Freelancers can offer amazing talent to organizations looking to grow with digital. Source: Shutterstock

Freelancers can offer amazing talent to organizations looking to grow with digital. Source: Shutterstock

Workana bets freelancers can bridge the tech talent gap in Southeast Asia

TRADITIONAL organizations looking to transform digitally often complain about the lack of experience or capable technology professionals in the market — but they ignore the freelancers available to them.

Freelancers, a pool of talent that is often quite experienced, is available in almost every field and industry — from programming and computer science to designing and marketing.

Workana, a Latin American platform that matches freelancers with businesses, believes that organizations need to tap into non-traditional talent pools to accelerate their journey to digital.

The company has recently set eyes on Southeast Asia, setting up an office in Kuala Lumpur, in a bid to grow its footprint as a catalyst for the freelance talent market.

Tech Wire Asia caught up with Head of International Growth Alejandro Kikuchi to learn about the company’s plans and vision for growth in Southeast Asia as well as the opportunity it sees for SMEs and enterprises looking to grow digitally.

“Back in Latin America, Workana works with enterprises such as Unilever as well as small and mid-sized businesses to help them find the freelancers with the right skills — including technology skills.”

Working in Southeast Asia in recent months, Kikuchi and his team see a similar demand for technology skills in the region and believe the freelancers market in Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia can meet a part of that demand.

“Of course, we currently are able to maybe provide businesses with three proposals from freelancers in the tech space. In the future, we’d like to be able to offer up to 10 — but that’ll come.”

According to Kikuchi, there is great talent in Southeast Asia.

In the few months that Workana has been operating in the region, it has onboarded about 7,000 freelancers, many of whom bring skills such as front-end web development, android & iOS development, and data science, to the platform.

“We will have more freelancers in the future, and given the demand for technology skills, I’m sure we’ll attract the right talent.”

Currently, many of the top-tier technology freelancers on Workana’s platform in Southeast Asia work full-time, which is more than 40 hours per week.

“Once in a while, we even see freelancers doing 52 to 60 hour weeks, and although that’s not advisable, it’s something we see some people choosing because they like the work and have the flexibility to adapt working hours to suit their schedule — both of which go a long way in helping them deliver quality work.”

What’s interesting about the freelancer market is that it makes it possible for university students to bring their skills to the market.

Aside from full- and part-time internships, university students don’t have many opportunities to work on real-world projects.

Freelancer platforms like Workana make it possible for students to explore new projects based on the ‘scope of work’ and ‘project brief’ shared by organizations online and allows them to contribute their time and expertise to the business for the project.

“We make this possible because sometimes, we see that university kids have a lot of talent,” acknowledged Kikuchi — which, in Southeast Asia, with all the technology courses, makes up a great pool of talent for businesses to tap into.

Workana isn’t suggesting that working with freelancers is a long-term solution for businesses going into the digital age, but it makes it easy to find talent when skills are in short supply or unavailable in everyday talent pools.

Looking at development teams in today’s organizations, many of the needs are short-term — especially when it comes to routine development work — which can be outsourced to help the team focus on more creative tasks that are core to the organization’s digital transformation.

If organizations are willing to consider freelancers for jobs that they find hard to fill, it might involve a bit of additional work for managers but could well end up being a good decision for those looking to ensure they’re leveraging technology quickly to delight customers and climb the digital maturity curve.