Looking West: Moving Back To Ireland After Living And Working As An Engineer In Australia

By slcontrols

The start of the last decade was a time of upheaval in Ireland. The global financial crash was practically all that was in the news and, like other countries, Ireland was hit hard. One of the immediate outcomes of this was that people in many industries chose to move abroad for career reasons.

Roll forward 10 years to today and Ireland is a very different place. The economy is strong again and there are industry-wide success stories across a range of different sectors.

However, part of the hangover from the 2009/10 financial crash remains as there is a pool of Irish talent that is no longer here. They moved away roughly 10 years ago, and many continue to work in their new adoptive countries.

Many, but not all, however, as there are some who are now looking to return to Ireland. They are returning for their careers, to raise a family, and to be back home.

Alan Loughlin is a Validation Consultant. He currently works out of SL Controls’ Sligo office, delivering solutions for pharmaceutical and medical device companies in the North West of Ireland. A short time ago, however, he was doing a similar job in Australia, so his story mirrors the description above.

Becoming An Irish Expat Engineer Down Under
Alan, a NUI Maynooth computer science graduate, worked for SL Controls for almost six years in the mid-2000s. When the Irish economy was hit by the financial crash, he started to look at his options and decided to go travelling.

He travelled around various countries in Asia before ending up in Australia where he lived the standard backpacker’s life – seeing as much of the country as possible while doing various jobs (including fruit picking) to fund the next stage of his travels.

In terms of his career, he was open as to what to do next but then an opportunity came up in Sydney to work in his chosen profession again – validation engineering. He spent a short time in Sydney before moving to Melbourne to do a similar job for a consultancy company that served the Australian pharmaceuticals sector.

Alan’s employer helped him obtain a visa to stay and work in Australia, giving him the opportunity to get further experience, expand his career, and see more of the country in the process.

Ireland Calls
While in Australia, Alan met his wife, Arita, and the couple had a son. Alan said this opened up a whole new chapter in his life.

“Your perspective changes when you have a family,” said Alan. “Your needs change over time.

“I loved Australia. The country, my employer, and the career opportunities I had were all very good to me, but when you have a family you start to miss Ireland a bit more. It’s being away from your extended family and not being able to spend time with your wife and son together with the rest of your family because they are back in Ireland.

“In terms of family, we were on our own in Australia, so we didn’t have that support network that exists when you are back home. This was a big selling point for coming back to Ireland – that support network, plus the fact Ireland is a great place for bringing up children.”

The Move Back
In making his decision, Alan also looked at how Ireland had changed since he left the country eight years previously, noting how it had gone from strength to strength, particularly in relation to the pharmaceuticals sector.

Alan said: “What’s great about Ireland is it’s a real melting pot for multinationals. This provides priceless experience for engineers as there is so much of this industry here.

“When you travel abroad you realise how lucky Ireland is to have this on its doorstep. It’s a great asset to have.”

So, Alan started looking for job opportunities back in Ireland, something which many engineers who left during the late 2000s and early 2010s are also now doing.

For Alan, he chose to take up a position with SL Controls in Sligo.

“When I did start looking back towards Ireland,” Alan said, “I did get a lot of job offers from places like Dublin, Cork etc, but it was great that SL Controls has such a presence on the western seaboard. SL Controls serves so many clients in the West and North West of Ireland that there are opportunities for engineers who want to live and raise a family in this part of the world. It ticked all the boxes for me.

“The company was also a massive help with the relocation and move back to Ireland, making that part of the process go really smoothly for us.

“It’s also really great to see how far SL Controls has come in the period of time I was away. The company has expanded and moved into other areas, including overseas, and I was impressed with the vision and direction the company is heading.

“I was also impressed with SL Control’s focus on innovation as this is a factor when looking for another career step.

“All these things were attractive to me and helped with the decision Arita and I took to move back to Ireland.

“It’s different here, of course. Everyone talks about the weather, but it’s not good to compare the two. For me, I feel lucky to have lived in both countries and I’m looking forward to a future of continuing to advance my career while living and raising a family in Ireland.

Courtesy of SL Controls 

Leading retail technology innovation from Claremorris

There are not too many indigenous companies operating in the West of Ireland who can count the dotcom bubble of the 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2007 among the challenges they have overcome during almost 40 years in existence – but retail technology firm CBE can do just that.

