Getting re-acquainted with the Canberra tech market

Re-acquainting myself with the Canberra tech market… observations so far. 

It’s hard to believe it’s been 9 years since I packed my bags and departed the Nation’s Capital for a journey that’s included stints running technology recruitment businesses in Seattle, Sydney and Singapore, before recently returning to ‘The Berra’ just a few months back.

On one hand it’s easy to say not much has changed here in Canberra, it still maintains its small city & bush capital beauty, lack of anonymity, and comparatively remains a very friendly market in which to do business. The Government’s under resourced security clearance function continues to result in massive inefficiencies around town. Quality candidates are super difficult to source and retain for employers, nothing has changed there. Departments are largely in their same form albeit an array of new acronyms, and a lot the executives are in similar positions but likely climbed the tree and or jumped across a few branches.

On the other hand, whilst I’ve been gone we’ve seen 5 different Prime Ministers including a couple of changes in Government. Sir Peter Gershon and his report strolled into town and for a couple of lean years left many a Canberra technology firm or professional in his wake. The contractors dream of Payroll Tax exemption has been abolished in line with the rest of the country. Braddon now has as many hipsters and beards as Newtown. And now, we have the digital transformation of government channels regenerating the market to almost an 8 year high in activity. I’ve got to say initial impressions are that the market is flying at the moment.

I have definitely seen some significant change in the landscape of technology and professional service firms here as well. The emergence of a number of mid-tier players has been impressive, with them assuming market share from the old guard of massive corporate giants. Although Microsoft is still a dominant supplier of kit across Federal Government, seemingly giving it away, the likes of HP, IBM and Telstra don’t appear to be the first or last ones on the dance floor come RFP time, unlike the old days.

Canberra is still very much a technology town and as I said things are buoyant at the moment (touch wood!). The contractors who went permanent during the Sir Peter wonder years are now back out demanding crazy hourly rates (they need to make up for that Payroll tax!) and a number of small Canberra based consultancies are really kicking goals and going head to head with the large global consulting firms.

Recruitment is recruitment though, no matter where you are or what you recruit. The dynamics of each market differ slightly, i.e, some are candidate short, some are candidate rich, but the fundamental principles of successful recruitment remain consistent. One thing I’ve noticed whilst working across the US, Asia and Australia, is that Canberra candidates and clients are no different from any other in their appetite for a good old fashioned people and quality focused ‘specialist service’. In my opinion it will always be hard to revolutionise what we do. Of course in order to maintain relevance in the modern recruitment world and compete with the likes of LinkedIn, enhanced internal recruitment models, and more sophisticated employer brand marketing, us agencies need to be current with all the tools and approaches available, however the ‘human touch’ side of recruitment is so often compromised in our industry that it will always be in demand.

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing first hand what the Canberra technology market has to offer over the next 10 years… what impact will the Governments digital initiatives have? Is there an answer for the shortage of talent and security clearance issues? How long will the market continue to flourish? How many CIO’s will go all in on the Cloud? How many Prime Ministers will we go through? 😉 I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

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