fergal donlon

Fergal Donlon: A Cutting Edge Tech Career in County Leitrim


Software engineer Fergal Donlon doesn’t miss the big city, and he’s lived in a few bustling capitals: Sydney and Dublin can all be ticked off his bucket list and they came close to choosing London.

But Fergal and his wife Claire, a national school teacher, wanted something more; to live somewhere where the pace of life was more relaxed, a little more affordable and a suitable location where the myriad needs of career and family life could be met.

Originally from Glenamaddy, County Galway, Fergal was living back in Ireland nine years ago – in Williamstown, County Galway – when he published a post on a popular online forum, called Boards.ie, asking: “Where in Ireland should we live?”

The suggestions that came back all appealed; Ennis in County Clare, Westport in County Mayo and Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim – a trio of desirable West of Ireland locations dotted along the Wild Atlantic Way.

After a visit, they chose the County Leitrim town, located just 40 minutes from the Atlantic beaches in Sligo, and just over two and a half hours to Dublin by road – or direct rail.

The couple are now a family of four with a seven-year-old and a five-year-old who are now enjoying a childhood in one of the most scenic counties in Ireland.

“We just didn’t want to live in a big city anymore,” says Fergal. “We live in a village called Hartley near Carrick which has everything we need. It also takes us just five minutes to get to work and do the school pickup. There’s no traffic and no hassle.”

Fergal has also forged a career path working for Travelport Digital, a NASDAQ-listed UK company that make apps for airlines such as easyJet, Etihad Airlines and Singapore Airlines. “All apps have servers to power them and they run through Amazon Web Services (AWS). My team’s job is to ensure they stay up and running!”

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The 41-year-old now leads an international team of software engineers from his desk inside The Hive, a cutting-edge, architect-designed work-centre that sits on the edge of town near Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, the home of Leitrim GAA.

The purpose-built building, opened in 2013, is home to more than 90 people working across tech, manufacturing and e-commerce with fibre broadband and comfortable office spaces for individuals and teams.

With the price of an average three-bed house sitting at around €90,000* and a wealth of local amenities shops and cultural attractions, more and more people are making lifestyle-centred choices to locate to places such as Carrick-on-Shannon.

Fergal still divides sometime between east and west – getting a direct 6.30am train to Dublin two days a week to liaise with his employer at their office in the capital.

He spends the rest of the week at The Hive. “I’m an Operations Manager and I lead a team of seven people – I am in Carrick, two of the team are in Dublin, two are in Belgrade in Serbia and two are in Chișinău in Moldova. We do a ‘stand-up’ meeting every morning and get on with our day.”

The speed and quality of the fibre broadband at The Hive is critical as Fergal dons a pair of headphones and chats through a list of daily tasks with his team on a Google Hangout or a Skype call.

Carrick on Shannon Blueway

A typical day in Carrick-on-Shannon could involve writing code and ensuring the uptime of the company’s services – crucially important work, as Fergal explains.

“We had a situation recently where the check-in functionality of an app for a South American airline caused a problem for all check-ins at all airports serviced by that airline. I was able to fix the issue from The Hive. Imagine being in South America and not being able to check in on your app. Who would think some guy thousands of miles away in Leitrim in the West of Ireland was able to fix the problem?”

For Fergal, weekends revolve around training under-7s at the local St.Mary’s GAA club, soccer with Carrick Town and walks in Lough Key Forest and Activity Park, an 860-acre parkland and forest area, which is 10 minutes away – in County Roscommon.

“Life is good,” says Fergal. “I enjoy my job, my wife really enjoys hers, the children are loving Leitrim. It’s safe and people and community support are just fabulous.”

For more about living in Leitrim, visit our Live in Leitrim page here.

 

Seatrails

Auriel Robinson is a qualified maritime archaeologist who set-up Seatrails in Sligo in 2012. Seatrails offers guided historical and archaeological tours in Leitrim and Sligo. The guided tours can suit all ages and abilities and are in extremely beautiful and unique locations.

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A Seatrail tour is a very special experience; Auriel takes you to some of the North West’s most beautiful locations and will inform and enchant you with details of the local wildlife, flora, geology, geography, history and archaeology. Most Seatrails tours are walking tours, for those looking for a little more adventure there are biking and horse-riding tours.

upstart-seatrails-02What were you doing (career wise) when you decided to create your own business?

I was working as an archaeologist for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

I started by business in March of 2013. I set it up as I wanted to increase people’s awareness of the incredibly interesting and unique natural and built resource we have in this part of Ireland in terms of cultural heritage. I also wanted to get outdoors more and have this as a part of my working life.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

I have worked hard for many years of my life and saved a little. I used my savings to start up. I used it for marketing the business through design of logo, website, flyers and posters and through online promotion.

What was the biggest obstacle?

Bravery to do it!

Who supported you?

My friends and family and other people I have met through business and on courses.

