Auckland encryption development specialist RPK (NZ) had to go all the way to Belorussia to find developers with the right skills.
The company has two developers from the former Soviet republic among its 15 staff. General manager Paul Osborne says last year his company wanted senior developers to work on the "various flavours" of Unix but RPK's recruitment agency had trouble finding New Zealanders with these skills.
The agency had Anton Koukine on its books, who had been in the country for just over two years, first working for IBM and then Geac. Koukine knew Maksim Brydnia from working with him for a short while at IBM New Zealand, but Brydnia had since gone back to Belarus.
"We had to go through hoops with Immigration to get him back here," says Osborne. "We had to go through a checklist. You have to have adverts from our recruiters to show you had been looking for these skills for a while," he says, though add that overall it was a "painless" process.
It wasn't so much for Brydnia, who had to endure a 10-hour, 800km train journey from the Belarus capital of Minsk to Moscow in neighbouring Russia to visit the New Zealand embassy to gain immigration approval. He joined RPK in October.
Osborne says Immigration prefers people to apply for work permits from home rather than here. Koukine says permits are only issued for nine months for those already here, while those applying from abroad can work for up to three years.
Osborne says the pair, though in their early 20s, seem better experienced than Kiwis of that age. They had gone to the best university in Belarus and had worked for top firms, he says. "These guys come across with hand-on experience in software technology," he says.
Koukine specialised in computer science at the Belarus State University of Infomatics, with his diploma recognised as a masters diploma in the US and a degree here. He worked for IBA, an IBM affiliate, before being transferred to New Zealand. Brydnia graduated a year earlier and worked for Belorussian Telecom on accountancy software. After six months, he joined IBA and later worked with Koukine at IBM New Zealand.
The main differences between New Zealand and Belarus is "no snow" and not having to work to 10pm to 11pm any more. The pair say the lifestyle is more relaxed and the quality of life better. Perhaps surprisingly, Belarus technologies can be newer because Eastern Europe is often used a development centre. Living standards for them were similar, they say, as far lower living costs offset lower Belarus wages.
Both love New Zealand, with Koukine taking up tennis and Brydnia becoming a surfie, though they are unsure about staying here.
Osborne has no immediate plans to recruit more Belorussians, but says he would do so again.