Global Mobility Manager DXC Technology and Co-Founder at NextGenGM
Holly Creed is the Global Mobility Manager at DXC Technology, the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company, helping clients harness the power of innovation to thrive on change. DXC’s technology independence, global talent and extensive partner network combine to deliver powerful next-generation IT services and solutions. Holly is a highly motivated and driven Global Mobility Professional and she has a strong ability to build worldwide internal and external relationships to enhance a Global Mobility Team’s reputation. Holly is also the co-founder of NextGen GM, a networking group for Global Mobility professionals with fifteen years of less experience mobility professionals.
In this in-depth interview, Holly discusses her career in various organizations (BDO, EY, Lloyd's Register, and DXC Technology); describes why she decided to switch sides from the supplier to the corporate side; discusses how Millennials compare with prior generations; reveals her belief that more tasks could be automated in Global Mobility industry over the next 10 years; and explains why “no day is the same in global mobility”.
Brian Friedman: Hello and welcome to the View From the Top. A podcast brought to you by Benivo. My name is Brian Freedman and I'm the strategy director of Benivo. The world's leading welcome as a service mobility tech company. Now, we've had a number of guests on The View From the Top who've worked in global mobility for many, many years. Some for 30 years. Some for 40. Indeed two of our previous guests Austin Fragomen of Fragomen and Jim Thompson of Crown have each clocked up over 50 years of experience in global mobility. Our guest today wasn't even born when some of these people started work in the global mobility profession. She is very much from a different generation entirely. At just 32 years old our next guest, Holly Creed, is very much a next genner. Holly is the co-founder of Next Gen GM. A networking group for the next generation of mobility leaders who are busy taking over the reins of our industry.
Holly graduated from university and moved into mobility via tax. Both with BDO and EY. She then moved to the client side of the profession by joining fist Lloyd's Register and the latterly DXC Technology. Holly is a real inspiration for others for her generation and the Next Gen GM group is beginning to get some real traction in our industry. Holly is being recognized in the industry. She's been shortlisted for a number of awards at the FEM's Emma's. Including rising star of the year and professional of the year, and indeed last year her company DXC Technology won global mobility team of the year at the EMMAs. So, Holly, welcome to The View From the Top and congratulations on your impressive achievements on your career to date.
Holly Creed: Thank you ever so much, Brian. It's really great to be here.
Brian Friedman: And it's great to have you, Holly. So let's kick off. Can you just tell us a little bit about yourself? A little bit about DXC Technology because I know it's born from various mergers, but listeners may not know much about the company. So tell us a bit about DXC, about yourself, the number of assignees, the number of moves you're looking after and your role in the organization.
Holly Creed: Yes, so within DXC I'm the Europe global mobility lead, and we have approximately 2000 assignees active at present. That will wear off. We do heavily caveat that we're aware of and DXC is an IT services company which was born in April 2017 as part of a merger between CSP and the enterprise services part of Hewlett-Packard. So it's a new company and I often describe it to people as the largest startup, because come April 2017 everything had to start all over and we had lots of different ways of doing global mobility. Different company cultures and we all came together to create DXC Technology, and subsequently the global mobility function which over the last 18 months our roles have been changed, and they've been very I'd like to say consistent but at points quite inconsistent given the various activities that happen as a result of a merger. But it's been quite a journey and it's something we're incredibly proud of in terms of what we've achieved and what we can still achieve.
So it's a interesting time at DXC and we've recently acquired another company. So potentially we're gonna have some fun and games with an acquisition shortly.
Brian Friedman: Cool. Watch this space.
Holly Creed: Definitely.
Brian Friedman: So I'm just doing a little bit of maths here. So you talked about 2000 assignees. To my reckon that's about 40 a week.
Holly Creed: Yes.
Brian Friedman: So tell me about the size of the team and how you handle that because clearly you can't do all that yourself.
Holly Creed: Well, unfortunately we only have 20 of us worldwide. So at the moment part of my role is actually establishing a team for Europe, because it is kind of me by myself. So we kind of got some funding and some support for technology and also we've looked at alternative ways to support us. So we're very keen that we don't let our service slide, but we're realistic as well as what we will get in terms of budget and headcount within DXC. So, we've come up with different ways utilizing shared service and particularly technology, and how that can benefit us in terms of automating, and really then enhancing that employee experience, but also enhancing our offering to the business, i.e. getting that employee from A to B as quick as possible.
