LAB Natasha Takhar podcast transcript

LAB Natasha Takhar podcast transcriptListen to episode here

Natasha Takhar: 0:00

It's a route. It's a tier one visa and essentially employers do not need to do anything. This is all down to the applicant.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:13

This episode is all about how UK founders and investors can leverage global talent. We learn it's not as hard as you might think to get a talent from abroad what that talent brings to the table, how you can set the scenario so they can thrive for the best of their ability, and then for investors, why immigrant founders shouldn't be overlooked, and so so much more. We have with us our expert, Natasha Takhar, who's a global talent visa engagement lead at Tech Nation and she looks after many of the alumni or people who've been through their programs and are thriving in the UK. We're the BAE HQ and I'm Amar, and this podcast is powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. I hope you enjoy. So, Natasha, you're doing incredible work with talent from all across the world, and it's obviously interesting. You've lived abroad. You've done so many different things. What do you think is a common misconception amongst people listening right now when they think about global talent that you'd love to change.

Natasha Takhar: 1:07

That you have to sponsor someone. I know that sounds super technical, but I say sponsor, like that is going to be extremely complicated to get someone from outside the UK to come and work here, so you don't even consider, even you know, consider an application. That is actually not that hard, especially in the sector that I'm working in. I feel very, you know, privileged in a way to be kind of like advocating for the work we're doing around global talent. So I work on the global talent visa, the digital technology and it's a tier one visa and essentially employers do not need to do anything. This is all down to the applicant and their skills. So if you think someone is so good, they're going to really kind of accelerate your business. They're probably really good for this and you don't need to be super involved. And then the other thing I would say is probably the culture side of things, the culture fit. It's really I find that quite interesting. I think it's funny how we connected because I saw a post that you did around you know, competitive advantage of immigrants when they come and work as entrepreneurs or talent, and culture fit is like such a big thing. It's not just in tech space, it's every space. It's this culture fit thing and I think people think if someone doesn't know the language or they don't know like the customs of whatever it is, that they're not going to be able to fit in and it's going to be hard. But actually they were. If someone is moving to another country, they already know how to adapt, they've already made that decision that they're going to think outside the box and their status quo is about to shift and change and they're already ready for it and most likely they want to meet new people and expand their circle. So they're like kind of ready to, you know, join that culture and community. And also I'd also say they bring something new. And if you want to kind of a lot of employers talk about DNI now and like cultivating, like inclusivity. Inclusivity comes from like actively like doing it. So when we're saying diversity, we're talking about hiring someone that maybe English isn't their first language but they're willing to learn. If you're you know, if you are in the remit, you can kind of support that person. But also social mobility, hiring someone that maybe doesn't come from the same background as you, that maybe went to a different university as you, if you didn't even go to university, it all kind of comes in and I think I've seen it where I've worked as well, like I'm so lucky that I work, you know I'll fly the flag for Tech Nation, but I've seen it in universities, seen it in programs and companies I've worked in. When you have a diverse team, just the ideas and the innovation, it's just incredible. And I'm sure we see that with co-founders that join companies like you know, immigrant founders that join Google or Microsoft, like what are they doing now? They're just you know, they're innovating, they're changing, they're trailblazing. So I think we need to, instead of being scared, we need to get excited about the prospects and, you know, the opportunity.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:26

Let's say, somebody using Run Out is excited by the idea. Right, they're thinking I'd love to get somebody from abroad to join our company. What's the best way to go about it? Like, how do they start? Where do they find that talent? Because it's one thing to say, put something on LinkedIn, or to put something or try and find somebody in the UK. How do you attract global talent? How do you find people from abroad who maybe have the skills that you need?

