A man in a powdery blue shirt smiling while looking straight into the camera with his arms folded over his chest.
Ger McMahon, vice-president of architecture and enterprise cloud computing at Fidelity Investments. Image: Fidelity Investments

How to foster the collaborative energy of a start-up in a large organisation

9 Oct 2018

You don’t have to compromise the friendly, team-oriented feeling of a start-up when working in a large organisation, says Fidelity Investments’ Ger McMahon.

Different-sized organisations have different benefits. In a large, multinational company, you can tap into a massive international network. These firms may be in a position to offer attractive employee benefit packages and the opportunity to move to field offices in other countries.

A start-up or SME may not have these things but they do often boast a tight-knit, team-oriented and convivial environment.

But what if you could have both? That certainly is the experience of Fidelity Investments’ Ger McMahon. McMahon leads the enterprise cloud computing team at Fidelity Investments Ireland and strives to foster a collaborative environment that has the feel of a young start-up with the resources of a heavyweight on the international financial services stage. We chatted to McMahon about his career journey from working in smaller organisations to a place such as Fidelity Investments.

What first stirred your interest in a career in this area?

My initial interest came from within my college education, where I developed a passion for technology and how it can be used to solve problems and provide solutions. It was fun to sit down in front of a computer and work through a problem to solve while collaborating with fellow classmates. We experimented with different technologies and different approaches and had a great learning environment.

What education and/or other jobs led you to the role you now have?

Following college, I worked in several different companies doing engineer roles in the UK and the US. This helped me gain a variety of different experiences from a technical, business and cultural perspective.

On returning to Ireland, I worked in a telecommunications software company. I worked in pre-sales, engineering and architecture roles, and provided solutions to major telecom companies. This provided me with fantastic experiences as I developed over my career, leading to bigger opportunities where I was able to have greater roles in impact and influence. It also helped create the customer-first mindset that I have now.

At Fidelity, I have been afforded internal mobility opportunities to work in both engineering and architecture roles across different business units. This has helped me gain insights and experiences along with a technology network that helps me be successful in my current role.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?

I think the biggest challenge I encountered was when I moved from working 10 years in my previous company to Fidelity.

‘We are like a start-up within a large enterprise, and embracing the start-up culture makes for creating an enjoyable team with great energy’

My previous company was small compared to Fidelity, with a very flat organisational structure. I worked across all aspects of a project, from the pre-sales stage right through to implementation. Coming into Fidelity, I had to learn about the company, the different business units and how relationship building is critical within such a large organisation, especially as you progress.

Was there any one person who was particularly influential as your career developed?

Yes. Mihir Shah, the current chief technology officer of Fidelity, was a big influence in me moving into architecture within Fidelity. He helped me with my growth and development and getting where I am today.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I love leading the enterprise cloud computing team here in Ireland. It gives me the ability for me to have a significant impact and influence on the Fidelity cloud strategy.

More importantly, the role also allows me to focus on developing a team culture and environment that is focused on continuous improvement and learning. It is so enjoyable watching a team embrace this way of working and collaborating towards becoming great.

We are like a start-up within a large enterprise, and embracing the start-up culture makes for creating an enjoyable team with great energy.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

I am a very open and collaborative person who has an adventurous side. This allows me to be very innovative and curious, asking questions and taking calculated risks. I am always looking at how emerging technologies can be leveraged to improve solutions or be used to create new opportunities.

How did Fidelity Investments support you on your career path, if at all?

Fidelity Investments and Fidelity Ireland have fully supported me on my career path and have been proactive in moving me into different roles and opportunities. They have suggested different training and leadership courses for enabling and supporting my development and growth.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in this area, or just starting out in one?

For people starting a career, it is very important to gain a variety of different experiences and to be constantly learning. It is also important that everyone brings their unique personality, thoughts and ideas, to help build that diversity required for a team’s culture, which is critical for success.

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