Taking Stock: From Gibraltar to Mount Brandon

Neil Bellamy, Harbinger Technologies

I’m leaving County Kerry on the 06:29 train from Killarney to Dublin, following a well-worn path up to the city for business. A conversation about cloud computing that started at the Enterprise Ireland Startup Showcase turned into emails, then phone calls, conference calls and now an invitation to visit the office of a corporate data technology organisation and talk infrastructure with people who really know their onions.

Harbinger Technologies started as a conversation. Fjell and I were working in Gibraltar, keeping casino and betting applications alive through the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National.  We saw an opportunity to use our data and web skills to help people use the stock market. We just launched https://tradepath.app, which identifies stock trading opportunities.  Go try it out and let me know what you think.

We knew that it would be challenging enough to move from the comfort of life behind a monitor into entrepreneurial roles, so we chose to do business in English and in euros. That made Ireland the obvious place to formalise the company and operate from.

For European technical professionals, the road to Ireland usually ends in Dublin. The presence of Amazon, Google, and Facebook is a big draw for people looking to make mid-career changes. Salaries are attractive. Speaking with people who’d travelled that path I discovered that housing, commuting, child care, and living expenses make a big impact.

People were leaving Dublin after learning that salary isn’t the full picture.

In the right environment, it is easier to balance work and rest, stress, and relaxation.  For me, the best antidote to too much time in front of a screen full of code is time in nature, exploring the landscape. The Yorkshire Dales, the Pennines, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Andalusian mountains and now, south-west Ireland.  

Technology enables rural areas to benefit from remote work. The data centre is only as far away as the nearest reliable, fast network connection. It’s usually easier to make a video call to a colleague than it would be to walk to their desk. Meetings can be easier to arrange and attend online.

I’m not advocating a hermetic life divided from the world by a fibre- optic cable—remote workers need to support and be supported by a local community. While technology redefines our locality, we remain part of our surroundings.

Community and business both rely on communication.  Technology enables us to converse cheaply across distance, often asynchronously.  A team of three distributed across time zones can provide 24-hour cover without working night shifts. The digital shop is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

So, Fjell relocated to Romania and started coding. I packed the essentials (including a small, grey cat) into a van and drove north through Spain and France to Roscoff. The ferry arrived in Dublin at dawn, and I was ready to spend winter finding out if Ireland liked me.

Unexpectedly, there are distinct similarities between the Spanish and Irish lifestyles.  The church is a focus for community. Community is tended and appreciated. A quick “hello” seems insufficient. People have the time to converse and share opinions and stories and love the telling. There’s time to talk, and conversations help communication.

Even a simple break from the code to walk on the hills ends up in a story. Heading to the summit of Mount Brandon early one morning, I was surprised to find an aircraft engine on Faha Ridge.  A small plaque explained that it marked the “unexpected arrival” of Lt Kurt K W Kyck in Ireland on the 20th August, 1940. He survived the landing and stayed, living into his 90s. I can see why.

I’ll be heading to Dublin again for the Dublin Tech Summit (if you’re going, stop by for a chat).  Folk from Kerry love a conversation.

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