Sync NI Magazine Winter 2022/23

Page 1

Improving gender diversity key to addressing tech talent shortages Supported by 38 Bring IT On: Top 12 jobs in tech Visit to get your FREE magazine Northern Ireland's technology and business home Citi 06 PA Consulting 12 Version 1 30 magazine Winter 2022/23  We want to encourage more women into tech to show them there is a career pathway that offers the chance to develop and progress 
16 Graduate to CEO: Climbing the tech ladder
Sinead McCloskey Co-Chair of Danske Bank’s Gender Diversity Network

Welcome to the first edition of Sync NI magazine for 2023

Aswe enter a new year, there is much to be excited about for Northern Ireland’s tech sector but also challenges that the industry will have to navigate. The uncertain economic environment will have some impact this year but as we look ahead, one of the long-term challenges still to be addressed is talent.

As more people conduct their lives digitally, we can see a corresponding investment by businesses in technology and digitisation to ensure they can continue to deliver their products and services to meet customer needs. Banking is no different. The good news for people working in technology is that we have seen an explosion of employment opportunities across many sectors.

In banking, we have seen a customer shift to digital with a 100% increase in customer logins over the last five years and around 500% growth in digital payments. At Danske Bank, we have made significant investments in technology and this will continue. Digital transformation of our business has been a key focus for us.

However, we recognise that for more complex banking needs customers may want to visit our branches, meet a Business Manager or speak to an adviser on the phone.

In my 18 months in post as Danske’s chief information officer, the team has evolved and this will continue. We have created new roles to help us increase the number of products and services digitally available to customers.

We’ve exceeded the targets we set for 2022 but we continue focusing on giving customers the ability to do more themselves from their home or office. It used to be that you had to come in during opening hours – but now we’re open 24/7 for many services. So, we’ve increased our capabilities to support that demand, bringing in more data and software engineering resources but also investing

in the skills of our colleagues.

In a competitive jobs market, our Tech Futures higher-level apprenticeship programme has been essential for building a pipeline of talent. Ten colleagues from branches, our contact centre, operations and other areas have the opportunity to gain degrees in cyber security or software engineering while working in a team to apply their learning.

In addition to developing software in-house, we recognise that to develop at pace we need to work with partners, including fintechs. Although banks are seeing more competition from fintechs in recent years, we are also seeing more partnerships. We have recently partnered with global software provider, PEGA Systems, to build a new digital mortgage solution.

Looking forward, we are focused on digitising more of our products and creating more self-service options for customers. We will also be investing further in automation by combining robotics and AI to further remove manual handling and processing. There are huge opportunities to use data to better understand our customers so that we can provide the appropriate product and service to them.

To do all this we will need talent and Danske Bank is committed to sourcing that it from a diverse pool. We are specifically looking at increasing the gender balance in our technology team, something Sinead McCloskey goes into in more detail in this issue.

Technology is such a broad, diverse domain to go into, yet it’s clear that more needs to be done to encourage more women to consider a career in tech.

So, as we go into a new year, it is incumbent on us all to redouble our efforts to make this sector as diverse and welcoming as possible.

About Sync NI

Sync NI is proud to be the voice of Northern Ireland’s vibrant technology and business sector.

The Sync NI website and magazine brings readers the latest tech and business news, views, jobs and events in Belfast and beyond.

Sync NI Contacts


Phone: 028 9082 0944


Advertising & Partnerships

Phone: 028 9082 0947


General Enquiries

Sync NI Rochester Building 28 Adelaide street Belfast


Phone: 028 9082 0944



Copyright No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyholder and publisher. Sync NI accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of contributed articles or statements appearing in this magazine and any views or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Sync NI, unless otherwise indicated. No responsibility for loss or distress associated to any person acting or refraining from acting as a result of the material in this magazine can be accepted by the authors, contributors, editors or publishers.

Sync NI does not endorse any goods or services advertised, nor any claims or representations made in any advertisement in this magazine.


Inside this edition


“After 37

18 How to turn your passion in IT to a global tech career

20 “Careers in IT are open to everyone, even if you’ve spent years working in another industry”

22 Cybersecurity in a post-pandemic working world

24 Improving gender diversity is key to addressing tech talent shortages

29 The need for ISO standards in a security-demanding sector

have a career”
at your
30 Version 1’s Uzma Ahmed’s post-pandemic career switch your
I finally feel
08 ESO’s young talent taking over the tech scene 11 A tech career right
doorstep 12 PA Consulting: It’s never too late to change
career 14 Q&A with Darren Kane, Director of Software Engineering at CME Group
the tech
16 Graduate to CEO: Climbing
08 16 20 22
17 Maeve Donnelly’s
Journey 06
5 SYNC NI MAGAZINE 32 Unravelling the complexities of cyber security: 3 commonly-asked questions answered 34 EY’s Pat Beattie reveals how to get your dream career in tech 36 Q&A with Holly Tumelty, Software Engineer at CME Group 38 Bring IT On: Top 12 jobs in tech 42 Belfast Technology Employment Academy 44 Kite L&D app supports a new generation of talent soaring into the tech sector 24 36 42 30 29 34

“After 37 years I finally feel like I have a career”

Sync NI speaks with Glenn Marshall-Adams, Applications Developer at Citi about his recent career pivot and how his employer empowered him to fulfil his Developer aspirations


ollowing 12 years as a Project Manager and recent completion of a Masters in Software Development course, Glenn Marshall-Adams craved a change of pace in his role at Citi.

Working within Citi’s ICG Technology team, Glenn was able to pivot his career there when he was given the freedom to tailor a role that better met his interests. Glenn recently sat down with Sync NI to share his journey at Citi and

discuss his recent change of career path to Applications Developer.

q Can you give us an idea of your role at Citi now?

I am currently working as an Applications Developer within the Markets Data, Risk & Controls team here at Citi. The team are responsible for providing technology solutions that help the Markets Business manage their data, risks and controls. I am focused on developing and maintaining

four main applications: Auctions, Conflicts of Interest, Benchmarks and E-Chronicle. The purpose of these applications is to help identify potential market abuse.

My role allows me to work with the latest development tools and technologies; my current tech stack is SQL, Java Spring Boot, Node.js and React with Typescript. Some people think that working for an investment bank limits your technology stack. I


haven’t found that to be the case at all. Citi has made great strides in improving how developers access the tools needed to do their jobs. I’m able to take advantage of a Citi-specific ‘marketplace’ that allows me to access whatever technologies I need to do my job. Some examples of the additional technologies used by other teams within Citi include Python, .NET, R, MongoDB etc.

As our apps are hosted on Citi’s cloud infrastructure, we can use Citi’s proprietary Continuous Integration/ Continuous Delivery (CI/ CD) tool, which leverages Jenkins & uDeploy, as part of our development cycle. Instead of having to follow a complex release process, I can use these tools to deploy changes and applications more quickly. This allows me to spend more time on hands on development and coding – something which makes me very happy indeed!

q You recently transitioned to this role after 12 years as a project manager. How did you successfully pivot your career whilst remaining at Citi?

As you mentioned, I had been working as a project manager for 12 years and felt that it was time for a change. My first degree was completed many years ago in 2015. At first, I thought that it was crazy for me to consider a career in development.

I assumed that it would take years of studying and catching up as I didn’t

have a technology-related undergraduate education. I was really surprised when I learned that you could complete a Masters in Software Development as a post-graduate conversion course with any type of undergraduate degree.

Having done the necessary research, I happily enrolled to study for a Masters in Software Development at Queen’s University Belfast. This was a fantastic experience and I was delighted to graduate. The course fueled my passion for technology and I was keen to put my newfound knowledge and experience to use as an actual Software Developer.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I would achieve this goal but I thought that a good first step might be to talk to my manager. When I explained that I was considering a new career I was really impressed by the response I received. I expected to be directed to a different department or offloaded to a team that desperately needed developers. Instead, my manager asked what exactly I was looking for and then made time to tailor a role at Citi to suit my individual needs. I found this approach really refreshing; it was something I had never experienced in the previous companies I worked with. This experience has turned me into a strong advocate for pushing for how you want your career to progress. Citi have been super supportive of my needs and that’s something

I rave about to all my friends and colleagues alike when I am talking about my experiences here.

q Do you feel your career progression has been different to many of your peers?

In terms of career progression, I feel like most people have the end goal to simply working their way up through the seniority levels in an organisation. For me, especially with my previous experience as a project manager, my goal was to be able to work as a Software Developer and I am more than happy to do that as an individual contributor. This is something that Citi were happy to let me do and I am enjoying being accountable to myself after years of managing other people.

q What would you say to anyone who may be interested in a career pivot?

I have been so lucky to have had Citi’s support through my career change. This meant that I was in the fortunate position of not having to find a new employer to pursue my interests. It meant that I was able to retain my network and continue working with a company that makes me feel valued.

For those interested in changing career paths, I am a true believer in selfaccountability. If there is something I want to learn, I make time to research and find the information I need. Citi have proven that they are championing their

employees by providing them with room to grow. I’m the perfect example of this. I will be forever grateful for the time, resources, and opportunities that Citi have provided to help me further my career. Not only that but I’m also thankful for the fact that they believed in me and that they took the time to understand my needs and tailor a role to suit my career change.

q Outside of your day-today job function, what is the culture like working at Citi?

I am really excited about the culture at Citi. There are a lot of affinity networks of which you can be a part of. I am part of the Citi Pride network and very recently I took part in the International Food Festival which was brilliant. We got to experience multiple cultures and taste a number of different dishes from around the world which was something different.

Working here has been a big eye-opener. At Citi, I am working with people from all over the world and the diversity is constantly fascinating and makes for great conversation over lunch. It has been interesting learning how other people's cultures and backgrounds differ from my own. This level of diversity isn’t something I have had exposure to before and is one of the big advantages of working for a company like Citi.

Discover Citi Belfast’s current roles at:


Rory Loughran is an Apprentice Site Operations Engineer at ESO Belfast. He attended school at St. Benedict’s College in Randallstown and started working at ESO Belfast in July 2021. Rory’s role includes creating CICD pipelines for ESO applications, production processes, observability and monotiling solutions for our applications.

q Have you always wanted to work in tech?

Surprisingly, I haven't always wanted to work in tech. Growing up, I loved being creative and art was a real passion of mine from drawing to designing cars, buildings, and aircraft. Without having known anyone that worked or had worked in the tech, I was completely unaware of what a career in the industry could be like. Even though I didn't pursue an artistic career, I like to think that I still have a creative touch!

q What inspired you most to consider a career in tech?

What inspired me to pursue a career in tech was an event in my high school which took place when I was 14. One of my teachers had her personal social media account hacked and I offered to help -after a day or so I was able to get the account back and figure out the culprit, so maybe it was meant to be! Her relief showed me just how much of an impact technology can have on people. From there I started reaching out to companies offering to work for free, in return for any kind of experience and I was lucky enough to get a few responses! From here I was able to grow my knowledge and coupled with my love for

ESO’s young talent taking the tech scene

ESO’s youngest and brightest share some insight into how they got from education to a career at a tech giant

young taking over scene

technology, I have never looked back.

q What made you decide to apply for an apprenticeship with ESO?

Applying to ESO was an easy decision, I firmly believe in the company mission which ‘improves community health and safety through the power of data’. I come from a family of nine, where I am the only person who doesn't work for the NHS. From a young age I have been surrounded by healthcare and EMS staff and I always looked up to them. When applying for ESO, I thought to myself, I'm not physically inclined to carry a body from a burning building or to perform surgery on an operating table, but I do know my way around a computer, and this was my way to make a difference. I applied to ESO so I could combine my technical skills and love for technology with my eagerness to make real change and support the first responder heroes of the world.

q What training has been provided by ESO for this role?

Upon joining the company, I was greeted by my mentor on my team. My entire team is based in Austin, Texas, so it was odd initially to work from Belfast. A few zoom calls and emails later I was made to feel welcome and settled in. I also have daily catchups with the team in Texas and frequently chat to the Belfast engineers that work closely with my team, so I’ve learned a lot from those around me. In addition, my mentor would spend time with my daily, teaching me new skills while tackling real projects. When I wasn't working on projects, I was able to utilise the plethora of company resources for my own independent training. From working with teams both in Belfast and across the United States I quickly learned a lot and became much more confident.

q What has been your favourite part of the journey so far?

