Global Mobility Q&A – How has the industry changed?
We reached out to Jane Ananyev, Senior Manager of Global Mobility (WFM) at DXC Technology, to discuss her global mobility career which spans 19 years and get her thoughts on the industry; past, present and future.
Tell us about your career trajectory.
I’ve been in the field for approximately 19 years. My roots are in Public Accounting, where I gained expatriate and US corporate tax experience. I am very much obliged to the Big 4 for instilling in me both the appetite for technical knowledge and the ability to see the big picture. The rest of my career has been with a large global IT services company DXC (previously known as CSC), where I currently lead the US Global Mobility group comprised of tax, immigration, and assignment administration professionals. One of the benefits of working for a multi-national company is the exposure to different fields over my tenure with the company. My role has evolved over time, allowing me to acquire a set of fundamental skills that are often needed for holistic review of expatriate assignments.
What drew you to work in Global Mobility?
I was born outside of the US, and experienced first-hand the tax and immigration aspects of relocation to the US. However, the triggering moment happened later. While I was in college one of the Big 6 accounting firms (now Big 4) offered me an internship in its International Assignment Tax practice, and that shaped my professional outlook and helped me find my passion for working with internationally mobile assignee's. I was blown away by the opportunities this field had to offer and the types of people I met.
Tell us about some career highlights.
While I was always doing expat related day to day work, by rotating within several departments, I found myself engaged in a few amazing projects. One of the most unusual and exciting opportunities was designing the Board materials for the Corporation’s NEOs (Named Executive Officers) who happened to be internationally mobile executives. More recently my time is invested in leading a series of projects and work streams under the Global Mobility Improvement program and finding ways to connect the business demand with new mobility policies. It is astonishing how well the program can be shaped if demand for international labor is synced up with mobility policies!
What challenges do you encounter in your role?
As with many multinational organizations, our Company is constantly going through transformations related to M&A (merger and acquisition) activities as well as changes driven by leadership’s strategic direction towards agility. In the past we were accustomed to set rules of engagement, now I am constantly embracing changes on multiple levels – policy, approvals, systems, and support. Top this with legislative changes, and you have the difficult task of managing compliance risks, providing practical and cost-effective business solutions, while also protecting corporate interests.
What trends do you see emerging in the Global Mobility space?
Global Mobility is becoming more strategic than transactional. Businesses need to plan ahead if they are relying on a mobile work force as governments create and enforce stricter immigration, tax, and employment law requirements.
Most organizations are looking for cost efficiencies and operating within limited budgets. Hence, Global Mobility solutions offered internally and externally will need to be practical within the legal and compliance limits.
Do you have any tips for Global Mobility professionals to help them be better in their role?
While each situation is unique, my recommendation would be to stay on top of legislative changes and in general open yourself for gaining technical skills. The devil is often in the detail. It also helps to have a good mentor who understands your organizational culture and is willing to guide you.
How has the industry changed in the last 5-10 years?
The change is enormous! 10 years ago, we did not know what Robotics or AI (Artificial Intelligence) were, and offshoring was just starting to appear. Now we are talking about significant levels of automation and improved efficiencies. Today we see a combination of work performed out of low cost centres and tasks allocated to robots who fill out simple HR forms and save thousands of man-hours previously invested into rudimentary tasks by humans.
Additionally, both tax and immigration authorities are tightening their rules and increasing audit activities. Take the US for example, pretty much overnight we saw a complete overhaul of the US tax code and adjudication trends in immigration law have become far more constrictive.
The take away is that the business and legislative environment is changing, and the Global Mobility profession is evolving as well.
What areas of the Global Mobility function do you think could be improved?
I speak to a lot of colleagues in the industry, and it appears that many of us have the same struggles that at times are rooted in a limited ability to pass the technical message to decision makers or budget holders on the business side in a timely manner.
For instance, some business managers are utilizing recurring business travel for their employees as opposed to formal assignments because they are under the impression that such arrangements will save them money over time.
The best practice would be to prepare cost projections and compare the options, or at least compare assignee's hotel costs to a rent / lease / extended stay option in the host country. Unfortunately, business travel is not always flagged to Global Mobility on time and the authorization for business travel costs are rarely weighted against the costs of formal international assignments. Communication between Global Mobility and the wider Business is key.
Do you have any career advice for anyone wanting to get into Global Mobility?
My advice would be to get a balanced mix of technical and soft skills when entering Global Mobility field. In the current legislative environment, you need to understand the law and be able to apply it to your mobile population be it immigration, tax, or relocation. Companies are looking for talent that would help them minimize compliance risk.
Soft skills come in handy whether you are dealing with colleagues, high level executives, or simply trying to stay competitive in the world where some aspects of the job could be done by robots.