Brian Friedman: Of those 2000, do they tend to be senior people or are they very much sort of, I suppose you're in the tech business. I'm guessing you're getting a lot of engineers moving in and out.
Holly Creed: Yes.
Brian Friedman: A lot of lump sums maybe?
Holly Creed: Yes. A lot of software engineers. So kind of mainly a lot on the manager level. We do have the odd BIP but 80% of our population is Indian outbound and to the US, Germany, Belgium, UK, Singapore, Australia. Nowhere controversial but obviously we do have a slightly different demographic than some other industries would have given we are a tech company.
Brian Friedman: But how did you get into the industry? I'm guessing you didn't wake up one day at school/university and say, "I wanna be a global mobility professional." How did it all come about?
Holly Creed: I ironically did, Brian, which actually really unnerves a lot of people. In my final year of studying I went to my careers advisor, and asked her for some thoughts on what I should do next. And she happened to be an expat tax advisor who'd just left that role and come to work at careers in the university at a large big four company. And I told her a bit about myself and what I liked, and she said, "Have you ever thought about expat tax?" And I had no idea what she was going on about, and I then started researching and established an internship at an accountancy firm and then applied to graduate schemes because I really wanted to work.
Brian Friedman: And that was with BDO was it?
Holly Creed: I initially started at a company called and then moved to BDO. I quickly realized that I wanted to be doing more assignments than high net worth individuals.
Brian Friedman: Excellent. Okay, so then you moved up. I know you went to BDO and then EY.
Holly Creed: Yes.
Brian Friedman: And then at some point you swapped sides. You were sort of, I won't use the gamers term poacher sort of analogy or the other way round, but you switched sides from the supplier side to the corporate side. What do you say as the main differences between being on the one side of the fence and the other?
Holly Creed: I think, and I think this is why I decided to switch was because I wanted to do everything. I realized quite quickly there was more to global mobility than tax, and there is only so much you can do when you're in shall we say a big four environment. You're very much sectioned into your specific field, and I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be helping employees. I wanted to be talking about their immigration, their tax. Helping them find a school or I wanted to do everything, and I think that's one of the big differences. Is when you're a part of a client you have to do everything. You're not just got your little specialty. You become a jack of all trades and that's something I absolutely adore 'cause everyone says, "No day is the same in global mobility." And that really is the case. It's so different. You're taken to so many different places and I think you learn lots of things about yourself, and what you can do, and what you can actually make a difference for someone. It may not be, you're never going to obviously save someone's life but hopefully with how you've been and the service that you've given them you can potentially make a difference to their assignments for them.
Brian Friedman: Absolutely. I certainly see that and that's something I've seen echoed. I interviewed Bill Graebel in the last series and he talked about bringing joy and the fact that moving is a very stressful period and if you can help somebody move then maybe you can bring a bit of joy into their life, but even if we can't get to joy I think the idea of certainly helping someone through a difficult and probably traumatic time is something that is very worthwhile. So tell me, Holly, in your career obviously you met some people when you started. Apart from the career advisor who got you into the industry, who do you say has inspired you in terms of what you've seen in the industry? It may not be somebody from the industry. It may be sort of, some people talk about teachers from school. Other have talked family members. Others have talked about icons in the industry that they're in. But who inspired you? And more importantly what did they teach you? What have you learnt?
Holly Creed: I think that for me is actually someone you interviewed in the first series. A lady called Selina Jones-May and she gave me my first corporate global mobility role, and I'm so grateful 'cause she took a chance on me when I didn't really have much global mobility experience, but she brought me into Lloyd's Register and helped me develop my career and where I wanted to head in life, and it was very refreshing to have someone support me as much as Selina did, and still does. And she's really installed a sense of, I like to say pow-pow where if you keep going, you have clear objectives, you know what you're doing you can achieve, and even if it seems a bit difficult which at points our DXC harmonization project has definitely felt like that. You can achieve what you want to if you just knuckle down. You have the right attitude and you never give up.
So it's always been really refreshing to obviously work with her and then see what Selina continues to achieve, and that sense of don't give up. Just keep going. You know what you're doing. Have clear objectives is really refreshing and just kind of helped me a lot in my career, and I think also as well my colleague actually she is a amazing woman who doesn't actually realize how brilliant she is at global mobility, but she's so supportive and she offers so much guidance and there's always one thing that's she has taught me. That if you feel you're going off in a tangent in a project and you're losing your objective there's no harm in saying, "Let's go back. Why are we trying to do this?" And it's such a simple thing but so effective. Particularly with large transformation projects, and plus the woman deserves a medal. She's dealt with me for three years.