There’s so much that I've loved so far, but it would have to be getting the chance to build the infrastructure and CICD pipelines for a brand-new application - being able to help build an EMS application from


the ground up is a massive milestone for me! I’ve had the urge to help people since I was quite young and always looked up to my family for doing this, so to have the opportunity to help build an infrastructure for medical software that will help millions of people across the United States really puts into perspective how amazing of an opportunity this is.

q Would you have any advice to school leavers considering an apprenticeship?

People often think you must choose between having a degree or doing an apprenticeship. Many don’t realise becoming an apprentice allows you do both and gain the same qualification as a university student. Only with the addition of a salary, no student debt and invaluable experience- especially with a company like ESO. If I only base my advice from my own experience, then I would strongly advocate school leavers to seek apprenticeship opportunities as their first choice.

That’s when my eyes were opened to the endless opportunities in technology.

q How did ESO aid your transition into Graduate Software Engineering?

I had very little programming experience in university so I was nervous that it would hinder my progress as Graduate Software Engineer. To my surprise, it probably benefited me as I had no bad habits! ESO provided a ‘buddy’ programme whereby you have a key person in your team who you are paired with which was the best way for me to learn. They also have a plethora of training videos available to help get you up to speed with programming basics. I think the best aid ESO have is the people they’ve hired, you can approach any person for help or guidance and they will go out of their way to provide what you need or find someone who can. It is such an encouraging environment where no question is deemed silly and you’re not judged for not knowing the right coding terminology or approach for a task. Everyone is learning and everyone is there to help.

q What programming languages do you work with day to day?

the jobs of emergency medical services. Within my first 2 weeks, I had added a column to the list of medications available which to me seemed quite insignificant but when we had our feedback session, the firefighters praised how much easier it was for them to search for items.

q What support is available for young Graduates working in tech to develop their skills?

ESO has encouraged all software engineers to partake in the Christmas advent of code challenge to develop coding skills outside of the work we do. There are also slack channels for developers to ask questions about tasks, old code or new code. Outside of ESO, StackOverflow is every coder’s best friend and Git is a really good way of getting help with your code or showing off code you’re proud of! There are a variety of free courses available online to learn to code too!

Zoe Latimer is a Graduate Software Engineer at ESO Belfast. She gained her degree in MSci Physics at Queen’s University Belfast and started working at ESO Belfast in June 2022. Zoe’s role includes creating and maintaining features in the Inventory web application as well as backend work with the database.

q What inspired you most to consider a career in tech?

I’ve always been interested in how things work whether it’s space, people or technology. The inner workings of technology are programming, so I was instantly intrigued. I had a short module in my degree that introduced me to programming which is where I finally found something that applied analytical, logical but also ‘out of the box’ thinking.

In the front end of the application, my team use a combination of Angular and Typescript which is a superset of JavaScript with static typing. The backend uses C#/dotnet core with entity framework as our ORM framework. Azure is also used to host the backend using function apps and to build and release pipelines with the code in BitBucket. Our automated testing is in Cypress and currently run on Jenkin’s but we’re in the process of moving this to Azure. We have unit tests in C# which use NUnit and NSubstitute.

q What is the most rewarding part of your job?

For me, it’s having feedback sessions with clients and seeing that app changes have made a real difference to

q What inspired you to join ESO? Having previously worked in finance, I wanted to work in a company that’s primary focus was to help people so when I read the ESO company mission, I was immediately intrigued! Their LinkedIn profile made me realise this was a company that valued their employees and encouraged them to socialise and have fun, which was a breath of fresh air. When the graduate role was posted, I knew I had to apply! I love how the company’s goal is to hire people based on their fit within the company and how they align to the core values. The general consensus is that anyone can become a good software engineer, but not everyone is a good company fit. ESO also promotes a diverse and inclusive workplace and as a young woman in tech, it’s important to see this representation. Having the opportunity to learn and collaborate with women in senior positions with the company is really inspiring. From its origin story, progression, staff and future, I feel truly valued in ESO and I’m proud to work here.

Zoe Latimer Graduate Software Engineer

A tech career right at your doorstep

q There has never been a better time to have a career in technology. What are the main benefits of working in IT?

The world of technology is everchanging and fast-paced and those who join the sector have the opportunity to develop new skills as well as being innovative and creative. It’s a really interesting area to work in and you’ll find yourself working to solve important problems and create bespoke solutions. There is a huge range of opportunities within the field of technology, which means that there are plenty of chances for progression in the sector.

q What are the different pathways available for early careers in PwC?

There are currently a whole host of pathways available to those interested in starting their career with us in 2023. These include school and college leaver programmes, flying start degree programmes, summer internships, undergraduate work placements and graduate programmes.

We also offer a variety of programmes including our Virtual Insight Week, Virtual Park Spotlight On events and our Open Office Evening events, to provide individuals with a full understanding of who we are and what we offer.

q What are the key skills required for a successful career in PwC?

Here at PwC, we look for individuals who align with the firm’s values. As part of our student recruitment process, we don’t ask for CVs and cover lettersinstead, you’ll be asked to complete a range of online assessments. Our ‘PwC Professional’ framework is also a really useful tool for applicants - it outlines

the capabilities needed by our people to flourish, learn and develop together as leaders at every level.

Within the PwC Professional leadership development framework, there are five attributes: whole leadership, business acumen, technical and digital, global and inclusive and relationships.

q What sort of programs does PwC provide for continued personal development?

At PwC, all of our new joiners are assigned a career coach and a buddy when they first join the business. These individuals will be there to provide support in their career goals and personal development journey through mentoring, regular catch-ups and quarterly goal setting. Our people are also given access to Vantage, our online

career development platform with an extensive catalogue of training. We actively support our joiners’ continuous learning and development and a number of those roles will also have professional qualifications attached to them.

q What advice would you give to teachers and parents of young people who are considering a career in the technology sector within Northern Ireland?

The technology sector in Northern Ireland is very broad, so our first piece of advice would be to do your research and explore which area of technology interests you the most and how you want to apply that interest. There are different career pathways into technology, so think carefully about what suits your career aspirations - is this going to university; completing a degree apprenticeship or applying for a graduate tech role after you’ve completed your degree?

We’d also advise you to embrace all the opportunities available, so you can continually develop your passion and knowledge. This could be through attending talks with employers, getting involved in hackathons, listening to podcasts or attending technologyspecific events.

As well as working to develop your technical skills, soft skills such as the ability to present clearly and concisely, work well within a team and show leadership skills are essential in many tech roles too. In fact, technologists with a blend of soft skills and technical skills will be some of the most successful.

Laura Hagan
PwC’s Student Recruitment Manager, Laura Hagan, shares her advice on pursuing a tech career in Northern Ireland

PA Consulting: It’s never too late to change your career

Community and Engagement Expert at PA, Laura Lavery, outlines how her change in perspective led her to the tech sector

q Did you always want to work for a global technology company?

Honestly, if you’d asked me ten years ago where I thought I’d be today, I would have definitely said that I’d still be in the hospitality industry! I worked in restaurants and bars for about ten years before joining my last firm, PwC, where I did a variety of peoplefocused roles. I went on to do a higher apprenticeship in accountancy, did my two years to get qualified, and quickly realised that wasn’t the path for me. Good fortune put a fantastic opportunity in front of me to work with a great leader in a different part of


the business and I spent the next 6 years working on people and culture, recognition, D&I, wellbeing, and even a brief stint managing an immigration team. I’ll confess, I didn’t learn much about immigration, but I learned an awful lot about leadership and resilience and got to work with some incredible people.

I never really saw myself in this industry, to be honest. I think like a lot of other people I had my own misconception about the type of person you need to be, and the type of experience you need to have and I didn’t think I fit that mould.

q Do you need a technology background to work in Digital?

I suppose it will depend on the role but to get your foot in the door I would say that is definitely not a pre-requisite. I don’t work in a technical role so my path was always going to be different but within our Digital teams in PA in Belfast, we have people who were librarians, musicians, physios, bar staff, retail staff, teachers and so much more in past careers. I’m a big believer in diversity within teams, and I think this goes beyond the usual gender and race discussions – though those are also critical for the industry. People who come to us from different pathways and backgrounds bring a whole different set of skills, be that in their relationships with stakeholders, industry expertise, or just different ways of working. They may even present solutions that a team of digital experts with similar backgrounds might not have thought of.

q What pathways are available for people looking for careers in technology?

Now is a really brilliant time to get into the industry - there are loads of different options available. Our local universities and colleges do introductory and career-changer courses in lots of relevant subjects, depending on the area you want to get

into. There are Masters Conversion courses if you already hold a degree – and it doesn’t need to be a directly related subject. My brother did a degree in Music Technology and a few years later did the UU one-year Masters in Software Development – he’s now doing fantastically for himself as a QA in another local tech firm.

There are Assured Skills courses, which we’ve used really successfully in the past, which tend to be shorterform intro courses, with a weekly training allowance, and guarantee you an interview with the sponsoring company at the end of it. I’d also recommend anyone to look into placements, internships, work shadowing and other short-term opportunities. These really help bring to life what it’s like to work in the industry, and how your technical skills actually translate to a real-world career.

q What do you think differentiates employers who take on people at the start of their careers in tech?

The competition for talent in NI has never been fiercer and I think that more and more employers are realising the benefits of taking on early careers or career changer folk and growing their talent within their organisation. There are so many options for people now, they can be spoilt for choice. When it comes to choosing the type of organisation you want to work for, you can look at things like the type of work they do, progression opportunities, the package, and that’s all really important, but more and more now people are looking at the values of the organisation. Do they have a genuine commitment to D&I? Are they supportive of their people’s wellbeing? Are they making a difference in their communities? You might be able to get some of these answers on the company website but more often than not, you can’t substitute getting in

some time with the people who work there.

Our approach within PA in Belfast is to actually get in a room with the students and talk about what a career in this industry and what PA is like. As a company and as a group of people, we have so much to offer in terms of helping students make that transition into the world of work, whether it’s with us or another organisation and the plan for 2023 is to create as many of those opportunities as possible.

q What advice would you offer to students and graduates considering a career in technology?

This is a really interesting one, as I’m so new to it myself, but maybe that positions me better to give advice!

The one piece of advice I’d give anyone entering a new role, a new industry or even the world of work for the first time is to go easy on yourself!

I’ve always held myself to really high standards – call it perfectionism or competitiveness – so starting from scratch somewhere new was really daunting. I had to ask what I thought were stupid questions, I made mistakes and sometimes it felt like everyone was speaking a different language. You just have to take a deep breath and accept that you’ve lots to learn. As it turned out, all those times I had to reach out to someone for help, I met a new colleague and made a new friend. No one knows everything and in the right organisation, you’ll have the support you need to make that transition easier.

In terms of tech-specific though, I would say just do it! Reach out to people on LinkedIn who are in the types of roles you’re interested in, attend as many events as you can, build your network and go from there. I didn’t know what to expect going in but I found such a warm welcome, a supportive network inside PA and a real sense of anything being possible if you have the right team around you.


Q& A with Darren Kane, Director of Software Engineering at CME Group

Darren shares what over two decades in software has taught him and how to get into the industry

q CME Group has a number of opportunities for undergraduates and graduates wishing to work in Fintech. Can you tell us a bit about these programs? Absolutely. CME Group has three programs that fall into the domain of early talent. There’s the apprenticeship program, an intern program, and a graduate program.

Through the apprenticeship program, students who have completed their A-levels can combine studying for a degree in computing systems with working at CME Group. The apprentices attend university one day per week and work with us four days-per-week building real-world experience and applying what they are learning. The degree is paid for by the company (?), and apprentices also earn a salary. They get the opportunity to rotate through different departments. Often, they start with desktop support, ensuring our engineers have access to all the foundational services that our teams need, and then rotate through our cyber security, operations, and engineering teams as well. After their first 18 months, they are encouraged to drive their own rotation based on their personal ambitions. We have eight apprentices in place in 2023.

The internship program provides participants with an invaluable opportunity to gain professional experience working with the brightest engineers around and to develop the skills they have learned at college. The goal is to provide them with the skills needed to give them autonomy and confidence to execute independently. We know we’re doing a good job when we are empowering them to do that. At the end of the internship, interns can stay with us one day-per-week while they complete their final year at college if they choose.

