Our founder Sarah Thapa received the gold award for Entrepreneur of the Year and The Migration Agency took out a bronze award for Innovation, at the leading international business Stevie Awards. Both wins honour the way we do business.
Sarah leads her practice with a vision and purpose, to truly make an impactful difference. The award recognises Sarah’s dynamic and human-centric approach. Find out how our founder progressed to this exciting achievement, growing an independent firm during a pandemic, and how this journey informs her approach as a woman in business.
What insight led you to start The Migration Agency?
Before starting The Migration Agency in 2015, I worked as an in-house lawyer. I noticed that when I was dealing with immigration lawyers in my role, they were hopeless at translating their technical services into commercial solutions for business.
Immigration is traditionally done in a transactional way. At that time, professional services firms were calling their immigration teams ‘data processing centres’ rather than advisors. They failed to understand the strategic angle of immigration and talent mobility.
I wanted to offer an advisory function to clients that would create value in their organisations by opening them up to global talent. I saw a real opportunity to bring a commercial perspective to immigration, so I decided to focus on immigration for business and talent.
Research has shown that diverse companies have stronger innovation cultures and generate faster business growth. With talent shortages becoming a major issue for Australian businesses, I realised that immigration could fit our national innovation agenda and provide companies with a huge competitive advantage.
From an individual perspective, I also wanted to create a firm that delivered a high quality and personalised service to individuals who were relocating to Australia. This is also good for business – we can enhance the employee experience and create a great first impression if the immigration process runs smoothly. When the international competition for talent is stronger than ever, we want Australia to be attractive for people.
We also want Australia to be a place where people can feel secure to establish their life. Migrating through skill and employment allows people to be financially set up and contribute when they arrive in Australia. But, this does require a mindset shift for employers to consider hiring international talent.
What innovation does the Stevie Award reflect?
When COVID-19 hit Australia in March 2020, the borders closed and we anticipated that our business would be heavily impacted. We were expecting to hibernate until the borders re-opened. However, the Australian Government created an avenue for us to continue to bring critical talent to Australia via a border exemption pathway. We pivoted our business strategy and focused on critical sectors that were experiencing high demand for talent. Technology and health professionals became critical. One local business had 50 families on their waitlist to see a speech therapist!
I quickly positioned The Migration Agency as the specialists in this space and we were able to bring more than 150 international allied health professionals to Australia. As a result, we helped reduce long waitlists for specialised healthcare, which supported Australian families and the economy overall.
What do you see as a business challenge today?
From my experience, the Australian business landscape still has a long way to go to fully recognise and understand the challenges women face in the workplace. The issue of gender equality is hugely important and we are facing a critical shortage of talent in Australia. Yet, we don’t do everything we can to enable women to engage in the workplace in the format that allows them to bring their best to work.
I have personally sat in boardrooms and participated in business groups where I am the only woman. The lack of female representation and interest from women to put themselves in these situations is a real cause for concern. Even I reach my limit on the energy I’m willing to put into being the only female voice in a room – it can be quite exhausting.
Achieving a work/life balance for women is difficult. As a leader, I’ve come to realise that we need to stop putting the burden on women as individuals to drive gender equality in their families and lives. Rather, we need to provide a supportive environment that helps build women’s confidence and be the best version of themselves at work. This is how they will feel ‘in balance’ in work and life.
A set of core values are at the forefront of my business. These guide everything we do. One of our core values is that we have each other’s back. This means we embrace diversity and provide a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.
As a predominantly female workplace, I see first-hand how women are swinging between responsibilities. They are usually the ones working flexible or part-time hours, taking time off work to care for sick children, doing the school run and running a household. In recognising this, I try to support my staff and create an understanding community that they can enjoy at work.
This is supported by the firm’s Employee Value Proposition, which we call ‘TMA Life’. We believe it’s important to do what you love with the people you love, to have time to pursue other passions, to make a contribution and to be compensated fairly for what we do. We offer flexibility (but with strong individual accountability), and family days in the office. Most importantly, we have each other’s backs and go out of our way to help each other out.