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Swimming in the Global Talent Pool

Thriving in today’s worldwide labor market requires top skills, creative tactics and ‘relevance.’

By Mary Brandel
January 15, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - When he was a 16-year-old student, Jeff Kiiza would never have imagined that 10 years later he’d be writing code in Perl, PHP/MySQL and AJAX for companies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and Spain — and that he’d be doing it from his home in Cordoba, Argentina. “Back then, it would have been a dream or science fiction,” he says. “But the availability of greater free-flowing bandwidth and companies turning to the Internet have allowed it.”

Hemang Dani lives in Mumbai but works for global clients.
Hemang Dani lives in Mumbai but works for global clients.
Hemang Dani is pretty amazed that in the past six months, he has boosted his income to $5,000 per month by working for companies in the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Australia. Not bad, considering the low cost of living in his home city of Mumbai, India. Dani’s projects range from coding “shopping carts” and enabling credit-card processing on Web sites to managing portals as a webmaster.

Dani and Kiiza have jumped with both feet into the global talent pool. Both worked for overseas organizations even before they joined Menlo Park, Calif.-based oDesk Corp.’s online marketplace, which links programmers with businesses that need their services. Kiiza coded for a university in Tanzania, and Dani picked up work through, which is owned by a Swedish company called Innovate IT.

And because there are more programmers like them every day in developing parts of the world, IT professionals in the U.S. are now competing in the global talent pool as well. While many U.S. companies today are still hiring globally only when their need is short-lived or skills are scarce or too high-priced in the local or domestic labor pool, some are going global simply to find the best of the best, no matter where they’re located, according to Kevin Wheeler, president of Global Learning Resources Inc., a recruiting consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. “Cisco, Microsoft, Google — these companies have clearly taken the position that they’re going where the talent is,” he says.

Companies such as MySQL AB don’t care where employees live; they hire for raw talent. The open-source software maker’s 320 employees reside in 25 countries, and 70% of them work from home, according to Steve Curry, director of corporate communications at MySQL.

Even more-traditional companies like Henkel Corp., a consumer products maker in Dusseldorf, Germany, are letting the work flow to the worker when they’re in search of scarce talent. For instance, Henkel’s need for IT professionals with experience in SAP’s Advanced Planning and Optimizer module prompted the company to extend its talent search outside of North America and Western Europe, even though that’s where the software is used the most, says Amy Bloebaum, vice president and CIO at Henkel of America Inc. “When we’re looking for a specialized skill that’s in high demand, we’re very flexible in terms of where the talent is located,” she says.

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