With our graduate program, we rotate the graduates across teams in their first year. This provides the opportunity to build networks and to learn about different technology areas and why they’re important to our business. They get to see different processes that teams use and start to form their own thoughts on what good execution looks like. They also get to work on different tech stacks and can cross from back-end microservice or performance-oriented architectures to a team where they try out some front-end coding. For each rotation, we ensure a substantial body of work. We understand our graduates want to feel that sense of ownership, and that they are working on something that’s



Across all the programs, we place a lot of emphasis on creating social opportunities. All the participants are going through similar experiences and can learn from each other, so building that network is really important. We also invest heavily in training and development for our early talent. We offer a mix of training, with external trainers covering key technical training and our internal tech leaders relating that training to our internal organisation. The opportunity to develop soft skills is also important and we provide access

to relevant courses like communication skills and effective time management.

q With over 2 decades of experience developing software for global financial institutions what’s changed most since you first started off as a young graduate? There is so much that has changed, but there are two key areas that I would say have changed significantly.

The first is the operating model of engineering teams. When I started over two decades ago, I remember printing out a 50-page requirements document and working through that for up to six months. Unsurprisingly at the end of that period, I had some difficult conversations when nothing worked as expected at integration. Thankfully, teams have moved on a lot from this practice. The transition of organisations to agile practices with quicker feedback loops and focus on finding issues quickly has been great. Relatedly, the transformation and adoption of automated testing techniques has been fantastic. The confidence that engineering teams get from knowing they can make changes quickly and safely is a massive improvement.

The second area that has changed significantly is the breadth of technologies that engineers know today. I remember a time that I would write some ASP or Java, make some database

changes to a relational database schema and deploy manually onto an application server or write a shell-script to do that. Back in those early days, I could have just logged onto the production server myself and updated code without any issue - a definite no-no today!

Today, there are so many languages, frameworks, and testing tools that cover functional accuracy, resiliency, and performance testing. There are CI/ CD pipelines, scripting languages to automate environment buildouts and deployments, different database types for different use-cases (RDMS, NoSQL etc), cloud offerings, tools for operational monitoring and support, etc. The list is endless and there is so much to learn. Thankfully, the talent is better than ever and we are lucky to have some of the best engineers around to ensure we choose the right tools for the job.

At the core though, the bedrock of what we do is the same. We solve complex technical problems and that’s rewarding.

q What does the typical day look like for an intern at CME Group?

They will check emails in the morning, respond to anything pressing, attend team stand-ups, and after that, jump into whatever they need to do for their deliverables. That could be analysis or design work initially, where they will get

to lean on their teams and utilise their experience, or could be straight into coding and testing. We are seeing more and more of our teams adopt pair-programming practices, particularly with our early talent who get the opportunity to learn from the experience our more senior engineers have gathered over the years.

q Do interns need to have a background in financial services to be successful in the business?

Absolutely not. Of course, understanding the business is beneficial. It helps our best engineers feed into conversations and empowers them to influence solutions and approaches. What’s important is having the right foundational technical skills coupled with the right mindset. Business problems can often be broken down into looking at messaging and data-points - concepts that are familiar to engineers. We have business product owners and analysts in our teams to help our engineers understand business requirements.

q What qualities do you look for when interviewing interns/ graduates?

First and foremost, I am always looking for people with the right mindset. I love seeing highly motivated candidates who are hungry to learn and progress; and who also show a strong sense of teamwork with personal accountability and ownership.

Darren Kane

Graduate to CEO: Climbing the tech ladder

Kainos’ Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, Danielle Keenan, tells all from pathways into tech to developing your career

q As Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for Kainos, can you tell us about what this role involves?

Social responsibility is at the heart of everything we do within Kainos. We're aligned with the UN sustainability goals and my role focuses on widening participation within computing and helping underrepresented people to grow their technical skills and pursue a career within the software industry. I collaborate with schools, charities, third-sector organisations and the government to create a positive impact on society. Kainos have a number of partnerships with social mobility charities and together we're doing great things within our community. We're delivering high-quality learning programs and we provide work placements to help people to develop key employability skills. Our overall aim is to create the next generation of technologists which is not only important to us but also the right thing to do.

q For anyone considering a career in tech, what pathways are available at Kainos?

There are many exciting career opportunities at Kainos. Our “Earn as you Learn” apprenticeship scheme is a brilliant pathway into Kainos. Students can gain their degree in computing while working on real-world projects, getting valuable experience. We also have our graduate programme which is an 18-month program which involves world-class training, mentorship, and opportunities to build skills and experience. We have a placement scheme which is a yearlong program for university students who work within our experienced teams. It really helps them to kickstart their career in the software industry. In addition, we have many experienced roles in Software Engineering, AI, Security, User Design, Workday and many more.

q Do you have to have a background in STEM to have a successful career in IT?

You absolutely don't, a range of different backgrounds are transitioning into roles in the software industry. For example, within Kainos we have people with a psychology background, who are now working in user research. We have mathematicians who are working as data analysts. We have


former teachers who are working in product management and testing. The software industry is growing rapidly and there are lots of exciting opportunities available for people from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds.

q Over half of your executive team started as graduates including your CEO, Brendan Mooney, who joined as a trainee software engineer. How does Kainos help its employees develop their careers?

When you join Kainos, you build a career for life. We set up the Kainos Academy in 2011, a leading training and career development program. We set it up with two main goals. The first one is to tackle the technical skills shortage and the second is to ensure that when people join Kainos, they can get to where they want to be. We have endless high-quality training programs within Kainos, all of our employees have access to our MAP (Master, Accomplish, Progress) programme, allowing them to develop their skills and grow their careers. Employees get their own personal career coach and access to over 40 internal courses to benefit from such as presentation skills, effective leadership and management training right through to wellbeing and coaching modules. We also have a career lattice, which supports career growth from left to right not just up and down.

q What steps should young people take if they are interested in working within the tech sector?

The tech sector is a very exciting place to develop your career. I would advise young people to

get involved in as many learning opportunities as possible. Try out code camps, cyber camps, AI, and Cloud workshops. There are lots of different opportunities out there. It's a really good way for young people to get exposure to different technologies, and to find out where they would like to build their careers. Most of the programs are free and they're virtual, and it's very easy to get involved.

A good place to start is the Kainos Academy, one of the programmes we offer through our Academy is our virtual work experience. It offers students aged 14-19, a virtual insight into what it’s like to work in the software industry. The students spend 3 days experiencing everything we do here at Kainos, meeting our people, and getting hands-on experience in web development and insight into the world of working in technology.

We also have CodeCamp, a weeklong summer camp held virtually across Ireland, UK and Poland for students aged 14-18 that are studying STEM subjects and want to improve their coding skills and kickstart their experience in tech. We deliver daily coding tutorials, tech talks from the best experts, coding challenges and interactive sessions with fellow attendees. It is a really great experience and it helps students gain vital skills and experience that will help them with future studies and their careers!

We provide learning opportunities for primary school children, right through to graduates, so we have initiatives that serve everyone regardless of where they're at within their technology journey.

Maeve Donnelly’s Kainos Journey

After taking many of the opportunities that Kainos offers, Maeve explains how she got into the tech industry

Being involved with Tech Outreach programmes at Kainos has helped me in so many ways, from my confidence growing to improving my public speaking skills. I have been involved in various outreach events, I have organised Code Clubs in schools in Northern Ireland, mentored at CodeCamp and recently I have been working with AWS to become an AWS Ambassador to encourage more girls to get involved in IT!

Tech outreach helps us give back to our communities. Without Kainos’ tech outreach programmes, I wouldn’t have known about the opportunities we provide as a company. When I was in school, Kainos employees visited and talked about our EAYL programme, CodeCamp and work experience. As a result, I attended work experience and CodeCamp and I just graduated from the Earn As You Learn Apprenticeship Scheme.

Tech outreach benefits not only us in our careers but helps others, especially those in schools trying to figure out what they want to do later in life! It has enabled me to share my experience of being an apprentice with young people across the country and help raise awareness regarding the many career opportunities in the Tech industry.


How to turn your passion in IT to a global tech career

Rose Kelly from Bazaarvoice gives us a glimpse into her journey to development manager

q Have you always wanted to work in the tech sector and what or who inspired you to study Computer Science at Queen’s University?

My first step into the world of Technology was studying ICT at GCSE level in school and it quickly became one of my favourite subjects. My teacher was my inspiration for wanting to further explore the IT sector. At that time it was not particularly common for women to pursue a career in Software Development, however she was extremely encouraging that following in this path was possible and achievable.

Following graduation and through the years of exploring a number of different roles, I have ultimately landed in the realm of Project, Programme and

Development management. Although this is not the typical role to acquire from a Computer Science Degree, I would never change my decision as this path opened so many doors for me.

I have explored many roles over the last ten years of my career. I started out as a QA engineer before having an opportunity to join a start-up Support Team located in Belfast as a Support engineer. I was then promoted into a Development Role and progressed to a new company to further learn other technologies and become familiar with them. It was then that I learned I wanted to specialise in a more customer-facing role whilst also utilising my understanding of programming to help deliver technical

solutions that are the right fit for the customer. This led me to roles as a Business Analyst, Product Owner, Project/Programme Manager and most recently Development manager.

q Having began your career in software engineering you have transitioned through a variety of roles, can you tell us about some of your career highlights?

A big highlight for me this year is having the opportunity to join Bazaarvoice as a Development Manager and part of Belfast Leadership. My role is to lead two cross-functional teams of 14 people combined, each team consisting of Product Managers, Product Designers, Technical Writers, Software engineers and QA engineers.

Rose Kelly

During my first two months at Bazaarvoice I helped lead our site through our very first audit for ISO 27001 which is a widely recognised, international standard that focuses on a company’s information Security Management System, and we were successful in obtaining this ISO compliance certification.

Another highlight in my career has been achieving an All-Star award through peer nominations in my previous company for living out their core values, results-oriented being one. I was then further selected as 1 of 8 from a company of over 3000 employees to achieve the Circle of Excellence award and allowed the opportunity to fly to Chicago headquarters, meet with our executive team and attend the awards ceremony which formed a part of their Global Townhall.

q You have recently taken up a role as development manager for Bazaarvoice. What does your typical day look like?

An integral part of my role and daily routine is ensuring that my teams are equipped with what they need to progress on projects and planned work as well as supporting each member in their personal development and goal progression. I work in partnership with Product Managers to design our OKR’s and work on the vision for our team and our products. I work with teams to mature

and refine processes and methodologies to deliver efficiently for customers and provide the most positive working experience for each individual. I meet regularly with the Team Product Manager to collaborate and agree on the prioritisation of work to ensure we meet our quarterly commitments and work through any blockers or challenges. I engage and lead on Project update calls with our Partners/ Customers and help to build that relationship and ensure we are aligned on goals and delivery dates.

q What was it that attracted you to Bazaarvoice in the first instance?

As someone who is very driven and passionate in what they do, I am always wanting to learn and improve. Bazaarvoice stood out as a place where I could do exactly that. Some of Bazaarvoice’s core values are passion, transparency, innovation and customer, which strongly align with who I am as a person, and the management style I like to follow.

The company had also recently invested in fantastic facilities in Lanyon Place. They are very flexible with the hybrid approach and how much you work within the office is really up to you. For me, the chance to meet and collaborate in the flesh with colleagues again very much attracted me to Bazaarvoice.

Many people may not have heard of Bazaarvoice before but we use it every day

when shopping. They are the industry gold standard, their platform allows rands and retailers to collect, display and distribute influential user-generated content in order to connect with shoppers at all stages of their journey. They have the world’s largest product review community –Influenster – with over 7 million members, almost 12,000 brands and retailers and approximately 5 billion reviews displayed in the network.

q Is there a different culture working in a large American corporation compared with local tech companies?

There are certainly attractions to both, however, due to the size and scale of Bazaarvoice there are various portfolios and locations to experience and work within that may not be available in smaller local setups.

Although you may think with a company so large you may feel disconnected, this is not the case at all in my experience as with Bazaarvoice there are local and global gongs to connect colleagues and provide updates on what is happening across all teams and offices.

There are also continuous meetups in place such as Communities of Practice across Design and Product, Engineering, Quality and Leadership, a forum to share knowledge and educate colleagues on each other’s processes and projects.

