25 Irish leaders who are top of the sci-tech world

12 Dec 2016

Image: Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

In the new edition of the Sci-Tech 100, we’re celebrating Ireland’s greatest emigrants.

Sci-Tech 100

When we first launched Ireland’s Sci-Tech 100 in 2015, we were struck by the number of sci-tech luminaries from Ireland who were working abroad. At the time, we highlighted just a small selection of our globetrotting ambassadors.

Throughout 2016, a centenary year commemorating Ireland’s first steps as an independent republic, we, as a nation, have been reflecting on what it means to be Irish. Emigration has been a major part of Ireland’s history, and the great Irish diaspora is known the world over.

What better way to end this tumultuous year than with a tribute to 100 inspiring Irish émigrés putting this small country at the top in terms of science and technology. These first members of the 2016 Sci-Tech 100 represent Ireland at the world’s biggest names in science and technology, and we have many more to follow.

Inspirefest 2017

Ann Kelleher

The first-ever woman to receive a PhD from the National Microelectronics Research Centre in 1993, Dr Ann Kelleher was also the first Irishwoman to be named as corporate vice-president at Intel.

Ann Kelleher, Sci-Tech 100

Ann Kelleher, head of Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group. Image: Intel

Kelleher currently heads up Intel’s Technology and Manufacturing Group and is general manager of the semiconductor manufacturing organisation at Intel in the States.

Dave Burke

Having cut his teeth founding the University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out VoxPilot, a speech recognition company, Dubliner Dave Burke made the big move to join the fledgling Android operating system team at Google in 2007.

Nearly a decade later, he is Google’s VP of engineering for Android and a familiar face at many of its major public project launches.

Last year, Burke spoke with Siliconrepublic.com about what it was like working during the earliest days of Android.

Niall O’Connor

Not a whole lot is known about Apple CIO Niall O’Connor, as sources say he is an intensely private man who has deftly avoided the media attention his role attracts.

What we do know is that O’Connor joined Apple in 1991 from Eurolink, after a string of IT management positions at home in Ireland. Now based in California, the University of Limerick (UL) grad was appointed CIO in 1997, and has held that role ever since.

Neil Coleman

Based in New York, Dublin City University (DCU) graduate Neil Coleman has been the director of Snapchat since the start of 2016. Before that, he was the vice-president of US strategic sales and managing director at retargeting platform, AdRoll.

Neil Coleman, Sci-Tech 100

Neil Coleman, director, Snapchat. Image: Twitter/Neil Coleman

While studying in DCU, Coleman co-founded an award-winning sport and health consultancy company. He eventually moved to New York to take up a sales manager job at Google.

Adele Cooper

Formerly the director of global accounts at Facebook in the UK, Irish executive Adele Cooper took a post in Pinterest last year as UK and Ireland country manager.

A Harvard Business School graduate, Cooper worked in Google’s Dublin office for over three years as director of online sales and operations for EMEA, before moving to California to become Google’s director of global customer marketing in 2007.

Aileen Smith

Aileen Smith, Huawei

Aileen Smith, head of ecosystem development, Huawei. Image: Aileen Smith

As a skilled engineer and computer scientist, Aileen Smith began her career at Motorola’s Irish operations before joining the non-profit industry organisation TM Forum, where she oversaw much of its development in various roles.

Having established herself as a key influencer in multi-company collaborative endeavours spanning multiple sectors, Smith joined Chinese giant Huawei in 2015, where she remains a strong advocate for 5G and internet of things (IoT) technologies.

Derrick Connell

Trim native Derrick Connell has overseen a lot of change at Microsoft since joining in 1992 as a software development manager, becoming one of the key people who convinced CEO Satya Nadella to invest big in AI.

Derrick Connell

Still from ‘More with Derrick Connell – Bing: Continuous Delivery – Microsoft Engineering Stories’. Image: Microsoft Visual Studio/YouTube

One of Microsoft’s most influential VPs, Connell now leads the product and engineering teams responsible for Bing and Cortana worldwide, making him one of the most senior-positioned Irish people in Silicon Valley.