Indeed, CBE’s consistent success in the ever-changing world of retail payments technology suggests that this business situated at the heart of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is well placed to thrive for another 40 years.

Based inis one of Europe’s leading innovators in retail technology, serving the supermarket, convenience, forecourt and hospitality sectors. It has a staff of almost 150 people, having started out with just three in 1980.

“In the early days we were just buying third-party software from UK suppliers,” says Sean Kenna, chief executive of CBE. “But it didn’t fit all customer requirements, so we decided to set up our own software development company in 1995.”

CBE is now a one-stop shop for anything to do with retail technology. Every day, shoppers throughout the UK and Ireland routinely use their products when making purchases at cash registers, self-checkouts or card readers in local shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, hotels and a host of other outlets.

“We take on all the various areas around the technology of a retail unit – development of the software, supply of the hardware, project management, training, on-field support, consultancy and ongoing software support. We like to come in at the start and offer a complete partnership approach.”

The company employs 146 people between its offices in Ireland and the UK, with 70 percent of them based in head office in Claremorris. Recruitment of additional sales staff and software developers should see staff numbers rise to 150 soon.

Sean joined CBE as a sales rep in 1980 and was its managing director for 15 years before becoming CEO in late 2016 – after company founder and chairman Gerry Concannon stepped back from the role.

Claremorris was initially selected as the location for CBE because it was well positioned for a company aiming to drive sales across Connacht, but the town has continued to serve CBE well even after its business horizons took on global dimensions.

The opening of Knock Airport in 1985 – as well as its ongoing expansion ever since – was a major boon for the company as it built its UK operations and motorway access to Dublin has also been a benefit.

“Then, Claremorris was one of the first towns to get high-speed fibreoptic which meant we could expand our support hub here and not have to move to a bigger centre,” Sean says. “We have over 30,000 terminals that we support every day, so we need very fast communications infrastructure.”

During the dotcom era it could be difficult to attract staff as software developers were drawn to the cities, and it took tenacity to negotiate the financial crisis. A determination to retain staff through that difficult time paid dividends. “When the recovery came around, we didn’t have to recruit or retrain. We had some very high calibre people ready to hit the ground running,” Sean says.

Fast forward to 2020 and CBE is well established in its main markets of the UK and Ireland. It also has a nationwide contract with KFC in Denmark and is increasing its reach through consultancy services in Europe and Asia.

CBE is currently recruiting as it develops large projects with companies in the global oil industry and Sean is confident that its ongoing success and attractive and affordable location will draw in high-quality candidates as people increasingly look West to combine challenging careers with a better quality of life.

Claremorris was an ideal location for CBE when their commercial ambitions were limited to Connacht – it still is as they continue to expand around the world.

Leading Retail Technology Innovation From Claremorris

There are not too many indigenous companies operating in the West of Ireland who can count the dotcom bubble of the 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2007 among the challenges they have overcome during almost 40 years in existence – but retail technology firm CBE can do just that.

Indeed, CBE’s consistent success in the ever-changing world of retail payments technology suggests that this business situated at the heart of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is well placed to thrive for another 40 years.

Based in Claremorris, Co Mayo, CBE is one of Europe’s leading innovators in retail technology, serving the supermarket, convenience, forecourt and hospitality sectors. It has a staff of almost 150 people, having started out with just three in 1980.

“In the early days we were just buying third-party software from UK suppliers,” says Sean Kenna, chief executive of CBE. “But it didn’t fit all customer requirements, so we decided to set up our own software development company in 1995.”

CBE is now a one-stop shop for anything to do with retail technology. Every day, shoppers throughout the UK and Ireland routinely use their products when making purchases at cash registers, self-checkouts or card readers in local shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars, hotels and a host of other outlets.

“We take on all the various areas around the technology of a retail unit – development of the software, supply of the hardware, project management, training, on-field support, consultancy and ongoing software support. We like to come in at the start and offer a complete partnership approach.”

The company employs 146 people between its offices in Ireland and the UK, with 70 percent of them based in head office in Claremorris. Recruitment of additional sales staff and software developers should see staff numbers rise to 150 soon.

Sean joined CBE as a sales rep in 1980 and was its managing director for 15 years before becoming CEO in late 2016 – after company founder and chairman Gerry Concannon stepped back from the role.

