Pramerica: Letterkenny artwork
Image: Pramerica

Pramerica: Drawing tech talent to the Wild Atlantic Way with the perfect work-life balance

12 Oct 2016

As tech companies compete fiercely for talent, more and more it’s culture that sets them apart. Work-life balance is a huge part of that.

The workplace is changing, constantly. This is particularly true in the tech sector, where there are more jobs than there are people to fill them. As a result, tech companies have to be innovative in order to retain talent.

Companies outside the established tech hubs of Dublin are fighting an uphill battle, facing the challenge of luring people away from Ireland’s capital.

This is where benefits come into play. These can make all the difference in the candidate’s mind. As the workforce becomes more connected and more ‘always on’, work-life balance is becoming a really big draw.

Work-life balance is something that Pramerica does well. Here, three Pramerica team members explain the contributing factors in their decisions to move to Ireland’s west coast for work.

Charlene Kennedy: Moving home

Charlene Kennedy, a native of Letterkenny, left Donegal two weeks after her 18th birthday to study law at NUI Galway.

She subsequently spent six years working for a global financial services firm in Birmingham – where she qualified as an accountant – before moving to Dublin to work with a leading international bank.

Last year, Kennedy took some time out to consider where she wanted to go next in her career.

“I always wanted to move home, but I never thought the right career opportunities would be there for me,” she explains. “I had only ever worked in large, global companies. Going to a small firm wouldn’t have suited me.

“What I wanted was to continue working with a global company, but also to move back to Donegal, where my family was. I didn’t think that was possible until I started researching Pramerica. I was surprised that a company of their style and scale was now located in my home town.”

Charlene Kennedy, Pramerica

Charlene Kennedy, Pramerica

Kennedy successfully applied to Pramerica and, with her son and husband, moved back to Letterkenny last summer, 15 years after she had left the town. Kennedy now manages the legal and compliance services department at the company.

“The legal services department here in Pramerica is comprised of talent with a diverse array of legal backgrounds, such as solicitors, barristers and legal graduates; who combine to provide legal support services to our parent company’s attorneys in the US and beyond,” she says.

“Our compliance services supports the business in the provision of an independent system of surveillance and oversight review, designed to prevent and detect violations of laws, rules, regulation and policies.”

Kennedy says her commuting time dropped from an hour and a half to a couple of minutes after she left Dublin for Donegal. She also extols the benefits of being surrounded by family and friends.

“With Pramerica, I have a really exciting, challenging career, with excellent progression prospects for the future. It’s on a par – or better, even – than any role I could have worked in in Dublin, Birmingham or any other major city.

“The huge benefit here, though, is that I’m living in one of Ireland’s most attractive counties, with my closest family members on my doorstep.”

David Roche: Pramerica’s calibre

Dubliner David Roche has worked in financial services for 25 years.

He made the decision to leave Dublin and relocate to Donegal five years ago, lured by the quality of opportunities on offer at Pramerica.

“My father worked in Donegal for almost 12 years, so I had some knowledge of the culture, beauty and wonders of the place,” he said. “I looked at the living conditions around Letterkenny and they really appealed to me: 12km from the town and you’re in beautiful countryside.

“I now live in Ramelton – just north of Letterkenny – and it’s a lovely area to be in, along the banks of Lough Swilly and with easy access to beaches, golf courses and all the sports facilities you can imagine.

“However, aside from the beauty of Donegal and the work-life balance I now enjoy, my number one reason for moving was the calibre of company Pramerica is. I researched it a lot before making the move, and I saw that it was leading-edge and was offering me an opportunity to drive financial services to the next level, working in a really dynamic and fast-paced environment.”

David Roche, Pramerica

David Roche, Pramerica

Roche is director of financial services at Pramerica, and will be speaking on the Career Zoo Main Stage on Saturday 15 October, as part of the ‘FinTech 2.0’ panel discussion.