Although headquartered in Texas, Belfast is one of the key Product Development sites and through regular opportunities to meet in our office or online you are still able to feel that sense of belonging and a part of something, as you would with a local company.

q How much emphasis does Bazaar voice place on continual personal development?

There is a great emphasis on personal development, 1:1 sessions with your manager are a regular occurrence, alongside performance reviews and goal setting to help you get the support you need and to where you want to go. There are also incentives such as being given a budget whereby you can purchase any books, apps or courses to help you upskill and progress. We also participate in “Thinking Thursdays”, which allows time to personally develop and learn and progress in any courses you have registered for as an example.

q What advice would you give to younger people thinking about a career in IT?

My advice would be that if there is something you are really passionate about and love, don’t be afraid to pursue it. Do as much research as you can and no question is stupid. Many companies would be willing to allow you to shadow or engage in a short-term placement, I would really encourage this also to help you decide what it is in IT that you enjoy the most.


“Careers in IT are open to everyone, even if you’ve spent years working in another industry”

IT On’s Business Development Executive,


Lisa McCaul, talks about tackling the skills shortage in the NI tech sector

q For anyone who hasn’t already heard of Bring IT On can you tell us a bit about the program?

The programme is funded by the Department for the Economy, in partnership with colleges and universities to encourage and educate young people about the pathways into the IT industry. We provide talks and career advice to aspiring further and higher education students. Facilitators also outline the qualifications required to obtain an IT role and the benefits of working in the sector to help young people gain the necessary insight required to progress.

We showcase the opportunities and benefits of careers in IT by raising awareness of the great diversity of options in this exciting and ever-changing sector. We run events, speak at schools, attend job fairs and work with employers, careers advisers, IT teachers, parents, and carers to promote job opportunities available in IT.

The programme facilitates links with the further education and university sectors by designing key training solutions and supporting recruitment and other pre-employment activities.


q How important is Bring IT On in addressing the skills shortages in the local tech sector?

Employers in Northern Ireland and further afield are looking for people with the IT skills they need. However, there is a skills gap. Many high-growth businesses in industries such as cyber security, software development and artificial intelligence (AI) struggle to find enough people with relevant skills to fill all the jobs they would like to create.

Bring IT On Ambassadors are the link between schools and industry as we work to support schools and students to encourage and inspire the next generation of IT talent in Northern Ireland. We show young people the various paths into the IT sector including university or apprenticeships or alternatives like an assured skills academy.

The IT career pathway is varied and thriving, which is why institutions invite employers to work with them to help shed a light on bridging the IT skills gap with the help of the Bring IT On initiative.

q What are the main benefits of a career in the IT Sector?

Firstly, IT jobs are notoriously well-paid. The average tech salary in Northern Ireland is £33,000. A graduate software developer can expect a starting salary from £24,000–£32,000. That compares to an average salary of £26,232 across all

jobs in Northern Ireland. Moreover, all these opportunities are right here on your doorstep in Northern Ireland while also opening doors to international travel. Over 2000 leading tech companies operate here in Northern Ireland including Aflac, PwC, Microsoft, First Derivatives, Liberty IT, Kainos, Fujitsu, Proofpoint, Rapid7, EY, PA Consulting and Version 1.

The IT sector is also one of the most inclusive, diverse and team-orientated work environments. Around 81% of IT professionals have flexible working arrangements. With IT skills in such high demand, employers offer good conditions to help keep their team happy and motivated. Perks can include free tea, coffee, snacks, lunches, social gatherings and wellbeing initiatives.

Careers in IT are open to everyone, even if you’ve spent years working in another industry or out of the workplace entirely, there are opportunities for you. Great salaries, exciting opportunities, growing demand – and much more –is available to you. Whatever stage you’re at, there are pathways for you to build your career in IT.

q What pathways are available for those wishing to explore a career in IT?

There is no ‘right’ way into the IT sector. Whether you leave school after your GCSEs or follow an academic

path all the way through to a master’s degree, you can build a successful career. You could get an apprenticeship, join an employer’s school leavers scheme, or change your career path completely through an Assured Skills Academy. It’s just about finding the path that’s best for you.

q What local companies are working with the Bring IT On as part of their ongoing training and talent attraction strategies?

In 2022 we have worked with Digiskills, All State, Version 1, First Derivatives, PWC, MCS Recruitment and RealTime Recruitment to spread the good news that careers in IT are accessible and available in Northern Ireland. These companies gave up their time and resource to exhibit and speak at Bring IT On events and have been an invaluable asset in the delivery of our message.

There is a wealth of knowledge in the industry and when you strip back the titles, each individual is doing a job that is contributing massively to the growing Tech industry. Every organisation has itsdrop part to play in developing their technology functions and the people they need to fulfil them.

To get in touch and find out more about Bring IT On, visit their website: www. or contact them through the email:


Cybersecurity in a post-pandemic working world

q As one of the world’s leading cyber security companies can you tell us about some of the customers you work for?

Proofpoint helps companies around the world stop targeted threats, safeguard their data, and make their users more resilient against cyberattacks. Leading organisations of all sizes, including 75 per cent of the Fortune 100, rely on Proofpoint for people-centric security and compliance solutions that mitigate their most critical risks across email, the cloud, social media, and the web.

Globally, we work with some of the world’s top banks, retailers, pharmaceutical companies, and research universities, as well as other sectors.

q As Senior Director of engineering can you tell us about your journey and what attracted you to Proofpoint?

I’ve been working in the software industry for more than 25 years and in various leadership roles for more than 15 years. Prior to joining Proofpoint much of my career was spent in start-ups with a particular focus on Fintech, which became particularly interesting in the mid-to-late 2000s.

I joined Proofpoint nine years ago, shortly after the acquisition

of a Belfast-based start-up called Maildistiller. In addition to being interested in a move into cyber security, I was attracted by the opportunity to apply my experience in growing and integrating engineering organisations post-acquisition.

Due to the nature of the role, I had several interviews with Proofpoint and everyone I spoke to was amazingly friendly and extremely tech-savvy – probably my top two criteria for both my employers and employees.

q Over the last decade Proofpoint has expanded rapidly in NI. Can you tell us how has the nature of cyber threats has evolved over this time?

While cyber risks continue to evolve, one aspect remains constant: people play the biggest role in cybersecurity incidents and data breaches. The new daily routine of "working from anywhere" in the wake of the pandemic has increased companies' attack surfaces. With employees accessing business information and systems from multiple platforms, devices and locations, protecting sensitive and businesscritical data has never been more difficult.

Additionally, data doesn't get lost on its own. For example, data is either stolen by an external attacker via compromised credentials, forwarded to an unauthorized third party by a

Proofpoint’s Senior Director, John Bakewell, explains the need for extensive cybersecurity as a consequence of the rise of hybrid working
John Bakewell

careless user or stolen by a malicious employee who often passes it on to a competitor. It is now more important than ever to protect against all of these threats and to take technical measures to ensure that sensitive data is protected.

q What would you consider the major threat to a company’s cyber security is today and how can they best protect against ‘bad players’?

The modern threat landscape is rapidly evolving - with larger attack surfaces, more access points, and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks. A robust cybersecurity posture must take into account people, process and technology – in that order!

Regardless of the type of attack, cybercriminals are exploiting the human factor. Whether it's imposters posing as trusted colleagues or increasingly convincing phishing emails with malicious links, it's end users who are on the front line of defence against cybercriminals.

That's why a peoplecentric strategy is a must. Organisations must start by identifying the most vulnerable users and ensure they are given the knowledge and tools they need to protect their business.

From a technical perspective, the old approach to data security

simply doesn't work anymore. Organisations need to invest in solutions that protect their information, fight against insider risks, and protect the modern network perimeter - from the endpoint to cloud applications, email and the Internet.

q The implications of a cyber attack on an organisation can be enormous – can you give our readers a sense of just how serious these can be?

A successful cyberattack can cause major damage to organisations no matter their size or industry. From lack of access to critical data, to shutting down fuel supplies and disrupting critical healthcare services –there is a range of potential fallouts.

For example, just earlier this year, the Conti group brought Ireland’s health service to its knees and shut down hospitals with a ransomware attack. That attack had a ripple effect, compromising other managed service providers that used the company’s remote management software.

These high-profile breaches had profound economic and security implications. They once again showed the world just how vulnerable critical infrastructure and supply chains can be when targeted by cybercriminals. The exorbitant ransom demands in some incidents also led governments to weigh regulations banning payments to cybercrime groups.

q From an individual’s point of view, what advice do you give to friends and colleagues to protect their own personal security online?

Always think before you click – attacks are not always immediately obvious, and emails and messages that appear from friends and colleagues should not be assumed to be safe. With this in mind, be highly suspicious of free gifts or wording that makes you feel like you should act urgently.

q What essential skills are required for anyone wishing to consider a career in Cyber Security?

The modern cybersecurity team is as much about its people as it is about technology. To stay ahead of increasingly varied and complex threats, teams must be robust, flexible, highly skilled, and perhaps most importantly, diverse.

Speaking from the perspective of someone who interviews engineers on a regular basis, the first thing I look for in a candidate is that they are passionate and curious about technology – these characteristics will take you a long way regardless of the specific domain you’re focusing on. The next characteristic I look for is a problem solving mindset, as that is key part of what we do, we solve challenging problems for customers.

Ultimately, the cyber threats we face are instigated by those from all walks of life.

Deployed by those with varying skill levels, from different cultural, class and economic backgrounds. To ensure our industry can continue to stand up to these threats, we need to make sure the teams we put in place to fight them are just as diverse.

q What advice would you give to anyone who would like to change careers and re-skill to develop a career in Cyber security?

Fundamental to success in any career is doing something that you find interesting and rewarding, so if technology fascinates you and you like the idea of building products that protect people and businesses from fraud, don’t let having a non-technology background put you off!

Some of the best technologists I’ve worked with over the years re-skilled from nontechnology degrees such as mathematics, music and geology. Conversion courses and internships allowed them to rapidly move into full time roles as Software Developers and QA Engineers, from where they went on to build highly successful careers in cybersecurity, Fintech, Telecoms and a wide range of other domains.

If you don’t want to take the plunge into a conversion course right away, there are countless online tutorials that will allow you to dip your toe in the water – I’d recommend trying out Python, Javascript or Go.


Danske Bank has proven over a number of years that it is an employer that is committed to diversity and inclusion.

But when it comes to recruiting for the growing number of technology roles it needs to meet the bank’s digital transformation agenda, Danske faces the same challenges as every other tech company in Northern Ireland – a low number of female applicants. Their Technology and Digital Development team wants to encourage a balance throughout in order to foster creativity, innovation and different perspectives.

Sinead McCloskey, a Digital Platform Product Owner, has worked in digital for 17 years and joined Danske Bank five years ago from AV Browne. As a product owner in the personal digital solutions team, Sinead is responsible for shaping the implementation of new and existing digital platforms to maximise customer experience and adoption. That includes looking at personal customer journeys including onboarding, savings and personal loans and trying to digitise and simplify those journeys for customers.

“My role is really focused on customer

Sinead McCloskey, the Co-Chair of Danske Bank’s Gender Diversity Network, talks to Sync NI about how the bank is demonstrating its commitment to bringing more women into tech roles and introduces some of those already leading the charge at Northern Ireland’s biggest bank
Improving gender diversity is key addressing talent shortages

gender key to tech shortages

experience, making life easier for customers and giving them the ability to do things from the comfort of their own home,” she explains.

“There are always new and better ways of doing things digitally for customers and colleagues, so it’s an exciting place to work. You know you can make an impact on the bank and its customers. Technology is always changing and evolving, so you never feel like you’ve done everything or know everything.”

As Co-Chair of the bank’s Gender Diversity Network, Sinead is passionate about getting the word out about the opportunities that a career in tech can offer women and says the bank is actively working to increase the number of female applicants for the tech roles Danske advertises.

“We want to encourage more women into tech to show them there is a career pathway that offers the chance to develop and progress,” says Sinead.

“There is still work to be done to de-mystify what tech careers have to offer. If you look at who is applying to technology-based courses at universities, it is still really male-dominated.”

One of the objectives of the Gender Diversity Network is to be transparent and accountable by setting visible KPIs that are reported at the top of the bank. In 2020 Danske achieved its

target to have 50% women in senior roles (G7+) and since then has set further stretch targets.

