When Mateusz Pondel began recruitment firm Aqteev in 2019, he intended to focus on talent scouting in the financial services industry in which he previously worked. However, his first customer was a space entrepreneur. Today, space makes up 90% of his client base. Pondel shares his experiences and the advice he gives to clients and targets.
Cost of living
The main challenge I would recognise currently is that there is not enough talent in Luxembourg, to grow the sector. So we are sourcing people from outside the country and a major problem that I would recognise myself is the cost of living versus the salaries in the space sector. We have amazing experts from, for instance, Eastern Europe, where the salaries are lower than in Luxembourg but the cost of living is also lower. Coming to Luxembourg, unfortunately, the cost of living will eat into your salary.
Usually, the solution is to try to find someone with lower salary expectations, which takes more time. Sometimes you can see that some projects are being postponed because of that, or the grants are put in danger. Very often employers will manage or reduce their expectations during the recruitment process. So, it could be that they initially wanted a PhD with 10 years’ of experience and then they adjust and ask for someone with a master or bachelor and two or three years’ of experience. That can be enough and then they will internally train this person and make it work that way.
In terms of the cost of living, quite a few of my clients are based in Esch-Belval so, I often advise candidates coming from abroad to rent something in France. Some people don’t want to complicate their lives by living in one country and working in another, although we know in Luxembourg that this works well. So, for some of them it’s not the solution. Although I have seen some people rent for two years in the greater region and then move to Luxembourg.
Employers tend not to go for remote workers, especially if living outside of the country. Some companies will offer remote work but this does not apply to people working on hardware who have to physically be there to do their job. However, it can work for software developers, for instance, for whom it doesn’t matter where they work, though regulations and taxation will impact this. So in terms of a normal employment contract, this is not really possible.
Some of the work can be done on a B2B basis, for instance by using external consultants. So this could be possible in the short term. However, some of the companies are concerned that this model could expose them to some risks from the Intellectual Property point of view. Overall, I think that a good contract accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement should provide a sufficient level of protection in both scenarios, B2B and employment contracts.
Recruiting third country nationals
Most of our candidates come from Europe. Clients usually have tight deadlines and want someone very quickly. Therefore, recruiting outside of the EU can be problematic because of the lengthy visa procedure. At the same time, there are large numbers of well-qualified people with technical profiles with passports from outside of Europe who are already working in the EU. Then the procedure is much easier. In the past we have not hired from Ukraine although I started cooperating with a sourcer focused on that region so we will probably place some people from Ukraine in near future.
Startups will usually offer something on an individual basis for relocation. The smaller companies cannot offer amazing relocation packages in which they find accommodation or pay to transfer your belongings and maybe pay for the school for their children. But, they will sometimes offer to pay for the flight or offer a lump sum to make the process a little bit easier.
Recruitment can take months and I had one case where the role was open for more than one year. There are cases where an employer hired someone and the candidate didn’t even show up. You could wait three months for someone knowing that in that time they could accept another position.
If a person doesn’t live in Luxembourg and never lived there, I have to sell the country. That’s an easy sell when you put aside the cost of living, because in general Luxembourg has this kind of magic. That’s why I’ve lived here for more than 10 years. And I’m not going anywhere. I find it a fantastic place to live. The list of pros is very long. On a family life note, I have my daughter in a local school and she speaks five languages. These are the things that you can use as positive arguments.
This article was first published in the Silicon Luxembourg magazine. Get your copy.