The UK’s global reputation for technology excellence attracts a wide range of potential employees, but competition is fierce. Neil Murray, co-founder and CTO of Future Fifty alumni Mimecast, explains how to appeal to the prime tech talent.

I guess it makes sense to start with me and my co-founder, Peter Bauer. Hailing from South Africa, we often get asked why we chose to start our business in London. Back in 2003, we saw that the city had a large commercial opportunity and the ability to access capital. But most importantly, it had an ability to draw in talent from around the world.

13 years and almost 800 employees later this international culture has been instrumental in our global growth. We’ve been able to take advantage of the fact we’ve got people who genuinely understand the requirements of our equally diverse 19,900 customers.

Yet today’s tech skills market is incredibly competitive, especially in a hot sector like cybersecurity. Demand is high, higher than the available supply, and hence the influx of foreign nationals in tech. This is the case for a wide number of roles, including engineering, sales and support. The Brexit effect is still to be fully determined. However, we’ve certainly seen candidates also tempted by continental cities where the cost of living is significantly lower than London.

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Mimecast has been deeply focused on becoming an employer of choice, making our unique culture and serious drive to be successful visible to candidates. This includes painting a picture of the journey ahead. Everyone knows cybercrime is rampant but not all candidates realise how email is at the core of ransomware, financial fraud and other large breaches.

I’m going to assume you’ve already looked hard at pay and traditional benefits such as healthcare, pension, gym memberships, ping-pong tables and great coffee. These are very important but rarely unique.

So here are three key considerations to help your firm stand out:

  • Freedom to innovate – find a way to let your top talent to compete and learn from each other

Consider how innovative freedom unconstrained by daily workloads can support a meritocratic workplace. Healthy competition can also drive productivity.

At Mimecast we run an open innovation competition called Pet Projects that challenges all employees to invent new products and services. Alongside significant cash prizes, kudos and patenting support, we’ve identified a number of roadmap-altering ideas.

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  • Toy box – highlight your unique technological advantage and hard problems

What software tools or hardware can engineers tinker with at your firm that sets it apart from the rest? How difficult, and therefore rewarding, is your ambition? Clearly explaining these unique points can strike to the hearts of candidates.

We designed our Mime | OS platform from the outset with a microservices architecture to give our application performance at great scale. This also allows us to innovate rapidly to protect customers from emerging advanced threats.  Mimecast recruits are excited and challenged to build applications that can manage 20,000 transactions a second or the 100 billion emails in our datacentres.

  • Leadership and culture – flat, free, fast, furious and fun

Try to understand your business culture and be honest with recruits about what to expect. How flat is your management structure? Do you have approachable leaders in an open-plan office environment? Try to measure how much autonomy, freedom and empowerment you are giving your tech talent.

We explain to candidates how we adopt DevOps, agile and continuous delivery methods of working, striving for a start-up feel but with the stability and security of an enterprise.

Don’t be afraid to tell them life is going to be fast-paced and challenging. Solving hard problems through unconventional solutions is also fun.

Neil Murray Mimecast CTO