Program Manager – Unum
How have you come to live in Ireland South East?
I’m a proud Kiwi, born and raised. Whilst travelling and seeing the world in my 20’s, I met my Irish wife when on a one year work visa for Ireland. She was based in the sunny south east, in Dungarvan, and so I found myself working not far away in Waterford city. After one year I convinced her to return to New Zealand with me, where we married and started a family over the next 11 years. With her family in Kilkenny and Tipperary, I was constantly reminded that New Zealand (although arguably the best place on the planet!) is “a long way to Tipperary”. So when the time was right with children, work and the economy, we sold up and packed up our lives and shifted from one green country to another, some 18,000kms apart.
We first relocated to Dublin where securing employment was easiest, but the pull to the South East never abated. Looking South East was further encouraged by the skyrocketing prices of Dublin, the schooling congestion and limitations, as well as the traffic of my nightmares. Unum, as a major employer in the South East, was an opportunity we could not pass up, and we have not looked back.
What do you like best about Ireland South East?
Location, location, location. Location to family, location to the coast and better weather, location to a major city and airport. Oh, and let’s not forget prices. What a difference travelling an hour south of Dublin makes to the wallet! Although Dublin’s a fantastic city, the South East ticks a lot of our boxes that Dublin did not. We can have an affordable lifestyle here (more so than even New Zealand), the schooling is great (from pre-school all the way to tertiary), the traffic is of my dreams (despite the odd tractor), and it’s arguably the sunniest spot in Ireland (although not quite to New Zealand standards).
“I very much appreciate that I am able to maintain and enhance a “corporate career” without having to be based within a congested city.”
Tell us about your career?
I started my IT career in New Zealand, in software engineering and database management, as well as stints in the UK and Ireland before settling back home and raising a family. I eventually moved to the dark-side, IT Management, and am proud to have been instrumental in building a start-up IT company from 5 to 50. I enjoyed being a big fish in a small pond with roles from Operations Manager to CTO. Relocating to Ireland was challenging in a country where it’s all about who you know, but with so much IT work available it didn’t take too long.
Since 2014 I have worked for Unum in management roles. A significant portion of Unum’s IT department is based in Carlow, and has been for over 10 years. We have a great reputation within Unum IT for innovation and advancing Unum’s IT practices. I very much appreciate that I am able to maintain and enhance a “corporate career” without having to be based within a congested city. Unum is big enough that there is always new opportunities surfacing with various options to move or change within.
What are the benefits of living in Ireland South East?
When we shifted from Dublin to Carlow, our rent dropped by two-thirds and the property we started renting was about two-thirds bigger. When we eventually bought there were many options around – if you prefer (like I do) you can be in the middle of nowhere very quickly. I could cycle or drive to work within minutes, and the kids school was just around the corner too. We were much closer to the in-laws (but not too close!) and were surprised by the quality of the stunning South East beaches. There is plenty to see and do from medieval Kilkenny to craft beer and whisky tasting and there’s an active outdoor lifestyle with hiking and cycling as well as a range of sports and clubs. I’ve volunteered as a coach at Carlow Rugby Club since settling here, with assumed expertise based on my nationality! If we need to go abroad, it’s a relatively quick drive to either airport or ferry port.
Can you tell us a secret about Ireland South East or a favourite place that people might not know?
I don’t like to sit on the fence but I don’t know if I can pinpoint a favourite place. We have been here six years yet we are still exploring and learning all this region has to offer. We were recently back in Dungarvan after too many years away and really enjoyed the vibrancy and beauty of this coastal town, helped along more recently with the fantastic Waterford Greenway which is high up on our to-do list. We’ve settled between Carlow and Kilkenny – Carlow has a great student buzz with the very active Carlow IT amongst all the other industry, and Kilkenny is forever bustling with tourists meandering along the ancient lanes and perusing the various arts and crafts.
Hang on, I do have a secret location; here’s a secret about the South East only a Kiwi will know… in Tipperary, in the village of Clerihan sits a Daybreak like many other, with one subtle difference… it’s owned by a Kiwi and he stocks various delicacies from home… from Macs beer to Whittakers chocolate – the only NZ shop in all of Ireland and certainly the place to go if home-sickness ever kicks in.
What do you think makes the South East stand out as a location for business?
The location model that Unum follows makes a lot of sense to me – locate close enough to a major town or airport, and close enough to a major tertiary institute, yet far enough away from the city that employees can settle and enjoy a rich lifestyle too. I’ve heard the M9 motorway running through the South East is the least used motorway in all of Ireland which certainly makes getting in and out a breeze. With Carlow and Waterford IT there’s a great reputation for quality of relevant industry education and people can actually afford to live here. There is enough industry to draw people in yet there is still scope to grow the region further without too much of an impact. It’s vibrant, up and coming and is a logical short step away from the difficulties of living in Dublin.