Silvery sandy beaches. Tropical heat.
The Brazilian metropolis of Recife is about as far as you can get from Copenhagen's wintry weather of cold rain, sleet or, at best, snow. So it was hardly the north European weather that brought Brazilian IT expert Pedro Vaz to Copenhagen to take a job with Nordea, the Nordic bank conglomerate.
"To be honest, Denmark wasn't at the top of my list. I actually had a good job in Brazil where I worked for Samsung. But I missed being challenged in my work. So I was not only seeking new professional challenges, but was also interested in seeing what it would be like to live outside my native country," he says.
And whereas it probably would have been easier to get a job in the US, Canada or Australia, Pedro Vaz had a feeling that Europe would provide a better work–life balance.
"I didn't feel like working in a culture focused on time is money and that way of thinking. After having looked for just three or four weeks, I came across a Danish job ad that seemed interesting."
Pedro Vaz is just one of many foreign IT employees who in recent years have landed a job in Denmark's financial sector, which, like the rest of the business community, is hungry for IT experts.
The 31-year-old Brazilian came to Denmark in 2013 to take up a developer position with CompuGroup Medical/Denmark, an IT company based in Aarhus. Later on, he switched to Cetrea (another Aarhus IT company), after which he actually considered returning to Brazil in 2016.
"But I've got a friend who works for Nordea here in Copenhagen. And he recommended Nordea and said Copenhagen was very different from Aarhus. It's a bigger city with more possibilities than Aarhus," Pedro Vaz says.
Not only suits
But to be honest, the Brazilian wasn't that keen on working in the financial sector.
"I had this idea that only suits worked in banks. So I wasn't sure it was right for me. Even so, I was curious enough to take a closer look at the position. If it wasn't interesting, I could just say decline it politely."
But the job interview was a positive experience. And the Nordea culture resembled the one he was used to from many other IT companies.
"Flexible, laid back. Just very normal. It doesn't even feel like I'm working in a bank. I really like the atmosphere," Pedro Vaz says.
He hasn't had any language difficulties, even though he still doesn't speak fluent Danish.
"I guess I've been a bit too lazy about learning Danish. Almost everything we do in Nordea is in English, so I haven't really had to learn Danish. I can read most texts in Danish, but pronunciation is still difficult for me."
More flexibility in Denmark
On the other hand, he has become very fond of the Danish working culture. He is particularly struck by the better balance between working life and private life. If your child falls ill, it's natural to stay home from work. This isn't the case in Brazil, where you're expected to put work first.
"But this is partly explained by the fact that the companies I've worked for in Denmark are relatively big, so they're not dependent on getting money from investors, for instance. They're not under the same pressure."
He pauses briefly before continuing:
"Something else I also appreciate is the flat hierarchy. It's actually acceptable to contradict your boss. That's quite rare in Brazil."
Recruiting across the entire spectrum
Nordea hires many different types of employees, emphasises Maria Bjerrum Christensen, Senior IT recruiter, Nordea. The group has an international environment with a wide variety of nationalities on its payroll.
"We recruit across the entire spectrum. We don't consider whether an employee can speak Danish. This gives us a stronger position when competing with other companies for highly desirable employees," she says.
According to Maria Bjerrum Christensen, the shortage of qualified IT staff is so great that Nordea recruits them from all over the world. Though she doesn't know the exact number of foreign IT staff, foreigners are very prevalent whenever Nordea hires its IT staff.
"We recruit candidates abroad and people who already live in Denmark, such as employees of other IT companies. As an international business, we're used to working with diversity and we're better at absorbing them than others who require their employees to speak Danish," she says.
Brazilian Pedro Vaz has been pleasantly surprised by the culture in Nordea. It isn't anything like what he had associated with working in the financial sector.
"We don't consider whether an employee can speak Danish. This gives us a stronger position when competing with other companies for highly desirable employees," says Maria Bjerrum Christensen, Senior IT Recruiter, Nordea.