Here are some macro trends in cross-talent recruitment, as observed by a life-long HR director, a director at a global bank, and an international entrepreneur– all professionals in Asia, but with a shared history in the United States. From their perspective you can begin to understand the greater historical context that I was hoping to do. Here are the main takeaways.
The “Asian-ization” of the Global Economy
Vijay Emmanuel, Director at Deutche Bank in Singapore, broke it down simply, “you start by thinking about the other counties that are getting involved in business.” In his own experience working in the financial sector in South Asia, he sees the vibrant economic activity accelerate between Asia to South Asia, US to Asia, and Europe to Asia, and notes the “asian-ization” of this hot market now and will continue to lead for the next 2 decades. This is what’s driving the reversal of brain drain that we are seeing in recent years.
Opportunities Exist and are Growing
Ravi Bhogaraju, an HR director of over two decades in Asia, educated me on his company’s hiring methods when he looks for international candidates: “we hire mainly through 4 channels: Local agencies, multi-national recruiting firms, individual talent managers and referral programs.” He seconds Vijay’s optimism and sees Indonesia, India and China as the focus of future growth while Japan, Korea and China are the focus of future spending, and reveals that as an HR director, his incentives are to fit jobs quickly and in large amounts. In other words, opportunities are available for international candidates if you can find them.
Emerging Markets are an Attractive Business Opportunity
Ignacio Llado, an American-educated entrepreneur operating and expanding his startup, Flash Coffee, in Singapore, has learned to seize these opportunities. He studied mathematics in Georgetown, worked at BCG in Spain and took his western knowledge and business practices to Singapore at 25 years old. On the ground, he sees a rising middle class, a surge of unicorn startups, and the return and immigration of international talent. He puts it bluntly, “there’s more competition in this [SE Asia] region, yes, but there’s 10x more money now than there was 10 years ago.”
In line with Alariss CEO Joyce Zhang’s advice, it’s important to see for myself your value as an international hire. The demand for global talent is backed up by research: in a study of 628 entrepreneurs in emerging markets, 75% of those whose firms were rapidly growing identified lack of available talent as the biggest barrier to their business. (Harvard Business Review, 2020).
As a result, I’ve personally decided to search for an internship in Hong Kong for next summer. Hong Kong because it’s quite literally the port to the rest of Asia and ease the transition into new geography. It’s quite frankly still intimidating to think about opportunity costs, optionality and long term vision but these are all questions I will have to confront to create the most valuable experience for myself next year. But, if I get nothing more than a cool experience out of it, I believe I’d still find a sense of fulfillment in my effort to plant my inherited sense of nostalgia back where it came from and to form my own, real connection with this region.