Brian Friedman: Medal in the first.
Holly Creed: Exactly.
Brian Friedman: So tell me, Holly, DXC is very much obviously your day job and knowing mobility is probably your night job as well, but somewhere in there you also had the idea, and I know you co-founded Next Gen GM. Now, I think a lot of people will have heard of Next Gen GM but there'll also be a lot of people that haven't heard of it. So can you just tell us a little bit about the idea behind Next Gen GM? What it is, what it does?
Holly Creed: Yes, so Next Gen GM was founded at the start of last year by myself and a lady in the industry called Natalie Chapman, and we were chatting once and just saying, "You know what? There needs to be more done to develop people up and coming in the industry, and why isn't there more of that?" So we kind of said, "You know what? Let's do it. Let's just come up with this idea and see where it goes." And we thought, "Let's say less than 15 years because that's when people are still developing their career and also it gives people the opportunity who may have gone from either side. Corporate to vendor. Vendor to corporate. That opportunity to learn a bit more. But we just will give it a go."
And we had our launch event in February. We were a bit concerned no one would turn up because it was when we had the very bad snow in the UK. So we did have visions of it just being us with six bottles of Prosecco, but people turned up and since then we've held a number of events, and published articles, and people keep turning up, people keep reading our stuff and saying really positive things, and we really want to do is just no matter your level of experience under that 15 years, just teach people look, finding ways of getting the message across and promote innovation. Promote people having the ability to really strike out in their careers and create a name for themselves, and just pushing people and giving them the opportunity to do that. And that's why we created Next Gen. To help make the next generation better, and also then that support that maybe sometimes they're not getting.
Brian Friedman: So what's next for Next Gen? Are you gonna go global?
Holly Creed: We would like to. We do have aspirations to try and launch in the US this year. So, yeah, again watch this space and we are launching a website in the next few weeks as well which is very exciting. That's been a learning curve for someone who is ironically despite working for a technology company is not very technologically minded, and we have our next event at the end of March. Which is going to be a slightly different take on round tables. So we've got lots of things coming and I cannot forget a fantastic interview actually with the Benivo CEO Nitzan.
Brian Friedman: Oh, excellent. Excellent. What I'd like to do now is maybe get into some more specifics, if I may.
Holly Creed: Yes.
Brian Friedman: I've asked a few people what they see as being the difference between today's new starters and their generation? Of course, you're looking at this from the other side of the coin because from your perspective you're closer to the age of the new starters than maybe some of the other people we've had on. So what would you say are the differences between today's new starters and earlier generations? My generation, dare I say it.
Holly Creed: I think people want to move more. I've been onto assignments myself already and I think I've seen it more and more that if the company isn't going to move you, people will go somewhere else that will, or they will independently go on assignment, or go and live abroad. There seems to be much more of a passion to go out there. See the world and have different experiences than potentially what when you started, Brian, were doing. So that's one of the things I see as a bit more different. People really are more keen to go on assignment and I think that's becoming more and more as the next generation comes into the workforce.
Brian Friedman: One thing I see is that I think my generation like to pick up the telephone and speak to somebody, but as I see it, well, I look at my kids and that generation is they don't like using the telephone. Everything's got to be done by technology and then it's got to be responded to instantly. Are you seeing that coming in?
Holly Creed: Yes. A lot of my correspondence is done by email, Skype. Sometimes WhatsApp. And there's not so much, "Let's have a conference call." It's more, "Oh, let's just quickly talk on Skype right now." It's more instant gratification as opposed to, "Oh, we'll have a conference call next week." Everything's very fast-paced and people also seem to always be online, and I think that's the rise of technology that you can have Skype on your phone. You have your emails on your phone so you are always available which potentially does not bode well for work-life balance.
Brian Friedman: Absolutely. An old fashioned concept I fear. Again, just moving the conversation forward. I think one of the phrases that we're hearing more and more at the moment is the phrase employee experience, customer experience. Even assignee experience, and I know coming from a Benivo perspective we are a welcome as a service company so we're in this whole are of employee experience, but how does it impact your company? How do you manage? And dare I say it, if you're giving yourself marks out of 10. How good are you? What could you do to enhance, to improve employee experience and in particular assignee experience?