Claremorris was initially selected as the location for CBE because it was well positioned for a company aiming to drive sales across Connacht, but the town has continued to serve CBE well even after its business horizons took on global dimensions.

The opening of Knock Airport in 1985 – as well as its ongoing expansion ever since – was a major boon for the company as it built its UK operations and motorway access to Dublin has also been a benefit.

“Then, Claremorris was one of the first towns to get high-speed fibreoptic which meant we could expand our support hub here and not have to move to a bigger centre,” Sean says. “We have over 30,000 terminals that we support every day, so we need very fast communications infrastructure.”

During the dotcom era it could be difficult to attract staff as software developers were drawn to the cities, and it took tenacity to negotiate the financial crisis.  A determination to retain staff through that difficult time paid dividends. “When the recovery came around, we didn’t have to recruit or retrain. We had some very high calibre people ready to hit the ground running,” Sean says.

Fast forward to 2019 and CBE is well established in its main markets of the UK and Ireland. It also has a nationwide contract with KFC in Denmark and is increasing its reach through consultancy services in Europe and Asia.

CBE is currently recruiting as it develops large projects with companies in the global oil industry and Sean is confident that its ongoing success and attractive and affordable location will draw in high-quality candidates as people increasingly look West to combine challenging careers with a better quality of life.

Claremorris was an ideal location for CBE when their commercial ambitions were limited to Connacht – it still is as they continue to expand around the world.

 

The future of Irish knitwear

Crafting long wearing, classic knitwear has always been in the Irish DNA, something local business woman Anne Behan, head of McConnell knitwear, knows plenty about.

 

Anne grew up in West Limerick where there was a strong family tradition of knitting, family members would produce Aran sweaters without the need for patterns or designs. This craft has been passed down the generations and Anne herself has taken that skill and developed it to produce contemporary knitwear based on the hand finished craftsmanship associated with Ireland.

Anne specialised in knitwear for her degree and postgrad in fashion design at the Limerick School of Art and Design. ­­Following her tenure at fashion and knitwear companies Carraig Donn and Ireland’s Eye Knitwear, she formed Áine Knitwear in 2000 with the support of the Local Enterprise Office Clare and LEADER.

The international knitwear company relocated the manufacturing facility to the lovely village of Killaloe in County Clare in the Spring of 2019, where the firm plans to invest over €400,000 and create 10 new jobs over the next three years.

Opening of new factory

Opening of new factory

Her factory and shop are based in Killaloe and have already brought 10 jobs to the locality. Anne stresses the importance to her of providing employment in rural Ireland. “It’s important that businesses set up in rural areas and it’s great for people to be able to work where they want to live.”

McConnell Shop

Opening of new factory

Anne sees herself staying in Killaloe and developing her brand from her base here by expanding into retail – ‘McConnell On The Lake’, which had a soft launch in July of this year. She will continue to expand her production into export markets, mainly Japan, U.S. and Germany, where she will continue to highlight the tradition and heritage of Irish knitwear.

Two Mile Gate

Anne told us how she has “always been inspired by the rugged, earthy nature of the west of Ireland and borrows her colours and textures from our landscape.”

Her creations are made with natural yarns and locally sourced produce, she states “My designs look Irish, but I describe them as ‘modern Irish’. While my customers’ parents may have worn Aran jumpers, they are buying my brand when they want an ‘Irish sweater’.  We use the tradition of Irish knitwear but the products are not overtly traditional.”

Aoife Collection

Photo caption Aoife: Inspired by the Irish landscape, the knitwear fuses contemporary culture with Irish heritage producing unique patterns and textures and distinctive pieces.

Her recent collection takes its inspiration from the hauntingly beautiful classic Irish myth the Children of Lir. According to the tale, the four much loved children of the Irish King Lir took the form of swans which sang enchanting melodies from various lakes of Ireland. The tale evokes the beauty of the four majestic and elegant swans, the enduring youth of the children and the durability and timelessness of their surroundings.

Lone swan on Lough DergA true asset to any local social and business community, Anne actively encourages cross pollination of businesses through social enterprise by way of linking McConnell knitwear to many community corporate social responsibility events. She is also a strong advocate for supporting the Chernobyl Children’s charity to help build the future for the next generation affected by the disaster.

