From the Arctic Circle to warm Belfast welcome
Case studyWhen Nadia Flynn was growing up in the Arctic city of Murmansk, the first she heard of Northern Ireland was in a news report about terrorist attacks.
According to Nadia, people from the Russian region, once described by the Lonely Planet as halfway between Moscow and the North Pole, only saw Northern Ireland as a place where “bad things” happened.
So why today is Nadia Flynn happily living in Belfast and enjoying a flourishing career as a team manager with one of the North’s fastest growing inward investors?
Her decidedly un-Russian sounding new surname might provide a clue as to why Nadia’s journey from Murmansk to Belfast really is a tale of “From Russia with Love”.
The 30-year-old first came to the North four and a half years ago. A Northern Ireland work acquaintance had persuaded her that the North was worth a visit. On her first visit, the offer of a job came her way from a company looking for native Russian speakers. Nadia also speaks English, Norwegian and German.
That company was GEM, a Belfast-based multilingual customer contact centre that last year was acquired by the American company Concentrix, part of the Synnex Corporation.
Even though she initially had little intention of staying when she first arrived, Nadia said there were certain aspects of life that she found herself warming to in the North.
“I had this picture about what it would be like, my parents had this picture, everybody from my home had this picture but the first time I came to Northern Ireland it was just normal.
“My parents were really worried but I kept phoning them and telling them that the people are nice and friendly,” Nadia said.
Then one day she met a young man named Mark Flynn in Belfast, fell in love and Northern Ireland became her new home.
One of the reasons she is happy in Belfast is because her job is “so exciting”.
“I work with people from all over the world everyday – I manage a team who are currently working on a Norwegian contract but I am surrounded by French, Italian, Finnish and Dutch speakers – it is fantastic to work in a multi-lingual company.
“I did not think I would have this opportunity and my parents are happy for me now. They see that I am happy and that I have a really good career in Belfast,” she says.
Before the peace process the prospect of Northern Ireland attracting bright, multi-lingual, highly mobile young people to work and live was virtually zero.
But today Nadia and her colleagues at Concentrix are like a window into the transformation taking place in the North.
Concentrix, which is based close to Belfast city centre, currently offers customer support in 28 languages.
Christopher Caldwell, the American group’s president, says Belfast is now set to become its “hub for all of Europe”, which suggests the promise of further jobs and investment.
Its bright, energetic, highly educated young force in Northern Ireland are, according to Mr Caldwell, just one of the reasons why its investment in the North has more than lived up to its expectations.
The Concentrix offices are on any average day filled with a mix of accents from around the world but the Northern Ireland accent still predominates.
Even Nadia Flynn is beginning to sound more Belfast than Russian.