Optimal Usability, a user-experience design consultancy, likes to think its reversing the brain drain.
The Wellington and Auckland based company has 21 staff with a real United Nations feel to their origins, and a hugely mixed bag of talents ‘under the hood’.
Chief executive Trent Mankelow trained in human/computer interactions, dealing with the psychology of that relationship, while former founding partner Sam Ng had an industrial design background.
OU finds out what customers of its clients find frustrating or confusing when using their services, with 70% of its work being internet/computer related.
“We then suggest changes which improve user satisfaction and increase usage,” Mankelow says.
It staff are diverse in their professional backgrounds, among them being cartographers, sociologists, psychologists, industrial designers, graphic designers and operation research experts. One has a PhD in e-learning. They come from Germany, England, the United States and Canada, “with Peter Jackson having provided one of the biggest advertorials you could think of,” he says.
Part of the attraction is the wide variety of work on offer, with OU’s resume being across 18 different sectors, and including government, e-commerce, telecommunications, education, finance, not-for-profit and travel industries.
“What we want to create are T-shaped people,” Mankelow says, emphasizing that he has co-opted a term popularised by Tim Brown from IDEO.
“These are people with broad experiences and skills, but also with a deep skill in a certain area.”
Mankelow says as well as the lifestyle advantages that foreigners find from living in New Zealand, the variety of projects is another factor in attracting and retaining the company’s staff.
Another factor is ensuring that staff doesn’t spend too much time at work, “the work/life balance is extremely important as well.”