Sarah Friar

From Northern Ireland to San Francisco with a stint mining in Africa in between, Sarah Friar’s career journey is a fascinating one, and it began with a life-changing scholarship to study at Oxford.

Friar held roles at Goldman Sachs, McKinsey & Company and Salesforce before joining Square in 2012. Now CFO and operations lead at Jack Dorsey’s hot fintech company, she was also named Financial Woman of the Year in 2014.

Liam Quinn

UL graduate Liam Quinn has been serving as CTO, SVP and senior fellow at Dell for 20 years. He has been granted 40 US patents with a further 65 pending, and also represents Dell on the board of the Wi-Fi Alliance.

Liam Quinn, Dell

Liam Quinn, CTO, Dell. Image: Twitter/Liam Quinn

Originally from Ballina, Quinn is now based in Austin, Texas. In his current role, he leads strategy for the IoT, IP development and relevant standards participation.

Ray O’Farrell

With more than 20 years’ software engineering and product delivery experience, Limerick native Ray O’Farrell first joined cloud services giant VMware in 2003 as its SVP of R&D.

Ray O'Farrell

Ray O’Farrell, CTO and CDO, VMware. Image: VMware

13 years later, his stellar work saw him given not one, but two key roles as the company’s chief technology officer and chief digital officer.

Under his tutelage, VMware has gone multinational, including multiple operations in his native Ireland.

Prof Lydia Lynch

Prof Lydia Lynch has one foot in Trinity College Dublin and the other in Harvard Medical School, Boston.

She began researching at Harvard in 2009, later establishing the Lynch Laboratory to progress her investigations into the effects of obesity and diet on immune cells.

Now immortalised with a portrait on the walls of the Royal Irish Academy, Lynch has a string of accolades to her name and recently received €1.8m in funding for her research.

Tadhg Bourke

A graduate of the Michael Smurfit Business School, Tadhg Bourke spent almost a decade working for Google before moving to Netflix in November.

Bourke was Google’s head of HR operations for EMEA, based in Dublin for almost five years. He then became head of HR operations for the Americas, moving to California.

He is now director of global employee services at Netflix, tasked with delivering stellar employee services while the company scales internationally.

Jack Rowley

Jack Rowley works as senior director of research and sustainability at GSMA in Melbourne, Australia. There, he leads activities related to the safety of mobile communications and responsible environmental practices.

Another UL graduate, Rowley has spent most of his career in Australia, with a decade in Telstra preceding his move to GSMA in 2000.

A senior member of IEEE, he has authored more than 150 publications on mobile communications.

Claire Lee

Wicklow native Claire Lee is currently head of early-stage banking at Silicon Valley Bank in California.

Starting in technology in 1994 at IBM, Lee rose up the ladder at Ingram Micro UK, eventually taking over its $100m Compaq UK division at 25. From there, Lee went to Ericsson before spending a decade at Microsoft, eventually becoming head of partnerships.

Also currently an adviser to Astia, she moved to Silicon Valley Bank in 2014.

Anita Sands

Louth’s Anita Sands currently holds board positions at Symantec, ServiceNow and Pure Storage, each based in Silicon Valley.

At Queen’s University Belfast, Sands studied physics and applied maths as well as atomic and molecular physics. Roles in RBC, Citigroup and RBS followed.

When discussing female participation in tech, she said: “There’s no point in complaining about how few women are making it to senior positions in technology if we have far too small a pool to begin with.”

John O’Farrell

A general partner at VC giant Andreessen Horowitz, Dublin native John O’Farrell has more than 30 years’ experience in high-growth start-ups, software engineering and corporate strategy.

Previous roles include positions at Siemens, Booz Allen Hamilton and Telecom Ireland before a trio of start-ups: Excite@Home, Opsware and Silver Spring Networks.

