Niamh Mac Sweeney speaks to Regina Moran about Ireland’s position in the global tech industry and leading the charge for women in STEM.
Q: Can you tell me about the investments and developments for Fujitsu here in Ireland?
A: Fujitsu in Ireland is developing our global Fujitsu offering to provide IT solutions, services and products in any location for Irish headquartered companies that are expanding internationally.
We are, as a Japanese company, very focused on our customers and their business needs which can be underpinned by our technology capability. Fujitsu in Ireland offers the full suite of Fujitsu global offerings from super computers to service desk, from high-end servers to integration and deployment of infrastructure and applications.
Q: What are your main priorities and goals in your role as CEO of Fujitsu Ireland?
A: Fujitsu Ireland is in a significant growth phase as we expand the international dimension of our business. We exist to serve our customers. The customer is our main priority, underpinned by excellent people.
We partner with organisations across the public and private sector such as the Irish Courts Service and Topaz Energy. Fujitsu takes a long-term view and it is our ongoing goal to have long-term strategic relationships with our customers.
Q: You were also recently elected president of Engineers Ireland. What are your objectives for your tenure in this position?
A: As president of Engineers Ireland, I have two areas of focus as themes for my presidential year.
The first theme is the convergence between engineering and technology, with a view to increasing our membership base in the technology sector. For example, you cannot design and build the Samuel Beckett Bridge without technology and you cannot design a smartphone application without engineering.
The second area of focus is to increase the number of females in engineering. I would like to see myself as a role model and, through the STEPS programme in Engineers Ireland, I can support the schools outreach programme which encourages students to explore the world of engineering and science. But I will unashamedly focus on girls.
As the third female president of Engineers Ireland, I am truly honoured by the opportunity. I look forward to meeting many fellow engineers during my presidential term.
Q: From your previous experience, what approach and leadership style do you bring to your role at Fujitsu?
A: Throughout my career, I have always believed in openness and honesty. Fujitsu values straight-talking and being in tune with our customers and each other. It is important for me to live these values.
We also believe in being tenacious and taking personal accountability. My background in engineering has taught me how to problem solve which is a key to success in any business.
Q: How is the tech industry in Ireland performing and what do you attribute this to?
A: The technology industry in Ireland is a fantastic environment in which to work. There are an amazing number of possible careers and as you know, lots of vacancies.
All of the top multinational companies are here and there is an increasing number of internationally expanding SMEs. I believe there are a number of reasons for this – our position in Europe, our communication skills, the positive business environment and the talent available.
We need to remain competitive and continue to attract the brightest and the best to careers in technology. To meet the challenges you have to have tenacity and belief.”
Competition from other European locations, and globally, is fierce. We need to remain competitive and continue to attract the brightest and the best to careers in technology. To meet the challenges you have to have tenacity and belief. You do not have to be the biggest to win but you have to be the best.
I also believe we need to look east as well as west for investment. It is great that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from Japan visited Ireland last year and that this visit was later reciprocated by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the same year.
Q: How is Fujitsu performing and how important is Ireland to its global operations?
A: Fujitsu Ireland is performing well. We are in a significant growth phase. Our turnover grew by 14.5% last year to €56m and we expect this to increase by an additional 25%, to €70m this year. The main growth driver is international. We are providing an increasing amount of global services from across the Fujitsu family to our customers based in Ireland. Fujitsu Ireland is very important within the Fujitsu Group. We are seen as an engine for growth.
We also have expanded into research and development which has resulted in a number of international Fujitsu collaborative projects coming to Ireland, a big win for us. There is an opportunity for further expansion within Fujitsu Ireland as the Japanese economy opens up and looks for overseas investment opportunities.
Q: What are the current trends in the tech industry and what are the challenges facing the industry going forward?
A: The Internet of Things has become a major trend in the technology industry. It’s something that’s at the heart of Fujitsu Ireland and Fujitsu Global – it links with our ‘Human Centric Intelligent Society’, where people’s lives are enriched by ICT and innovation is everywhere, delivering new business and social value.
I think security is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry. Issues like data protection violation are becoming more common and individuals and companies alike need to be reassured that these issues can and will be resolved. Fujitsu recently conducted research amongst Irish CIOs in the financial services industry and security was highlighted as a major concern.
Q: Are employers finding any skills gaps in the market? And if so, how are these gap being filled?
A: Because of the highly successful technology sector, it can be difficult to find specific skills. Applications development in a number of technologies can be challenging to hire. There are a number of government initiatives which have assisted as part of the ICT Skills Action Plan. Employers in the technology sector must invest in up-skilling to keep pace with rapid technological change.
Q: How can Irish firms continue to attract highly skilled IT professionals?
A: I believe the key to attracting talented IT professionals is providing a rewarding environment. In terms of talented graduates, it is about providing an environment that will facilitate and encourage their growth. For experienced professionals, I believe we need to motivate and encourage their growth to utilise their expertise in a creative manner. Naturally this needs to be underpinned by a positive workplace environment and competitive benefits.
Q: Do you think the Government are doing enough to support the tech industry in Ireland?
A: Yes I do, however, it is an ongoing process. Through bodies such as the IDA, legislative measures and infrastructural investment, successive governments have made Ireland an attractive place to do business.
Going forward, I believe we need to look to encourage a greater uptake of STEM subjects among primary and secondary students. The Government needs to facilitate this so that we can continue to produce high-quality graduates to attract multinational investment and develop indigenous entrepreneurs.
Q: Do you have any news or developments for Fujitsu this year and what are your future goals?
A: Fujitsu Ireland is on a major growth trajectory. Fujitsu globally is also expanding. There have been a number of significant organisational changes and investment in global delivery centres. The investment in research and development both locally and globally is also set to continue.
Fujitsu in Ireland has a vision to become the number one IT services company in the country and this year is another step to achieving that vision. We strive to innovate and bring the global might of the Fujitsu Group to assist our customer base in Ireland.
Q: How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?
A: Success in business for me is setting ambitious goals and working with ambitious customers to exceed those goals. I am driven to succeed because I like to win with people – our Fujitsu people and our customers.
I am very lucky to be CEO of Fujitsu in Ireland. We have an amazing team of people, great customers and an expanding business. Fujitsu Group is a very supportive environment in which to operate and I have always felt supported in my career.