Emirates targets NZ to recruit staff

The fast-growing airline is seeking IT workers in many fields

Emirates, Dubai’s national airline, is so short of IT staff that it has launched a recruitment drive that has seen representatives travelling to New Zealand, Australia, India, the UK and Europe in an effort to hire tech workers.

Warren Panting, an expatriate New Zealander who is Emirates’ manager of data centre technology, was in New Zealand recently to interview staff. The reason for the recruitment drive is that Emirates “has vacancies to fill in 2008 and 2009 in business-critical applications”, he says.

The airline has approximately 1,600 IT staff and is looking for another 250, Panting says.

New Zealand has been included in the recruitment drive because “New Zealanders are well-trained IT professionals and have the right mix of innovation and practicality.”

Emirates is seeking IT staff “across the board”, and not in any one particular skill area, he says.

“There’s such a big gap between what we have and what we need to deliver upcoming projects that we’re looking at all avenues.

“Hiring IT professionals is one; outsourcing is another.”

Projects on the go at Emirates include moving into a new terminal at Dubai airport, installing a new call centre and datacentre, and a major push into virtualisation.

Regarding virtualisation, Panting says: “We can’t continue buying box after box. We need to be smarter in how we provision. The business is putting more demands on us and we need to be able to meet them.”

As well as the back-end, Emirates is looking at virtualising the desktop.

“We’re running trials to virtualise our development environment, including creating a virtualised development desktop, so developers can come in with their laptops, etcetera, and have much easier access.”

There are also major infrastructure projects under way, with the themes of stablility and standardisation.

With such an array of projects on the go, Emirates is “looking for technical managers and technical architects, and domain specialists and subject matter experts in infrastructure,” Panting says.

“We’re also looking for good project managers and business analysts.”

Panting, who is originally from Otago, has been with Emirates for seven years, working in IT infrastructure roles. Before joining the airline, he worked in telecommunications-related roles in Australia, including a stint with Qantas, and, before that, was with Telecom in New Zealand.

When he started at Emirates, “there were 30 planes — now there are 115”.

With that level of growth, the IT projects the airline has on the go are “about growing the business, as opposed to cutting costs”, he says.

“For us, being able to support that growth and keep our infrastructure in line with industry standards is very challenging.”

Of the airline’s IT staff, “Eighty percent are expatriates”, he says.

When Emirates revealed it was travelling to New Zealand and the other countries to seek staff, “we got 500-plus CVs,” says Panting.

A shortlist of interviewees has been drawn up, “but we’ll run seminars on Dubai for the non-interviewees and retain a database of people we can call on, so we can shorten the recruitment cycle.”

Emirates’ IT department is about more than infrastructure, Panting says.

“It also develops software — Emirates sells applications to other airlines, including Qantas.”

It has a development centre in India, run in partnership with Indian firm Covansys, and is working with Microsoft on setting up an innovation centre in Dubai.

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