Natasha Takhar: 4:50

Yeah, I actually. First of all, I mean and this is again, it's not just about what we do at Tech Nation, I mean technically what my work is I've got a community of technical professionals and business professionals who have expertise in the tech area space, right, so we have that. How's that community? We work with the government. So first of all, practical advice is actually figuring out what visas are out there that have allowed people to come to the UK and find a way to connect with the people that are looking after that community. There are a number of employability programs already out there. There's programs focused on upskilling refugees. There are programs out there upskilling people from different social mobility backgrounds. So a good example was you know, when you said NIA, talent beyond boundaries work with refugees that have been displaced but are, you know, really highly skilled. You have a platform called Tangible that connects you with people from a variety of diverse backgrounds with a focus on social mobility. But from a global perspective, I'd say you know where the visa routes are like. We've got our own community. We look after it. The Department for Business and Trade heads up the innovative visa and a number of global talent visas go through the home office. Have a chat about if you're looking for an engineer, there's a global talent visa focused on engineers, and then the other would be actually universities. You know, like it's really sad, like the number of people that actually do come here, that study here, that want to contribute, and they've, you know, again, they've made that decision and they want to, you know, basically take what they've learned from university and apply it and they've already kind of adapted to life here in the UK, so that's almost like a no-brainer. So, you know, if you are in an area I don't know if you're placed up in like Birmingham or near work universities, the talent out there is mental. You should be, you know, tapping into, you know, those young minds and those professionals. And the same goes like there's also again there's platforms like Student Circus. It's an ed tech platform where employers can, universities and employers can connect and again just kind of meet that talent. And yeah, like I say, technation, like what we're doing, you know we bring, our work, is focused on, you know, attracting that talent and bringing them over. It doesn't always have to be I'm not saying you can't go to a recruitment agency, but there's a lot of programs out there where you don't, especially if you're starting up your business, you can't afford to be, you know, paying all these fees. So much that's been set up by the government and our you know our educational institutions to give you access to talent. I'd encourage you to like go and speak to them.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:35

So one of the things I mentioned earlier as well is about that culture fit right and people are worried about if I bring somebody in. I find people, but they're not going to fit our culture. How do you tackle that? In terms of sometimes I guess it's a case of the people who are almost too conscious about what if I bring somebody across and I can't support them properly, and they're more worried about the capacity to actually help the person fit into the team. She meant about people, for example, if they can't speak English, how do you like, support those people? But obviously a lot of people who will be coming across can speak English, and the same people from across the world who've got better English than I do, right. So what advice do you have for people if they are going to hire global talent to help them to accustomize and to integrate easily and to fill our home and feel welcomed?

Natasha Takhar: 8:26

I'd say this comes down to onboarding like just and also actually not even onboarding being very clear with what it is you want If you are not in a position to support, like you said, if someone doesn't speak English we are not, you know, you are not forced to hire someone that doesn't speak English If that's something that you know. At the end of the day, if you can't support them, you're doing a disservice to yourself and you're doing a disservice to them. But, like we said, there's so many people that come here. Obviously they do speak English. They would have studied in that language and for whatever reasons they're coming here to whether it's study or work like they are in a position. The culture thing is something you have to learn in an environment. I'd say, therefore, just being very clear about what it is Like. If you are a place that is all about inclusivity, what is it that you celebrate in the office? If you're only celebrating like Christmas, then that's fine. But are you celebrating Diwali? Are you giving spaces for? You know people that have prayers or Ramadan? Like that's somewhere I work. They give us that we really do have like that support in place. So if you are kind of cultivating it, you need to kind of put it out there as well. And then these are just, you know, like tiny things. It's just being aware of if you're trying to have that person fit in. It's about being transparent from there on. You know, the language has to be transparent, it has to be inclusive, and then the onboarding is just at the end of the day, if you have someone that is with you, that's it answering your you know, I'd say like kind of a buddy, same as like when you were new to school, someone that sat next to you, that wants to sit next to you, not someone that's been forced. So if you've got someone in the office, think about your person that maybe wants a bit more responsibility and wants to move up, and this is a great way for them to demonstrate some sort of leadership and teamwork and collaboration. And it's their job to kind of walk through how things are done in the office. Take that person out for a lunch, show them how things are done. So that's kind of that community element. And then the last thing is just kind of being again like it comes down to transparency and honesty as well, like just kind of checking in with them. Everyone said you know, we know, we know how hard it is for founders. It's so hard. You are the founder, you're the CEO, you're the CFO, you are the network of the investor. You are also whoever you are at home mom, dad, friend, brother, sister, father, whatever it is you are everyone. You're wearing all that hat but honestly making, carving out that time with your employees and just giving them feedback, constructive feedback. And I'm telling you now, like most people just want to hear what they're, what they're doing, what they could do better. And if you turn around and say you know, I noticed you're not, you're not comfortable coming to the Friday Meetups, is there, is you know, is there anything we can do Like? Is there anything else you're interested in? You know that you'd be, you'd like to get involved in. And maybe Fridays, when they meet up with their community, their own, you know people from their, you know perhaps they've moved here from another country and Fridays, meetups with people from the same country and they meet up. So maybe you move it, you know, to a Thursday or a Wednesday, that sort of thing, and slowly it's kind of, you know, built up as well, but I don't know. I think community is a big part of it and communication and just being honest with yourself and your values, because if you are and you're, you know you really kind of keep them in mind, you'll find that as a leader. And if you're very kind of strong on that and you have a team that really kind of exemplify it, everyone else will just follow in turn.

