'The jobs market in London is on another level compared to Ireland'

Working Abroad Q&A: Corkman Brian Daly works in data security in Britain

Brian Daly originally from Ballincollig, Cork, who lives in Tottenham, London where he keeps people’s data safe.

Brian Daly originally from Ballincollig, Cork, who lives in Tottenham, London where he keeps people’s data safe.


Brian Daly from Ballincollig in Co Cork, who lives in Tottenham in London, on working to keep people’s personal data safe

When did you leave Ireland, and what were your reasons for leaving?

I left Ireland in October 2012. I had set up a start-up just as the recession started to hit hard. We spent a few years trying to figure that out. After three years, I decided it was time to wind things up, give my parents a break and get a “real” job. I called on my experience in electronic payments, and DataCash, a MasterCard Company, needed someone in London to manage their Chip and Pin payment products. I had never thought about working in London, but it was too good an offer to turn down. So I packed my one bag and off I went.

Did you study in Ireland? Where and what?

I graduated from Trinity College in 2005, but I started off in FÁS, where I got some PC maintenance and network admin certificates. I then followed this up by getting a bunch of Microsoft-certified professional qualifications. Eventually, I ended up studying information systems in the evening at Trinity.

Have you done any training or studying anywhere else?

My diploma gave me a solid grounding in IT, I have topped this up with non-technology skills. I also studied photography with the institute of photography in Dublin.

What do you do at the moment?

I joined Post-Quantum in 2017 as their product and innovation manager. PQ are specialists in data security and identity management, allowing consumers to protect their personal information online by encrypting it on their smartphone and storing a token representing it on the blockchain.

A lot of Londoners were completely baffled. London people are a bit embarrassed by it all

What is data security and why is it important?

Some 4.5 billion records have been stolen from the computer systems of the smallest to the biggest names on the internet in 2018. Data security is the practice of deploying defences to keep the internet safe from cyber criminals and rogue employees. Leaked or stolen records are for sale online, you can buy a stolen credit card number for 50c , an email user name and password for $2 and a Paypal password for about $6.50. People’s data is cheap and cyber criminals can scam thousands of euro from their victims.

You work in encrytption - what does it involve?

In computing, encryption is the method by which text or any other type of data is converted from a readable form to an encoded version that can only be decoded by another entity if they have access to a decryption key. There is a ton of sophisticated maths and algorithms involved. which is well beyond my ability - that is why we have a university professor and a number of people with PhDs on staff.

Why is encryption so important?

Encryption is important because it allows you to securely protect data that you don’t want everyone to have access to - to keep it private in other words. The serious risk of getting scammed online and of extortion has led the US government to consider replacing the social security number system. I am working to bring higher levels of data security and more trust to the internet. We encrypt your data on the smartphone, use facial and voice recognition and only allow data to be shared with your explicit permission - even we can’t see it. It’s completely private and under your control and is useless if intercepted by anyone else. We also enable trusted partner (for example your bank) to confirm specific attributes about you without actually sharing the actual data.

Tell us about your career there. Is working in London different to working in Ireland?

The level of activity in the jobs market is on another level compared to what I remember in Ireland. People can change jobs every year here and have a few side hustles just to keep their finger on the pulse. Corporate strategy changes fast here and companies are not afraid to get rid of anyone that is not needed for their new strategy. One day you are leading projects, the next you are walking out of a meeting with HR without a job. It is cut throat in that sense. Networking is a vital part of a successful career in London. Ireland is never far way, everyone here has a story about a trip to Ireland, family or friends living there or Irish friends and being Irish.

What challenges do you face in your work?

We see quantum computers as our biggest challenge. Quantum computers use quantum-mechanics, they will be extremely powerful, they will deliver huge leaps forward in weather-modelling and medical research - the benefits are enormous. But there is down side, they will be able to instantly break the strongest encryption standards protecting data today. The big tech companies and rogue states are developing these new computers and hackers are stealing large amounts of data and storing it for decryption later. This means gaining access to the all the world’s banking and health records and smartphones, it even means all the bitcoins out there can be stolen overnight.

