Tech employers hunt for soft skills and entrepreneurial know-how
Aengus McClean, senior vice-president of global advertising technologies at AOL Ireland

Tech employers hunt for soft skills and entrepreneurial know-how

24 Sep 2013

While the most demand for skills in the booming tech economy are in the coding and software engineering areas, tech firms are businesses, too, and some prospective employees could be forgiven for not realising that many of the key positions happen to be for people with business know-how.

For example, John Herlihy, the head of Google in Ireland, is a chartered accountant by training. The jobs tech companies are creating in Ireland aren’t solely engineering jobs, either. There are business support and sales roles, for instance, that come with international headquarters.

At the recent career fair Career Zoo in Dublin, where more than 10,000 job-seekers met with potential employers, it was apparent from talking to firms that recently embarked on expansions that there is a perception battle to be won.

Skills for the future

Ben Hurley is CEO of the National Digital Research Centre (NDRC), an Irish Government-backed entity focused on accelerating future Irish tech firms. He said a broad array of skills and experiences are required to build future firms.

“Creating a new venture is not just about a new solution, it’s about critically understanding the problem. This takes a lot of softer skills and an ability to talk to customers, engage with customers, understand where they are coming from and through that form a solution,” Hurley said.

The NDRC is looking for both entrepreneurs and teams around them. In a pre-accelerator environment, the NDRC works on ideas and refines them into something that has some substance. The centre also works with people who have experience in sales and marketing, and product management, and people who are looking at changing careers and getting involved in an early venture, Hurley added.

Management consulting giant Accenture, an employer of 1,400 people in Ireland, is also looking to fill various roles.

Francis McGuire, Accenture Ireland’s managing director of client service delivery, said the company is hiring across a panoply of business and tech expertise.

“In Accenture recently, we announced 140 new jobs to fill in the next year and half, involving a mixture of technology and business skills,” McGuire said. “From a technology perspective, we’re looking for SAP consultants, Java developers, technical project managers, technical architects, mobile app developers and cloud professionals, as well.”

McGuire added that experienced people with soft skills capable of managing a project and working with customers are also in demand.

“Our culture is about integrating with clients and soft skills are the classic sit down and work out the client’s problem and employ all the project management and business analysis discipline on top of the technology stuff, which all works together,” he said.

Range of expertise wanted

At the coalface of the demand for high tech graduates and skilled engineers is internet giant AOL, which employs more than 155 people at its Dublin operation. Earlier this year, the company announced 35 jobs for software engineers.

According to Aengus McClean, senior vice-president of global advertising technologies at AOL Ireland, the company recently also landed a new shared services operation for Dublin, requiring a whole range of expertise.

AOL Ireland is primarily looking for people in the software development area, with skills around Java and C++, as well as graduates, McClean said. Yet the company is also seeking accountants for its managed and shared services group.

“We continue to have most of the people in the technical area as far as AOL is concerned because that’s the backbone of what we do,” McClean said.

Another company with a presence in Dublin is Murex, a financial software firm that arrived in the city 11 years ago.

Laura Murphy, head of global sourcing with Murex, is seeking workers with a combination of degree and master qualifications in maths, engineering and computer science.

Murex has 80 positions between Dublin and Paris, and the company is looking for a mix of experienced and graduate computer engineers and financial software consultants, Murphy said.

“Our typical profile would have a background in maths, engineering, physics, finance, computer engineering. We even have in Dublin a guy with a degree in rocket science. So there’s a large mix, that’s typically our profile in terms of education,” she added.

One of the focal points for the business and technology world right now is on analytics and crunching big data to enable firms to manage risk and make the right decisions. UK insurance multinational Aon plc has established a Centre for Innovation and Analytics in Dublin to do exactly that.

Pure tech background not required

Constantin Beier, CEO of the Aon Centre for Innovation and Analytics, said the company is recruiting for a range of roles, such as data analysts, business analysts, and software developers, as well as project managers and roles that aren’t purely from a tech background.

“One of the challenges is that the Aon brand is better known for insurance rather than technology,” Beier said. “We’re working hard to get the word out that Aon has had its global centre for innovation and analytics here in Dublin for about four years now and is heavily interested in that space and that talent.”

Aon has grown over the last three and half years from zero employees to more than 100 now, Beier said. “I would say that we’re probably characterised as a young, dynamic company, in growth mode.”

A version of this article appeared in The Sunday Times on 22 September

John Kennedy
By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years. His interests include all things technological, music, movies, reading, history, gaming and losing the occasional game of poker.

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