Amardeep Parmar: 12:10

Now that makes a lot of sense, and one of the things you mentioned earlier about even how initially connected is about immigrant founders and you just mentioned just now about how being a founder is so difficult. You've got so many hats to wear and obviously as an immigrant founder, there's even more hats to wear because it's the system is totally different to me, but you grew up in. The rules are different. You've got a bias against you as well, where people if you've maybe got a bit of an accent still, and then some people are thinking that, oh, that's represented in some way of your intelligence. But you mentioned as well that there's so many incredible things about immigrant founders that makes them stand out and you have to work with so many. Could you give us some examples, some of the traits you see in them? That you think means that people should be paying attention, especially saying investors or even early stage employees, of why they should take that chance and work from an early stage founder from an international place?

Natasha Takhar: 13:07

Yeah, I'd first start with resilience. And I mean everyone talks about this, but it's, you know, there's a reason. It's everyone talks about it. It's this person has built something at home, or they're building something in another country, and the fact that they're in front of you, that they continue working on it whilst facing so many barriers of entry around them is, you know, really kind of exemplifies that kind of hard work ethic and, to be honest, if they have gone through any of the visa routes in this country, they have already faced a number of barriers of entry. It's not easy.

Amardeep Parmar: 13:48

We, you know like before, you make it easy for them.

Natasha Takhar: 13:53

I do make it easy. I'll give them all the information if they, you know, at the end of the day, like there, it's a certain criteria, amar, like skilled immigrants, skilled immigrants that are coming to this country, still like, and even when they weren't skilled in inverted commas these, these are people that were meeting the not, you know, non highly skilled things in the country. These are people that didn't even write or speak English, that managed to fill out a visa application and bring over their families. They've got a level grit and resilience in them that they find that that, you know, is it's almost as built in them. So that's what immigrants will have. I think it's something that I really liked. What you said was optimism to dream like a leader. A founder can only lead their company with a dream and optimism and really to carry it out there. They're not just a dreamer, they're a doer. They do, they do both. They will dream, they will have the thing that they want to come up with and then they want to make it happen. So I think you know just kind of carrying those things together. I think, just the diversity piece. They'll think about things that you don't think. They'll look for the market that you don't know about. I find it incredible. Just it's interesting. I was talking to someone yesterday about FinTech in a merging market. Nobody's going to see my inverted commas, but In countries where they have barriers, frugal innovation has been happening beyond time. India has had frugal innovation happening in villages and communities for a long time. There's a brilliant professor called Jadid Prabhu who I really enjoyed working with and he talks really highly about this in India. Like little things that people do to bypass challenges, like that entrepreneurial mindset in a small community or in like you know, if you look at Nigeria and Ghana, what they're doing around fintech and telecommunications, they didn't even need 3G because they have 5G. When they realized that everyone else had, you know, had the internet, they just went one step ahead. So if you've got someone that has looked around and realized it hasn't just said, oh, I'm going to replicate it, they're just like, okay, I'm going to come up with something and innovate it. So it just completely misses two steps. They've done that in their own country. So it's just, they might not talk or sound like you, but that doesn't mean that they aren't doing great things. And the last I'm going to finish on is like modern family. I still remember this line from Gloria and modern family. She's Colombian and then she moves to America and she's talking and she's like she's obviously a smart woman in so many ways and she's got, you know, quite a personality and she's a bit different to her husband and their family. They're a bit more like I don't know a bit more mild and subtle, whereas she's very kind of like passionate and how she talks. Anyway, she's talking and she's saying in English you're not hearing me how I want to be heard. She's like because in my country I'm extremely, I'm extremely smart and people listen to me, but here you just you hear my accent and how I say words and you don't. And I think that's what happens often with founders as well. I'm just like there's personally be running a hundred million, you know dollar, you know rupee business in their country, and then they come here and it's like you need to start again because you don't speak our language. So, yeah, I could go on, but that's kind of where I am.

Amardeep Parmar: 17:27

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, hpc Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what is you even trying to do. Hbc have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out HBCInnovationBankingcom. Really interesting point. I obviously know that you work closely with the alumna as well, so people have got the talent visas they've come across and been doing great things. I love to give the opportunity to just champion some of that community and some of the things they've done, or even some of the challenges you think that they face that you wish that people listening could make a bit easier, or to try to tackle some of those issues as well that you've seen from the alumni community so that they're still dealing with.

