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TechMeAbroad: the foreign engineer’s ticket to a dream job?

16
Apr

Sylvain Kalache is an immigrant, one of more than 10 million living in the Golden State. California, with its perfect weather, liberal outlook and plentiful job opportunities is a mecca for skilled workers, particularly from China, India and Vietnam. Kalache’s native France is also strongly represented in the northern half of the state, where an estimated 30,000 French immigrants live, many of them holding down tech jobs in Silicon Valley.

California might have the U.S.’s highest concentration of immigrants but Kalache thinks there’s room for more. With the battle for skilled software developers intensifying, he believes an increasing number of technology companies will be forced to look overseas for talent, and that means being willing to jump through legal hoops to secure work visas for new recruits. He also believes more and more young professionals are prepared to relocate in order to advance their career and broaden their life experience.

The jobs market wasn’t quite so hot when Kalache first arrived in San Francisco in 2009, after studying in China. Even though he had a degree in Computer Science and was seemingly well placed to score a tech job, he felt the visa sponsorship requirement was putting employers off. After several months of searching, he landed a position at SlideShare, a presentation sharing service that was acquired by LinkedIn in 2012.

Keen to help other French engineers make contacts and learn how to navigate the ex-patriate life, Kalache co-founded while42 with a fellow French ex-pat. In two years it grew from a Silicon Valley-only network to having a presence in 40 cities around the world and now numbers some 3,000 members.

Kalache and Barbier found while42 was becoming a hub for both job seekers and recruiters. Startups in particular were finding it hard to track down top French talent, especially when competing with Apple and Google salaries. The pair took to posting startup job offers on a Tumblr blog to give them more visibility. Eventually they decided it was time to launch a startup of their own — a service wholly dedicated to foreign tech workers looking for jobs, and most importantly, sponsorship, overseas. The result is TechMeAbroad, a niche jobs board that displays openings at firms ready and willing to sponsor visas for foreign developers. As well as the U.S., there are offers from China, France, Dubai, Lithuania and many more countries up for grabs.

Kalache shared some insights about his new venture in an interview:

What is your ultimate goal for TechMeAbroad?

There is no nation that trains enough engineers for its needs, it’s a fact. Even in France where education is great and very affordable, the CEO of Capgemini, one of the biggest French IT companies, complained about a lack of skilled engineers.

Our goal is to help our users to find the job of their dreams, in the country of their dreams. For companies, we want to help them access a whole new candidate pool; why not get the perfect talent into your company when you can? Today world’s economy is global, why shouldn’t the hiring scope be? 

How have you sourced the firms whose job vacancies you feature?

We reached out to companies that we knew to bootstrap our service, now companies are coming by themselves, as the need is huge for them.

How are you monetizing?

We are not monetizing. Our goal is to understand what our users – applicants and companies – need. Once this is done, we can easily come up with a monetization strategy; making companies pay to post offers appears to be a big and obvious first step.

Do you feel the Obama administration is doing enough to bring highly-skilled tech workers into the US to meet the talent needs of employers here?

President Obama understood that his government needs to do something to change the situation. His executive order on immigration was a bold move, and in my opinion, was mandatory for the US economy as the situation is becoming urgent. As Oracle’s CEO pointed out: “In the next eight years, 40 percent of everybody working in the US can retire. And the implications of that—swapping out 40 percent of the workforce—will shake up the workplace in some radical ways.”

As 5 million jobs are not currently filled in the US, with IT counting for over half a million of them, Obama administration launched Tech Hire. Its goal is to fulfil those jobs as soon as possible. Unfortunately, as the US only trains 40,000 tech engineers a year, opening borders will be mandatory to fill the 505k remaining open positions.

Your site doesn’t only cater to the US market. What visa issues do tech workers face elsewhere?

In the US even if the process is quite smooth, the selection is hard. In many other countries, it is very easy to get a working visa because those countries understand that having worker-friendly visas will bring in startups and companies, and will definitely boost their economy. Asia and South America are becoming attractive to many, while the American dream is not what it used to be.

How will you compete against established job boards such as SimplyHired?

We have a clear understanding of the state of the market, being an expatriate myself and having points of contact all over the world in the tech industry allows me to approach the problem on a worldwide scale. We want to own that market by executing well and fast. We want to become the place where you can find a job abroad.

H1B visa demand so high for a capped number of visas, is your service potentially setting up some job-seekers for disappointment?

Our service is not focusing on the U.S market, we are listing jobs all over the world. There are also a lot of other visas that engineers can apply for in the US. We partnered with an experienced lawyer to help our users make the best choice. Even for the most popular working visa, the H1B, we believe the caps will have to increase dramatically soon.

What are your top tips for tech workers seeking employment overseas?

A key to finding a job abroad is to actually go where you are willing to work. Find potential employers on TechMeAbroad, set up interviews and go meet them in person. I’ve helped many people find a job in the Silicon Valley, and 100% of them came over to do the interviews in person. Nothing can replace a human connection.

 

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