Letter from Australia: Emma Britten and Lee Unwin

Momenta Australia Team

Momenta Australia has now been open for a year - we take a few minutes to chat with two of the team members and ask them for their perspectives on life in Sydney.

 

How did you each come to be part of the Momenta team in Australia?

Emma: I’ve been living in Australia for 5 years and joined Momenta about a year ago. I’ve been involved from the early days: starting at the first office, then moving to a bigger one; from winning the first client, placing our first associate on the first contract through to our current position where we have people working on projects with 10 end clients.

I had worked in banking and financial services in the UK then, when I came out here, I did a bit of recruitment work, including in construction.

When I applied for the Momenta role I was looking to get back into banking and finance, so it was a good opportunity for me.

Lee: I’ve worked for Momenta in the UK for 3 years. I’d been at Barclays before that. I started off in a vetting and compliance role, then later decided to get back into recruitment and resourcing. This chance to work with the team in Australia came up, which was very exciting.

I live in London and came over here in September. Initially the plan was for 2-3 weeks, but it has been extended. We’ll see what happens!

 

Can you describe the Momenta Australia set-up?

Emma: There are 5 of us here now, including a sales manager, Sian, who has just joined, and Simon who leads the team.

[Read our first Letter from Australia here.]

Although it’s a small team, it’s really strong. The resource requirements can be quite unpredictable and as a result we don’t always have a lot of time in between winning a contract and needing to source the people for a start date. That means we are required to work quickly in a reactive way. 

I took some planned time off in the summer and came back to a very busy time with a new contract getting underway – and lots of new associates being sourced and placed.

Lee is a very calm person, easy to work with and laid back, which is great. I’m a bit different as I can show my frustration at things, but that’s why we work well together.

Lee: We have different working styles but that balance is good. If I mention to Emma a person I have spoken to, even though she saw them 5 months ago she will remember everything about them.

 

How does the work differ from that in the UK?

Lee: The week that I arrived I had to hit the ground running, helping from day 1 as Emma and the team were flat-out placing people for a project with one of our consultancy clients. We’re also working for two other well-known professional services firms. There are a number of projects underway for a variety of clients now – some of whom we also work with in the UK. 

The market here is different compared to the UK. The concept of contracting in the financial services environment is much newer and as a result there are fewer people available for contracting work.

Emma: Contracting is still getting established as a way of working here. However, we can see that the benefits of being a contractor including freedom and flexibility are appealing to many people.

Lee: I’ve really noticed that the profile of contracting here in Australia is nothing like it is in the UK. Most of the people we talk to there are already contracting, or have done so in the past, and already have their Limited company set up, for example.

Here, we invariably have to explain how contracting works and talk to people about the advantages. And we don’t have as big a pool of candidates; we’re starting from a smaller base and are doing more proactive searching.

 

What about the types of associates you are looking for here in Australia?

Emma: We do sometimes put a role on Momenta’s UK database. And we have seen people here who have come out, perhaps on a 12-month working visa, having worked with Momenta in the UK before. That experience is very valuable, and they already have references, so those are people we really want to hear from. 

One thing we find though, is that many Australian companies look for people with Australian experience, so it is very helpful if people have that. But we certainly do see people who don’t have it. We invite them in and get a feel for their skills, experience and education. They may have had 5, 10 even 20 years’ experience in financial services in another country: that is going to be useful as they make the transition to establishing themselves as contractors in a new market.

 

What are you learning in your roles, being at the start of something new?

Lee: I’ve learned more about myself and how I work in the few weeks I’ve been here than ever before. As it’s a smaller team I have greater proximity to the clients, and I get involved in more aspects of the wider business.

Emma: The most satisfying thing about the last year is realising how much I’ve learned in a short space of time – and seeing the work we’ve done pay off as the business is growing.

Lee: The biggest challenge is managing the candidates, making sure they’re happy, and that the client is happy. We make care calls to the associates every week, and may organise something social – a beer and pizza on site for example.

Emma: I’ve learned so much since day one, particularly about the market. I hadn’t been too exposed to the finance and banking sectors. We support each other here and there’s a real sense of the team working together. We enjoy each other’s company.

Lee: I’ve learned that I like variety in my work, and given the nature of the resource requests and size of the team, there has been the opportunity for that variety here. Although it’s been a whirlwind experience I think I’m quite good at taking things in my stride. 

 

What do you miss from your lives in the UK?

Lee: I’m a bit of family boy so I was nervous about how I’d feel so far from home. My sister has a little boy who I’m very attached to, so I do miss family. Other than that, I’ve loved it so far! And, funnily enough, Emma and I grew up in the same town and have known each other since we were sixteen, so it’s a nice coincidence that we’re here together now, and it’s a link with home.

Emma:  I’ll be an Australian citizen next year, so my life is here now. Of course, I do miss my family and friends, and also, certain foods. Bacon, for example, is just not the same! But the lifestyle is amazing and the weather is beautiful. I would say we are very lucky to be here.