Natasha Takhar: 18:30

Yeah, I think we talked about culture, because I still think it's a thing I work with. I mean, they're brilliant, all of them are. They really are. They are exceptional in so many ways. But also the most humble community I've come across. But some of the founders, like you, recently had Nina Mahante on your show, so she started the BinteFap called Blue Money, which is empowering immigrant communities through financial wellness and building savings and stuff and investment. I think she's doing really great things and I find her extremely inspiring because she has. If you come from an immigrant background and you live in America, if you think about it, if you live in a country where you have an competitive advantage to just join an industry where you can just make loads of money and I'm not saying that's a bad thing, by the way, that's your right in every way to do that but someone that has that advantage, that can do anything they want and uses their intelligence, their power, their all the you know the, I suppose, the advantages they have in their life to do good and give back to their community and help them rise up as well, I just find so inspiring and there's so many of them, like you know they are I'll say this as well and this is maybe for people who are thinking about how to advocate your business the best way to advocate your business is how well you treat people, what you give them, because our alumni, they speak for us. They will go out and happily bring more people from their talent pools because they've had such a positive experience and they want to give back. And that's the other thing. When people especially I find global talent they have experienced you know such, they've had such a big impact in their lives that that thing about that purpose of paying it forward is almost again, it's ingrained in bill. I also would go back to like investment. Actually, you know, if you come from an immigrant background, as a founder, investment is actually extremely hard. We know that. That's why we have they still talk about diversity in investment. In raising funds, culture fit comes up. I talk to founders that have started their own VCs and it's almost like you have to get in with certain circles and behave a certain way or join certain clubs to be noticed at the table or to even have someone that and it makes sense obviously those connections. But if you don't have that one, you know British person, that's super well connected or sounds a certain way. People don't take you seriously. So I think culture fit and the language barrier and these are people that are, like I said, exceptional. They have built something in their own country and now they're building something else. Bc funds to help other startups and they're still kind of struggling. So yeah, I'd say, like other stories, like we kind of spotlighted people in our report but we had an incredible, incredible founder that's like built like a med tech. No, actually we have a founder who has settled in just outside of Brighton and she's built a device, a med tech device, that can it's like to kind of detect if there's any. I'll bring it up if it can detect if there's any issues with respiration in children, and it's called ChessPow. It's amazing as she's building this company in the UK. She's also her future ambition is also to make this item available and affordable, if not free, to countries that can't afford it. It would help basically tackle infant deaths in Africa and other emerging regions. Chesspow was set up by one of our alumni founders. She's growing it in the UK and we're just so proud to have Helena. She's a female founder pioneering giving the health tech sector. That's also one of the names I think there's so many. If anything else comes up, I'll bring them up, but they're honestly I think the ones I've brought up there is probably their impact focused and driven. And then the last to be our founders of our alumni community. They're people that came through on the visa route quite early stage. Susan Fowler, who's the chief marketing officer running her own business now Lisa Gray, who runs the media tech company, and then Herman, who is a software engineer, now based in Edinburgh. They basically founded our alumni community because they wanted to create a safe space for people that come through on their visa route to make sure that they are supported they feel like they have a community, even if they come here alone and just basically wanted to make space to help people just build confidence and happiness. And that community just grown and that was started by people that just wanted other people to feel connected and supported, even especially when they didn't have that. So I have a lot of respect for that and I just really, really enjoy working with them.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:03

So final question before we get to the quickfire questions is so obviously you've been supporting even the alumni and people from international backgrounds to even found companies or to get jobs in the UK. How do you see things have shifted in the time you've been working in this area and what you excited about in the future?

Natasha Takhar: 24:25

So I think that it's not just numbers anymore, like not just representation of men, women and people from diverse backgrounds, but social mobility, like being meritocratic in your approach as well. So traditionally we still obviously look at education, backgrounds, work experience, but it's just for refreshing that we now are a bit looking at the equity side of things, like what barriers would that person have? You know, like the barriers to entry for someone from a Western country like the US and Canada is very different to someone maybe coming over from I don't know, like Pakistan, kenya, and I really have noticed a shift and an importance around social mobility and it's not just down to race anymore. So again, like I said, that filling up that quota of just you know we've got someone from there it's just more about really kind of noticing that these countries need more support. So we need to actually address, like, how do we support them? How do we look for talent? At the end of the day, you can't make it happen. You can't make up numbers. I do disagree with that's where I think equality started to be annoying. I'm like it can't be equal. That's not necessarily fair. Equity makes more sense as well, especially in this country as well, like there's so many working class Caucasian people that were left behind just because of this conversation and it just became so fraught. So I think the social mobility and conversation around like merit, like being a bit more meritocratic, and approach around diversity has been really positive. I think I'm excited to see just that diversity conversation around investment and, you know, again questioning culture a bit and just continuing to innovate that this conversation doesn't leave the table. It's just so nice now. It's not, it doesn't, it's not even leaving the table. It's part of the conversation. It's the core of companies now. I remember like I joined it as one. I think I've seen it so much in tech and actually I'm starting to see it in climate change. I worked for a program and I worked actually with a really great VC that was really determined to bring in diverse backgrounds at an early to scale up stage. So you know they house the portfolio of companies and climate tech and they really wanted to bring in people from diverse backgrounds were committed to it. So we worked together to set up a program and I was just like that is how it starts. It's like including people from scale up stage in a sector that's growing. You know, I think it. Just if you start seeing those faces, it just becomes the norm, and not just faces, what they look like, but what they bring to the table. And when we talk about, you know, the diversity of backgrounds we mentioned social mobility, it's also like social barriers in life, like if people have a disability, obviously, if they face certain things or you know that have made it hard for them to get to where they are, but also just I don't know, I think we it's really great. In the UK we have a number of employability programs focused on really kind of driving that diversity across all, all sectors and factors and stuff. So yeah, I think, diversity, social mobility and just the commitment to keep continue, you know, making that the core of like change and business. So yeah, really excited.

