Pat Breslin of EY Ireland talks about the path that led him to his current role, the challenges posed by Covid-19, and why keeping skills refreshed is key for tech consultants.
Pat Breslin recently joined EY Ireland to lead the company’s financial services technology advisory business. Having previously spent more than 20 years in Accenture, he brought with him expertise and experience in technology-led transformation, data and analytics, cybersecurity and digital experience.
Although he was based in the same company for such a long time, Breslin’s career so far has been diverse. He described his years at Accenture as “where he learned his trade”, getting to work with “great clients as a technology architect, a programme manager and a technology transformation director”.
“It’s unusual these days to be in the same company for that long, but I enjoyed my time there immensely,” he told Siliconrepublic.com. “However, having spent more than half my life and, hopefully, more than half my career there, I decided it was time for change.
“I took a lot of time to decide on the next move. It was the culture and deep expertise I met in EY that made it the right fit for me.”
Learning to ‘lead’ rather than ‘do’
Where did Breslin set out on the journey that brought him to where he is today? For him, he explained, it has been a road filled with capitalising on opportunities and learning to “add value by leading, rather than doing”.
“I have always taken the approach of seizing opportunities when they presented themselves and never said no when offered the next challenge, which usually meant I started my next role before I got to finish the last one, often needing to ‘double-job’,” he said.
“I guess the thing that I didn’t expect was that the role that accelerated my career into a leadership position was nothing to do with tech, but running a back-office operations function for a client, where I had to learn to rely on other people’s expertise and focus on how I could add value by leading rather than doing.”
Helping CIOs realise their ambitions
In his new role, Breslin is helping EY to stay abreast of tech disruption. “Disruption in financial services is accelerating demand for our technology consulting services to help our clients in banking, insurance and wealth management to realise their transformation ambitions,” he said.
To achieve that, he works with CIOs on a regular basis, assisting them with shaping and leading their most complex transformation programmes.
“Being a CIO in a financial services organisation today is a tough job, balancing the demands of digital transformation, maintaining the stability and resilience of online services and responding to the constantly evolving regulatory environment, while continuing to invest in the skills and capabilities of the technology workforce.
“All this needs to be managed against the backdrop of continuous downward pressure on costs. Helping CIOs work through these conflicting challenges and leveraging technology innovation to realise their transformation ambitions is really rewarding.”
‘I had to learn to rely on other people’s expertise and focus on how I could add value by leading rather than doing’
– PAT BRESLIN
But the biggest challenge Breslin faces in his job? “There is no question that the biggest challenge is the ongoing war for talent,” he said. “But I am excited about the team of talented people I am working alongside in EY and, as a growing business, we are continuing to attract great technology minds. Long may that continue.”
The ‘new set of demands’ brought by Covid-19
Another challenge Breslin and his team have recently come up against, along with many others, is the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
While he acknowledged that the long-term impacts of the pandemic could “take several months to be understood”, the immediate shifts he has witnessed across large parts of the technology workforce have been towards “distributed working, with rapid upskilling in the use of productivity and collaboration tooling, catching up with digital work practices many tech companies take for granted”.
He has also been privy to the novel needs and responsibilities brought to the fore by the outbreak. “While there may be a short-term pause on some technology investments as businesses get to grips with the crisis, a new set of demands will emerge for technology leaders.
“For starters, these will include upgraded business continuity, a fresh look at third-party risk management, security considerations for remote working, better digital and self-service tooling for both customers and staff, and responding to the fresh wave of cyber and phishing attacks that have come with Covid-19.”
Some lessons in technology consulting
Breslin has picked up plenty of skills working towards the position he holds today, but said that continuous learning is a key part of the job. “Keeping technology skills refreshed is critical to be a successful technology consultant,” he added.
“Areas that remain hot include Agile delivery at scale, DevSecOps, cloud integration, data and cybersecurity. But it’s also important to continue to develop a point of view on how emerging technologies can be leveraged to deliver value to clients in such areas as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and distributed ledger technology, to name just a few.
“The pace of change in technology tools and delivery techniques requires us to keep our skills right up to date. At EY, we invest heavily in the skills of our people.”
‘Keeping technology skills refreshed is critical to be a successful technology consultant’
– PAT BRESLIN
Aside from the technical and soft skills, Breslin noted the importance of “diversity of thought and approach” in cultivating highly productive teams. He added that technology consulting is not just for one certain type of person.
“However, there are characteristics that are important, including a strong appetite for learning new technologies and techniques, a love for problem solving and a desire to innovate.”
For those hoping to forge a career in the field, Breslin offered something he wishes he could have told himself at the beginning of his journey: “Value the network of friends and colleagues you meet from day one – they will be with you for the rest of your career in one way or another.”