Column: NZ IT skills in demand in Asia

One of the great advantages (so I've heard) of being a highly skilled, well-educated, experienced and productive professional is that your skills are always in demand.

One of the great advantages (so I've heard) of being a highly skilled, well-educated, experienced and productive professional is that your skills are always in demand. You are a marketable commodity and the world is your lobster.

That certainly seems to be the case with New Zealand-trained IT professionals, with an abundance of overseas contract work available, especially in the fast-developing Asian region.

Daniel Hodson is contracting for Telsoft International in Kuala Lumpur for Telecomm Malaysia and says it is a great experience.

"It's pretty challenging and things work a lot differently here," he says. "Some things get done more quickly and others not as quick. You have to be aware of the different cultures--nothing gets done on a Friday afternoon because everyone is praying.

"Kuala Lumpur is booming. They seem to be rebuilding the entire city: there's a new international airport and light rail system. There's lots of money around."

Hodson says that New Zealanders are especially valued in telecommunications--it's perceived as an area we are good at. He says that the experience will look good on his CV and the technology he is working on is up-to-the-minute.

"There's a different mentality," he says. "Everything is the biggest, the best, the most expensive."

Mike Slee, director of Sabre Systems, says contractors heading to Asia fit primarily into two categories: young singles heading off on the big overseas experience and stopping off on the way to Europe; and, less commonly, people whose primary motivation is money.

Slee says overseas markets vary, with the Asian countries preferring longer-term contracts than in Europe or the US. He recommends expert advice on taxation issues as New Zealand's residence and overseas tax laws are now very comprehensive and quite complicated.

"It is important to make sure that accommodation issues are addressed as part of any contract," Slee says, "especially in more developed parts of the Asian region such as Singapore and Japan. In these countries accommodation can easily swallow a third of a person's income."

He says the skills in demand in Asia are primarily in the telecomms and banking areas, while specialist skills--in Oracle or SAP, for example--are in worldwide demand. In addition, good client service skills are sought after.

Glenn Bratton, contracting manager for Premac Consultants, which supplies services to blue chip companies such as IBM and NCR, says the advantages of an overseas stint go beyond the experience of exotic parts. He says some people go simply for the work, which is often "bleeding edge" and interesting. Such contracts can provide valuable experience that can then be brought back home to improve career prospects. He says the work is usually well paid but comparable to New Zealand contract rates--in fact, many such contractors are paid in New Zealand--plus expenses.

Bratton agrees with Slee regarding the taxation issues involved and says many contractors are subject to New Zealand tax jurisdiction.

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