Amardeep Parmar: 27:59

So thank you so much for coming on today. It's been great to have you. We're going to move into a quick five questions now. So first one is who are the free British Asians you think you're doing incredible work right now that you think the audience will be paying attention to, and you'd love to spotlight them.

Natasha Takhar: 28:16

Okay, the first one I'd like to advocate for is Pranav Chopra. So Pranav Chopra is the founder of Nemi Teas and Trampoline. He's doing incredible things to upscale and support the refugee community. He works with a number of corporates to support inclusive and sustainable supply chains. Through providing a tea brand that employs refugees, is organic, sustainable in all ways, and also his cafe, trampoline, which is in Angel Dan Camden Passage, they essentially become a hub for refugee entrepreneurs who are now so, which would then bring me on to my second person I'd like to spotlight is his refugee, is Yoge, who heads up Yoge's kitchen at Trampoline. Yoge immigrated here from Sri Lanka. He's a refugee. He originally started working with Pranav's company and hotel school and has now been super brave, moved out of like working as a chef in the hospitality sector and has set up his own pop-up kitchen, which I think is incredibly innovative and brave and the food is delicious. So I think people should, if they want to, check out some good Sri Lankan food. That's a great one. And then the other. You've had her already on the show, but massive respect to Raj Kaur Khaira from Pink Ladoo and she's done really great work in AI, but the work she's done for Pink Ladoo and her book South Asian Stories for South Asian Girls. I just I gave that to my niece. I'm just so she honestly like see women like that, you know, advocating in the creative industry, a bit like Anita Rani, and it's just so nice to see. I think I wish I'd seen these books growing up. It would have been a game changer and I'm just so glad that the next generation gets to read these. We get to see us on, you know, in books, then hopefully one day more on TV. But yeah, so thanks to her and yeah, I think so.

Amardeep Parmar: 30:40

So they all sound amazing and obviously we know Raj quite well. So next question is how can people find out more about you, find out more about what you're up to and get in touch potentially?

Natasha Takhar: 30:51

So my work is at Tech Nation. If people are interested in the work we're doing around supporting tech startups, the ecosystem, especially our growth programs, then please check out Tech Nation. If you want to learn more about the work we're doing, especially around global talent, then check out our report. I'll share the links with you after this. That's just come out and it really will tell the story of how much our global talent, our immigrant talent and founders have done in the tech ecosystem, which we're super proud of. And if people want to follow what we're doing a lot of time. I'm just talking about our alumni. They're a brilliant and advocating for diversity in tech, so you can follow me on LinkedIn. Thank you so much, Amar.

Amardeep Parmar: 31:35

So is there any way that the audience could help you today, that they could reach out and potentially help you if some cue got working on?

Natasha Takhar: 31:42

Yeah, so if you are working in a company that's keen to hire diverse talent or you are curious just about the tech ecosystem and how to get involved basically anybody working or wanting to be connected with global talent I'd encourage you to get in touch with Tech Nation or with me on LinkedIn. Anybody wants to get in touch. Learn about the alumni community and the global talent visa and raising awareness of that in communities would be extremely helpful, because we know a lot of people out there don't know about it, especially people that are looking to stay in the UK and would like the opportunity to work in tech. So getting in touch or raising awareness around visa would be really great so we could keep talent here in the UK.

Amardeep Parmar: 32:27

So thanks so much for coming on today. Natasha, have you got any final words to the audience?

Natasha Takhar: 32:32

No, just thank you for getting me on and carry on doing what you're doing. It's really great and it's great work and I'll keep on sharing and liking what you guys are doing. Thank you for spotlighting the great talent that you meet and banders you meet as well.