There's nothing wrong with senior Australian engineers, they just lack "world-class experience", according to Google Australia's head of engineering, Alan Noble. Now he's heading to the UK to poach senior engineers from the ex-pat community.
Due to a shortage of senior engineers in Australia, Google is directing its recruitment efforts to London trying to tempt Aussies back home. The drive is part of its G'Day Google programme, launched in California last year, and designed to promote the benefits of working in Australia.
Google Australia's head of engineering Alan Noble told ZDNet.com.au that for the past three years, the company has doubled the number of engineers it employs in Australia as it expands its local R&D centre. Of Google Australia's 200 full-time staff, a third are engineers, said Noble.
Google Australia heads up Google's global geographical information system (GIS) business, under the banner of GoogleMaps, but also develops its GoogleApps and infrastructure lines of business.
The major problem in Australia, according to Noble, is that Australia's senior engineers lack the exposure to "world-class product development" their northern hemisphere counterparts have.
"There's nothing wrong with the senior engineers [in Australia], but they are not getting same exposure to world-class product development. That's symptomatic of the fact there are fewer companies doing R&D in Australia in IT. It's those companies that produce the likes of engineers that we would typically recruit," said Noble.
"There are certainly many smaller companies making innovative products, but if you're talking about larger companies, you can count them on two hands," he added.
Noble denied that working in IT engineering in Australia lacked "sex appeal" — the reason cited by Gartner fellow Andy Kyte for fewer engineering students graduating from universities in India — but said IT faced an identity crisis.
"ICT does have a bit of brand awareness challenge or lack thereof. Everyone — high-school kids and university students — think they know what IT is... There's never been a generation more comfortable with the internet, so it does provide some branding challenges because a lot of the younger generation feel like they know what IT is, but they're not thinking of the engineering that goes into those products," he said.
However, he did note that the British pound will be difficult to compete against in attracting ex-pats back to Australia. But rather than fight the pound with Australian dollars, he said he will be pitching the pleasures of lifestyle and family.
"The pound is still attractive but there's also lifestyle, friends and family. A lot of Aussies leave for overseas and one thing leads to another. I lived in the US for 16 years, for example, and time has a way of slipping by while you're having a presumably successful career."