Dublin's tech tigerland
Nagel worked in France for three years before moving to Dublin, and like many foreign tech workers she lists the ability to live close to her workplace as a big perk.
Nagel’s Dutch colleague Thijs van der Haak, who is 35, moved to Dublin in April 2005. He manages a team of online marketing consultants tasked with acquiring high-value advertisers for the Benelux market.
“I think Dublin is a great place to start your career and get some international experience, so I would definitely recommend it. I already got my best friend from the Netherlands to marry an Irish girl.”
He initially intended to stay for one or two years. Seven and a half years later, he’s still in Dublin, describing his long-term plans as “open”.
Is it all so perfect? Off the record, and in hushed tones, some Googlers talk about how unnerving they find Google’s company enthusiasm can be, about how entire professional and social lives revolve around the Google ecosystem, about the long hours and stress associated with being part of a company that demands a lot from its employees.
‘We are touching the future’
But even the naysayers acknowledge that the company rewards them handsomely for their work, and the dominant sentiment is one of possibility and endless expansion. They’re working in an exciting sector, on the tools of the future. Their chief executives are household names. Their companies are cool.
When Twitter advertised a post for a PR person in Dublin, it was retweeted with enthusiasm and envy, like a spot on the bench of a Premiership team, or a job as a rock star’s roadie.
“Working for the tech sector, we feel – I don’t know how to say it – we feel alive,” says Alessandra Verri, a 36-year-old from Calabria, in southern Italy, who moved to Dublin in 2005 and is a lead team-leader at PayPal. “We feel we are touching progress and the future. We are dealing every single day with something a couple of years ago would have seemed weird.”
Such boundless enthusiasm among employees can become overpowering, as can the companies’ careful message management. At both PayPal and Facebook, an Irish staff member sits in on the Irish Times’s interviews with employees. Google’s employee interviews are conducted by email (not the norm for journalistic research), at the company’s request. Twitter declines to offer employees for interview.
Yet the employees are emphatic about the informality and lack of hierarchy within the companies. Employees at PayPal’s office in Ballycoolin Business Park, near Blanchardstown, in Dublin 15 offer strikingly similar responses to the question, “Do you notice any professional or workplace differences in Ireland?” They speak about managers sitting next to other employees and how employees are involved in making decisions.
Susana Prieto Fermin, from Barcelona, says, “The main [difference] is the focus that PayPal puts on the employees and how every decision that is made, we’re made part of it. The boss is not just someone who is above you in the hierarchy.” Verri says, “The treatment and the respect towards employees is the most important difference.”
Even though these companies are desirable workplaces, the seats aren’t all taken. Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin has nearly 60 vacancies. That number of jobs being created in Dublin would be headline news any other day, if it wasn’t just rolling recruitment.
In an ideal situation, the young Irish people emigrating right now could be up for the jobs John Dennehy is trying to sell to Europeans. But it’s all about languages, an aspect of Ireland’s education system that can’t compete. “There’s a long-term need to address that skills gap through education,” Dennehy says, “but there’s also a short-term need. The only way to address that short-term need right now is to bring in people outside of Ireland.”
Eimear O’Neill is a recruiter at Facebook and previously had a similar role at Google. She describes Facebook’s “pretty comprehensive relocation package”, explaining how it sets up people in Dublin, sorting out their flights, shipping their belongings, offering them a few weeks of accommodation before they find their own place. “Pretty much all of the people we hire are relocating from somewhere.”
When O’Neill hires someone, they’re added to a Facebook relocating group page, so before they move to Dublin they can chat online with other people who’ve moved from their country or elsewhere. Like the product, Facebook’s office environment is social.
“We had a party when we hit one billion users. They’re great at organising a lot of social events. We have Friday drinks as well, where they open that big fridge down there and fill it with beer. We have our evening meals here on Friday and have a few beers, so it’s a really social place to work. So if you are relocating from other countries you have, I suppose, a ready-made group of friends. A lot of the guys in Facebook will hang around with the Nordic team or Spanish team or German team in Google, Microsoft, Twitter, LinkedIn.”