Sinead notes that the gender diversity network analyses data every month on progress against its hiring KPIs and while it is well on the way to reaching its targets for women in senior tech roles, it is an ongoing process.

“It’s not something we will say “that’s done” - we need to keep reviewing it. Having visible targets we can reflect on and report on keeps the issue top of mind,” she adds. “We know from research into recruitment that more often than not if a woman looks at a job and doesn’t meet all of the criteria, she’s less likely to apply than a man in the same position. So we are looking at how we can make our recruitment process less prescriptive to get people to put themselves forward.”

While opportunities for training, certification and professional development opportunities are attractive and are helping more

Sinead McCloskey

women to progress in the bank’s tech team, Sinead says the flexibility of roles in tech is also a major benefit that is perhaps not well understood.

“From my perspective, coming into the bank with a young family and still having the opportunity to progress has been brilliant. I’ve got three young boys so there are big demands in my family life but I’m still able to fulfil my career aspirations. The bank’s culture really supports that,” she says.

Sinead also believes it is essential for those already established in the industry to give more women the confidence that it could be for them.

“For me personally, different mentors and coaches have played a big part in my own development of my career. I think it’s really important to get that perspective and encouragement from others so I’m always keen to get out and see who I can offer advice to,” she adds.

“Sometimes, people just need a gentle nudge of encouragement to go on and pursue their own aspirations for their career and fulfil their potential. Positive conversations and words of wisdom can go a long way.”

Laurie Montgomery plays an integral role in the bank’s ongoing digital transformation programme.

Having first joined the bank 17 years ago in a temporary cover role in a branch, she had no intention of being a career banker but stayed after finding the bank was a great place to work as it offered a range of career opportunities and flexibility.

“Variety appeals to me and I’ve been lucky enough to move around a bit. I’ve been in operations roles, as a business process consultant and then moving into the analytics side, first managing a team of analysts who support automation in the bank, and then to my current role overseeing the developers and analysts,” she said.

Laurie’s role includes chairing the digital transformation board, which is focused on growing the capabilities of what the bank can do locally alongside the Group IT infrastructure.

“To build up our automation team we’ve been able to recruit internally for a lot of our developers. They come to us knowing the bank’s core systems and a lot of the stakeholders, which is a huge bonus,” she says.

“But we’re also now recruiting local

developers with more technical skills to build what we need. Data engineers, software engineers and API developers who can provide integrations for any platform we use. Together, we’re driving the performance and adoption of our existing digital solutions – getting great solutions out there so customers want to use them.”

Laurie says Danske Bank’s culture is a key reason she has stayed with the bank so long.

“I’m a working mother so the flexibility I’m offered is really important. In the automation space, we have a lot of flexibility in when we build what we are building, it doesn’t have to be a 9-5. That means I’m able to do the school runs in the morning and feel like I’m not cut off from the school just because I work full time,” she explains.

Laurie is also active in the bank’s race equality network, Origins, recently helping Ukrainians displaced by the war to help them compile CVs and practice for job interviews. She also offers her time as a mentor to undergraduates at Queen’s University and speaks to thirdyear students to help them plan their careers and learn how to network.

“When I was growing up, I was the first in our family to go to university. It wasn’t an issue, but looking back there was no one to steer me and give me advice about future career choices,” she says.

Laurie believes there are great opportunities for women in technology, but often the format of the recruitment process, particularly for development roles, can put women off.

“For a lot of women, it’s about having confidence. When I’m sitting in a room full of people, I wouldn’t notice if it’s more women than men. But that’s not the same for everyone,” she notes.

“I also believe age is no limit. A lot of

Laurie Montgomery Senior Transformation Manager
Next, we meet some of the women who work in a wide range of technology roles with Danske Bank in Belfast

women think that when they have children or take a career break that they can’t take a new career on. As long as you are prepared to put the time in to keep learning you’ll be successful in a technology role.”

“A career in tech was something I had always thought of doing but I only initially took a job in the bank because I wanted to go travelling,” she continued. “It was a quick entrance into a job but I ended up really enjoying the culture of the bank and the challenges that came with it. Whenever this role came up and it was to do with technology but didn’t require a traditional degree, I knew I had to go for it,” she says.

Working in the bank’s data team, Michelle is responsible for analysing data trends for customer campaigns to improve how it communicates with customers and provides services to them.

“Every day is different because our data requests come from the whole bank, which gives you a real insight into what’s happening across the bank as well as what other teams do. I speak to people from nearly every part of the bank, nearly every day. It means lots of exposure to different parts of the bank, which is really interesting,” she explains.

has been very helpful and supportive.

“If you need help they are very accommodating. I’ve also really appreciated the flexibility Danske offers. I live in Cookstown and have mostly been working remotely in the past couple of years. That has been really helpful,” she notes.

She first joined the bank in 2018 in its contact centre before getting the opportunity to move into a more technical role through Danske’s Tech Futures programme. It is a Higher Level Apprenticeship which gives participants the chance to learn on the job and at the same time gain a degree in gain a foundation degree in Cloud and Application Development.

“Studying and working at the same time may sound challenging but the majority of the modules I’ve studied tie in really well with the work I do within the data team”, Michelle explained. “I’m able to use elements from the course in my day-to-day work and use the knowledge I’ve gained through work to help with my exams.”

Michelle had always had an interest in IT but hadn’t pursued it.

“I like that ultimately, we’re getting to know more about customers and helping improve their experience. I’m also able to use my experience from my time in the contact centre to help inform the work we are doing in the background.”

Culture is also very important to Michelle. “I’ve had great opportunities to give back,” she said. “For example, recently I helped deliver a guest lecture to Masters students in machine learning at Ulster University, talking about the real-world context of machine learning and some of our brilliant analytics use cases. I also took on a mentorship role for three placement students through the NOW Group Digital Academy. It was very rewarding to see the guys not only improve their tech skills but also build their confidence.”

As she comes into the third year of her apprenticeship, Michelle says her team

“It’s the sort of industry where if you’re not learning something new every day you’re doing something wrong,” said Jackie Swann. As someone who has been in the tech sector for more than 30 years, much of it with Danske, Jackie is well-placed to make such a comment.

Having been recruited straight to the Northern Bank after university in 1986, she was one of only four women in the bank’s mainframe section in the IT department, which built the core systems that processed people’s money through the bank.

“It was quite a young department with a few women but mostly it was men”, she said. “There was no such thing as a PC, we had terminals that were shared and you had to wait your turn to get on the terminal to code up your programmes. We also printed all the reports for branches on paper, which is totally unimaginable now,” she remembers.

Michelle McNicholl Apprentice Analytics Engineer Michelle McNicholl is an apprentice analytics engineer in Danske Bank’s data team. Jackie Swann Automation Technical Architect

Jackie was then part of the team involved in the 2006 migration of Northern Bank’s systems to Danske Bank in Denmark following its acquisition. After an intense year-long migration process, Jackie took time out to raise her children before returning to the bank six years later as an engineer in the bank’s robotic process automation team.

“After we migrated the bank systems for a while there were no IT developer jobs left within the bank,” says Jackie. “When I saw the job spec for a robotics engineer I thought it could have been written for me. It’s a different, more immediate sort of low-code development where you get to see straight away if what you’re developing is going to work or not.”

Jackie says the team is “taking a lot of the mundane out of the manual processes” to allow staff to “use their brains to do something more interesting”.

She is currently part of the team working on migrating the robotic solutions from Blue Prism software to UI Path. This enables more intelligent automation by combining robotics with AI.

“I’ve seen a lot of code and new ways of doing things,” says Jackie. “I’ve learned a lot since I came back to work. I’ve become competent in programming languages with which I wasn’t previously familiar, and learned new ways of doing things,” says Jackie.

“It moves really fast, so you have to put a bit of time in to keep up to date, but I don’t really understand why women wouldn’t be interested in a tech career because you can do it part time, your working hours can be flexible, and you can work from home. If you don’t know something the answers are easy to find - whatever technical problem you have, someone in the world has usually had it before.”

Kellie Redford has held a wide variety of roles since joining Danske Bank 29 years ago but it’s fair to see she didn’t expect to find herself in a cyber security job when she first started at the bank.

Having started out clearing cheques, she moved into administration, health and safety and eventually moved towards IT when she began looking after hardware such as laptops and phones.

“I gradually became more involved in the IT side of the bank,” she says. “People don’t realise the breadth of roles out there. Everyone thinks when you talk about cyber and IT you’re talking about the person writing the code but there are so many people needed to glue it all together and make things happen.”

Kellie is currently a delivery manager, which is not a technical role but rather one that she says is “about getting things done” – from IT security assessments for third party vendors to gaining ISO accreditation for the bank’s own systems, which requires a wide range of knowledge of what the bank’s technology teams do.

Kellie recently completed the Empowering Women to Lead Cyber Security NI programme, which included

a focus on how to encourage more women into roles in the tech and cyber sector.

“In the short term, there is a lot that can be done to attract more women into cyber security and change perceptions. For example, making small changes to the wording used on job adverts can make them much more appealing to women coming back from maternity or career breaks,” she says.

“It has been proven that words like ‘driven’ and ‘ambitious’ are associated with men and stop certain women from applying. By removing these words and emphasising the soft skills that most roles also require, we have shown that more women do apply.”

While she thinks those types of changes can be harnessed now to bring talent into the sector, she feels the priority should be making tech appealing for future generations of women.

“There are a few girls’ schools that are really focused on IT skills, they do it from first year. However, in other schools, girls aren’t getting the opportunity until they are picking their GCSEs. We need better awareness of the opportunities out there”, says Kellie. “For me, part of that has to be about showing girls that there are great tech careers out there for them. It’s not all hackers in hoodies, it is a sector that needs people with all sorts of different skills.”

Kellie helped organise the donation of 100 laptops to local schools through Business in the Community during the pandemic.

“Our team also recently raised over £4,000 by recycling old laptops and donated the proceeds to our charity partner AWARE and eight other local charities before Christmas. It’s one of the things I like about working in the bank. There’s a great commitment to give back to society,” says Kellie.

Kellie Redford IT Lead

Certification to ISO standards is not new to the IT sector, however, the demand for ISO certification has been increasing consistently.

Certification to standards such as ISO 27001 (Information Security Management) and ISO 9001 (Quality Management) has largely become the norm in the tech sector.

This means that IT companies without ISO certification may struggle to differentiate themselves from competitors and not be able to satisfy the increasingly challenging vendor approval requirements and conditions which organisations are applying to their supply chain.

Indeed the International Organisation for Standardisation is quoting annualised growth in ISO27001 certificates of 87%. (Source IS Partners).

With the IT sector accounting for a massive 25% of the total certificates issued worldwide, take a few minutes to look at your competitors and identify how many currently have ISO certification, if they have, they are already one step ahead.

The UK is aiming to become one of the most secure countries in which to live and work and as a result

certification to ISO standards is becoming the norm in many sectors.

On 31st October 2022, the UK Health Security Agency implemented a requirement that any company accessing protected YKHSA data will be required to have a system of assurance in place and ISO27001 has been stipulated as one of only two options.

The Health and Social Care Network (HSCN) (NHS Digital) has recently implemented a requirement under its compliance framework which includes a stipulation that suppliers to the Health and Social Care Network must have certification to both ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 27001 Information Security Management, which must be untaken by a UKAS affiliated auditor.

Over the past 30 years, we have often heard of consultants quoting excessive figures to assist companies

to achieve certification. The amount of external input required will vary from company to company. However, it is important to remember that funding may be available to assist with the cost of advice and certification.

To implement an ISO Standard, the project timeline varies from company to company and depends on a range of factors such as size, scope number of staff, number of locations and complexity of the operation. The average project will take usually around 6 to 9 months from the beginning of the project to reach obtaining certification.

There are a few downfalls, but these can be managed with a level head. Such as:

q Consultant selection – if you decide to use an external adviser choose a company with experience in this field and a proven track record.

Ask for references and take these up.

q Scope – ensure that the scope for the ISO27001 information security management system is clearly defined and realistic and avoid ‘scope creep’ as the project progresses.

q Certification body –always ensure that you select a properly ‘accredited’ certification body. If you don’t, the certificate is likely to be rejected as insufficient. Most certification bodies will carry UKAS or INAB accreditation, seek evidence of this before committing.

Given the current trends within the IT industry that those without IT certification may well be a dying breed.