McConnell is only available in selected partner outlets nationwide in Ireland and around the world and at in their own shop on the Killaloe Bridge.

Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

Galway company wins ‘Irish Times Innovation of the Year award 2019’

We have a look at the life of Brendan McCormack, Vice President of Quality with Atlantic Therapeutics, the company which just won two prestigious awards at the ‘Irish Times Innovation awards’ 2019.

Like all success, this hasn’t come from nowhere. Galway based Atlantic Therapeutics – a spin-out from the Bio-Medical Research Group, the company behind the well-known global brand Slendertone – are currently operating in a range of European markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

They recently finalised distribution deals in Scandinavia and are making massive inroads in the US. The company develops medical devices, related software, apps and connected health technologies and won this prestigious award with their breakthrough device, Innovo.

Brendan and Jenni on their wedding dayBrendan tells us why his move to this ground breaking company has been such a good one for him professionally and personally: “Before I made the move to Atlantic Therapeutics two years ago, I was working for a different medical devices company and living between Dublin and Limerick. My career path at that time looked like taking me to either Dublin full-time or London. I felt I was being swallowed up into the city and it was something I wasn’t really into. Around this time, on a night out, I met what turned out to be the love of my life and my future wife, Jenni. She was based in Galway and entrenched in its local scene. The more time I spent in Galway with Jenni, the more I saw what I was missing out on and I thought – ‘I only have one life, I can’t let it pass me by.'”

Brendan started to look around to see what was available in his industry and after a short while he was asked to Join Atlantic Therapeutics as Vice president of Quality, a promotion from his previous work. He still travels the world, but he has a great home to come back to. With both the city and the motorway on his doorstep while still in the countryside, Brendan enjoys the best of both worlds.

Now with a home and garden that would be hard to equal in Dublin or London, Brendan is able to enjoy his down-time properly when he gets it!

Brendan enjoying the west“You’ve got to love it. I live in Kinvara, I’m only a twenty minute drive to work, where I can park on my doorstep. I’m down the road from the culture hot-spot that is Galway with its abundance of restaurants, theatre and gigs and I just have to stroll out the door to some great walks.

I love the positive impact of a rural community, there is a vibrancy and a quality to life that is completely different to anything else. I love the fact I didn’t have to take a step backward to be here, working with Atlantic Therapeutics has been absolutely the perfect step forward in my career”.

Two of the top five Irish Times Awards were won by finalists in the west of Ireland, it’s just another example of the wealth of opportunity in the west, not only for entrepreneurs, but also for those hoping to join already established firms in a large variety of employment.
The other winners were, PEL Waste Reduction Equipment, based in Balla, Co Mayo, who won the ‘Manufacturing and Design’ category for their innovative solar-powered compacting litter bin, BriteBin.

Lead picture credit: rte.ie
Lynn Kenny at work

Lynn Kenny tells us how ten minutes in the car around beautiful Lough Derg beats sitting in traffic on the M50!

From learning her craft in inner city Dublin to honing it amongst the forests and lakes of rural Co Clare, artist Lynn Kenny feels the west of Ireland is the perfect fit for her, her business and her family.

Lynn grew up in Dublin and loved the buzz and creativity of the city. But when she hit her 30s, she had an urge to leave her teaching job and the night life behind for a gentler pace of life. “I worked mainly as a facilitator in adult education across Dublin and always had an art studio in city centre communal studios. Teaching was my main income as I built up my profile as artist/designer.

Lynn Kenny - JugsI realised I wanted to get out of the city for a slower pace of life, settle down and move with my then boyfriend, now husband to the West. I used to love visiting my grandmother and relatives in the midlands and always fantasised about ‘returning to my roots’ – I always thought it would suit me.”

They made the move 13 years ago and settled in the pretty Clare village of Killaloe, near enough to Limerick for her husband’s work, and rural enough to deliver a real change to their lifestyle. 

This move meant Lynn was able to focus her energies on her art, producing quirky, playful products and artworks for the giftware market: “I started to focus on my own creative work so that my business began to really take off. I supplied several outlets nationwide, including the Kilkenny shops and Carraig Donn, and started to become a recognisable brand. This gave me greater brand awareness and, when I had kids, I pulled away from producing volumes for retail and started selling directly to my customers online.” 

