (457 out 482 visa in) and as far as I’m aware there wasn’t a global campaign by the Australian Government to update the world’s best talent and if they had, it wouldn’t have been a simple one either.
3. Challenges overseas talent face in relocating:
- I didn’t know there was a tech scene in Sydney, who are the companies and which ones are the best?
- The visas are complicated, I am visual designer / product manager but that isn’t on any list, do I qualify and in fact do they have visual designers and product managers in Sydney, how far behind are they?!!!!!
- If I’m on the 2 year visa stream I can renew again to stay for a total of 4 years and if I love it I can’t get residency and stay long term. Do I leave my career in London?
- The visa timelines are too long (4–10 weeks) unless I know which companies are on the accredited list (less than a week).
- I’m in London on great contract rates and I can’t contract in Australia unless I apply for PR which takes nearly a year.
- Where are the jobs and who can sponsor me?
- I’ve never been to Sydney, what is it like? I hear everything can kill you!
- I have children, how do I get them into schools?
- I have a pet Labradoodle that is my world, can I bring him with me?
- If I work in Sydney will this impact me when I return to London? I’m not sure how credible an Australian company on my CV will be.
- If I get sponsored by a company and it doesn’t work out what are my options? Can I work for another company, how does that work?
- How do pensions work in Australia? I need to maintain my UK pension.
4. Challenges companies face hiring in overseas talent:
- We need to hire now, sponsoring takes too long.
- The cost of the visa (approx. $7k), training levy ($2.4-7.2k), relocation package ($10-15k) and potentially a recruitment fee ($20-30k) is too much.
- What is the Global Talent Scheme (GTS)? What is the 400 visa?
- What is the sponsor accreditation that expedites visa applications within a week and do we qualify?
- We don’t have the dedicated resources to find talent overseas.
Can you see why people and companies might put this into the too hard basket?
Unfortunately the GTS hasn’t had the impact required, too many companies don’t know about it and those that do utilise loopholes, like hiring Product Managers as ICT Business Analysts rather than going through the rigmarole of justifying why they need a Product Manager.
So what are the consequences if we don’t take action?