21 inspiring tech leaders with one great thing in common

24 Feb 2016

Ireland has produced a number of impressive tech successes who are leading teams around the world. Here are just 21 of them.

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Some of these Irish leaders are rising to the top of the biggest names in tech. Many are heading up international teams and spearheading major projects. Some are based in Ireland, some in the US, and some in the UK.

But there’s one critical characteristic that they all share. They just so happen to be members of that underrepresented group in tech (and in business): women.

With less than two weeks to go to International Women’s Day 2016, we give you – in no particular order – 21 remarkable Irish women at the top of the tech industry.

1. Margaret Burgraff

Cork native Margaret Burgraff will be a familiar face to regular readers of Siliconrepublic.com, as we have traced her rise to the role of VP and GM of Intel’s Services Division.

It all began in the ’90s with a job in Apple’s Cork office, and Burgraff spoke to us last year of her dealings with Steve Jobs. Onstage at Inspirefest, she urged attendees to look way ahead when setting career goals, and to be bold.

Margaret Burgraff, Intel

Margaret Burgraff speaking at Inspirefest 2015. Photo via Conor McCabe Photography

Aside from her day-to-day role, which sees her responsible for Intel’s Cloud and Connected Services group, Burgraff is also a significant STEM advocate, as demonstrated by her advisory board membership with the Digital Youth Council.

2. Emer Coleman

In October last year, Emer Coleman was named chair of Ireland’s new Open Data Governance Board. This role means Coleman will play a pivotal role in advising the Irish Government on a national strategy for its Open Data Intiative.

Emer Coleman, Open Data Governance Board Ireland

Emer Coleman, chair, Open Data Governance Board Ireland. Photo via Paul Clarke

The University College Cork (UCC) graduate has worked on open data and policy in the UK and other countries and was the architect of the London Datastore, which involved releasing all of London’s public sector data. She has also provided leadership training to numerous organisations worldwide.

Update, Friday 10 June at 12.31pm: This article has been updated to reflect that Emer Coleman will no longer be speaking at Inspirefest 2016.

3. Edel Creely

With nearly six-and-a-half years under her belt as group MD of IT support firm Trilogy Technologies, Edel Creely has proven herself to be one of the stalwarts of the Irish tech leadership scene.

This can be seen through her involvement with the Irish Software Association, where she held the position of chair for just over two years, having also served on many industry groups throughout her career, including on the Microsoft Partner Council and the VMware Partner Council.

Edel Creely, Trilogy Technologies

Edel Creely, group MD, Trilogy Technologies. Photo via Trilogy Technologies

Aside from her work at Trilogy Technologies, Creely is also a classically trained violinist who plays with the Hibernian Orchestra.

4. Caroline Dowling

Cork woman Caroline Dowling has risen through the ranks at Flex since joining what was then known as Flextronics back in 2000. Now president of communications infrastructure and enterprise computing at Flex, Dowling’s C-unit comprises an international team focused on design, manufacturing and services providing end-to-end solutions worldwide for the telecom, networking, server, storage and converged infrastructure markets.

Caroline Dowling, Flex

Caroline Dowling, president of communications infrastructure and enterprise computing, Flex. Photo via Flex

With offices all over the world, Dowling has developed quite the hard-working reputation, with commutes between Kanturk and California to get her into work each Monday making the news both here and abroad not long ago.

5. Caroline Faulkner

Senior managing director and CIO at Pramerica, Caroline Faulkner has a rich history in leadership. A glittering career at Pramerica over the last 15 years has brought her from VP of information systems to the senior MD role.

Caroline Faulkner, Pramerica

Caroline Faulkner with Minister Richard Bruton, TD, at Pramerica. Photo via Weber Shandwick

Faulkner was instrumental in transforming Pramerica’s Letterkenny facility from a green field site to what it is today, and it is under her leadership that the company is enjoying a fantastic period of growth.

6. Cathriona Hallahan

Cathriona Hallahan joined Microsoft in 1986 and, over the past 30 years, has held a variety of senior roles at the company, culminating in her current role of managing director of the company’s Irish operations. Hallahan has managed large teams and taken on global responsibilities for Microsoft’s business solutions and enterprise services, as well as directing supply chain management, logistics, customer care and IT and financial support for EMEA.

Cathriona Hallahan, Microsoft Ireland

Cathriona Hallahan, managing director, Microsoft Ireland

Hallahan sits on the boards of further education and training service SOLAS and the National Children’s Hospital, while she also works with the DanceSport Federation of Ireland and the Irish Dance Council to promote dance in Ireland.