Now is the time to implement ISO Standards, especially ISO 27001. This will help your organisation focus on information security threats and protect your information assets by establishing robust policies/procedures and the technical controls required to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.

The Information Security Standard has recently been updated with changes to clauses 4 to 10, Annex A Controls and ISO 27002. any organisation that currently is certificated to the standard will have two years to transition to the updated standard.

The need for ISO standards in a security-demanding sector
Gavin Kane
Quadra’s Gavin Kane explains why ISO standards are increasingly essential for tech firms

Version 1’s Uzma Ahmed’s post-pandemic career switch

How she went from educator to tech newbie for a change of pace

q As early careers manager at Version 1, can you tell us a little bit about your personal journey and how you came to work at Version 1?

I worked in education for 21 years. I was an Assistant Head Teacher at a large inner-city school in London. I was the head of upper school and managed a team of 14 people and was responsible for the progress and attainment of 240 children as well as key stage 2 results and data. Additionally, I oversaw the Early Career teachers. As their mentor, I ensured they had a great start into their teaching career by setting targets, sharing the vision and reporting and working really closely with the stakeholders.

After the pandemic, the world had changed and I felt like I needed a career change too. I applied to Version 1 and had a conversation with a couple of departments. I had a call from Talent Development and they put me through to the interview stage. However, they warned me that because of my lack of technical background that I would maybe not get the job. I just went in and gave the best interview I could and they said that I blew them away!

So that’s how I ended up with Version 1 and I’ve been here for nearly a year now as Head of the Early Careers team. When I started, it was just me and an intern but I’ve since grown the


team and there’s five of us now with varying levels of experience.

q Version 1 has several early career initiatives. Can you tell us a bit about these?

The main initiative that I focused on this year has been our Academies. We have run academies across Northern Ireland, England, Ireland, and India and they consist of a 12-week intensive training program. We work with local authorities and training providers, and we create a bespoke 12-week training academy. It is based on what the needs are within Version 1 and our technical trainers work closely with the training academies to compose the programmes. Anyone that goes through the 12-week program obtains four accredited certifications.

From the beginning, anyone who joins our academy is treated as a Version 1 employee. For me, it’s about creating that sense of belonging from the offset. While they’re in the training program, we get them into the local office where they get to meet the Early Careers team. They also get to meet members of the Version 1 team and colleagues across the organization. We ensure that throughout the 12-week program, we have lots of different representatives who will jump on calls and talk to them about their journey within the company and the technologies they work


We also set them up with a buddy who is a former Early Careers person that has been through the training program. They do weekly catch-up calls where they can just talk to the associates that are on the training program about their experience and their journey within Version 1. This means that if the Associates have any questions, they have the opportunity to ask those questions in a safe space. Next year in 2023 we are looking at placement years and apprenticeships to expand our Early Careers programme.

q Is a STEM background essential to have a successful career in IT?

No, we've had people join our academies from a range of backgrounds. The most important thing is that someone has the passion, the drive and they're eager to learn - that's enough for us. In April, we ran a women’s reboot program in Dublin, where we had women returners who had been out of work for up to 18 years and they wanted to return to the workplace. We had women who were not from a technical background, but they just wanted a change. We had 18 women join the Academy and all 18 women are now successfully working in Version 1!

If you look at the Version 1 Early Careers web page, we actually have a video where you will come across someone called Thomas Watson who is

within Version 1. He was a lighting engineer who worked at technical events and he worked on some of the Version 1 award ceremonies. He then got involved in one of our academies, and now he's a DevOps engineer. I often get him to join calls and just talk about his experience, because he was from a non-technical background. He’s having a great time within Version 1, living his best life!

q What can young graduates expect when starting off their career with Version 1?

I think from just being on that intensive 12-week program they've got so much to gain from it and the fact that they have that opportunity to also obtain accredited certifications gives them that stepping stone.

Once they’ve joined Version 1, they fall under the Early Careers radar for the first 18 months and we track their journey closely. We make sure that their career has started successfully and that they're benefiting from all of the opportunities. We ensure that they’re engaged, involved and they feel like they're being listened to and that their network is growing. We set up virtual events where they get to meet other associates and we have monthly meetings with them to share what's happening across the organization.

In the first 18 months,

they have the opportunity to get three pay increases in their salary. So if they complete the first six months successfully, they're entitled to a 5% pay increase, the next 12 months, they're entitled to a 5% pay increase. And then at 18 months, they're entitled to a 10% pay increase. We have found that anyone who has completed our academy has accepted a job with us, which is a testament to the success of the programme.

q What advice would you give to anyone interested in working in the tech sector?

There are three pieces of advice that I would give, the first is to focus. The world of technology is broad and it can be easy to try to look at every aspect. Focusing on one area at a time can help specialise in particular areas rather than trying to do everything.

Secondly, do your research. Go to career fairs and take those opportunities to meet organizations to find out about them. When you're going for an interview, make sure you really prepare for it. Look up the person who is interviewing you which you can do on LinkedIn. Learn about the company and know their core values. Know a little bit about the company and give examples when you're answering questions.

Lastly, I think it's important that you sell yourself as well. If you have achieved something, talk to us about it! We'd love to hear about it.


Unravelling the complexities of cyber security: 3 commonlyasked questions answered

Jim Montgomery, Business Development Lead for Digital Transformation, eir evo UK, highlights the importance of strong cyber security in businesses

With the vast amount of information available about cyber security often awash with jargon and acronyms, paired with a continuously evolving threat landscape, it can be overwhelming for businesses to get a grip on how to secure their network against cyber-attacks. We work with organisations to help them understand where they are on their journey to cyber resilience, breaking down the complexities with a top-down approach.

3 recurring questions have emerged in recent times from organisations of all sizes: What is Zero Trust and what does it entail? How can we guarantee cyber insurance coverage and reduce premiums? How do we achieve robust protection with disparate legacy systems?

By examining these 3 questions, we can unriddle what cyber security measures are available that will improve your organisation’s posture.

1. Protecting your organisation with Zero Trust

The evolution of the workplace, coupled with migration to the cloud and the proliferation of devices on the network, means that the traditional perimeter-based security models used in the past are outdated and no longer meet the needs of modern networks. Threats have intensified, the lack of granular security controls has become more of a risk and companies have begun to move to a ‘never trust, always verify’ approach.

Zero Trust is a robust architectural approach to secure your

organisation and assumes that all network users, even those inside the network, should be treated as potential threats. A Zero Trust approach to security involves implementing strict role-based access controls and continually verifying the identity of users and devices before granting access to resources.

Many networks are shockingly wide open due to legacy perimeter-based security methodologies, where sensitive data about financials, customers and personnel could be downloaded by any employee, or an intruder posing as an employee.

The beauty of Zero Trust is that it protects against risks you may never have known about or haven’t realised are on your network. Each vendor has a slightly different approach to implementing Zero Trust, however all solutions essentially come down to 4 key security tools.

1. Micro-segmentation: This involves dividing an organisation's network into smaller, isolated segments that can be more easily managed and secured.

2. Least privilege access: This involves granting users and devices the minimum level of access necessary to perform their jobs, rather than providing them with unrestricted access to the network.

3. Multi-factor authentication: This requires users to provide multiple forms of authentication, such as a password and a one-time code sent to their phone, to access the network.

Jim Montgomery Author 

Continuous monitoring: This involves constantly monitoring the network for signs of suspicious activity and taking immediate action to prevent or mitigate any threats that are detected.

2. Align your cyber security maturity to cyber insurance requirements

As cyber-attacks on businesses grow and the associated financial risks become more threatening, more companies have been taking out cyber insurance premiums. Cyber insurance can help offset the cost of legal fees, restoring personal identities of impacted customers, recovering compromised data, repairing any damage to compromised systems, and notifying customers about any possible breaches.

With rising premiums and tightening coverage, organisations are having to enhance their cybersecurity maturity in-line with insurance requirements. Cyber insurers want to know you’ve taken sensible steps to protect your property, instead of leaving it wide open for anyone to steal. This requires a stringent look at what you’re doing to protect your assets. Not only will this improve your chances of getting cyber security coverage at the best rate but it will improve your overall resiliency.

Here are the key things that cyber insurance providers look for:

1. Implementation of robust cyber security measures including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and regular security audits.

2. Regularly updating and patching software

3. Having a comprehensive and detailed incident response plan for responding to cyber-attacks.

4. Training employees in cybersecurity best practices, including regular training on identifying and avoiding common cyber threats.

5. Working with trusted cyber security vendors to deliver a baseline level of cyber security maturity aligned to an industry framework.

3. Consolidate and streamline for optimum cyber intelligence

Few enterprises have been totally lax when it comes to cyber security. It’s likely your business has purchased a range of protective tools such as firewalls and the latest and greatest monitoring and alerting tools. These probably come from different suppliers, which can result in poor integration and weaken your security. This can all add up to a big headache: you have too many vendors, too many alarms which don’t make much sense and at the end of the day still lack robust protection.

The following steps are recommended for any organisations facing these challenges:

1. Conduct a security assessment: Conducting a security assessment of your IT and network infrastructure can help you identify any vulnerabilities or weaknesses that need to be addressed. This assessment should include both a review of the hardware and software components of the legacy systems, as well as a review of the processes and policies that are in place to protect these systems.

2. Consolidate security technologies: Many companies have a variety of different security technologies in place, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software. Consolidating these technologies can help to streamline cybersecurity by reducing the number of systems that need to be managed and making it easier to identify and address vulnerabilities.

3. Implement security automation tools: Automation tools can help to streamline cybersecurity by automating tasks such as vulnerability scanning, patch management, and incident response.

This can help to reduce the burden on IT staff and free up resources for other tasks. Regularly patching and updating your legacy systems can help to ensure that they are protected against known vulnerabilities.

4. Standardise security processes and policies: Establishing standardised security processes and policies can help to streamline cybersecurity by reducing complexity and ensuring that all employees are following the same procedures. This can include standardising processes such as password management, user access controls, and incident response.

Ultimately, integration is vital. It gives the security team a clear view right across your company network about what’s secure, what’s vulnerable, and what needs action right now.

The right cyber security partner will also have the industry relationships that can protect your enterprise against brand-new cyber threats that are often hard to detect by tools like antivirus. Global threat intelligence experts are constantly scanning for emerging threats and instantly notify partners when a new attack has emerged.

Despite the growing volume and intensity of cyber threats over recent years, there are many reasons to be cheerful these days when it comes to cyber security. Field-tested, robust solutions are here to protect you. Security specialists with an in-depth understanding of the technologies and how they can defend your business are ready to help. Your aim is simple: to reduce the cyber security risks and empower your organisation to be productive, innovative, and progressive without introducing vulnerabilities. The path to a more secure business needn’t be one littered with jargon and complexity. But it’s important to make the first step, and to be alongside the right partner as you go.


EY’s Pat Beattie reveals how to get your dream career in tech

As tech consulting partner at EY, Pat Beattie knows the ins and outs of the tech world. He shared with us his advice on how to enter the tech industry from his own career journey

q As Tech Consulting Partner for EY NI, can you tell us about what this role involves?

My role essentially involves two things. One is building the practice, recruiting and developing the teams, coaching and talent management to create a culture of high performance. It also includes raising EY’s profile and engagement with the local business community, schools, universities, and social enterprises.

The second part is business development, engaging with public and private sector clients to understand and solve their most complex and important problems and in doing so, creating demand for EY’s services.

q What attracted you to work at EY?

After I graduated, I worked for several small Northern Ireland tech companies. I then joined as a graduate with one of the big four in Northern Ireland, where I worked for 20+ years. While I loved my time there, it was time for a new challenge. The reason I came to EY was twofold. Firstly, EY have a real focus on investing and working with clients in the Northern Ireland market to help them transform and grow. That local focus and presence, creating a better working world, is really important to me.

The second key attraction was the opportunity to build and scale a new team, essentially creating a start-up within the safety of being in a global firm. EY, by its nature, is very entrepreneurial, creating and empowering its people to be successful. That really appealed to me and is something I strive to embed in our wider team culture.

q For anyone considering a career in tech, what sort of opportunities are available are EY?

