Called to a career in communications
WILD GEESE Tom Farrell, vice president Nokia, Middle East:Travel was as much a necessity as a choice overseas after Tom Farrell graduated as an engineer in 1993 – now he finds himself working at Nokia at a time of profound change, writes JOANNE HUNT
FROM FRANCE TO London, from Finland to Dubai, Tom Farrell’s career path has taken him far. Now vice-president of Nokia in the Middle East, he attributes his first foray overseas to “itchy feet”.
Graduating from UCC with a degree in engineering in 1993, a time when unemployment in Ireland was higher than it is now, travel was as much a necessity as a choice. “In my engineering class of 60 people, I think only 12 or 15 of us had jobs on graduation day and almost all of those were overseas,” he recalls.
His first job was with predecessor to Accenture, Anderson Consulting. Based in their technology practice in the south of France, he describes it as “a very glamorous start to my career, but I think I was too young to appreciate it”.
Spending six years there, working on technology projects around Europe, he transferred to Accenture’s London office and then to Dublin, spending more than nine years with the company in total. By then, he wanted a change and set his sights on joining a large technology company.
“I am an engineer at heart and I love technology, but equally I love figuring out how to commercialise it and put it into the hands of as many people as possible,” he says.
Deciding to go back to business school in 2003, he completed an MBA at Insead in Singapore and France. With his Finnish wife six months pregnant with their first child, accepting a role with Nokia at its Finnish headquarters on graduation was a no-brainer. Farrell sees many similarities between Finland and Ireland.
“Finland is a small country on the edge of Europe, it’s got five million people, it’s separated from mainland Europe by water and it has some history with the neighbours down through the years that creates a certain psychology – so they are quite similar.”
With incubating telecoms giants such as Nokia and Ericsson, how does he account for the early dominance of the Nordic countries in telecommunications?
“Think about it: if a metre of snow falls at night, things need to work the next day to make sure life goes on. The physical environment, the nature of the place forces you to make sure things work. That efficiency in the north comes from a lot of pragmatic needs.”