Emigrant entrepreneurs: the secrets of their success
Four Irish entrepreneurs attending the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin Castle today and tomorrow share their tips for success overseas
Russia has a growing economy, and there is a talent gap, which provides great opportunities for young people. In Ireland, as in any developed country in Europe, you could sit in a role for many years before you are promoted. Here, if you have the drive and the ability to work, you will move upwards very fast.
If the job offers what you want and you believe it will forward your career, I would say: seize the opportunity. But don’t just make the decision to come to a place like this because you have no other options. Russia is not an easy country to live in, and if you don’t have the language it is very difficult. Seasoned professionals headhunted to come here will be able to get by without the language, but for young people arriving over with little experience, having it will be a prerequisite.
I would also advise new arrivals to reach out to the Irish Embassy. In places like Russia, the embassies will invite you to events and introduce you to people, which can help you to make friends and business connections. Irish social and business networks or clubs will also be helpful. You might be a young graduate just out of college and there will be an age gap between you and other members, but you should never be afraid to reach out. We all remember what it is like to arrive in a new place alone, and are willing to help.
‘There is a community of Irish business people willing to help’
Fred Combe is managing director of NATUS Pte Ltd in Singapore and chairman of the Farmleigh Fellowship
I met my future wife while on an export marketing programme the Irish government was running in the 1980s through the Irish Institute for European Affairs in Belgium. Irish companies sposored us to undertake research on business in Europe. It was a life-changing experience for me.
We have been living overseas for the past 25 years, 22 in Asia. My daughter was born in Singapore, my son in Venezuela. We are your classic global family, but still have a very strong connection to Ireland.
I was employed by British American Tobacco in the late 1980s, and moved up in the organisation to become regional director for southeast Asia in 2003. I was based mostly in Singapore, but worked also in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
Seven years ago I set up my own business, and now I am a consultant, entrepreneur and investor in start-up companies in southeast Asia and China, some with an Irish connection.
I came up with the idea for the Farmleigh Fellowship as a way to strengthen Ireland’s ties with Asia by developing a network of young Irish professionals there. I connected University College Cork with Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, to start an MBA with a strong Asian twist. Over the past three years, 65 young Irish people have moved out there through the programme.