Headshot of a man in casual clothes in an office setting.
Mick O'Connor. Image: Luke Maxwell/Siliconrepublic.com

What made this software developer return home after 15 years?

8 Oct 2019

Mick O’Connor of Genomics Medicine Ireland discusses his decision to move back to Ireland after more than a decade in Australia.

In 2002, Mick O’Connor was struggling to find work in the electronics sector, leading him to pursue more promising prospects in Australia, where he ended up living for more than 15 years.

Now, O’Connor is back living in Ireland and working as a software development manager for Genomics Medicine Ireland (GMI). Here, he discusses how joining the company has helped him navigate the move back to his home city of Dublin.

When did you decide to emigrate and why?

In 2002, both my wife and I were working in the electronics industry. Both of us were made redundant within three months of each other, due to the impact of the ‘dot-com crash’.

We struggled to get work in electronics and the cost of living was rising sharply. We had previously visited my wife’s sister in Australia and knew that the cost of living there, especially housing prices, was lower. I had also loved the climate and outdoor lifestyle.

So, we decided to relocate to Australia, given we knew someone living there, it was affordable and, thanks to our engineering degrees, we were eligible for visas.

Where did you emigrate to and for how long were you gone?

We moved to Perth, living there for around 15 years, from 2003 to 2019.

What made you decide to come back?

We missed our families. Our kids are 10 and seven years old, so it became a ‘now or never’ decision as we wouldn’t have wanted to relocate while they were in secondary school and had established deeper friendships.

Not having to Skype my Dad, who doesn’t know how to use a toaster, never mind a phone or laptop, was also a major factor!

How did your current role come about?

I did a huge amount of job searching remotely. Given the costs and stress of relocating a family of four from the other side of the world, I was determined to have a job ready before arriving in Ireland.

It was summer in Perth throughout this job-hunting period and my home office had no air-con, so there was literally a lot of hard work and sweat involved.

What work do you do?

I’m currently managing the software development team in GMI. The team, along with GMI in general, is growing very fast. We’re responsible for building and supporting several bespoke applications that are essential to GMI’s mission.

What do you like most about your job?

GMI is big enough that we get to use cool technology to solve interesting problems. But at the same time, small enough that you see and know everyone in the organisation. It’s a genuinely fun, supportive and friendly place to work.

How did GMI make it easier for you to move back?

The most important thing was that GMI took my remote application seriously and was willing to facilitating phone and video interviews. It was then able to offer me the job without requiring me to be in Ireland first.

Many other companies dismissed my application with a “please contact us when you have relocated to Ireland”.

How did your time working abroad make you better suited for your job, if at all?

In 2002 or 2003, I couldn’t get any technical work in Ireland and was faced with switching my profession. In Perth, I was immediately hired as a software developer and was fortunate enough to join a great company, growing my career from there.

What is the best thing about being back in Ireland?

Reconnecting with family and friends. Discovering Wicklow – I started hiking while living in Perth, but the scenery and terrain in Ireland is so much better.

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