7. Aisling Hassell

Aisling Hassell is in charge of Airbnb’s customer experience operations across Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and has overseen the rapid expansion of the company’s Dublin workforce to over 200 employees across multiple areas of its business, including customer experience, human resources, finance, trust and safety, and IT.

Aisling Hassell, Airbnb

Aisling Hassell, head of CX, Airbnb

Prior to joining Airbnb, Hassell was director of global customer experience and web strategy at Sage. She has also held senior customer experience roles at both Vodafone and Symantec in Europe and the US.

8. Fidelma Healy

Fidelma Healy has been the chief operating officer at US online shopping destination Gilt since the company established its Irish operations in 2011. She was instrumental in the setting-up of those Irish operations, responsible for establishing the company’s bases in Limerick and Dublin.

Fidelma Healy, Gilt

Fidelma Healy, COO, Gilt

Healy is a proponent of gender diversity within the tech industry and, while acknowledging that it’s an uphill struggle, she sees the importance of gender balance and strives to maintain one at Gilt.

9. Ann-Marie Holmes

Ann-Marie Holmes is the latest Irish person to be promoted to VP at Intel. The factory manager of Intel’s Fab 24 manufacturing facility, Holmes was appointed VP of technology and manufacturing earlier this month.

Ann-Marie Holmes, Intel

Ann-Marie Holmes, VP of technology and manufacturing, Intel. Photo via Intel

Holmes joined Intel as a graduate in 1991, and has risen through the ranks in the intervening years. She has held leadership roles at the chip giant since the mid-’90s. Having spent her entire career at Intel, Holmes also holds the honour of being the first Irish graduate hire to become a VP at the company.

10. Cathy Kearney

Cathy Kearney is a UCC graduate who, for the past 10 years, has overseen the expansion of Apple’s Cork site, which employs 5,000 people across many different functions.

Cathy Kearney, Apple Ireland

Cathy Kearney, country manager, Apple Ireland. Photo via Provision Photography

Kearney started in Apple on secondment from EY when training to be a chartered accountant in 1988. She moved through the levels in finance, becoming site controller in 1994 and, in 1996, become operations controller for Europe.

In 2000, she took over the running of the Apple Store operations team with her finance role and, in 2012, was promoted to her current role as vice-president of European operations.

11. Ana Keating

Having certainly played her cards right throughout her career, Ana Keating now finds herself as the director of global customer support for the Dublin-based Rational Group, the parent company of some of the best-known online poker websites in the world, including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Ana Keating, Rational Group

Ana Keating, director of global support, Rational Group. Photo via LinkedIn

Prior to this role, multilingual Keating spent much of the last 20 years being a director for the likes of Zynga, Dell, Yahoo and PayPal across multiple disciplines, including sales and business development.

12. Ann Kelleher

The first Irishwoman to be named as corporate vice president at Intel, Dr Ann Kelleher heads up Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group and is general manager of the semiconductor manufacturing organisation at Intel Corporation.

Ann Kelleher, Intel

Dr Ann Kelleher, corporate vice-president of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group and general manager of semiconductor manufacturing, Intel

In 1993, Macroom-born Kelleher became the first-ever female to receive a PhD from the National Microelectronics Research Centre (NMRC), now part of the Tyndall National Institute at UCC.

Kelleher joined Intel in 1996 as a process engineer and is currently responsible for Intel’s worldwide silicon wafer fabrication facilities.

13. Fionnuala Meehan

One of Google’s most senior directors in Ireland, Fionnuala Meehan is managing director of SMB sales (EMEA) and leads a 500-strong team in Dublin.

Fionnuala Meehan, Google Ireland

Fionnuala Meehan, managing director of SMB sales (EMEA), Google

Meehan, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, oversees Google Ireland’s long-term education strategy through the support of STEM initiatives, and is chair of Google’s European Women’s Network.

In Ireland, Meehan spearheads Google’s education outreach programmes, including CS First, which is aimed at equipping teachers with the skills to teach coding to nine-to-14-year-olds and the Call to Code national competition.

14. Regina Moran

It’s been almost 10 years since Regina Moran took up the reigns as the CEO of Fujitsu Ireland and, last year, her leadership skills were recognised with a promotion to CEO of the UK and Ireland operations from a base in London.

Regina Moran, CEO, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

Regina Moran, CEO, Fujitsu UK and Ireland

A chartered engineer by profession, Moran completed a year-long stint as president of Engineers Ireland last year, during which she focused on the role of women in STEM.

Throughout her career, Moran has held other senior positions, including chair of ICT Ireland, and was named IT Person of the Year at the 2014 Tech Excellence Awards.

