I still remember packing my bags and my dreams and moving away from my country for the first time, it was a mixture of excitement and nostalgia.
People call me an “expat”, short for expatriate, meaning a person who lives outside their native country. But this is a term people use to classify “good immigrants”, those that come from developed countries with a bag of qualifications and experience and a secure job with one of the largest technology companies in the world. After all, in order to wash away the bad connotation that the word immigrant comes with, the industry had to start using a new term.
I refuse being labeled under the new meaning of “Expat”, it goes against everything I believe true diversity is about.
I could tell you countless stories about being in taxis and being told that “immigrants like me” are welcome, but others are not. I can tell you stories about being told that “I am not like them”. But I am a firm believer that repeating those stories, on an individual level, will just reinforce them in some people’s minds, so I will refrain from doing so.
The story I want to share is one that happened to me a while back, and really shined a light on how the word diversity is being thrown around by companies in a way to enhance their image as a twenty-first century organisations, but in reality, those are just words on a website and do not translate to actions.
I was poached by a recruiter. It happens often and I generally thank them and explain I am happy in my current role, but this recruiter was quite a charming one. She wrote me a message that was appealing and intriguing, indirectly touched many of my soft spots, no doubt she took the time to analyze my profile. After the initial message we communicated for over a month and I finally agreed to meet her for a coffee, no commitment to an interview, but I wanted to learn more about this opportunity with a company that seemed to have values so aligned to mine.
The meeting went great, during our conversation I realized that the role pitched to me didn’t fit into my career plan, but I left the meeting happy for making a new contact, learning more about an emerging technology and gaining more clarity about the things I want in my life. Less than 3 hours later I get a call from the same recruiter, asking me if a more senior role we discussed briefly would be of interest.
It seemed like a great opportunity so I said to her before I would consider applying for it and coming for interviews there were a couple of things we needed to square off in terms of administration. Then I dropped the “V” word.
Visas should be something that human resource recruiters are used to dealing with. Especially in a country where IT talent is scarce.
The word should most definitely not scare the recruiter of a company that prides themselves in saying they embody principles like “diversity” and that they have a “multicultural/global” team. And lastly, visas should especially not scare someone that has researched my profile in LinkedIn, talked to me and knows exactly where I come from.
As soon as I mentioned it, I could hear her voice change and the entire tone of the conversation pivot. Here I was, on the phone to someone that had preached how diversity and equality were imperial for collaboration and innovation, but that cringed when the logistics of making that happen was discussed.
My problem isn’t that a company isn’t willing to engage in the process of hiring international talent that requires a visa – bear in mind, a company doesn’t have to sponsor an employee in Ireland, employees can sponsor themselves as long as they have a job offer and a copy of a tax clearance to prove that the company is trading legally.
I understand and respect that companies are entitled to choose who they employ and under what terms.
My problem is that there are plenty of companies out there using words such as diversity, equality and multicultural as a facade, but when it comes to really actioning those concepts, shying away.
In this post, I am talking about this issue from an immigration lens, as it is one I have close to my heart, but this is a problem much bigger than immigration, it encompasses gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race and hundreds of other perspectives.
You don’t get to call yourself a “multicultural and global” team if you are unwilling to support your values when it comes to action. You don’t get to hide behind the veil of a diversity policy as a marketing strategy to attract young employees. Wear your true colors.
If you are a company that really pride yourself on having a multicultural, diverse, equal team, that thrives and innovates together, allow and enable your HR team to build informed policies about visas and other matters in relation to diversity and how to facilitate for the best talent and fit to come work for you despite of where they were born, how they identify themselves etc.
Walk your talk, or be prepared to see talent walking away. You are trying to recruit a generation that will not take your bullshit 😉