If you wanted to come and work in Ireland what are the opportunities like?

I plan to stay here for a few more years, but I know that Dublin and Cork are establishing themselves as technology hot spots. Dublin already was, but it has gone into overdrive with the rapid growth of Facebook, Google, Airbnb, linkedIn, Stripe and other home-grown internet companies. I think access to housing is going to a much bigger concern for me when I come home and for anybody else considering moving to Ireland to work

How do salaries compare?

There is a thing called “London weighting”, which means you could be getting a five to 10 per cent salary bump for working in London, but that is ether swallowed up by rent or transport costs. The biggest differentiator is in London you can move up in a company or easily to move companies for a salary increase.

Do the Irish fit in well there?

Yes, we do, I have not had any trouble making friends. Apart from the odd joke about Guinness and potatoes, there is less difference between us (Irish/English) than I expected.

What is it like living in London?

I am very lucky, I work in the city of London and don’t have a long commute, so I get to enjoy all it has to offer, restaurants, markets , food stalls, museums, galleries. The craft beer scene is great and pub food is great too. Life can be hectic at times, as there is always someone to catch up with, somewhere to be, something to get done. There are loads of great gigs and cultural events, but if you don’t plan weeks ahead to meet people, you won’t see anyone or everything will be sold out. Basically you are always busy.

Has the Brexit vote changed things?

A lot of Londoners were completely baffled. We didn’t see it coming. People are very worried, non-nationals mostly of course, but London people are a bit embarrassed by it all, they think it doesn’t reflect on how open, friendly and multicultural they really are.

Will Brexit change things for you?

Not really, well not any more than anyone else. I’m not sure people know what to expect, everything is unclear. But my employers are worried about hiring talent, if the EU can’t secure free movement of people it will make hiring developers difficult, they are highly in demand and difficult to hire as it is.

If the EU can’t secure free movement of people it will make hiring developers difficult

Do you think working abroad has offered you greater opportunities?

Definitely. The jobs market is so diverse here, in the space of six years I have been able to apply my skills to a wide variety of industries, payments, banking, cyber security, data protection, identity management and even restaurant and wellness tech.

Are there any other Irish people in your work/social circles?

Currently I am the only Irish person in my office, but I get my Irish fix from friends and cousins who moved to London around the same time as I did. I guess there are four or five friends for home living here now.

What is it like living in London in terms of accommodation, transport, social life and so on?

Accommodation is a killer. Rent is so expensive, you can easily pay 40 per cent of your take home pay on rent if you want to live somewhere that is well connected. If you live further out, you spend the money on transport. It’s is standard to pay 10 weeks up front (six weeks deposit, four weeks rent), which is a lot of money when you first arrive, One great thing is that the deposit is a protected, so you don’t get screwed out of it by greedy landlords, you both need to agree to the deductions before any deposit is refunded to either side. Finding a flat before it is gone is a full-time job. There are loads of agents, website and forums to help find places, but you’ve got to be quick and go see things as soon as you can.

What are the costs like compared to Ireland?

Eating out is cheaper I find, if you do it smart. Alcohol is expensive in the pubs and getting a black cab is very expensive. This is where Uber and the night tube is a real help. Groceries are much cheaper, there is a constant price-war between the big name supermarkets, which make the basics very affordable

What do you think your future holds?

Aside from the mess of Brexit, there is a seemingly endless supply of new ideas in London begging to be investigated and I am excited to work with talented technologists to try bring them to market.

Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?

I miss the openness and friendliness. London is not unfriendly, it just not Ireland friendly. I miss being able to wander into Dublin city centre knowing you will inevitable bump into a few friends. And of course I miss my family and my Mom’s cooking.

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.

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