“Fintech is an area that’s growing fast and furiously,” he says. “Ireland has a very dynamic fintech sector, with Enterprise Ireland and the IDA exposing the country as a fintech hub.

“Prudential, Pramerica’s parent company, has had finance and tech functions for over 100 years. Now, these two functions are merging and integrating, and Pramerica has a leading-edge fintech division.

“One important aspect of my role in Pramerica is to focus on identifying and implementing new technologies that will enhance our financial services. There are new technologies coming on stream in recent years – like blockchain and Ethereum – that will eventually reshape financial services. And we have to be ready to support and understand them, and have our staff skilled in them. That’s the very innovative side of our work.”

According to Roche, “the future of fintech will stem from the cooperation and collaboration of how both industries – financial services and technical systems – embrace each other as one. The most important person in all of these developments, of course, is the customer. Customer expectations have changed hugely in the wake of the digital revolution and the financial crash of recent years, and amid ongoing tech developments. And we have to be able to respond to that.”

Outside of work, Roche says his move to Donegal has given him a much better work-life balance, and that he has been well accepted by the local community.

“I was caught up in Dublin in the commute and property bubble,” he says. “I was putting in a 75-hour week. A lot of my friends were in Dublin, but we were all so busy during the week that we could only ever meet up at weekends. And I’m still close enough to be able to pop down to see them at weekends now. We’re lucky, in that respect, that Ireland is a small country.

“When I moved to Donegal, our social life here happened very naturally. Working with a company like Pramerica makes you feel very much at home. I enjoy the sporting banter and rivalry between Dublin and Donegal. I have great friends and colleagues in the company, and there’s a great community spirit.

“Pramerica, as a major employer in the region, is so involved in the local community. And that’s more precious here than corporate community is in Dublin. You don’t get the same emphasis on those sort of links in Dublin because it’s a bigger place.”

Kelly McWeeney: Opportunity at Pramerica

Unlike Kennedy and Roche, Kelly McWeeney, a cybersecurity specialist with Pramerica, was already living in Letterkenny when she joined the company.

Originally from Drumkeerin, Co Leitrim, she came to Donegal initially to study at Letterkenny Institute of Technology.

“When I was finishing final year, I got offered a position with Pramerica and I decided to stay,” says McWeeney. “I had been here for four years for college and I didn’t want to leave – Letterkenny is a really nice town.

“Unfortunately, where I’m from originally, there aren’t many job opportunities for what I do. Letterkenny was the logical option and, now, I’m only one and a half hours from home, so I go home twice a month. I have a really nice balance.”

Despite having lived in Letterkenny for four years before joining Pramerica, McWeeney says she found herself having to build up a new social circle after graduation, because a lot of her college friends had left the town.

Kelly McWeeney, Pramerica

Kelly McWeeney, Pramerica

“I went from having a circle of college friends to moving into a new work environment. It was really easy to build up friendships within Pramerica, though. This is a very social town. Everyone’s really friendly.

“At Pramerica, we have the Sports and Social Club, which is great for meeting people – particularly people from other departments that you might not integrate with on a daily basis. The club organises things like kayaking trips and surf lessons. They give you more than ample opportunity to take advantage of the beautiful outdoors here. We’re in a prime location and Pramerica does loads to get everyone involved.

“What I really like about Letterkenny is that it has the feel of a big town, but you can get complete serenity within a 20-minute drive, thanks to the beaches and mountains on our doorstep. The work-life balance is absolutely brilliant. It doesn’t even take me two minutes to get into work in the mornings.”

At Pramerica, McWeeney oversees the vulnerability management team within the cybersecurity sector.

“We perform vulnerability scans on our full network environment, rate vulnerabilities and devise patch plans to secure the network,” she explains. “We also develop security standards and policies, and work to get those enforced across the company.”

Pramerica is a headline sponsor of Career Zoo, taking place at The Convention Centre Dublin on 15 October. The company will be recruiting for roles in actuarial, software, financial services, legal and leadership.

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