Home to the famous Santa Monica Pier, palm-lined streets and Californian sunsets, Santa Monica has recently become known as "Silicon Beach" due to its creative economy and start-up scene.
"Those are some of the reasons I wanted to live here," says Eoghan Geoghegan, who moved to Santa Monica in 2011. "Then there's the fantastic climate, easy accessibility to the airport and the rest of sprawling LA, great bars and restaurants, and of course the GAA club."
Originally from Knocklyon, in Dublin, Geoghegan's family moved to Killinierin in Co Wexford when he was a teenager, which he visits regularly. "But I didn't stick around for very long after finishing my degree in business and management at the Dublin Institute of Technology.
"Ireland was in mid-recession, so around one-third of my class members and I left the country. I wanted to work in start-ups and, having spent summers in California on a J1 visa, I knew that's where I wanted to go."
Geoghegan says the course he took at DIT was very US focused and, upon completion, he had an American CV in hand. He sent it to a company called MomentFeed and got an internship at the company’s headquarters in Santa Monica.
“MomentFeed manages and automates local mobile search triggers via its unified platforms. It uses location to help companies with hundreds of stores manage all their marketing and customer care.
“I started off as an intern and worked my way up to vice-president of business development for the company over a six-year period. Along the way, I worked as an enterprise sales executive to director of strategic partnership. It was great to grow the company and get massive clients like Burger King and Starbucks on board.”
By the time 2018 came along, Geoghegan was living in a top floor apartment in Santa Monica, just a few blocks from the beach and enjoying outdoor LA life and road trips around the country. But in 2018, he decided to take a career sabbatical.
"I thought, if not now, when? So I travelled around the US and Central America working as a volunteer. I never got to Interrail around Europe, so I did that too, while playing lots of golf here in Los Angeles between trips."
After a year and a half, it was time to get back to work and, after a stint at an outdoor advertising company called Clear Channel Outdoor where he worked as a director of product development, Geoghegan returned to MomentFeed taking on the role as vice-president of business development once more.
"I started back during the pandemic in April 2020 and we did quite well, as people were keen on seeking out locations as a result of lockdowns. I stayed until September 2021 before partnering with my current employer Aircam, where I work as senior vice-president of business development," he says.
The company, which is also based in Santa Monica, partners with top photographers to capture thousands of locations for global brands. It delivers real-time professional photos for multilocation businesses.
“It’s great that it is based here, so I can walk to work. I can walk everywhere in Santa Monica. Los Angeles is massive, so the average commute is around 40 minutes. It’s a huge bonus. Also, you never tire of looking at the Pacific Ocean on your doorstep.”
The variety of road trips you can take are endless. Last year we went to Yellowstone, which was amazing
Geoghegan also enjoys the many Irish connections he has in Santa Monica, a self-contained town close to LAX international airport, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills, with a population just under 100,000.
"I'm the president of the Cougars GAA club here and I play regularly. We also do meet-ups, quizzes and various social events. Everyone seems to be plugged into the same experience and willing to connect. I've noticed that Irish networking here has increased in recent years and there's a lot more on."
Geoghegan has a Green Card which, he says, makes life a lot easier. “I’ve had it for two years now. Before that, I had the H1B visa, which is awarded to immigrants who have speciality occupations. The employers can temporarily employ foreign workers with this visa, but it’s more difficult to get these days, with Covid-19 making it even harder.”
With the recent spike in infections across Europe, Geoghegan says Los Angeles and California is much less restrictive than Europe right now. “But that could all change. The US is a little behind the waves compared to Europe.”
Though he came home twice since the pandemic began, he and his fiancee will be spending Christmas in Santa Monica. “The weather will be lovely. You have a few days of rain, which is rare, but then it’s sunny with blue skies again. The weather definitely makes a huge difference.
“Warm winters are a huge bonus and people really love the outdoor life here. They aren’t afraid to drive big distances to see each other and do things at the weekend, which is great. The variety of road trips you can take are endless. Last year we went to Yellowstone, which was amazing.”
Geoghegan says there are many virtues to having an Irish accent, more than 8000km from home. “The Americans famously love the Irish, even on the west coast. But we earned their love too with our work ethic, gift of the gab and great ability to express ourselves and have a laugh.”