The market for US tech talent in Europe – Maria Josife

NOV 06, 2018

Maria Josife, Senior Partner, Erevena

Maria is a Senior Partner at Erevena and has fifteen years’ experience in executive search. Maria specialises in Executive and Non-Executive appointments for consumer-facing businesses.

 Maria works extensively with high-growth venture and private equity-backed companies. Particular areas of expertise include FinTech, Marketplaces, Education and HealthTech. She brings deep experience General Management and commercial functions. Maria graduated from Cambridge University with an MA in History.

Have you observed an increase in interest in moving to Europe among US tech talent?

Yes. Our observations, while anecdotal, are based on hundreds of conversations my team and I have with talent both in Europe and in the Valley. We’re fortunate to have a Valley office and a great team out there who are constantly plugged into that ecosystem.

Among Europeans, we are seeing an uptick in interest among those living the Valley to return 'home,' or at the very least consider European capitals as an alternative to other locations in the US for career-driven relocations. There is an increasing appreciation that the UK, for example, has a global advantage in certain tech sectors such as health and fintech. That was really relevant, for example, when we moved Mark Tsimelzon from the Valley to Babylon Health in London.

We're also observing an increase in talent relocating back to Europe through tech giants such as Google and Facebook, both of which are expanding in Europe. The political climate in the US has also influenced Europeans on a personal level. Among non-Europeans in the Valley, there is also more appetite, although more often in non-Americans. For example, those looking for a base nearer to family in India. This, along with a general appetite for adventure is a relocation driver.

However, it is still just relatively small numbers, but it's still an increase over previous years.

Are there specific functional areas where the appetite to relocate talent from the US is particularly strong?

There is a scarcity in senior-level product people in Europe. We have good bench strength at VP and ‘Head of’ level, but fully rounded CPOs, for example, are still rare here in Europe. There's also a scarcity in 'scaled' engineering leaders — those who have taken teams through fast growth beyond 50 engineers, although this talent is somewhat more available than product talent.

Do European tech companies have a preference for talent with US experience?

There always seems to be a keen interest in US tech talent, acknowledging that Valley talent has a bit of 'gloss' about it too. In the main there are just more businesses, that have grown to scale and a more evolved ecosystem in which you can identify candidates who have delivered success in venture backed businesses. Investors love to mitigate risk by hiring experienced talent who have been on a growth journey before. It’s not necessarily the case that US talent is intrinsically better, just often more proven in certain contexts. It's helpful to the ecosystem here that Facebook and Google are transferring talent over, who often have worked in scale-up historically giving us more sources of talent with diverse experiences already based here.

Do early-stage startups typically relocate talent?

It's hard to relocate talent for very early-stage businesses. There's just too much risk implicit in early stage, so that doesn't usually match candidates' risk appetite. When candidates do join early stage businesses, the decision to move has usually already been made, and is driven by personal reasons rather than the pull of a specific opportunity. There are exceptions – a small number of companies that can win globally from the UK because of specific UK dynamics - can compete on a global scale for talent from A round. But in the main, great people are more likely to relocate for an opportunity when the opportunity is more proven. The important thing for founders to really consider is why they may want to attract talent from the US. What’s the business need? When does it really make sense? How do you go about it, and what is the impact on your search process? Relocating talent isn’t easy and should be driven by a business case vs an ideal.

If you were sitting down with someone working in the US who is considering a move to Europe, what advice would you give them?

First, I would absolutely encourage them to make sure the location is a match, regardless of whether they believe their first role will be a long or a short-term move. Being motivated by the cultural experience, and the personal journey, is far more sustaining than being motivated by the job itself. Take time to investigate schools and housing. Visit several times with family. Speak to others who have already made the move. Mainly, have courage! The rewards are immense.

If you do relocate talent over, it is important for both founders and candidates, that they invest in really getting to know each other. Being part of successful businesses and being a driver of success are two different things. Video conference doesn’t give you the same insight on chemistry or the same ability to dig into the way candidates think or problem solve. Those things are always the key to a successful appointment. It’s also really important to talk about expectations up front – what makes someone successful in role? It can be easy to over hire to secure someone “amazing” from the US, and then find that their expectations and yours around the role don’t match. Be clear on what you are hiring someone to do, what success looks like, and particularly for Founders, the division of labour between you, to set yourselves up for success.

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