Shopping for skills worldwide

Hello all – this is my first blog post in this space, where I plan to talk about IT management trends and current issues around leadership and skills that I have observed when talking to various influencers and observers in the sector.

Over the last few days, we have all witnessed a rollercoaster of political events and now we have a new leadership which, among other things, will seek to implement a cap on migration from outside the EU.

We have had some reactions from the people on the ground, but interestingly, some IT leaders in large UK organisations have started to hit back at the impending limits on immigration.

A case in point is Tony McAlister, chief technology officer at the world largest gambling exchange, Betfair. He told me recently that the proposals will only contribute to worsen the IT skills gap in the UK.

Although he is looking to hire locally as much as possible, there are some skills he simply can’t find in the UK. It is an established fact that sharp leadership that combines business acumen and IT understanding is in short supply.

Therefore, the company had to start a global talent hunt. Most of Betfair’s top IT executives are from the US (including McAlister himself), Poland, Denmark and a pool of other nationalities.

Betfair is also looking to set up centres of IT excellence in various locations abroad – Romania, Malta, Costa Rica are some of the countries where the firm is already running its tech operations. Their CTO is keen to stress that is not mainly driven by potential cost savings, but access to expertise he simply can’t find here.

The coalition government is proposing to set caps each year according to the economy’s needs; however the criteria that will determine these limits is still unclear.

In the meantime, McAlister might be setting a precedent for companies finding themselves in a similar predicament. While going global might not help an already fragile UK economy, the truth is that business will have to do it sooner rather than later if they want to remain competitive. 

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