15. Joan Mulvihill

Joan Mulvihill has been CEO of the Irish Internet Association (IIA), which works with tech start-ups and traditional businesses in their adoption of web-based technologies, since 2009.

Joan Mulvihill, CEO, Irish Internet Association

Joan Mulvihill, CEO, Irish Internet Association

Under Mulvihill’s leadership, the IIA has led new initiatives and programmes to help bridge the digital divide, as well as developing policies on digital skills and open data. In 2013, in recognition of her work, Mulvihill was awarded a special Irish Innovation Champion Award.

Prior to joining the IIA, Mulvihill spent eight years working in retail within the Kingfisher Group in London and Amsterdam, before returning to Ireland in 2002.

16. Norma O’Callaghan

Norma O’Callaghan, EMEA finance director at Japan-headquartered, US-founded Trend Micro, was part of the team that set up the company’s Irish operation back in 2003, helping it to grow from a staff of 35 to over 230.

Norma O'Callaghan

Norma O’Callaghan, EMEA finance director, Trend Micro

O’Callaghan espouses Trend Micro’s focus on online safety, and is a vocal supporter of the company’s online safety for kids and families (ISKF) programme, which aims to educate children and their families about the pitfalls of an online life.

17. Marguerite O’Grady

Marguerite O’Grady is the current MD for EMEA at Kemp Technologies, Limerick.

O’Grady started her Kemp career as an accountant, but was made general manager just over a year later, a position she then held for four years.

Marguerite O'Grady, Kemp Technologies

Marguerite O’Grady, MD for EMEA, Kemp Technologies

She was made managing director early in 2015 and, under her leadership in both roles, Kemp has continued to thrive in Limerick.

18. Anne O’Leary

In 2013, Anne O’Leary became the first Irish-born CEO to lead Vodafone Ireland’s operations, which lately encompasses the growth of 4G and the €450m SIRO fibre network as part of a joint venture with ESB.

She joined Vodafone from BT Ireland in 2008 and spearheaded the expansion of the company’s product offering to Irish businesses. O’Leary has also presided over the creation of new jobs in Vodafone’s data centre operations, as well as the establishment of a new European Sales Centre in Carrickmines.

Anne O’Leary, Vodafone Ireland

Anne O’Leary, CEO, Vodafone Ireland

A Cork native, she studied marketing at CIT, and strategy and leadership at London Business School, and enjoys competing in triathlons.

19. Louise Phelan

Now VP of global operations for PayPal in EMEA, Louise Phelan’s decade with the online payments company has seen her land key milestones for the company’s Irish operations, such as the 1,000 jobs announced in Dundalk back in 2012.

Louise Phelan, PayPal

Louise Phelan, vice-president of global operations EMEA, PayPal. Photo via LBDC

Leading well over 2,500 people in the Dublin, Dundalk and Berlin offices, Phelan was headhunted by PayPal when she was with GE Money, a subsidiary of General Electric.

“You need to continually learn from your experiences, both your awesome failures and your successes, and keep developing yourself as both a person and a leader,” she told us recently.

20. Anita Sands

Dr Anita Sands is a board member of three Silicon Valley companies: Symantec, Service Now and Pure Storage.

She previously held the roles of transformation consultant, COO, group managing director and head of change leadership with UBS Financial Services. She was also managing director and head of transformational change at Citi Group, and the senior vice-president of innovation and process design at Royal Bank of Canada.

Dr Anita Sands

Dr Anita Sands

The US-based Louth native is also a member of the International Women’s Forum, the New York Women’s Forum, and a mentor for WOMEN in America – an organisation enabling women to fulfil their potential.

Update, Friday 10 June at 12.31pm: This article has been updated to reflect that Dr Anita Sands will no longer be speaking at Inspirefest 2016.

21. Niamh Townsend

Niamh Townsend was named Dell’s general manager for Ireland last year and now leads a business that employs around 2,500 people in the country.

Niamh Townsend, Dell

Niamh Townsend, general manager, Dell. Photo via Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

Townsend joined Dell in 2010 in the role of technical sales manager for UK Small Medium Business, and in 2012 moved into the role of senior sales manager. Most recently, Townsend held the role of leader of Dell’s Enterprise Solution Team, where she was responsible for leading and motivating a team to grow this business in Ireland.

Before joining Dell, Townsend held managerial positions at Donnelly Fruit & Veg and Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

Women Invent is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Intel, Open Eir (formerly Eircom Wholesale), Fidelity Investments, Accenture and CoderDojo.

Inspirefest is Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Join us again from 30 June to 2 July 2016 for fresh perspectives on leadership, innovation and diversity. Get your Early Bird tickets now.

21 image via Shutterstock