Belfast Telegraph

Finding and keeping best tech talent is key business expansion

'Shades of Silicon Valley are sweeping into Belfast on this front, with office dogs, free beers and even office rabbits becoming more commonplace'
'Shades of Silicon Valley are sweeping into Belfast on this front, with office dogs, free beers and even office rabbits becoming more commonplace'

By Glenn McClements, General Manager at Whitespace

The Northern Ireland tech scene has exploded in the last decade, with local entrepreneurs, start-ups, scale-ups and global businesses all contributing to a now well-established cluster of knowledge and experience.

While this is fantastic to see, it also presents challenges for ambitious businesses, like WhiteSpace, which are growing quickly. It is becoming increasingly competitive for companies like ours to recruit and retain talent.

Whitespace is headquartered in London. However, our founder Andrew McCartney was originally from Belfast, so when he saw the opportunity to open an office here he took it.

For our business, we found talent in Northern Ireland to be better than we had found in other locations.

This is thanks to a healthy tech sector and a good education system, with businesses, universities and schools collaborating to effectively prepare those who are keen to enter careers in this industry.

This is a small country, but it has a strong base of educated, tech literate people. We see first-hand on a daily basis how our team in Belfast is able to work alongside companies in New York and in London.

We are not only holding our own, we are also beating them on a consistent basis.

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Northern Ireland employees seem to have more loyalty towards their employers, which is a slightly less talked about benefit to the eco system here.

People tend to move jobs more often in other major cities, driven primarily by a mistaken sense that two years in the same company can be seen as complacency. Here, there is more of an engineering spirit, an appetite to find solutions and to stay with an employer while you are happy to be a part of their team.

We are a scale-up company at the start of a fast growth journey and during this phase, and indeed the start-up phase, it is important to have the best people on board working alongside you. These people need to be bright, self-motivated and technically ready. The key thing for any fast growing company is to have hungry, ambitious and highly capable talent that buys into the vision and ethos of what the company is trying to achieve.

This is important from interns, to graduates, the whole way through to the senior management team.

At Whitespace we have put in place the right checks and measures to make sure we are recruiting the people who will fit best within our organisation.

Often, they need to be open to taking on many roles within a small company and they would do this armed with the knowledge that they have the potential to make a big impact.

Successful recruitment strategies also come down to what you are able to do to keep your best employees and attract new talent. Competitive salaries and interesting work will always play a part in this, but gone are the days when these are all that matter. Shades of Silicon Valley are sweeping into Belfast on this front, with office dogs, free beers and even office rabbits becoming more commonplace.

Good people have the option to work in a lot of places, so the onus is on the employer to create the right type of culture which suits its target employees.

Office space is a key factor and it played a big part in our recent relocation to StepSpace in Centre House. Aesthetically and ergonomically, StepSpace was the best office space that we could find and that is an important part in attracting excellent talent.

As a start-up it is useful to be able to talk to others who are going through a similar growth trajectory. There is a real sense of community among the companies in StepSpace, where we support, advise and build connections for each other.

And some friendly competition doesn't hurt either, to keep us all on our toes and aspiring to be better.

Belfast Telegraph