By First-Year MBA Student Stephen Broadbent
I touched down in the land of the Celtic Tiger with overcast skies and an appetite for Guinness stew. Our 15 ESADE MBA techies were in Dublin this week to explore the city’s technology hubs in hopes of unraveling some of the mystery around how this little island off Europe’s Atlantic coast has become the region’s technology powerhouse. And of course a little fruitful networking was part of the plan as well. We were all curious about the unique position Ireland has created for itself and how it has been faring amidst its more recent troubles to recover from the economic crisis of the last few years. What I found was a strange brew of old and new and a resilient culture clearly committed to staying the course toward development and progress.
Ireland has some powerful economic advantages that attract the world’s top tech firms, which go far beyond the tax incentive draw that often tops the news. Its proximity to the rest of Europe gives foreign firms an easy launch pad to do business in the region. Just as important, its English speaking and highly educated population create an ideal bridge for the likes of Google, Oracle and other leading companies to extend their influence across the Atlantic. It was no surprise during our whirlwind of company visits to encounter great hospitality and professionalism at every turn.
Over two days our ESADE crew visited the offices of Oracle, Symantec, Facebook, Google and Yahoo!. It was interesting to see seasoned players like Oracle and Google juxtaposed with the new kid, Facebook, which was still putting paint on the walls of its newly built offices when we arrived. The Facebook crowd was a buzz with a youthful and somewhat chaotic zeal and they were clearly ramping up for EMEA growth. Oracle offered a more traditional corporate environment with a definite sales angle for its Dublin operations. Yahoo! seemed to be holding its breath a little with a recent CEO change and corporate alliance with Microsoft’s Bing hot off the press. Symantec was, perhaps predictably, secretive about its internal goings on, though we were pretty mesmerized by its funky state-of-the-art facility. But to no one’s surprise, Google rocked the show with its vibrant blend of fun and creativity mixed with serious dedication to business. Google’s attractiveness as an innovator notwithstanding, the perks and work environment were a bounty that any MBA would envy. As we toured the Google offices, our guide, the boisterous Jane Murphy, left us salivating with images of complementary meals and in-house massage therapy, a games room on every floor, a quiet space filled with beanbag chairs for afternoon siestas, a traditional Irish pub…even a flight simulator! And with 3000 employees in Dublin, Google is clearly the dominant player out here.
Of course, the trek also served to bring our group of techy wannabees closer together over our shared aspirations to pursue careers in technology. It was amazing to see this common thread stretch across such a diverse group. In true ESADE style we represented Japan, Israel, Greece, Canada, USA, Taiwan, India, and Spain and our backgrounds ranged from engineering and IT to publishing to consulting. The evenings brought plenty of hearty food and warm Celtic music to stave off the bitter winter chill and we raised more than a few pints of Guinness to each other and our collective futures. Dublin’s charming old stone architecture and layered history actually left me feeling a strange sense of nostalgia. I think it was a familiarity to Irish culture migrated to my home in Canada mixed with school hood memories of great Irish stories by the likes of Joyce, Becket and Shaw. Dublin’s culture is rich, to be sure. And it has been made richer by its rise as a tech hub. There is an optimism here, despite the very real impact of the recession on the people’s lives. While much of the economy is struggling in Ireland as in the rest of Europe, one thing is certainly clear, the tech sector is booming and tech companies are in Dublin to stay.