How will you find your next role in ICT?

Will you scour Seek for particular job titles? Take a look at LinkedIn and follow companies you like? Perhaps you’ll sign up with a recruiter?

All of these are viable methods for finding a job in the ICT sector, but according to Craige Pendleton-Browne, Chief Technology Officer at Australian forex payment company OFX (formerly OzForex), there’s one method that beats all the others hands down: a personal recommendation.

In other words, it’s not necessarily about what you know, but who you know.

“Recommendations are wonderful because you’re getting a pre-qualified candidate,” he said. “If you’ve got a good person recommending someone, they’re usually recommending a good person. I love recommendations. I’d much rather go on a recommendation than anything else.”

Pendleton-Browne leads a team of almost 80 techies in the Sydney office and around the world. These employees work in product development and engineering in the fast-paced world of currency transfers.

Hardest jobs to fill

Pendleton-Browne said OFX currently has some open roles at the moment, but the hardest to fill are UX (user experience) leads.

“We’ve had two open roles there for at least 6 months,” he said.

“Part of that is us being very picky as to who we choose. I’m looking for UX leads that can go all the way from research to… high fidelity prototypes.

“I’m trying to find UX unicorns – people who can do everything – it’s a challenge. I have found them before and we’ll keep looking until we find the right people.”

In the past 6 months, OFX interviewed 20 people for UX lead positions and made just 2 offers, he said.

On the other hand, Pendleton-Browne said business analyst and scrum master positions are the easiest positions to fill.

“In my last job [at News Corp], we could put an ad on LinkedIn and get 50-60 responses just like that. In reality, probably three of those were worth interviewing.”

Cultural fit

As well employees needing to have the technical know-how to do their jobs, OFX looks for more.

"I think we are doing interesting work. I personally think if you create the right kind of culture, if you are working with really bright intelligent people, you create an environment that’s self-sustaining.”

According to Pendleton-Browne, culture is “really, really important”.

But why is cultural fit that important to someone who mostly sits at a desk and codes all day?

“Mostly they’re not sitting with their head down,” he said.

“I’m a great believer in creating self-empowered teams. I want everyone in that team to contribute to the conversation.

“As an example, if the product owner says ‘I want to build this feature’, I want people to argue about whether we should we be building that feature. It’s the product owner’s call, ultimately, but often what happens is that you end up going ‘we should build this feature this way’, that’s usually the way the conversation goes when people want something.

“I want that debate: ‘If we did it in a slightly different way, we could probably deliver it in half the time’, or ‘if we do it exactly this way, it’s very difficult to test it’.

“By having those conversations with a team, you end up coming up with a much better solution, because the worst thing you can ever have in an organisation, for me, is when technology is told what to do and how to do it.

“Because what ends up happening is you often get a solution that is not really maintainable and actually solves the real underlying need.”

“Those debates, I think, need to happen because if they don’t happen you’re more likely to build the wrong thing. And I think if they do happen, then you’re less likely to build the wrong thing.”

“So no, I don’t want developers who sit in a corner and code.

“I want people who can contribute to the conversation.

“I want to employ really smart, right people who want to solve complex problems – because they attract like-minded people.”

Takeaway lessons

  • Always be nice to your co-workers. You never know when they’re going to leave, and when they do, you want them recommending you to their new boss.
  • Focus on the soft skills, such as presentation skills. These are viewed as being just as important as your actual tech skills.
  • Team fit is critical. Don’t turn up to an interview focussing on what’s in it for you. Ask how you can contribute to the team.
  • Speak up! You won’t be sitting in the corner coding. Your opinion is valued and expected.