Upfront: Why this Australian IT employer hires internationals

We spoke with Icon Integration co-founder and co-managing director, Paul Roddis, who currently employs 70 staff in his SAP consulting business with over 90 percent of employees being internationals. We were interested in finding out why they employ such a high percentage as well as ascertaining what skills are desirable in a multicultural Australian workplace.

You have a very multicultural company. How many nationalities are there?

Quite a few South Americans (Brazilians, Colombians, Argentinian), Indian, New Zealand, South African, English, Australian – there’s a real diversity. Dutch and Norwegian as well.

How did you end up with so many international employees?

Two reasons: one of which just reflects Australian society which is multicultural itself, it parallels what you see around everywhere in every industry and two: Australia is a small country on the world stage in terms of economy and in terms of IT. Many of the big developments and big changes in IT and technology are driven out of Europe, US and Asia – with Asia becoming much stronger. You can’t train that experience locally – you have to buy it, and bring it in through international people.

You can’t train that experience locally – you have to buy it, and bring it in through international people.

What are the benefits and challenges of having such a multicultural workplace?

It makes for an interesting place to work – with people from different backgrounds. It makes it an international workplace so we’ve got a blend of different experiences and cultures which makes it quite forward thinking and quite dynamic. That in itself is probably a real positive. If you bring in an international business person who’s worked in different global markets and had different experiences that experience is shared amongst the team.

IT professionals from around the world. They are in short supply in Australia.

In your opinion, what does Australia need more of in your industry and in general?

Well experienced people in SAP, functional business experience. There’s a massive shortfall in IT skills in Australia and certainly it’s a real challenge because many people with ambition look to the US, Europe or Asia first. When the economies are large the opportunities are big and the scale and investments are big. They’re not looking at Australia so Australia often appeals to individuals who have some other tie – and the other tie is lifestyle – so Australia really struggles to offer well experienced good solid IT professionals broadly in every aspect – in security, cyber security – in every aspect it really struggles to fill roles and there’s a massive shortage of good IT skills.

Australia really struggles… in every aspect – in security, cyber security – it really struggles to fill roles and there’s a massive shortage of good IT skills.

What advice would you give for internationals looking for a job in Australia in the IT industry?

In my experience, qualifications and education count for relatively little because everyone has them generally. What counts more is the ability to bring your skills and be able to articulate and communicate that into the domestic market.

What soft skills would you consider important?

Communication – language for sure. You have to have cultural alignment, you have to make an effort to understand the Australian way, whether it be sports, economy, lifestyle.

Australian workplaces generally foster an informal tone.

So business culture and business English do you mean?

Yes. And hard work. Focussing on what you can do for the company you’re going for and not what the company can do for you, what you can offer the company and not focussing on your qualifications and hard skills – it’s all around communication and cultural alignment. In my opinion, a good channel to business is LinkedIn. It’s your online resume. You’ve got to invest time and effort in that, that’s a window on you – like any resume is – and tailor it to the Australian market.

In my opinion, a good channel to business is Linkedin. It’s your online resume. You’ve got to invest time and effort in that, that’s a window on you – like any resume is – and tailor it to the Australian market.

Don’t just take a resume created in your domestic market and think – I’ll just change it to English – it’s all around being content specific to the audience which is Australian specific. Whether it be iterations or versions of it. Like anything, if you’re wanting to work in any given industry, invest time in investigating it and know a bit about it.

Unlike some European companies where it’s very formal, the Australian market is less so. Certainly in the medium and small companies – the majority in the Australian market – it’s not so formal – your personality and your approach, the way you carry yourself all count for a massive part, equally if not more so than qualifications. Experience is the key.