NI Rocks! The top 10 reasons why Northern Ireland is the place to be in 2022…

NI Rocks! The top 10 reasons why Northern Ireland is the place to be in 2022…

NI Rocks! The top 10 reasons why Northern Ireland is the place to be in 2022…

I’ve been telling everyone who will listen that 2022 will be the best year for young people to get into the Belfast tech sector. Ten observations from 2021 that the tech sector in our city is about to go supersonic.

1. Belfast is one of the only cities in the world where you’d find Taylor Swift hanging out on the weekend through 2021. Belfast was voted the top social city in Europe a few times in the late 1990s, so it’s always been a fun place. Now we’ve got the full “Swifty” stamp of approval. Our film making sector is booming, riding the Netflix and HBO wave.  Game of Thrones showed Hollywood what Northern Ireland has to offer, and now Tinseltown can’t get enough of us.

2. Kenneth Branagh and Jamie Dornan made Belfast the movie. Our diaspora continues to work together to tell our story to the world, and everyone is noticing.

3. The tech graduate job market was absolutely on fire in 2021. We had to overhaul our recruitment process as we weren’t getting offers out quick enough and other firms kept beating us to the punch. We’ve been hiring top tech graduate talent in Northern Ireland since 2003. To a certain extent, it’s been easy if you’re willing to put the work in. All of a sudden, the game has changed. Anyone who wants a high-quality entry-level tech job in Belfast can get one; it’s become the land of opportunity. Options Technology has the best graduate training scheme by a mile, but to be fair, most companies in the sector nowadays put a lot of investment in training.  This investment has to bode well for the next decade.

4. Our homegrown public tech firms are booming. Kainos and FD grew revenue by over 30% in 2021, with their teams growing by hundreds or thousands. Suddenly, our indigenous tech firms have achieved scale. On the private side, if we keep on our run, Options Technology will leapfrog our better-known peers in the coming years. Other large-scale Belfast-based Fintechs, including FinTru and AquaQ, are flying also.

5. Northern Ireland saw a few £1bn exits in 2021 for tech companies none of us had even heard of. That’s got to be the best indicator of a thriving tech ecosystem. It also means that there are plenty of technology entrepreneurs here with capital to reinvest, stories to tell, and role models to inspire. There was a time when it was only us.

6. Not sure if anyone noticed, but the number of global financial sector and tech firms based here seems to be growing at a ridiculous rate. Back in the day, it was pivotal when Citi and NYSE Euronext were located in Belfast. In 2021 it felt that someone or other announced similar-sized investments every couple of weeks. FDI is hitting all-time highs, creating thousands of high-quality jobs for people who want the subtly different experience of working for an international firm.

7. We’ve got to be the top city in the world for Cybersecurity expertise. Out and about in the park with the kids over the holidays, I’d casual chats about Log4J with the CSO of a global Fintech firm, security operations lead in a Fortune 50 Insurance company and VP Engineering of a top security tools vendor. Cybersecurity is in the ether over here. Cybersecurity vendor Rapid7 is trying very hard to be the hippest software company in Belfast, though I’m not convinced they actually have a swimming pool in their office. Options Technology is a big Tenable shop, so we’re leading the resistance.

8. Around 15 years ago, some forward-looking politicians in the Northern Ireland Executive presented a vision to build out the best broadband infrastructure in the world. The net, in the WFH era, unless you live way out in the backwoods of Tyrone, chances are you’ve great broadband at home, comparable to any global metro hub. Many firms had harnessed this for WFH on Friday’s even before 2020. Not only did tech firms here take to WFH without skipping a beat, more and more London and Dublin-based firms are hiring fully remote works from across Northern Ireland. Not everyone’s cuppa, and not great for graduates, but out of nowhere, a completely different long-term option has come to the fore for our experienced tech professionals.

9. Tyrone’s victory over Kerry in the All-Ireland Semi-Final in August was the only time I was excited to see a Tyrone team win. They really are the team everyone loves to hate. For me, it symbolised not only a victory over the virus, most of their squad was laid up a few weeks earlier; they also took an awful thrashing in the press, including at home. Through the summer, young people in Northern Ireland figured out they’d nothing to fear and started making up for lost time. A great tech sector needs young people excited about life, looking forward and pushing forward. Let’s hope it is their last All-Ireland for a few decades, maybe ever.

10. For me, 2021 was when our young people showed just how global and cosmopolitan they really are. In September, we committed to supporting anyone who wanted to spend 2-3 weeks working out of region as long as there was the flimsiest business case. More than half the under 30s in our Belfast team hit the road and a few oldies. Destinations included London, Frankfurt, Geneva, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, New York, Washington, Miami, and Boston. You need a serious hunger for travel to power a global tech company.

And of course, while everyone loves Swifty, we’ve still got the best golf courses in the world, and whether or not you believe in global warming, Northern Ireland just had the two sunniest springs since records began and three great summers out of four. Everything is on the up?

 

 

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