We offer a broad array of technology career opportunities, ranging from strategy to architecture and design of solutions through to helping buy, build and implement them for our clients. We develop new technology platforms for clients in software, data and cloud engineering but we also help clients

choose and implement commercially available software. As an example, we have one of the largest Microsoft and SAP practices on the island of Ireland. We also do a lot of work in robotic automation, data, cyber and digital assurance and we have significant demand for business analysis, project management, creative and design activities as well.

q How important is a STEM background to have a successful career in IT?

STEM is important for some of the more technical roles we have at EY and as technology continues to shape the future, we are dedicated to ensuring children and students have equal opportunity to pursue high growth STEM careers. For example, EY created a STEM app which is freely downloadable to help students develop their knowledge in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

In saying that, this is only one area of tech careers at EY, we support and actively recruit people from non-STEM backgrounds because soft skills such as communication, problem-solving and creativity are highly valuable to us.

q What sort of opportunities are available for people to develop their careers at EY?

In terms of ambition and growth, EY now over 1,000 people working in technology on the island of Ireland. Our ambition is to double that within the next two years. Therefore, people joining EY will be joining a fast growth tech business with all the personal development and career progression opportunities that provides. To support this, we significantly invest in continuous learning and staff development with the ability to earn badges in different curriculum areas potentially leading to a funded tech-focused MBA.

q What steps should young people take if they're interested in working in the tech sector?

If I reflect on my own journey there were a number of things I was interested in. It wasn’t just technology, it was about looking at the bigger picture - I considered the benefits


that technology actually delivered. I read as many business articles as I did technology ones to give me that broader understanding. This meant that when it came to making education and career choices, I was making them with a clearer understanding of what I was really interested in. Sites like Sync NI and others are great ways to learn about the tech and business ecosystem. I recommend attending company open nights to understand what careers are out there and the opportunities on offer. I’m a great believer that if you're interested in it, and you're passionate

about it, you’re much more likely to be successful because you’re doing what you enjoy.

q Who would you consider to be the most influential mentor in your career to date?

I've been incredibly lucky in my time to work with several people who have helped me at different stages. When I first entered the world of professional services, I wasn't that ‘technical’ to begin with and I was honest about that. One individual took the time to support me, helping me learn the basics. He always said ‘there's no such

thing as a stupid question’…and believe me, I asked plenty of them! That was hugely impactful for me at a young age, and I've tried to do the same as I’ve progressed in my own career. Taking the time to coach while doing something may take longer but will create so much more capacity, capability and loyalty in staff in doing so, rather than taking the often easier and quicker route.

As I progressed in my career, I was fortunate to work closely with a partner in the firm, who mentored me and helped to guide and shape my career. We talked proactively about the options and the opportunities that were there for me as well as providing the coaching and challenge I needed at certain points. I think that's a really important part of leadership, especially in a people-centric business, such as professional services where our people are our greatest asset. I've always been passionate about bringing a coaching and career development culture to the teams I build and work with. We learn from our clients and each other - everyday should be a learning day.

q What advice would you give to graduates wanting to work in EY?

Get in touch, it's that simple! The critical thing for us is we want people who are passionate and interested in technology and the impact it can have. The advice from me is to expand your knowledge and think about other areas that sit around your core expertise and how to gain those complementary skills.

Some tech jobs continue to evolve as new technologies emerge and replace old ones. However, the skills they cannot replace are creative thinking, problem-solving and translating complex business problems and technical solutions. Technology on its own isn't enough to deliver business outcomes. It's what people do with that technology, how they adopt and make use of it for better business or societal outcomes - that is when it becomes truly transformative.


Q&A with Holly Tumelty, Software Engineer at CME Group


q You’ve been an intern in several local fintech companies particularly within the audit side of the business, what made you transition towards software development? I had never looked into other careers because I had always been interested in auditing as a profession. However, when I took programming courses for my university degree, I fell in love with the challenge of problem-solving and the fact that each problem could have several answers. I started to understand that computing and software engineering offered a wide variety of career opportunities, and that each day would present me with new challenges and learning opportunities. This really appealed to me.

q How did CME Group support you as a software development intern?

Having less technical experience initially than some of my peers, I was concerned about how I would fare in fintech. But CME Group gave me so much security and confidence. A mentor was assigned to me for the duration of the internship. I was able to discuss any challenges or problems with them openly, and they were always available to help.

My manager held regular 1:1 meetings with me and I was able to get constant feedback on my progress and discuss any challenges. It was fantastic to get that reassurance that I was on the right track, and support when I needed it. CME Group organised additional activities like escape rooms for all the interns. This gave us a chance to get to know one another and form a support network.

q What would you say has been your most rewarding experience to date working at CME Group?

Firstly, I’ve really enjoyed meeting new people and building relationships with my colleagues at CME Group. Everyone has been very welcoming and eager to get to know one another.

From a technical perspective, I was proud to have finished the project I was initially assigned well ahead of time. I was able to implement additional features and had the opportunity to showcase these to senior members of our business team who recently travelled to Belfast from Chicago, New York, and London. The project, which aids and strengthens our testing experience, received a lot of positive feedback. I took great pride knowing that a project I worked on was so well received by senior management that they want to build it out further and make it available to other teams.

q What would you say to younger girls who might be considering a career in technology but are unsure?

I would say that the technology sector has a place for everyone. Too many times, girls are put off from pursuing careers in technology because they believe it to be a field dominated by men. Simply have faith in your own ability to enter the tech business, make a difference, and leave your mark. After all, if we don't make the leap and pursue a profession in technology, we won't be able to bridge the gap. You will enjoy a career in technology if you have the eagerness and ambition to learn new things. There are always opportunities and business demands in the technology sector, so you can find what you're looking for there.

q What’s the best advice you would give to anyone applying for an internship role within a large Fintech organisation like CME Group?

I’m very fortunate that I have had the opportunity recently to offer advice to prospective interns at open fairs and those who have reached out to me via LinkedIn. For anyone applying, my advice would be to go in and give the whole experience 100%. The world’s your oyster; seize the opportunities open to you, and most importantly, just be yourself.

a career in tech is for everyone and Holly shares just how many opportunities are out there
Holly Tumelty

Bring IT On: Top 12 jobs in tech

Northern Ireland has one of the most rapidly growing I.T. sectors in the UK, with Belfast tech jobs representing almost 23% of all available job opportunities.

The tech industry is growing quickly and there are lots of job opportunities in tech. Studying tech can lead to good salaries, diverse career paths and the ability to shape the future. Why should you get into tech?

There is a high demand for people with tech skills, and the tech job market is easy to enter. This means that there are lots of job opportunities in tech and you can take unconventional paths to get there. Additionally, the tech industry pays well. Entry-level tech salaries are higher than the average salary for Graduates.

Studying tech gives you skills that you can use in various career paths. There are many different roles in tech that cater to different skills and interests. Skills like creativity, problemsolving, analysis, curiosity, leadership, and communication are useful in the tech job market. Working in tech gives you the flexibility to work in many different industries like retail, finance, healthcare, manufacturing, media and education. Plus, your IT skills can be used in any country, so you can work and travel around the world.

Most importantly, working in tech gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on the future. You can create and build things that can help make the world a better place, such as advancements in medical technology, green technology and renewable energy.

The jobs in tech that are flourishing and thriving in NI

1. Software Developer

Almost everything in our modern world is built on, or supported by, a set of rules or instructions called code, which tells a computer what you want it to do. Software Developers write code using programming languages. Everything from TikTok, Facebook and Google, to banks, traffic lights and even cars rely on thousands of lines of code to work.

David Jamison, Vice President at Insider Inc. explained what a typical day as a Software Engineer might look like: “It will involve writing a lot of code. They may be managing several software projects. Although they may work alone for a lot of the day, some teamwork will be involved to help other Developers review their code; work together to find a solution to challenges; or work with other tech professionals such as Designers, Project Managers or sales teams”.

2. Software Tester

While Software Developers write code using programming languages to create computer programs and apps, a Software Tester tests that code to ensure there are no errors or bugs that can cause it to act differently than expected. These bugs can have consequences, causing disruption to lives, losing money or even causing fatalities. It’s a Software Tester’s job to ensure these are fixed before sending it out to the customer.

Louise Collins, Lead QA at Asos NI, talks about a typical day of a software tester: "A typical day for a Software Tester will involve planning and running tests on code. They work closely with Business Analysts to understand the requirements of the software and how it should behave. They will plan and execute tests to ensure the software works. They work closely with Software Developers to ensure any bugs are fixed so that the software works correctly."

3. Business Analyst

A business analyst is someone who helps organisations improve their processes and systems by analysing their business

operations and identifying areas for improvement. They work closely with other members of the organisation, such as managers and developers, to understand the business's needs and goals. They then use this information to develop solutions, such as new systems or processes, that can help the business run more efficiently and effectively.

Holly Nixon, Business Analyst at Expleo Group, gives an insight into a day of a business analyst: “A typical day for a Business Analyst can vary massively depending on the projects that you are working on. Some of the key things a Business Analyst will

do are gathering and analysing information, identifying business issues, and presenting ideas and findings whilst working with several different groups of people. Business Analysts also work closely with Project Managers, Software Testers, and Software Developers on a day-to-day basis.”

4. Product Manager

A product manager is responsible for identifying what customers want and how a product can fulfil that. They create business plans, decide how to measure the success of a product, and lead their team in the right direction to turn their vision into reality.

Niall Curry, Lead Product Manager at Rapid7, outlined a day as a product manager: “No two days are the same for a Product Manager. They are involved in every step of creating a product: from working with customers to understand their needs, to collaborating with Software Engineers to design solutions. Throughout the process, Product Managers ensure that the customers’ voices are heard.”

5. UX Designer

User experience (UX) is about how people interact with products or services. This could be anything from the way a phone feels in your hand, to the actions you take in an app. The goal of UX design is to understand what people think and feel when they use something, so that we can make the experience better.


For example, if an app is hard to use or not enjoyable, a UX Designer might figure out why and come up with ways to improve it.

Stephen Currie, Lead Product Designer at Bazaarvoice, spoke about his day as a UX designer: “One of the perks of UX and Product Design is my day is always different. My day could involve talking to users to learn about their needs, using online tools to gather information, leading a design workshop, or creating prototypes for testing. The work is always interesting and rewarding and the specific tasks I do each day depend on where my team and I are in the design process.”

6. DevOps Engineer

DevOps Engineers are responsible for the tools and processes that Software Developers use to create products and applications. They help automate tasks so that Developers can save time and write better code. By making sure that the tools and processes are well-managed, DevOps Engineers can help prevent bugs and other problems in the code.

Amy Shields, DevOps Engineer at Aflac Northern Ireland, set out her usual day: “The day starts with a stand-up meeting where we share what we did the day before, what we plan to do today, and if there are any obstacles in our way. After the meeting, each day can be very different. We might work on creating templates to save a team's

time, provide support for the tools they use, or even write code to automate tasks. Our goal is to help teams be as efficient as possible.”

7. Data Scientist

Every day, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated across the world. Data Scientists try to understand this data and find solutions to problems. They do this by coming up with ideas, trying them out, and watching to see how they work, trying to make sense of that megaterabyte-tsunami.

Andrew Bolster, Senior R&D Manager (Data Science) at Synopsys, looked at his day at work: “As a Data Scientist, my day usually starts by reading about the latest news and developments in my industry. I might read

academic papers, blog posts, or anything else that can help me stay up-to-date. I might also be working on several different projects at once, trying to figure out the best ways to use data to solve problems. I might talk to customers, Engineers, Sales teams, or anyone else who can help me understand the problem better.”

8. Game Designer

Game designers create everything in your favourite video games. They spend time solving problems and documenting their work so that developers can understand their vision and make it a reality. Designing games is a team effort, so game designers work with artists, sound designers, and developers to make sure

everything comes together.

Kyle Gilmore, Game Designer at Hypixel Studios, gives u a peek into his work day: “As a Game Designer, I spend a lot of time communicating my ideas to others. This can be through writing design documents, building prototypes, or just talking to other developers. Every day is different, but a lot of my time is spent making sure that my ideas are clear and can be understood by the people I’m working with.”

9. Cyber Security

Cyber security is about protecting computers, networks, and people from threats on the internet. For example, viruses can infect computers and hackers can steal information by breaking into networks. It’s


important to have good cyber security because it keeps our information safe when we’re online.

