Blog Article 21 Nov 2018
Tech on the Wild Atlantic Way
Tech on the Wild Atlantic Way
What’s happening in Sligo right now proves that it’s possible to achieve work-life balance without compromising on a career. That’s what more than 320 people discovered on the journey there by train from Connolly Station Dublin to a careers fair dubbed ‘Tech on the Wild Atlantic Way’.
A decade ago, such a trip might have been unthinkable. Sligo seemed relatively remote and was mostly known for jobs in the manufacturing sector. But over the last 18 months, the region has seen a spate of high-level jobs announcements by companies like the online retailer Overstock and the workplace software company LiveTiles.
The train journey included a hackathon and on arrival, everyone headed to a vibrant jobs fair and conference at The Model, Sligo’s arts centre. There, jobseekers met representatives from companies based in Sligo and beyond, encompassing the West, North West and Midlands. As well as Abbvie and Abbott, there was Donegal-based Pramerica, Galway-based Boston Scientific, Athlone-based pharma company PPD and Ericsson also based in Athlone. The attractive roles on offer ranged from back-end and front-end development, biotech, medtech and fintech to IoT, data, cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, and augmented reality.

A location for life and work

The event’s name hints at another aspect of Sligo’s story: just as important as being a great location to come and work in, is an interesting job, it’s a great place to come and live. That was reflected in the calibre of people who wanted to find out more. “There were a lot of people with 10-years-plus industry experience who were ready to make the move. They were really interested to find out what was happening in Sligo,” says Brian O’hOisín, director of Career Zoo.
The company worked with IT Sligo and many of the companies to organise the event and highlight what Sligo has to offer. “When I attended the initial meetup about the event, I thought people in our database would be really excited,” adds O’hOisín. “The wonderful advantage of Sligo is the incredibly beautiful location. It has some of best beaches in Europe. It’s a unique setting for any tech worker to be able to cycle to the beach after a day’s work. At the event, we got to hear first-hand the stories of international technology workers who have moved there and about their work-life balance: Living in this beautiful environment with no commute, incredibly good value housing and inexpensive childcare, and none of the pressures of city living.”

A developing tech ecosystem

Sligo also happens to be within easy reach of technology centres of excellence and innovation labs such as Sligo, Galway-Mayo and Letterkenny Institutes of Technology, along with NUI Galway. That’s an important ingredient in helping to build a flourishing ecosystem beyond the activities of individual companies. “You now have the second- and third-generation companies from indigenous entrepreneurs starting in incubation centres. That ecosystem comes from those foreign-owned companies going there first,” says John Nugent, IDA’s Regional Business Development Manager for the Border Region.
Sligo doesn’t have to look far to imagine what it could become. Just 105 km north, in fact. Letterkenny in county Donegal has built up an impressive list of multinationals including Optum, Pramerica, Phillips Medisize Ireland and Zeus, collectively employing more than 3,000 people.
“What we wanted to achieve from an IDA perspective was to shine a light on the careers that are developing, emerging and landing in places like Sligo. While they’re smaller in number than some urban centres, they’re numerically significant for these towns. They are the green shoots of new sectors that in due course can grow into large enterprises and to research activity that creates spinouts and smaller companies. If Sligo sees the kind of growth that Letterkenny already has, it will start to spin out homegrown companies which makes the ecosystem much more interesting and diverse,” adds Nugent.  
Last word to Brian O’hOisín: “It was a story not just of Sligo but everywhere from the midlands to the northwest. It’s flourishing in terms of new entrants and the real quality of exciting jobs in pharma, medtech and software. It felt like Sligo is having this incredible moment.”
John Nugent, IDA Ireland Regional Business Development Manager,  Border Region


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