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Q&A: Skyscanner’s SVP of engineering talks tech talent recruitment


Bryan Dove, SVP of engineering at Skyscanner, certainly has some impressive tech companies on his CV.

Having previously worked at Amazon Web Services, Skype and Microsoft, Dove says tech giants are facing one common challenge: finding the right tech talent.

With £128m in new funding under its belt, Skyscanner has embarked on a recruitment drive to fill its offices across Europe and further afield.

Tech City News sat down with Dove to discuss his view on the tech talent market, the differences between the UK and the US and what tech businesses can – and should – do to attract the best and brightest individuals out there.

Q: What does your role entail?

Right now, I am responsible for our engineering organisation worldwide.

We have locations across the UK, Europe, Asia and North America. We have quite a distributed team and I’m responsible for engineering on all the different locations and all the different products.

Our core product is built in virtually all of our offices across the world. For example, we have an office in China which focuses on building our Chinese market specific product.

We also have joint venture that we formed last summer with Yahoo Japan, based out of Tokyo, and focuses specifically on the Japanese market.

My responsibility spans across all these locations and more.

Q: What does Skyscanner’s engineering team look like today?

Our business is half engineering, half other talent, which is really unusual.

Gareth, who’s our CEO, was the original software engineer on the product, and so that helps to influence a really strong engineering culture within the business.

Q: Do you think there’s a lack of tech talent in Europe versus the US?

I wouldn’t necessarily agree. When you look at individuals in the tech space, you’ll find those that are relatively new (folks who have recently graduated from university) and those who are relatively seasoned and experienced.

I think one challenge that is a little unique to Europe is that, if you imagine the people who graduated university more than 15 years ago, at the time, the opportunity for tech talent in Europe would have been pretty small. So, all these individuals moved elsewhere to work on the projects they were excited about.

Fast-forward to today and these people are now in the 30s or 40s and it’s very likely that they have roots somewhere – kids in school, etc – so re-locating them back to Europe is a challenge.

Having said this, when you look at the younger talent, individuals who are coming out of the university programmes in Europe today, I don’t think the problem is any better or worse than it is in other places.

A lot of people think the US has stronger talent because they’ve been doing tech for a long time, but if you look at the top graduating students across Europe I think they are at a par with those graduating from the top universities in the US.

Q: So, what are the biggest challenges in recruiting tech talent?

I think from a challenge perspective, there are a few issues faced by any technology company.

A lot of people perceive that all the big tech companies have it all figured out and that it’s easy to recruit, but the challenges are consistently difficult.

First of all, how do you make sure you have a place where the best and brightest engineers want to work? How do you make sure you give employees the right level of autonomy and offer them exciting projects to work on?

Unless you foster an environment that allows individuals to learn, be challenged and grow you will not be able to convince the best and brightest people to come and work for you.

Attracting talent is a two-way street. When an individual decides it’s time to look for a job, are you on their list of places they know and want to reach out to? Here’s where the biggest companies, such as Google, Microsoft or Facebook are at an advantage.

To stand out from the crowd, it’s really up to a company or a startup to share the message about what technology it’s working on and what issues they are focused on solving.

I think the recruitment process is also difficult. It’s an engineering process in itself to decide how you move people through the hiring process and establish the right expectations.

Finally, how do you make sure you are hiring the best and brightest but also make sure you are increasing the diversity of your team?

Q: Diversity seems to be a key issue across the industry. What’s your take on the lack of women working in tech?

I think what’s great about all the discussion is that it has surfaced a lot of existing research, which has in turn spawned a lot of new research to really drive up diversity.

There’s an article I read, which said that it was not purely an issue about the female to male ratio but more of an issue about under-represented genders and minorities.

What somebody suggested, though, is that the female-to-male ratio is the easiest to pick up on, because it’s the easiest to observe.

When you start looking at whether you’re including a whole range of people from various different ethnic backgrounds, that’s where it gets harder to measure things.

Q: Does Skyscanner actively seek to employ a diverse workforce?

Within the industry there’s a fantastic volume of discussion and progression in diversity, and we’re all learning.

We at Skyscanner regularly review our recruitment and selection processes, in order to maintain processes that select, promote and treat our employees solely on the basis of their merits and abilities.

We’re applying everything we learn as soon as its applicable. We strongly promote equality through best practice, not merely preventing discrimination, and so we look to achieve a team of people that reflects the diversity of the broader community.

Changing the representation of all underrepresented groups will take time. We are committed to participating in that journey along with our peers and are always looking for ways to improve.