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Talent: Building a tech hub in Malaysia to serve global clients

Talent: Building a tech hub in Malaysia to serve global clients

11 Apr 2022

People often think of India as the international tech hub that is a source of tech talent. But what is stopping Malaysia from being one too? Azwan Baharuddin, country managing director of Accenture Malaysia, wants to put the country on the map.

“I’m very interested in exporting our talent across the globe. If you think about what India and the Philippines have done, why can’t we do the same? We have a lot of talent,” he says.

Accenture has tech hubs in India and the Philippines. In January, the company brought in the Advanced Technology Centre Malaysia (ATC Malaysia), which will train local tech talent and equip them with relevant skills to serve its global clients.

As the demand for tech talent outstrips supply globally, this is a great opportunity for Malaysians to export their skills, says Azwan. It is also aligned with the government’s digital economy aspirations to create more technology jobs.

“The internet economy in Southeast Asia is forecast to be US$363 billion [RM1.5 trillion] by 2025. A Malaysia Digital Economy Corp survey highlights that 48% of companies have adopted digital platforms for day-to-day operations in 2021 compared to 19% in 2020,” says Azwan.

“This data is in line with what we observe in the market, especially the demand that we see from clients in the retail and financial sectors in Malaysia. These sectors are at a crucial inflection point and there is a huge demand for talent.”

ATC Malaysia will be part of Accenture’s global network. The company will hire tech talent — whether cloud infrastructure engineers, software programmers or those skilled in other areas — who will join ATC Malaysia and be equipped with the latest skillsets. These talents will work for global clients remotely.

 “ATC Malaysia will also tap into our unique innovation architecture in Southeast Asia — including the Advanced Technology Centre in Thailand, Singapore Innovation Hub and the upcoming Delivery Centre in Indonesia — to identify both in-market and regional needs as a whole,” says Divyesh Vithlani, senior managing director and Southeast Asia market unit lead at Accenture.

A programme such as that of ATC Malaysia could address a few problems that local industry players face. Many complain that there is not enough tech talent in the country with relevant skills and that there is a brain drain. On the other hand, companies struggle to retain tech talent because of market demand for their skills.

Azwan believes ATC Malaysia can fill the gap because it trains local tech talent and helps them develop their career path. In addition, the tech talent will get to work on a variety of interesting projects for global clients. “It’s hard for a single company [hiring tech talent] to have so many interesting projects, so it is difficult for them to attract tech talent to stay for the long term,” he says.

Different countries are at varying stages of digital transformation as well. “In Malaysia, we are big consumers of technology but we are not the first movers. There is a time lag for Malaysia, but that’s all right. The talents will be trained by Accenture; we export them and they develop new skills. They can then serve the local market as someone who is more experienced, having worked for global projects in big firms.”

ATC Malaysia currently has more than 500 people and Accenture aims to grow the number to more than 2,000 eventually.

Hire or outsource?

Many companies find it difficult to find talent to run projects that support their applications or infrastructure. They could do it in-house, Azwan says, but they are not sure of either what skillsets are needed or how they can make use of the talent after the project is done.

These projects could be the migration of processes to the cloud or tech support for their core banking system. This is where Accenture can help its clients run the project and maintain it after.

“We also support the implementation of different types of insurance software, for example. We are extremely bullish [on the demand]; that’s why we launched this centre to develop economies of scale and division of labour — so we can serve our clients better,” says Azwan.

There could also be projects that deal with innovative technologies such as blockchain, depending on what the clients need.

“For our counterparts in Thailand, everything is blockchain-related, but there isn’t a lot of that in Malaysia now. So, we look at the local addressable market and see what we can produce from Malaysia that can serve most countries. Once we get better at that, we can do other types of technologies,” says Azwan.

It no longer makes sense for businesses to do everything in-house if they want to be agile and respond quickly to market changes, he adds. If technology is not their core business, it can be difficult for them to hire the right skills or upskill existing talent while running their main operations.

“We have learnt that organisations simply cannot afford to wait and hire someone for tomorrow for the solutions they need today,” says Divyesh.

ATC Malaysia exists to help these businesses, Azwan says. Of course, they should still scale up their investments in training their existing employees. “Everyone needs to utilise the ecosystem. The age of when you try to do everything in-house no longer exists.”

There should also be a different way of looking at tech talent. “You are never going to find a perfect fit. We learnt that very quickly. It’s like that situation in interviews where [the employer] wants someone with a certain amount of experience for a pay level that doesn’t match. If you don’t give people the opportunity to learn, how will anyone have that many years of experience?” says Azwan.

As such, ATC Malaysia will hire experienced global talent to train its people in Malaysia and lead the team. “We are not looking at a 100% skillset fit. We will look at whether you have a propensity to like technology or you have a tech degree. If you don’t but you have coded before, we will train you,” says Azwan.

“The truth is you need to think differently about talent. As long as they have the right attitude, are fungible and have the right interests, [it’s good]. We have three tests that we put new employees through, then we take them in and train them. If the talents are smart enough to graduate and have the propensity to learn new skills, we will teach them more.”

Source: The Edge Markets