“The technology skills shortage is everywhere and so businesses like Xero do a lot of work to try to keep more people in technology careers,” says Ritchie, chief platform officer at the cloud-based accounting software firm.
“We do a lot of things in schools, universities and programmes like Code Club NZ, to try to get more people to go into a technology career path and STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths) degrees as they come out of high school.”
He says this is part of a long-term project for Xero and recognises it is going to take a number of years to develop the people they need.
We have to promote New Zealand as a high-tech destination and a great place to live and work
The other alternative, he says, is for people to move to New Zealand work in the tech industry.
“We have to promote New Zealand as a high-tech destination and a great place to live and work,” says Ritchie.
“We are competing against all of the big technology firms around the world who are trying to do the same thing, so it is really important to work together as an industry,” he explains.
So last week, Ritchie was one of the New Zealand executives who welcomed prospective technology staff at the Destination New Zealand booth in Las Vegas.
The booth, also known as the New Zealand Tech Hub, was one of the exhibits at re:Invent, the annual gathering of the Amazon Web Services community across the globe.
Xero was one of 19 New Zealand technology companies that banded together to attract AWS Professional Certified engineers to move to New Zealand.
The goal was to spark interest among the 32,000 attendees, by providing them information about the benefits of working and living in one of the Asia Pacific’s most dynamic economies.
The world is flat - for ICT talent
“This has been, I guess, five to six months in the planning,” says Tim Dacombe-Bird country manager, New Zealand, for AWS.
“We came up with the idea of promoting New Zealand as a great place to live and to work and with the flattening of the earth, it makes a lot of sense for individuals to move to New Zealand and take up roles with these great technology companies.
“Through Xero we got Immigration New Zealand on board, and they were great in being able to give guidance to people that come past our stand and are interested in moving to New Zealand.”
One of the really interesting things is the collegiate nature of the collaboration between the organisations involved, says Dacombe-Bird. “It is recognised as a New Zealand initiative right across the community” not one associated with the brands involved.
He says it is the first time the concept has been applied at re:Invent.
We are taking an MVP [minimum viable product] approach...if it proves to be successful we will absolutely look at replIcating that at other events.
“We are taking an MVP [minimum viable product] approach to it,” says Dacombe-Bird.
“We are really hopeful that it pays dividends for everybody that is involved, and it if it proves to be successful we will absolutely look at replIcating that at other events.”
AWS set up a LinkedIn Destination New Zealand page, where approved members can see all jobs posted by the participating technology companies.
It is not a public group, explains Dacombe-Bird. “When we talk to people, we can scan their badge and by scanning the badge, it signifies their intent to relocate to New Zealand.
“We invite them to the LinkedIn group, so they can make contact directly to the organisation.”
Dacombe-Bird said after the two-day exhibit, they had 324 badge scans of people who are interested in learning more about moving to New Zealand, and 212 who have joined the LinkedIn group.
Office to ocean in five minutes
“There has been a constant stream of people, there is no quiet moment for us at all,” says Dean Jervis, relationship manager sectors and skills (technology) for Immigration New Zealand.
Jervis says Immigration NZ gets a lot of registrations from all parts of the world from people who are considering moving and living to work in New Zealand. But, he adds, “there is a big difference between registering an interesting and actually making the move.”
He says the NZ Technology Hub makes it possible for prospective candidates to get a sense of New Zealand, by talking to people in the sector.
“A number of us in the stand field those types of questions so we respond appropriately,” says Jervis. The attendees also get information packs on what it is like to live in New Zealand.
“The reality is, the promise of ‘office to ocean in five minutes’ (excluding a trip on the Auckland motorway), a hugely buoyant economy spearheaded by tech pioneers and exporters, combined with turbulent times in the USA and UK, makes the ‘sell’ job for attracting new talent to New Zealand a somewhat simple one,” says Mike Jenkins, founder and CEO of The Instillery, one of the participating companies.
On the day I was rostered on the stand, we talked to almost 200 visitors and as a result we have also been able to identify an exciting new group of diverse talent from all corners of the globe
“On the day I was rostered on the stand, we talked to almost 200 visitors and as a result we have also been able to identify an exciting new group of diverse talent, including cloud and development experts from all corners of the globe,” says Jenkins.
He adds: “Over the next few months we will be working with our existing candidates to create a shortlist and make job offers over the summer.”
He says during the event, the Instillery offered a full time role to a cloud solution architect initially at the Instillery office in San Francisco. The prospective employee plans to immigrate to New Zealand next year.
Jenkins, who brought with him four other Instillery team members to re:Invent, hopes the Kiwi Tech Hub initiative is also back again for the 2017 conference.
“All of us compete all the time for staff,” concludes Duncan Ritchie of Xero. “There is a general awareness as a group that by working together on a project like this ... people across all of the technology companies will all benefit.”
Divina Paredes attended re:Invent in Las Vegas as a guest of AWS.
Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap
Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz