Val Gabriel discusses the challenges and opportunities that come with our remote working reality, and how a watercooler conversation led him down his career path.
Val Gabriel is an engineer-turned-business leader who was recently appointed as the new managing director of HP Ireland. He’s a 25-year veteran of the company and is now tasked with leading HP’s presence in the Irish market.
This includes supporting the sales teams to service channel partners directly and developing HP’s expertise in areas such as sustainability and cybersecurity, as well as helping the team to embrace new IT challenges to develop the business in Ireland.
‘It is not a trend any more – the distributed workforce is now a reality’
– VAL GABRIEL
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
The biggest challenge has certainly been the move to hybrid working.
It is not a trend any more – the distributed workforce is now a reality and remote working has put increased pressures on IT security teams who are battling to make networks and devices more secure while having less visibility and control. IT needs to evolve to deal with how we are now working today and how we will work in the future.
The devices we need to efficiently do our work remotely also need to change in order to facilitate our new patterns. You will see laptops being released with extended battery times and more sophisticated security software becoming standard features, all to help support secure hybrid working. Organisations that adopt endpoint security first will gain an early advantage in creating a more resilient workplace, wherever that workplace happens to be.
Another area of focus, for all industries, is supply chain resiliency. They are certainly not what they used to be and won’t be the same in the future. 3D printing can help address some of these new issues in ways that are environmentally sustainable. We are beginning to see sectors, such as the health sector, adopting this new technology to address some of the challenges they are now facing in regard to supply and business continuity requirements.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
At HP, we believe the technology industry has a critical role to play in easing and facilitating the transition to a hybrid work culture. We maintain a laser-like focus on building human-centric and intuitive employee experiences, while helping to overcome the unique technical challenges arising from hybrid working.
For example, we’ve created a new video conferencing solution called HP Presence, a portfolio of collaboration and conferencing systems that helps bring everyone into the meeting room, whether they be in person or joining virtually.
This system ensures everyone can be heard by automatically adjusting volume levels and uses HP’s PC cyber threat protection and camera privacy features so users can collaborate in comfort without compromise. We’re excited for teams to experience HP Presence, a system that is future-proofed to meet new collaboration needs.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
A little luck, a cup of coffee and a watercooler conversation.
I joined HP as an engineer in 1997 and one day, about eight years later, I had a passing conversation with a senior manager around the watercooler about a new project he was taking on. I offered some of my time to help kick-start the new project.
A small project turned into a big project, which turned into a new role within HP. It turned out that I really enjoyed the work and, as happens often, if you enjoy the work you are doing, you become good at it. That one piece of luck, that one conversation, changed my career path completely.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
A number of years ago, I was offered a promotion within HP with the opportunity to move abroad. I was delighted being offered the promotion, however the relocation would have required me to move to the United States.
At the time, I was in the early stages of a personal relationship with someone who was also living and working in Ireland at the time. I graciously declined the promotion and stayed in Ireland. Thankfully, that someone is my now wife and, while I thought that I had lost that opportunity, the hiring manager came back a few weeks later with the same role, but I could do it from Ireland.
How do you get the best out of your team?
At HP, we hire the very best people and talent with specialised skillsets and expertise. In order for them to do the best work they can, whilst being happy, my only job is really to enable them with the tools and space to do their best work.
People have an amazing capacity to excel because I make sure they have what they need, and then get the heck out of their way.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
Diversity, equity and inclusion is very important for HP. We work to ensure that everyone in our organisation feels represented and that their views can be heard. While having a positive impact on colleagues, it also brings a wide range of experiences, personalities and opinions to the business.
HP is continuing to lead the way as an inclusive employer with a balanced workforce. When it comes to the male versus female split in our workforce in digital marketing, the split is equal with females making up over 50pc of our talent pool. Within the board of directors, 46pc are female, and 46pc are of racial or ethnic minorities. I think we’ve made substantial progress in this vector of diversity over the last 10 years.
However, there are areas of the business in which it has been challenging to identify more diversity. In many countries around the world, we have experienced challenges in hiring diverse professionals at entry level. We have found that we needed to build relationships with specific non-profit organisations that focus on training, growing and developing young college-aged talent within the digital marketing space in order to tap into those capable diverse talent pools.
It’s not happening organically and this proactive approach is required.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?
Find a job you love to do and do that job. You will become a happier person, you will enjoy going to work each day, and you will enjoy the company of your work colleagues.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
Focused on how to grow your business in the digital space, Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Morgan Brown and Sean Ellis is a great read.
I thought it was so good that I recently bought copies and sent them to my colleagues in the Irish office and around the world.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
As someone who works in a hybrid world, I spend much of my week in meetings, whether they be in person or virtual. So the things that are essential for me to get me through my working week are my Elite Dragonfly G2 laptop, HP 325 FHD Webcam, a HyperX QuadCast Microphone, and a can or two of Diet Coke.
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