Emigrating to Australia to further your career in IT is a huge decision. As an Englishman with seven years’ IT experience, it seemed a natural one, but it certainly was not easy.
I decided to emigrate in 2001 and based my application for a visa on my skills and previous experience. As I only have two A levels and no degree, I had to have my skills assessed through a recognised prior learning route.
I applied for my IT visa through the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations code. This meant I had to apply under a specific IT job title which is in demand in Australia.
At the time I was an IT team leader, but found my only option for entry was as an IT manager. I left my firm and joined a marketing firm in London as IT manager, which qualified me for part of the selection criteria.
Initially, I had to write to the Australian Computer Society (ACS) detailing my seven years’ experience in London. I suggest that anyone who takes this route ensures their information is precise and strictly follows the specific guidelines set out by the ACS, as this can speed up the process.
Three months later I received a successful result from the ACS and I then had to apply to the government. There is little personal information they do not need. I submitted a police report, medical report, certificates of my exam results and trade certificates. With IT emigration to Australasia in high demand, the system had few loopholes.
Under my visa, I only needed to complete two years’ of work in Australia to become a citizen. Other business visas can require you to work constantly for four years and, if you are out of work for 28 days or more, you may have to leave the country.
Obtaining IT contract work in Australia can be tricky if you do not have local work experience, so I had wait for the result of the visa before finding a job. Incidentally, visitors on a working holiday visa are only allowed to work for the same firm for three months and, because of this, recruitment agents are less interested in placing you.
By mid-February I finally received my visa, which I had to collect overseas at an Australian consulate. I had interviews with Weight Watchers and Lindermans Wines, also known as Southcorp, and was fortunate enough to receive offers from both. I opted to take the job as IT manager for Weight Watchers Australasia.
In my role, I supported the IT infrastructure for Weight Watchers in Australia. This included managing a wide area network, a budget, server support and desktop support. The job was varied and entailed knowledge of firewalls, mail systems and servers.
In my first eight months I completed a number of projects, including a virtual private network roll-out to every state in Australia and a company-wide migration to Windows 2000.
Neil Lappage is IT manager at Weight Watchers Australasia