An electrical engineering graduate of UCD in 1979, O’Farrell also received an MBA from Stanford University in the 1980s.

Lorna Ross

Fellow Dubliner Lorna Ross has more than two decades’ experience in design and innovation. For about half of that time, her focus has been on healthcare, which suits her current role as head of design and innovation at Mayo Clinic, a renowned 150-year-old medical institution based in Rochester, Minnesota.

A graduate of Ireland’s National College of Art and Design, Ross has applied her design skill at MIT Media Lab, DARPA, Motorola and many more. At Inspirefest this year, she spoke about making the invisible visible as a designer in healthcare.

PJ Hough

PJ Hough was once billed by Siliconrepublic.com editor John Kennedy as the Irishman shaping the future of work from his role at the helm of Microsoft’s billion-dollar Office business. Holding a BSc and master’s in computer applications from DCU, he rose through the ranks at Microsoft over two decades.

PJ Hough

PJ Hough, SVP, Citrix. Image: LinkedIn/PJ Hough

Hough left Microsoft after the Steve Ballmer era ended and is now SVP of product and technology at Citrix, swapping Seattle for California.

Pio Fitzgerald

Dr Pio Fitzgerald graduated from UL with a degree in aeronautical engineering and has been flying high ever since.

He won the highest engineering accolade from Boeing in 2011, being named Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Engineer of the Year.

An engineering manager at Boeing, Fitzgerald won the award for solving a major design crisis with 747-8F jumbo jet freighter aircraft without the need for a physical redesign.

Una Fox

Vice-president of digital marketing for the most magical company in the world, Una Fox took up her role at Disney a year and a half ago, though she has been working for Disney in other roles since 2012.

Fox graduated from University College Cork (UCC) with a BA in languages. She also co-founded CoderDojo LA in 2012.

This year, she was listed as one of 25 most powerful women by Women’s Executive Network.

Séamus Davis

Originally from Skibbereen, Prof Séamus Davis is professor of physics at Cornell University in the US.

Graduating from UCC in the 1980s, Davis left Ireland for University of California, Berkeley for his PhD. He stayed on until 2003, when a move to Cornell prompted the LA Times to write an obituary on Berkeley’s physics department.

Davis is a world leader in quantum physics and superconductivity, publishing numerous papers on cutting-edge discoveries, and earning a Science Foundation Ireland St Patrick’s Day medal for his achievements.

Kieran Hannon

Dubliner Kieran Hannon is chief marketing officer at Belkin and one of Ireland’s most seasoned executives in Silicon Valley with over 30 years’ experience.

Forbes recognised Hannon as one of the most influential CMOs on Twitter in its 2014 ranking.

Prior to joining Belkin, he spent two decades building consumer experiences in mobile, digital and retail sectors.

A founding member of the Irish Technology Leadership Group, he sits on the technology advisory board of Enterprise Ireland.

Mike Healy

To date, Mike Healy has bookended his career with jobs at Citi, first starting in 1989 then rejoining the multinational bank as head of investor services, custody and issuer technology earlier this year.

With a BSc in computer systems from UL, Healy has taken financial technology roles across London, Tokyo and, lately, New York. His experience includes building a global equities technology platform from inception at Barclays.

Samantha Barry

Samantha Barry has travelled from Cork to New York and taken on jobs at RTÉ, Newstalk, ABC Australia, the US State Department and BBC World News along the way.

Now, as CNN’s head of social media and senior director of social news, she and her team are responsible for some of the largest social media accounts of any news brand in the world.

She’s also a Sulzberger fellow at Columbia University and guest lecturer at Yale.

John Collison

While the 24 preceding names on this list now work at brands with global recognition, Limerick’s John Collison has actually created one.

This year, the younger of the Collison brothers became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire when San Francisco-based payments company Stripe was valued at $9.2bn following a $150m investment.

Forbes estimates that the 26-year-old co-founder and president owns at least 12pc of the hottest fintech start-up on the block.