Lynn Kenny - Cups The digital set up in the village and the local government support meant Lynn was not alone and her business was able to expand. She said: “There are many resources and a lot of help for SMEs in the West that can be tapped into. I received an online trading voucher from my local Enterprise Board and had an online web shop www.lynnkenny.com built, which has meant that for the past few years, I have been able to sell mainly directly through my online shop. I still have time to develop new products – just this month, I launched 40 new products on my website shop in time for the Christmas period. Living in the West has given me the space to develop my business and make it work for me and I’m not tied down to a 9-5 job to pay the bills.”

And it’s not just about the business. Lynn says the local community is one of the best things about living rurally: “It has definitely enriched our lives as a family and I find I have a fantastic local customer base – they are so supportive.”

Lynn Kenny - PaintingWhat living in the West also gives Lynn is the time and space for family life: “We have busy lives like most families but because I work from home and my husband only has to travel 10 minutes to the local village, we all spend less time in the car stuck in traffic, giving us more time and meaning less stress. Ten minutes in the car around beautiful Lough Derg beats sitting in traffic on the M50!

Being self employed means having flexibility so I’m there for my kids most afternoons if needed. Living rurally doesn’t mean we have less activities for the kids either. We are really spoilt for choice on sports activities, we get our cultural stuff locally in festivals and go to Limerick for shows and gigs.

The weekends are the time to wind down, there’s the usual sports that you get with having two young boys, but we spend time catching up with friends, working on our land, going for nice walks, visiting the local market and whiling away afternoons in great local cafes.”

Lynn Kenny with her products in the woods
The family have recently gone that bit more rural and have set up home ten minutes outside Killlaloe where Lynn finds the views and sounds of the country around her both relaxing and inspiring. The land means she has studio space to hold creative workshops which provides another revenue stream and a space to hold stock.

And she has plenty of plans for the future “We’ve got two acres and are thinking about how we can grow our own food and plant a native Irish broad leaf forest. We want to get more animals too to add to the dog and cat – hens, maybe a Llama, donkeys, sheep, pig – we’re currently working through pros and cons!”

 

You can find out more about Lynn’s work at www.lynnkenny.com.

cerebreon donegal

Donegal Success Story: Kenneth Doherty and Gillian Doyle, Cerebreon Technologies Ltd

Home is where the support is 

The cost of living and attracting quality employees was behind the move to Co Donegal for husband and wife team Kenneth Doherty and Gillian Doyle who founded a technology company.

“We were looking for an affordable place to set up Cerebreon Technologies Ltd and Ken is from Donegal originally, so he really pushed for the move here,” explains Gillian Doyle.

“I wasn’t sure at first, but we’d spent eight years in Belfast, and we were in Dublin before that, so it was time to give Donegal a try.”

“The cost of living in terms of rent and other major services is much cheaper in rural Donegal which helps reduce financial stress in the early days of a start-up.”

“We’re renting a house in Narin and its 75% cheaper than the equivalent would be in Dublin and 60% cheaper than Belfast. We had to reduce our salaries to the point of survival and setting up in Donegal gave us more time to get the company off the ground,” says Kenneth.

Set up in 2016, Cerebreon Technologies Ltd is based in Ardara, just down the road from Kenneth’s hometown of Narin, where his parents still live. Cerebreon provides an intelligent debt recovery platform for credit providers and advisors needing to drastically increase money recovered whilst meeting regulatory requirements.

“We renovated the premises which has space for 10-12 employees. There’s five based there now, but we chose a building with room for growth as we are hoping to expand in the near future, and we want to keep our headquarters in Donegal.”

cerebreonThere are seven staff members (excluding Gillian and Kenneth) based in three different offices – Donegal, Dublin and Birmingham. Cerebreon recently set up the UK office to shield itself from currency fluctuations that may result from Brexit.

“Lots of people ask when we will move our HQ to Dublin, but we don’t want to and we’re trading with the UK, so there’s no need for us to be in Dublin. We’re very happy with our set up here in Donegal.”

The co-founders say Donegal attracts high-calibre employees looking for long-term jobs. “We don’t get a huge volume of job applications, but we get really high-quality ones, so we find ourselves in a great position as employers,” explains Kenneth.

“A lot of tech staff in Dublin are job-hopping on a 12-month basis, whereas here the cost of living is much more affordable, so we get more experienced people looking to return to the Northwest with their families,” says Gillian.

