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Two years, 200 employees: how Slalom created a ‘buzz’ in Australia

Two years, 200 employees: how Slalom created a ‘buzz’ in Australia

Michael Shimota discusses the global AWS and Salesforce partner’s speedy Australian headcount growth, new markets and avoiding ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

Michael Shimota (Slalom)

Michael Shimota (Slalom)

Credit: Slalom

In January 2020, two months before COVID-19 plunged Australia into lockdown, global consulting firm Slalom landed on local soil with an ambitious growth roadmap. 

Despite the ensuing disruption and standstill for many industries, the Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Salesforce partner ploughed ahead with its Australian expansion, hitting the 200-employee milestone at the end of 2021. 

Under the leadership of country managing director Michael Shimota, formerly of Accenture, the company now plans to add Brisbane and Canberra to its existing local markets of Sydney and Melbourne. Following this, Shimota told ARN, Auckland, New Zealand, will likely be on the horizon soon. 

Speaking about Slalom’s growth trajectory, in particular overcoming Australia’s perpetual talent shortage, Shimota said: “Great talent attracts great talent. We've created quite a positive culture, so a lot of people are coming as references.” 

In Shimota’s words, much of Slalom’s recruitment came from the "buzz that's been created" rather than using recruitment agencies.  

Slalom, which has previously billed itself as a US$1.5 billion company, first arrived in Melbourne in January 2020 bringing with it a legacy of offices in 35 cities globally, the bulk of these being in North America. 

Shortly after this, the company entered Sydney, while Melbourne became home to a Slalom Build Centre, which helps customers co-create modern software and technology products. 

Speaking about Slalom’s strategy to expand into multiple Australian cities, Shimota said:  "The strategy was always not to be a boutique in one market or a one-town provider, but really an Australia-wide organisation." 

"And then we've grown at pace and at scale in both markets. We recognise that there's just so much of Australian business that gets done through those markets, so we wanted to be in both quite quickly.” 

"For us to follow our model, which is local people serving local clients, we would prefer them not to be travelling back and forth between the two but rather to live in and work in the same city and support our clients as they as they want,” he added. 

Not just an MSP contract 

In addition to its offices, Slalom opened a cloud migration ‘launch centre’ in Australia with AWS in November 2020. This was designed as a replication of its physical centres around the United States, although naturally the face-to-face side of this was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 However, Shimota claimed this has had little impact on both Australian customers and its partnership with AWS. 

"It's bringing together AWS’ and Slalom's people and processes and tools into a single location,” he explained. “Obviously, COVID-19 is turning the physical into more of a virtual, but we were executing that way at a number of clients. 

"Unlike our competitors, this is a true partnership -- not just our work on an AWS platform, it's a partnership with AWS.” 

Slalom’s technology partnerships with the likes of the cloud providers AWS, Google Cloud and also Microsoft, have helped it carve a place across multiple verticals, including financial services and technology, retail and non-profits.  

One customer success story was creating a QR code-based payments platform for the payments company Beam It. According to Shimota, Slalom effectively served as the engineering arm of Beam It.  

"We position ourselves as tier one global capabilities with the agility of a local start-up,” Shimota said. “We are very proud of the fact that we are outcome oriented, and we have a nice heritage in delivering outcomes, not just advising. 

"And because we don't do outsourcing or manage services, clients fully appreciate that we're not positioning for 10-year outsourcing or managed services construct. We are really trying to help them achieve an outcome and build their own internal muscle to be self-sufficient so that we can move on to the next piece of transformational work [for them].” 

On the company’s philosophy, Shimota claims staying humble has been a key factor in its journey so far. “[We want to be] humble and engaging while avoiding tall poppy syndrome,” he said. 

“You can't get too big for your britches. If we stay capable and easy to work with and humble about how we can work with and help our clients then that's, that's going to resonate.” 


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