Derry becoming magnet for diversity

Belfast Briefing: after 21 years in the city, Seagate represents a rich mix of cultures

Seagate’s Springtown plant in Derry, which employs more than 1,300 people, embraces the global organisation’s “workplace diversity” ethos. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Seagate’s Springtown plant in Derry, which employs more than 1,300 people, embraces the global organisation’s “workplace diversity” ethos. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

Seagate Technology officially comes of age as it celebrates its 21st anniversary in Derry this year. But the Springtown plant, which employs more than 1,300 people, could not have reached the milestone without embracing the global organisation’s “workplace diversity” ethos, says executive director Gerry Kindlon.

Seagate, which is incorporated in Dublin and employs more than 50,000 people in 22 countries, promotes the philosophy that workplace diversity gives it a “competitive edge” – which allows it to be more creative and to change.

According to Kindlon, you need look no further than a recent company talent competition at the Springtown plant to see that diversity in action in Northern Ireland. The overall winner of this year’s talent competition was Seagate’s very own answer to the phenomenon that is Riverdance. Only this was an ensemble with a difference that included employees from Malaysia, China, India, the Philippines and Germany.

The winning team represented, Kindlon says, the diversity of its Derry workforce. “Our workforce in Derry all have different skills which we depend on – whether they come from Derry or India, regardless, they are all part of the one big team of people.

“We need the skills of people who want to come and live and work not just in Derry, but everywhere in Northern Ireland. Business and the workplace are changing and it is important that we are more understanding of the diversity of cultures at home.”

Combatting racism

But statistics which show a rise in racist hate crimes in the North would suggest not everyone has got that message. Kindlon believes this is an issue that must be addressed.

“We have a globalised system, which means businesses are supplying global markets – and they have to understand these new markets. To do so, they will have to understand the cultural differences they face in those new markets.

“Some people in wider society within Northern Ireland will perhaps need to begin by understanding more about the diversity of cultures at home. Our society needs to be welcoming to other cultures. We need the skills of people who arrive here and we need them to feel at home with us,” Kindlon states.

Arriving in a different and new work location is an experience that Kindlon is more than familiar with. His position as executive director product management/PPA at Seagate Technology requires extensive travel. Based in the Springtown plant, Kindlon is responsible for 200 engineers in seven parts of the world. He understands how difficult it can be for people to relocate.

He believes Seagate’s approach to encouraging diversity in the workplace is a “very good role model” for other companies in the North. It might not result in an all-singing, all-dancing Riverdance approach to the issue but it could make for a happier, more integrated workforce.

Today Kindlon officially becomes the 72nd president of the city’s chamber of commerce. Although born in Cooley (just one mile outside Carlingford), he has lived in his adopted city for 30 years.

Kindlon believes there is no place changing faster in the North than Derry and he is enthusiastic about the “team spirit” and goodwill. But he is also realistic about the challenges which exist and keen to highlight what he describes as key problems such as high rates of unemployment and the “infrastructure deficit” in relation to the local university, roads and airport.

Kindlon believes it is time for a wake-up call to local companies about the “workplace revolution” under way.

Future-proofing

“Over the next 18 months as president of the chamber I will focus on the ‘future of work’. I don’t believe that there is sufficient awareness of how work is changing – and therefore far too many employers, employees, teachers, students and school pupils are not sufficiently prepared for the future of work.

“We are educating students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems that we don’t even know about yet. The Derry business community – and the student community – needs to understand this dynamic.”

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