Holly Creed: I would say at present it's not something we do well, but we are trying to improve. And that's where the technology and reassessing our vendors in April 2017 to work out who we need and how best we can be supported to enhance that employee experience. Everything that we've been doing as part of DXC has ultimately been to enhance the employee experience. Increase retention and make people think positively about DXC, and when they go on assignment.
So they will go on another one. We want to really keep our talent and given a lot of them do want to move global mobility is becoming more and more, shall we say a light is being shone at it of how it can help employees, and keep them. If we have a bad time with an assignee it doesn't make them then feel good about DXC. So from our perspective, we're very focused on that and little things. We have changed our policy, and we will be launching them shortly but whilst other people have taken stuff away, we've actually added to our policies. We've added in about DSP, we've added in about online and face to face cultural training or language support if needed. Everything that we've tried to do with these policies and vendor appointments that we are working through as we speak has been to make the employee have an easier time, and feel as though they are, shall we say, relax a bit by DXC.
Brian Friedman: Yeah, absolutely because I suppose the cost of a failed assignment outweighs by a multiple the cost of putting in a few extra things to hopefully make that assignment not fail in the first place.
Holly Creed: Exactly and it's kind of worse with an Indian employee, because the cost of living is quite low we have to uplift so much to meet thresholds of immigration that the cost of that employee if they had stayed at home versus when they go on assignment is higher than what it would be if say you put me on assignment, because you probably wouldn't have to really, shall we say, meddle with my comp package. Maybe give me some assistance to help me but you're not having to adjust my core cost, but we have to adjust the core cost and so much that what it would've been for that Indian national to on assignment, sorry, to stay at home versus going on assignment becomes very costly to us so we have to get it right.
Brian Friedman: Okay, you've mentioned the fact that you're looking at various things. You mentioned obviously that you're looking at your vendors and stuff as we speak. Maybe that's all sorted by the time this podcast goes out, but just more generally what would you say are your top three objectives for the next 12 to 18 months? There's always a difference between what's urgent and what's important and the urgent is the stuff that tends to get in the way. It might not be very strategic but just has to be done because there's been a panic, but what are the really important things that you're gonna try and focus in over the 18 months or so?
Holly Creed: Business is a huge one for us. We're finalizing the implementation of a worldwide program utilizing technology, and the whole process will be fully automated. Including invite letters. So we're shifting quite dramatically the focus on global mobility and applying this to technology with global mobility more there to work strategically with the business, and look at how we can utilize business trips instead of assignments and obviously keeping compliance. And that's why we did this business program. We wanted to make sure that we were fully compliant worldwide and given our numbers there was no way we were ever going to be able to do that without technology. So I built a business case in 2017 and we were very lucky. We got the approval for it and in January 2018 we launched and RSP and then started that journey. It's been a very long journey and we've had quite a few bumps in the road, but we are nearly concluded it which is very exciting 'cause it's really gonna help our employees and also service our clients better.
And I think also we're very much, I think I've mentioned this so much, that the employee experience. We really have such a drive towards that within DXC, and just making ourselves as a global mobility function as best as we can be with better process, better policies and ways of actually helping those employees because at present we spend so much time, dare I say, faffing that we're potentially not helping as best we can. And I think also vendor appointments. We don't have the four vendors that we need. There are certain vendors that most people will be shocked that we don't have such as a proper data provider. So, stuff like that will actually help us get proper data to employees. Proper data to the business and potentially minimize cost, because then the allowances and the benefits that we're providing are based on data versus what we think we should give someone. Because it may not actually be the correct amount.
Brian Friedman: Okay. You've talked a bit about technology and obviously you're from a technology company. How do you see technology going and impacting your organization, and well, in particular your role over the next 10 years? I'm talking here about things like artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, data analytics. If you were to wrap a towel round your head and have a think about what the future is gonna be like. Where could you see this going in your wildest dreams of technology?
Holly Creed: I think more automation. I think there a quite a few tasks particularly within GM which we do with the right technology could be automated and they're tasks that have to happen but the value that they add isn't that great sometimes, and we get bogged down with those, shall we say, little value add tasks that we have to do. And I think the next five to 10 years I think we need to make everything more automated so we can really focus on being strategic, advising the business and supporting the employee and their family a lot more, because from my point of view that's what stops us. Doing those two things half the time. The tasks that actually don't add much value.