“No one here is losing two hours a day commuting, so the staff tends to be happier as well and if you’re into outdoor activities, it’s a great place to be.”

Donegal offers the perfect work-life balance, but as founding members, Gillian and Kenneth find themselves working every hour under the sun.

“Our staff have the work life balance and we get the hours get back to do more work,” says Gillian. “We spent most of our time on the road commuting when we lived in Belfast, so it’s great to be able to use that time more productively now.”

Being a Donegal native, Kenneth tries to escape from the office and enjoy the local scenery every now and again. “I like to take advantage of my surroundings whenever I can, so I sometimes go golfing after work, or nip out for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean whenever there’s some downtime.”

Gillian and Kenneth have found their entrepreneurial experience in Co Donegal to be very positive. “Overall, Ireland is an amazing place to start a business and Donegal, in particular, has been very good to us,” says Gillian.

“This is my first time to live in rural Ireland and I was surprised by how much the community backs you. They want to know what you’re doing and how you’re doing. It’s been very positive and encouraging.”

To read more about the Cerebreon story visit cerebreon.com

 

 

 

kieran overstock

Meet the Overstock Team in Sligo: Kieran McGowan – Senior Software Engineer

Kieran Mc Gowan could not have expected that he would find himself working at the forefront of blockchain innovation in Africa from a desk in his home town of Sligo.

After joining the Overstock.com team just over a year ago, Kieran transitioned to its subsidiary Medici Land Governance (MLG), a Medici Ventures keiretsu company, where he is spearheading projects to transform land governance in Zambia and Rwanda.

Overstock has long operated on the cutting edge of technological innovation and its CEO Patrick M. Byrne is determined to fully explore the potential business and societal benefits of blockchain, the technology that underpins Bitcoin.

Byrne identified six pillars where blockchain technology could be used to create a technology stack for civilization– Currency and Central Banking, Voting, Identity, Capital Markets, Land Titling and Supply Chain.

In May of 2019 MLG signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Lusaka City Council (LCC) that will lead to the issuance of no fewer than 250,000 certificates of title related to real property under the jurisdiction of LCC in and around the capital city of Zambia. One of the fastest growing cities in southern Africa, Lusaka has a population of at least 2.5 million in its metropolitan district.

Through MLG’s blockchain technology, Byrne is addressing poverty in developing countries by enabling people to use blockchain technology to create a paperless land registry. In Rwanda, MLG is using a secure blockchain-based way of establishing land ownership that will allow the owners to treat their land as an asset, raising credit against it, or being able to borrow money to invest in it.

This blockchain technology will allow people to improve their economic well-being by securing their property rights and enabling them to enter the formal economy.

Remarkably, this transformation is led by Kieran and a team of programmers at Overstock’s European base in Sligo. Initially, Kieran travelled to both Zambia and Rwanda to catalogue requirements before building a team in to carry out the projects.

Overstock and MLG encourage their programmers to be innovative and explore the uses of the latest technology. Having this level of autonomy was a significant selling point for Kieran when he decided to join the MLG team.

Sligo’s prime location was another attraction. He was able to buy a house without having to compete with hundreds of other buyers and he is no longer commuting in crammed carriages on the Dart or enduring long drives home. He can enjoy the best of both worlds – the relaxed environment of his home town and the freedom to innovate using the transformative potential of blockchain technology.

tech life ireland 3

Kieran will be speaking at the IDA Ireland Tech Life Balance event at The Building Block on Thurs, 30 May as part of Blockchain Ireland Week.

Find out more on how to attend this great event or watch it live via our Facebook page.

martin mcgeough firefly

Brexit Case Study: Martin McGeough, CEO of Firefly in Sligo

‘How Brexit has made me innovate’

Martin McGeough of Firefly says Britain’s departure from the EU has opened his eyes to new possibilities for his business.

“Brexit made us sharpen our focus, that’s for sure. But it has definitely made us innovate,” says Martin McGeough, the CEO of Firefly, a Sligo-based company specialising in Podiatric Biomechanics and Orthotic Therapy.

Firefly’s customer base is spread across the UK and Ireland which means the business exports its products and sells a lot in sterling.