Natalie Sullivan, Senior Manager, Cyber Security at Lunar Energy, looks at her day at work: “A typical day for someone who works in cyber security involves monitoring computers and networks to make sure they are safe and working properly. In some cases, they might even be allowed to hack into systems to help organisations understand how to protect themselves from real hackers. Cyber Security Managers may also be responsible for conducting audits to ensure that their organisation is protecting its information and systems correctly. They may lead teams or work

independently with different departments.”

10. Digital Marketer

Digital marketing is all around us. If you’re thinking about buying something, chances are you’ve been influenced by something you saw online. A Digital Marketer promotes things online. They try to reach people who might be interested in what they’re selling. They use different strategies, like creating content or using adverts, to get people to notice their brand and buy what they’re selling. The goal is to make people more aware of the brand and get more sales.

Emma Burdett, Digital Marketing Consultant & Educator gives us an insight into her day: “You

might work for an agency, in-house for a company, or for yourself as a freelancer. You will be responsible for a company’s digital channels such as their website, social media or digital advertising. No matter where you find yourself, you will always work with other teams such as Creatives, Sales or General Management and no two days will ever be the same.”

11. Scrum Master

Every project, whether it’s building a house or creating a new digital application, needs a leader who can drive it to its successful completion - a Project Manager. A Scrum Master is a special kind of Project Manager who works with Scrum teams. They are a coach who helps teams adopt a new, agile way of working that makes

them more efficient and successful.

Tanya Vacarda, Scrum

Master at Allstate, talks us through her day: “As a Scrum Master, my typical day is all about communication and helping others. I start my day by catching up with the team and reviewing their progress in a daily stand-up meeting. If any issues come up, I make time to talk to the team about how we can solve them. After that, I might spend some time reviewing the team’s training needs and preparing materials”.

12. IT Support

Almost everything in our modern world is built on, or supported by, a set of rules or instructions called code, which tells a computer what you want it to do. IT Support Analysts are there to help out when those systems have problems, helping ensure our computers, laptops and tablets are working when we need them.

Roy Fitzpatrick, Service Delivery Manager at Firemelon, gives us a glimpse at his typical work day: “As an IT Support Analyst, my typical day involves solving computer problems for colleagues and customers. Every day is different, so I never know what kind of problems I’ll have to solve. I always enjoy helping people get their computers and devices working again. IT Support is about fixing technical issues, so it’s always exciting to see what kind of challenges I’ll face”.


Belfast Technology Employment Academy

Providing a talent pipeline for the city’s fast-growing technology sector

As we continue to engage with employers across Belfast’s key sectors, we’re identifying that they find recruiting from the local labour market challenging at times, due to a shortage in specific skill sets.

At the same time, a proportion of Belfast residents are finding it difficult to get a job or re-enter the labour market due to a range of barriers, including the absence of appropriate skills, qualifications and licences that are required.

The Belfast Agenda 2015-2035 is Belfast’s first community plan, setting out the city’s strategic and economic ambitions. 'Growing the Economy' and supporting 'Working and Learning' are two of the agenda’s key priorities, recognising that a thriving and prosperous economy is the engine of change for our city.

To ensure that this growth is as inclusive and widespread as possible, we’re focusing on facilitating job creation and ensuring economic opportunity is accessible to those most in need of work so that we can start to address the interlocking issues of poverty, economic inactivity, unemployment, and under-employment.

In June 2021, the Belfast Innovation and Inclusive Growth

Commission, chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, published proposals for NI and Belfast’s growth and prosperity. ‘Reset for Growth’ also made a welcome commitment to inclusive growth, with a significant focus on skills and an urgent call to consider more inclusive employment pathways.

Engagement with employers in Belfast’s technology sector has revealed both skills shortages and a significant lack in the supply of talent. Recognising the need to think creatively about talent shortages, they are now questioning whether higher-level qualifications should continue to be a prerequisite for employment in the sector.

To address these growing needs, we’ve joined forces with Learning and Work Institute (L&W) New Futures to invest in a demand-led Technology Employment Academy to provide an innovative, alternative employment pathway, equipping individuals who can demonstrate aptitude with the skills and qualifications they need to compete for jobs in this high growth sector.

What’s the aim of the academy?

We want our Technology Employment Academy to support people who are currently employed and wish to reskill, are underemployed, or are not in work at all, so they can enhance their employability and secure a job in Belfast’s technology


sector. We also want to help local employers access the skills they need to sustain and grow their businesses.

We’re achieving this by taking an employer-led approach. Our academies are designed around participating employers’ skills needs and are only delivered when employer commitment has been secured and job opportunities are available.

Before they’re registered for an academy, we screen potential participants to determine their suitability, willingness, motivation and ability to work in the positions available. Those who successfully complete the academy programme will be guaranteed a job interview for a live position and receive aftercare to help them achieve a positive and sustained employment outcome.

Who are we targeting?

We want to challenge the belief that academic qualifications are the ‘yardstick’ of someone’s suitability to work in the technology sector. So, we’re targeting people who are unemployed, economically inactive or returning to the labour market, those who want to change direction in their career, and those who have been impacted by Covid-19 – for example, having lost their job.

To be selected to participate on our tech academy, applicants must show aptitude in critical thinking, creativity, literacy, numeracy, technical acumen, and problem solving – all skills needed for a successful career in technology. However, we don’t ask for formal qualifications and the academy isn’t targeted towards recent graduates.

What’s the appetite for academy registration?

We carried out a great deal of candidate outreach activity in Spring 2022, including information events across the city giving potential participants the chance to meet recruiting employers in person, extensive stakeholder engagement and a social media campaign. Following this, we received more than 100 applications for 15 places in our pilot tech academy.

Over 50 candidates completed a tailored aptitude assessment, with the 30 highest-scoring individuals being interviewed

and 17 offered a place in the academy. Expressions of interest have continued to flow in, and we currently have more than 200 potential participants for future academy intakes.

What does the tech academy cover?

Our pilot Technology Employment Academy was sponsored by Allstate and Citi. A short, focused period of co-design resulted in a comprehensive, yet concise curriculum.

Academy participants were immersed in the essentials of software development including databases and SQL, JavaScript programming, web development, data security and more. Participants also gained the fundamentals of product management principles and practices, as well as benefitting from formal mentoring from Microsoft and vital employability skills, including coaching, mentoring, communication and teamworking.

How is it delivered?

Our pilot academy in June 2022 was delivered on a fulltime basis over 16 weeks, in a classroom setting.

It included a twoweek work placement, benefit assurance for all participants, extensive support including childcare and travel, as well as a guaranteed interview with Allstate and Citi.

What was the demographic?

We were pleased to attract a

diverse range of participants in our first cohort. It included 11 male and six female participants with 7 of them self-reporting a disability or illness. These participants also had a mix of qualifications ranging from GCSE level only to post-graduate level.

What were the results?

Our pilot Tech Employment Academy was completed on Friday, October 14, 2022, with a celebration in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour.

All 17 participants were interviewed by both Allstate and Citi, with all of them being deemed employable and offers restricted by roles available at the sponsoring employers with very attractive salaries on offer. 12 of them gained immediate employment and further employability support was provided to the remaining participants.

Can we help you?

Our pilot has been a huge success, so we’re looking forward to delivering another Tech Academy soon with a larger intake of around 40 participants.

Our Employability and Skills team is continuing to engage with employers to secure commitment to providing sufficient employment opportunities to support this ambition.

If you’re a Belfast-based tech employer who would like to get on board and help secure the skills you need to grow your business, please contact Michael Kane at

Author  Councillor Ryan Murphy Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee

Kite L&D app supports a new generation of talent soaring into the tech sector

Mairead Moore and Natalie Duncan, adaptors of the Kite L&D app, explain why we need to focus on enhancing interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence to support young people’s professional development in the new era of working

The Kite Program was founded in New Zealand by mental health advocate and HR professional Hannah Hardy-Jones in late 2018. Hannah wanted to use her own experience of serious mental illness for good by creating a resource that could be accessible and applicable to as many people as possible.

The app began as a resource for mothers but has since been readapted to tailor to other groups such as people who suffer from eating disorders and university students.

Mairead Moore, co-founder of Whytematter, and Natalie Duncan, an HR professional, are taking this app into a new market within the UK and Ireland tech sector to support businesses and universities engaging their people with the aspect of professional development while keeping their wellbeing the forefront of the learning journey.

As more young people enter employment, with that comes their new perspectives and fresh ideas which can alter what is expected from employers. This new generation of talent

prioritises differently, as they are more tuned in to their mental health and more aware of ethical practices within businesses.

Regarding the Kite L&D app’s application to this, Mairead said: “We want this app to be a support tool for young people within the tech sectors or in the education sectors to help them develop in areas they maybe have missed out on because of COVID.”

“Our app will allow the support of those young people with areas that they need support on. It can be anything from their well-being to the functionality of their actual day-to-day job that they may not be comfortable asking questions about. I think as an employer there is a responsibility to be able to support these young people because the biggest issue is staff retention.”

She continued: “The young people that are coming out of education have worked mainly in isolation and they're not as familiar with the status quo of what would be expected in an office. There's a responsibility for employers to support


those people but also in supporting their business. Many of our clients have reported a massive decrease in productivity and sales due to issues like team culture and staff retention following COVID, but we are offering tools to combat those issues and also bring these people up to speed. Our app will allow that with all its different modules.”

Kite L&D offers a learning experience in bite-sized activities to influence behaviours in a non-invasive and fun way.

Although generational differences can cause communication breakdowns, it is important to also be aware of not ‘pigeonholing’ people by their age group but instead understand that every individual has different needs. The app functions in a way that allows each user to choose what modules or “kites” to focus on, through a quiz that can help them to decide or manually select themselves. This includes topics such as imposter syndrome, how to network, how to be innovative or how to stand out.

Speaking about generational differences, Natalie said it is something that should be embraced. She said: “One of the modules on Kite is called “Get unstuck”. It goes indepth into how people who have maybe been in their role for a long time can take inspiration from fresh talent who come in with a new perspective. I think that's really important.”

“From the other perspective, the app can also be used for functional support. For example, quick access to the company's core values. From a professional point of view, there are things an 18-year-old entering a company for the first time might not be aware of. The app can provide bite-sized learning about security and safety and how you can be a better representation of that organisation.”

In the past, the general thought of work would be, “you’re lucky to have a job”. However, the job market has now evolved as people are changing and companies need to work harder to retain their staff. Due to this, companies need to offer more than just pay and fulfil more of the expectations of the staff.

Mairead explained: “Things like this are no longer a "nice to have", it's an essential that you are there to look after your people because it's your biggest overhead. In a lot of organisations, they're constantly being headhunted on a daily basis from other recruitment companies being offered something else.”

“Nearly all the tech roles can be remote, which means we're now up against

roles based in London and Dublin that offer higher wages. So there has to be a responsibility there on the employers to provide support.”

The economy has been affected enormously over the last few years by Brexit, COVID, the Financial Crisis and the war in Ukraine. This puts pressure on staff which will cause them to look to their employer for help as work is where they spend the majority of their time.

Natalie expanded on this and said: “Focusing on the financial crisis itself, no business can compete with the rate of inflation. The very first thing that motivates people is that their financial needs are being met. After that, you're talking about the psychological needs, which are your mental health and your well-being.”

“I think that it is so important, now more than ever, that businesses are focusing on that area when they can't meet the financial needs of their employees. Silent quitting, it's a huge threat, where someone isn't actually quitting a job but they're so demotivated that they're not going to put 100% effort in anymore. So you're losing a lot of productivity through that


Looking to the future, Mairead and Natalie explained that tailored support tools like KITE L&D are something that all businesses will have to supply to their staff as we live in an increasingly ethically aware world.

Mairead said: “Technology has grown so rapidly so fast and everything changes in a very short period. That is when we have to adapt and understand our young people because they're our future. For example, it's like second nature for young people to access everything on their phones now. They won't take the initiative to ask for things because they are so used to just lifting their phone and looking it up online.”

“With the Kite L&D app, it's extremely beneficial to have that help in the palm of your hand, that you can access support and help for things you might not want to ask for. You can do it in a confidential and discreet way without being judged.”

The app has seen success at Victoria University in New Zealand, Auckland. It was for students staying in halls of residence who have moved away from home for the first time, struggling to make friends but it also dealt with supporting them in tasks such as managing their finances. Mairead and Natalie hope to continue this success with the possibility of extending it into the education sector here.

Mairead Moore Natalie Duncan