Dublin's tech tigerland
Future proof: Facebook employees Ziad Traboulsi, from Lebanon, and Mats Lyngstad, from Norway, at the Dublin office. photograph: alan betson
New Dubliners: Katrin Nagel, from Germany, and Thijs van der Haak, from the Netherlands, at Google. photographs: alan betson and eric luke
New Dubliners: Alessandra Verri, Susana Prieto Fermin and Luca Baldelli at PayPal. photographs: alan betson and eric luke
Economic crisis? What’s that? Young Europeans are flocking to Dublin to work in the mini boom town created by Facebook, Google, PayPal and others
Dublin 2013: a booming industry. Hundreds of young people signing contracts for new jobs with decent salaries. They have perks, bonuses and brilliant social lives. They recommend their friends for jobs, and they get hired too. Friday-night beers top off another great week. Here’s to the weekend, when they take off down the country to go surfing or pub-crawling in Cork and Galway.
Apparently some kind of economic crisis is going on, but in Dublin’s tech sector, where Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal and Microsoft reign, the only way is up.
Emigration is inevitable for many Irish graduates, but multibillion-dollar tech companies taking advantage of Ireland’s low corporate-tax rate are about immigration. Young Europeans are moving to Dublin to bask in a mini boom town, encouraged by a determined recruitment drive.
Grand Canal Dock, Dublin’s most prosperous district, wears this success well. Daniel Libeskind’s theatre sits in the same neighbourhood as a bring-your-own-beer warehouse that hosts parties; rollerbladers grind on benches next to restaurants serving perfect brunches. Positivity seeps from Facebook and Google’s office blocks.
Skating in the corridor
At Facebook’s European headquarters, on Hanover Quay, 25 languages are spoken. Employees get 25 days’ holiday a year, not including public holidays. New parents are offered not only 26 weeks paid maternity but also two weeks’ paid paternity leave. The company pays for monthly gym membership and health insurance, with reductions for dependents. As at Google, meals and snacks are free.
It’s a good deal, and the people working there know it. Young Europeans stroll around in casual clothes, cracking jokes, walking past an office wall graffitied by visitors.
And people skate down the corridor. Ziad Traboulsi, a 24-year-old from Beirut, grabs a weird-looking skateboard by the lift. “Have you tried this one yet?” he asks Mats Lyngstad, also 24, from Trondheim, in Norway. “No, I haven’t tried that one.” That particular skateboard is “a Facebook thing”, Tradoulsi says. He moved here in September 2010. Four people he recommended for jobs have been hired.
Traboulsi works in user operations, “making sure they have a cool experience on the site”. Lyngstad moved here last April. It’s his first job, and it involves talking to advertising clients and agencies in Norway and helping them use Facebook as an advertising platform.
There’s something familiar about their confidence and contentment. They sound awfully like Irish 24-year-olds from seven years ago.
Lyngstad and Traboulsi are here because of their language skills, which tech companies need so much they import young workers from Europe. Irish people work here, too, obviously, but the boom in recruitment looks offshore.
John Dennehy recently started a project called Make IT In Ireland, working with tech employers to fill jobs. “There’s a skills gap . . . Ireland has become the HQ for the biggest tech companies serving customers in Europe, and that creates a huge demand for language skills in things like tech support and customer service. So you need German speakers, Norwegian speakers, Dutch.”
Dennehy works a charm offensive in Europe to counteract the bad-news story of Ireland. The tech companies based here need people with languages, and they need them now.
“Ultimately, if you can’t get the people, you can’t grow. If we can get someone to move to Dublin, that means one extra hire for a tech company. On average, their salaries will be €47,000.”
In the tech-sector, the line between work and play is blurred. “Most of my friends are in Facebook, Google, and my flatmate works at LinkedIn,” Lyngstad says. Traboulsi nods. “Same. These companies are really very linked; we’re always living together, hanging out together. My girlfriend is from the office [Facebook]. Your social life is very linked to your work.
“We typically go out several days a week, and on Friday after work everyone stays out until 1am, 2am. Because everyone’s coming from abroad, it’s sort of a university or college experience. Most people don’t know a lot of other people when they come here, so it ends up being a very close circle.”
Of course, ultimately it’s all about the work. You’re less likely to leave your desk and go home when the office is a cross between the future and Tom Hanks’s apartment in Big.
‘Even the lunch breaks are smart’
Katrin Nagel, a 32-year-old German, is a senior account manager in “large customer sales”, managing businesses partnerships for Google. She moved to Dublin in April 2010 and says Google is the smartest company you could work for.
“Even the lunch or coffee breaks are just the smartest way for easy information- and knowledge-management, and team-building throughout and between all departments, as you meet your friends, enjoy amazing food and discuss [the] latest projects, new innovative ideas.”