That means the pricing model is closely tied to the fluctuating fortunes of the British currency – and the political machinations at Westminster can have a real impact.

But Martin sees Brexit as an opportunity, not a negative pull on his business which makes custom-made foot orthoses – for sale to podiatrists, who in turn give them to patients with ankle, foot or hip problems. The firm also specialises in providing related therapies to treat people of all ages.

martin mcgeough firefly“Luckily, our products do not attract tariffs but we ship through Northern Ireland which is a logistical consideration. However, I genuinely do not believe there will be an issue for us.

“As a first step, we wrote to all our customers and gave them the reassurance that we expect little to change and told them we would absorb any extra costs that may emerge. It was important to give them that confidence.”

Firefly, which employs 25 people also provides crucial therapy and training to ensure the patients get the best possible benefit from the products it supplies.

The company is a highly respected innovator and market leader – in 2017 it brought 200 of the UK and Ireland’s leading podiatrists to Sligo for an industry summit.

“Our mantra, ‘keep moving’ is what we preach at Firefly,” says Martin. “That’s why we see Brexit as providing the impetus to keep developing, innovating and growing.”

With Brexit fast approaching, Martin is convinced that the business can withstand any bumps in the road and he has exciting plans to expand Firefly’s business to other markets and with new services – such as revenue from education and training.

Brexit, though, did make him think closely about how Firefly does business.

“We looked at how we price and what we do. In terms of innovation we asked ourselves could we create an educational revenue stream? So, for example, we looked at Pakistan as a potential new market.”

Pakistan, explains Martin, has a population of over 200 million people, of which 25pc are affected by diabetes.
That causes a lot of health complications, with obesity putting pressure on joints – ankles, feet and hips – which means there could be a massive new market and demand for Firefly’s products, therapy and training.

Firefly may soon also be making its products closer to home. The company currently has products manufactured in Vancouver, Canada and in Indianapolis and California in the United States.

“A direct-spin off from Brexit was making us think about the entire supply chain and we now have plans to bring our manufacturing to Sligo, using the latest commercial-standard 3D printing technology.”

For Martin, Brexit has meant a chance to refocus his business – and prepare for the future. “It’s about being ready and getting in front of the issues before they become problems. We’re looking forward to some great years ahead.”

More at fireflyorthoses.com

Patrick Quinn

Meet the Overstock team in Sligo: Patrick Quinn – Development Manager  

Patrick Quinn is enjoying a life he couldn’t envisage when he moved to Dublin in 2006 with a degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Limerick. The Tourlestrane native moved back to Sligo in 2014 to take advantage of something he once thought would never be an option the opportunity for high tech work in the North West of Ireland.

Now four years working with technology firm Overstock as Development Team Lead, Patrick takes great satisfaction from the fact that Overstock and other companies are enabling people from the region with technology qualifications to pursue their careers in the North West. With his wife also from south Sligo, a move back home was always on the wish list, but it remained an aspiration until the arrival of Overstock altered the employment landscape. Trading a two bedroom apartment with a balcony in Dublin for a four-bedroom house with an acre of garden close to family and friends made perfect sense ahead of their eldest child starting school.  The couple wanted to raise their children with the same quality of life and sense of community that they enjoyed when they were growing up.

Patrick says: “We love the positive impact being active in our vibrant local rural community has had on our quality of life. It’s about those chance meetings, the community groups, the interpersonal relationships developed, the rural turn of phrase, the rural spirit – it’s special, it’s fulfilling.”

Although Patrick enjoyed living in Dublin, where he worked for Deloitte, he now savours the opportunity to combine a rewarding and challenging career as part of Overstock’s leadership team while having time for family life, playing hurling for his local club and coaching youth teams.

As a Development Manager on the partner side of Overstock’s e-commerce operation, Patrick and his colleagues devise solutions that help Overstock’s thousands of partners to improve their products and target improved sales. He came to his current role with plenty of experience, but Patrick says he is always learning at Overstock where staff are free to explore use cases for different technologies in an environment where innovation is encouraged.

He acknowledges that being exposed to a huge diversity of the latest technology is unusual and a huge boon to the North West not least because graduates from the region can now choose to build a career without having to move to Dublin or even further afield.

Overstock is Recruiting in Sligo:

Check out the roles Overstock is currently recruiting in Sligo for in our Jobs Section.