WHY BRISBANE IS COMING OF AGE AS A TECH HUB

Written on the 7 February 2017 by James Perkins

WHY BRISBANE IS COMING OF AGE AS A TECH HUB

SIAN Havard has hired hundreds of people for some of the biggest tech companies in the world, including Facebook, Google, Expedia, and Unruly, and now she has returned to her hometown of Brisbane to launch consultancy the Milkshake Group.

So why would a top-level HR professional with global experience in these superstar companies return to Brisbane? It's because the city's tech scene is coming of age.

"It's great to have reached a stage where I knew I could confidently return home to Brisbane whilst also continuing in my tech career," Havard (pictured) tells Business News Australia.

"When I'd previously considered moving back, there wasn't a global tech start-up community in Queensland, so my options were to move to Sydney or Melbourne, or change industries."

Havard credits initiatives such as Advance Queensland Hot Desq for putting the focus on Queensland as a startup hub, alongside co-working spaces such as Little Tokyo Two, Fishburners, The Capital, and River City Labs.

The US co-working brand RocketSpace is also about to enter Brisbane through a partnership with Dexus Property Group.

"There is now a place for startups to feel part of a community and surround themselves by like-minded individuals to help push each other to greater successes and build their global network," says Havard.

"In addition, the international startup conference Myriad selected Brisbane to hold its first Australian conference in March, which demonstrates just how far the local tech industry has come."

Havard started her HR career in the mining industry in Brisbane, then moved to London where she worked for The Design Council until getting her start in tech through Expedia.

She then had time at Google before moving to social video advertising startup Unruly.

At Unruly, Havard was the first global talent manager and recruited more than 150 people, from interns to executives and engineers, for offices across Europe, Asia Pacific, and the USA.

She built the company's global on-boarding process, drafted complex HR policies for locations such as France and Sweden, created global employment contracts, and helped open a new office in Oslo.

Most recently, Havard was based at Facebook London, where she was responsible for identifying and attracting digital sales talent into six different offices across the Facebook, Instagram and Atlas teams.

The skills tech companies want

Havard has gained an intimate understanding of the human resources requirements of tech companies.

The constant innovation and fast delivery of products and services means that many positions require talent with cutting edge, niche knowledge.

"This can be really challenging - if a company puts themselves at the forefront of innovation they may find themselves creating brand new positions which don't actually exist elsewhere in the market," says Havard.

"This was the case with programmatic in the ad tech world a couple of years ago - some companies worldwide were introducing programmatic positions way ahead of the curve, meaning there were only a handful of individuals globally with any relevant experience, so the demand for programmatic skills far out-weighed global supply."

Two current examples are data science and cloud computing, which LinkedIn last year named as two of the world's most in-demand skills for 2017.

The people tech companies want

Havard says tech companies often need to be creative to fill these rapidly changing roles, and will often partner with educational institutions to develop the skills that they need.

Or, the companies create their own in-house training courses to ensure that if external talent isn't available, they have in-house team members ready and able to step into the positions.

This is flux of skills and positions means tech companies are looking for a particular type of person when hiring.

"People hired into the industry are expected to be able to flex and adapt themselves constantly, and to be open to experiencing frequent iterations of products and ways of working," says Havard.

"This can be quite challenging for someone who's worked in a more traditional industry, where the pace of change can be a bit different."

To work for these tech companies, you also need to be curious.

"They need to be constantly developing their knowledge and expertise to be the very best at what they do, and keep up to date on industry trends so they understand where their employer fits into the wider tech ecosystem."

When looking at the talent available in Brisbane, Havard is impressed.

"There is a good mix of homegrown talent, and both interstate and international talent is being attracted to move here due to a variety of factors, including the booming startup ecosystem," she says.

"Universities are also generating some fantastic entrepreneurial talent, with the QUT Starters student society and its accompanying Startup Hatch programme a great example of this.

"There is of course always work to be done at an immigration level to ensure the government is doing all it can to encourage tech talent to Australia, so I'm interested to see how this develops and how this might impact Brisbane."

At Milkshake Group, Havard helps startups develop talent strategies and works one-on-one with people, helping them transition into fulfilling careers something she is passionate about.

Business News Australia

 
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