In the past, many Irish IT workers felt they had to go abroad to fulfil their career ambitions. Now, however, they are returning in droves, as IT opportunity knocks in both Eire and Northern Ireland, writes Roisin Woolnough.
Michael Henry works for technical support company Stream International at the Londonderry call centre in Northern Ireland. He is team manager of the Hewlett-Packard account. He says employment possibilities in the area have changed dramatically in the past few years.
"People used to go abroad to find IT jobs because that's where the opportunities were," says Henry. "But there are opportunities here now and they've started to come back. A lot of IT companies have moved in and there has been rapid growth in the last few years." Indeed, the workforce at the call centre has grown from just over 30 people in 1996 to 400 people today - and he says this figure will increase to 600 in the next couple of years.
But it is not just the greater number of IT jobs that is tempting people back. According to Henry, the sheer quality of life is a big attraction. "It's not so fast-paced as it can be working in many other places. For instance, there is less traffic on the road and it's quicker to move around. In our company people come from all over the place because they can get to work easily. And then there's the lovely countryside of course."
Henry says employers are also lucky in that they have a pool of well-educated professionals to tap in to. "There are very high standards of education here."
As for Henry himself, he entered the IT industry as a complete novice after 16 years spent working in the medical sector. For his current role, presiding over Pavilion Computers and CD writer support teams, he received six months of training. "I am now trained to support all Hewlett-Packard printers, a range of 47 models and scanners, plus PC architecture and software specific to Pavilion and all Windows operating systems up to NT4.
"It's daunting joining any company and when you are moving into something that is different to what you were doing before, it's even more so. However, the training was good and I picked it up quickly. I think training and development is key to the success of any company."
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Name: Michael Henry
Job: team manager of Hewlett-Packard account at Stream International's call centre in Londonderry
Qualifications: currently pursuing a part-time BA (Hons) business degree
Favourite spot/hangout: spending every spare moment with my wife and three children on the Donegal coast
Favourite film: The Matrix
Favourite book: The Guinness Book of Records
Henry on Henry: dedicated, creative, ambitious
Best thing about working in Ireland: the coastline
Worst thing about working in Ireland: the bad press we sometimes receive