Brian Friedman: Okay. Let's talk politics. Let's go into a whole different sphere. We are seeing, and I've discussed this with a number of the interviewees, we are seeing an era of conflict between ideologies. On the one hand we're seeing globalization being historically seen as a good thing that companies globalize and people want to travel, and you talked about earlier that your generation are very much, they just assume they can travel and if they can't travel then they'll move somewhere else. But on the other hand what we're seeing is an era of rising populism with countries actually turn around and saying, "Well, we don't necessarily want you to travel to our country. Certainly not to work if the job can be done by a local." And whether it's the make America great initiative of Donald Trump or whether it's Brexit, or what we're seeing in many other countries. We're seeing a rise of walls, both metaphoric and literal to enhance nationalism, and to prevent or to mitigate some of the effective globalism
How do you see this impacting your role? Because if there was a Venn diagram here you're stuck right in the middle of on the one hand having seen globalist forces within your business, and national forces within the country of where your business might operate. How's that gonna impact you? How is it impacting you?
Holly Creed: It already does so much, Brian. As we have a different demographic to a lot of companies with a higher Indian outbound population we already suffer sometimes immigration and it takes us long. We, at the moment, we can get people into Germany five to six months, and we constantly have this argument with our business going, "Why are you taking so long?" And we can't do a lot about this. And then the employees get frustrated that it's taking so long, and then they leave. And in all honesty we don't know what the solution is at present, because we can't obviously make a country change their immigration rules but at the same time it is harming business. The people that we want to relocate will go in for a temporary period. We will pay tax for them. They will obviously buy stuff for the economy and then they'll go home. They're not going to obviously really take much, shall we say. And I think it's, in some respects, it's sad because I think there's so many potential missed opportunities because, as you said, it's getting harder and harder but more and more people want to travel. And more and more businesses they're experts in a different country. It's not all so local.
So I think it's an interesting time for businesses, because the immigration, the tax rules don't really work with how businesses are now operating.
Brian Friedman: And what do you think is gonna happen to our industry? Do you think the industry, i.e. the mobility industry, is growing or contracting? Do you think that going forward, there's one argument that says that people will want to travel therefore they will travel. Companies want to globalize therefore people will move. There's another argument that says, "Well that may be the case but actually people can work from home via technology, and tough immigration rules might make it harder for people to move." Do you think that the absolute number of assignees is going to increase or decrease over the next 10 years?
Holly Creed: I think it's still going to increase because as much as it is becoming more difficult people still want to go. We've not seen any of our numbers decrease despite the fact, obviously, I keep telling how long it takes for us to go into Germany. I still keep getting loads of initiations. So I think it's going to keep rising and rising. The only concern I have is that for some reason despite global mobility and the need to move people increasing. The budget allocated to a global mobility team seems to be decreasing, and there seems to be more and more teams which are, shall we say, underfunded and overworked. Which, to me, is a little bit concerning because with increased compliance regulations which are making it much harder to move an employee. You don't want to under-resource your global mobility team because even with the best in the world at one point something may slip, and that could be quite dire for your company and it may even make the news.
Brian Friedman: Okay, we're pretty much out of time, Holly, but I'd just like to end with one last question. You're very much a next genner, but even at the ripe old age of 32 there is a generation behind you that is already starting to work. The 21 year olds, and they're coming in. What lessons would you pass on to them? Things that you've learnt that you would pass on to the generation that comes after Next Gen?
Holly Creed: I think never give up and understand what you want to achieve in life. I have a piece of card which outlines everything I want to achieve in my life. Both personally and professionally. And every now and then I look at it and think, "How am I going to achieve that objective?" And there are points sometimes in my career and other people's career as well where there may be tasks or a role that you're not enjoying, but if you help achieve your overall career objective then it's worth it and continue doing it. But if it's not then it's time to evaluate and work out what you want, and how you will basically get to that career objective. I think in summary just always keep your eyes on the prize and don't give up.
Brian Friedman: Wow. That really is a very inspirational way to finish this interview. Always keep your eye on the prize. Never give up. And if you're like Holly, have a piece of card with your life, career goals on it. Although, a piece of card does sound quite low tech. Anyway, Holly, it's been a delight having you on The View From the Top. Many congratulations on everything you've achieved to date and I'm sure you're gonna achieve all those goals you, god willing, that you set out there. So many thanks for being on The View From though Top.
Holly Creed: Thank you ever so much, Brian. It's been really great.
Brian Friedman: And thank you to everyone who's listened into this podcast. This has been Brian Freedman with Holly Creed, and we've got another edition of The View From the Top coming out next week. So thank you all very much for listening. Thank you, everybody.