How long did it take you to get everything your business off the ground?

3 months

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

I love the freedom of choice that I have and I love being able to be creative in what I do. The drawbacks are – It costs money to make money!

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I work out of the IT Sligo Innovation Centre and at home sometimes. I do not yet have employees but intend to employ when I am in a position to.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

Anyone who is successful in a type of business that I admire or respect

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn

I am passionate about archaeology. I have worked for over twelve years in advising public bodies and private companies in the preservation and protection of archaeological monuments and heritage sites across Ireland. I have acquired a good knowledge of subjects relating to archaeology and I have worked on many archaeological excavations as part of my work. I have also done a huge amount of research in maritime archaeology. I have good organizational and communication skills.

I continue to grow and learn by meeting and interacting with others who have businesses and by listening to what my customers tell me.

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If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I would start with a bigger financial pot!

What is your best selling item/service?

My guided horse ride which is located in the Streedagh Beach area in North Co. Sligo. I grew up with horses so being able to do my thing while on horse back in a stunning marine environment is the icing on the cake for me!

Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

I am from Co. Meath. I moved to the west three and a half years ago as I love the land and seascapes here and I started surfing up here about 8 years ago. The people are genuine and the West is overall, more laid back than the East!

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Go and see the hidden gems!

Visit www.seatrails.ie for more information on Auriel and her wonderful business.

Blume Design House

Interior architect and garden designer Leonie Cornelius runs Blume Design House in Co Leitrim.  Leonie was the winner of Gold Medal and Best in Category winner at in Bloom in the Park 2012.

upstart-bloome-01An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D. and President Michael Higgins both visited her show garden, “A Love Letter to the West” at the recent Bloom in the Park 2013, and it was topped off with a silver gilt medal from the show.

Blume design brings the highest quality of design both inside and out and strives to create extraordinary design for the client. Leonie draws inspiration both from the natural prairie planting styles as well as clear architectural lines and symmetries resulting in an exciting synthesis of old and new.

What were you doing (careerwise) when you decided to create your own business?

I had studied interior architecture and then decided to combine that with a garden design course in London. I loved the idea of the inside outside connection.

When did you start your business and what inspired you to do this?

I really set up formally after my studies in 2011 and I started by taking part in the Supergarden programme which brought some great exposure and created a client base which is really hard to get at a start up stage.

What were your start-up costs? How did you get the money, and what did you use it for?

Thankfully, starting up as a designer the costs are not massive-the main tool being my hands! There are realistic costs however, such as investments in cameras, computer equipment, stationery, website etc and the Leitrim Development Company have been a huge support in bringing my business to the level it is at today.

What was the biggest obstacle?

The biggest challenge was probably having a small child and setting up a company on your own. It takes a lot of discipline to ensure that you have a good work/home balance when working for yourself.

Who supported you?

I have an amazing family and fab friends who supported me on an emotional level, sometimes it’s just about someone saying ‘of course you can do that’. Apart from that, other designers, my local community and my university in London, and local support such as the LDCO.

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How long did it take you to get everything/your business off the ground?

I think it will always feel like you are never quite where you want to be when you are ambitious and determined to push yourself to be the best you can be yourself. I know that after Bloom this year I have more clients than I can take on right now so I guess that’s a good thing!

What do you love most about being your own boss? What are the drawbacks?

Definitely the fact that sometimes you can’t switch off at home.But the other side of that is that I have the luxury of working with an incredible lakeside view in the sunshine if I feel like it!

Where do you work from and do you have employees?

I work from home primarily but also have a small town office for work and meetings.

Do you have entrepreneurial role models?

I admire a lot of people, career wise I love when people are not afraid to mix genres-art and architecture for example. I love when people don’t believe in limits and try to remind myself that the only real limit is your own fear.

How did you learn and acquire the skills you use to make your business successful? How do you continue to grow and learn?

I studied architecture for 5 years and then garden design for 3 so that was a lot of drawing! I have always been creative though, I remember my friend Marilin and I drawing huge complicated houses and gardens for hours and hours on A1 sheets of paper when we were 8!

upstart-bloome-03If you had it to do over again, what, if anything, would you do differently?

I am not sure, I honestly think that everything that has happened brought me to the place I am now where I am happy so that can’t be bad.

What is your best selling item/service?

Garden design. Gardens are for life and I believe they improve peoples quality of life, giving them extra living space to enjoy.

Are you a LookWester (previously living outside the Western Region) and if so why did you decide to move home or relocate to the West?

I am originally from Germany but have lived here from the age of 7. We fell in love with the West and decided there was no better place to live.

What advice would you give to anybody Looking West?

Do it! Absolutely and totally.

More at www.blume.ie

 

Image Captions:  

Top Right:  Leonie Cornelius at Bloom 2013.  Photo by Colin Gillen of Framelight.ie

Centre:  “A Love Letter to the West” by Colin Gillen of Framelight.ie