Staff retention is a ‘huge problem’ in tech – here’s how one Irish team is tackling it

12 May 2022

Paul Dooley, CEO of Typetec. Image: John Ohle Photography

Typetec’s Paul Dooley discusses his company’s shift to a four-day week, as well as what he learned about business from his parents and getting ‘thrown in at the deep end’.

Paul Dooley is the CEO of Typetec, a Dublin-based company that provides managed IT, cybersecurity and cloud services to customers.

Dooley has led the business for more than a decade, coming from a finance background. He is now responsible for directing Typetec from a strategic, financial and corporate perspective.

‘We believe our remote working and four-day week policies are helping Typetec to attract a more diverse team’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Staff retention and recruitment is a huge problem for our industry at the moment. There is the classic supply and demand issue going on right now. How we are tackling it is by new initiatives like our recently launched four-day week pilot, investment in staff professional development, career plans and social incentives to harness company culture.

Having a supportive and positive culture is so important. Just recently the whole Typetec team met up in person for the first time since the pandemic. It was such a success and I really noticed the value of having us all together – there was such a buzz when we all got back to work on the Monday.

Seeing the difference that one in-person meet-up made reminded me of the inherent value of a good company culture. Even from a business perspective, it makes everything more efficient. When you have a happy team of employees, everything else falls into place.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Like many in our industry, cybersecurity is a major focus for us and our customers. As above, our customers are facing talent and recruitment barriers that see them increasingly depend on our managed services in this area.

The extension to this is growth in demand for managed disaster recovery and business continuity services. The upsurge in security incidents has sharpened focus and investment on these service offerings as a must-have from a business risk perspective.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

My parents played a big part in shaping where I am now. They were self-employed and took a huge risk in setting up their own paint and decoration business in the early ’80s when it was a difficult time for the Irish economy. It paid off as they still have their business, which is run by my sister today.

As a kid, I was always eager to explore my potential and I was privileged to have the support and motivation from my family. They are the ones who instilled that spirit of entrepreneurship in me. I get my drive to succeed and desire to always keep learning from them, and I’m very thankful for that.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Taking on the role as CEO of Typetec at 30 years old. I was taking over from the founder of the business and he was stepping into a chairman role. It was challenging as he had been in charge for so long and I had to earn the trust and respect of the whole company and prove that I was capable of doing the role justice.

The easiest thing would have been to work on a succession plan for a few years and then take over, but I was thrown in at the deep end. But I have to say I loved it and still do.

When I was first starting out in the corporate world, I set many goals for myself and I used to think that these had to be time-bound targets. However, experience has taught me that I am always going to be a work in progress and I will never stop learning. Having that mindset really helped when I took on the role and has served my very well since.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Simply let them do their job. Once you have competent people you should let them off to run the business for you. My role is to be a support mechanism for them, a sounding board as such.

In terms of managing teams, I’ve discovered throughout my career that involvement and collaboration is imperative. Getting teams involved in the decision-making process always yields success. You have to give your people the opportunity to have their say and get involved, otherwise you can have incredible talent hidden away in the background.

I’d never criticise someone for making a decision, right or wrong, but I would encourage them to always make the decision in the first place. And it’s up to me or management to give them that space to make that decision.

One thing that I know doesn’t work when managing a team is micro-management. You should trust your staff to do their jobs and make sure they know they can reach out to you if they need to. Empowering people is the best thing you can do for them.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Yes I do see a diversity issue in our sector, although the gap is closing each year.

The IT industry has been historically male dominated. In order to make it more inclusive there has to be a clear pathway for females in our industry, including salary equality and more senior and leadership positions.

We believe a better work-life balance and flexibility are also key to enabling a more diverse and inclusive workforce. We believe our remote working and four-day week policies are helping Typetec to demonstrate leadership in this area and are helping us to attract a more diverse team.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

I’ve worked with a life coach and mentor for the last 10 years. I remember early on in our engagement he gave me the following advice when I didn’t have an obvious answer to a particular problem: “When you don’t know the answer to something you have to make a judgement call, that’s what senior management get paid to do.”

It sounds so simple but it’s one that stuck with me and one I passed on to anyone I’ve worked with. Business is simple, we just like to make it complicated!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’ve read a lot of books recently, especially during the lockdown, but one that stood out for me was Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac.

It’s basically about how Uber was set up, and the rise and fall of its controversial co-founder Travis Kalanick. It’s a fascinating story of sheer scale and dominance of a traditional market. To see how they were so disruptive in the taxi industry was something special.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Sleep is massively important, but having a four-year-old and a 13-month-old in the house is quite challenging on that front now!

As we are coming out of the end of a tough two years of hard lockdowns, I make it my business to have a few face-to-face meetings during the week. It has become too easy to not meet any more and communicate via video calls.

I believe that you can’t beat meeting people in person and really getting to know them. Relationships are so important in business. I don’t just want to work with customers, partners and colleagues, I want to know them and understand what they’re all about. Your business will never suffer from getting to know people.

I also feel it’s essential to give some time each week for myself to reflect on what’s going on. We seem to be busy the whole time and, especially with remote working, that ‘switch off’ button is not used as much. There’s always the temptation to finish something off if you didn’t get enough time in the work day to do it, but it’s important to create those boundaries and stick to them.

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