Maciej Dabrowski: Start-ups Key to Galway’s AI Growth

This article was originally published on portershed.com and has been republished here with permission.

Maciej Dabrowski, Chief Data Scientist, Digital and AI at Genesys, took time to sit down with the PorterShed blog recently. Maciej has been with Genesys for four-and-a-half years. Before that, he was with Altocloud for four years. So, it’s safe to say that Maciej is a fount of knowledge in his field, and he took time to speak with us about how to create a great product, Galway’s role in the development of AI, and what he sees as the future of the technology.

It’s fair to say that artificial intelligence is dominating many conversations in the start-up and broader tech worlds today. At the recent Dublin Tech Summit, there were more than a few panels discussing the current developments as well as a few others that pondered the future of AI, too. With Genesys’ AI headquarters in Galway, it’s clear that the City of Tribes has a key role to play in what that industry becomes. 

From Maciej’s point of view, “strong universities and access to world-class engineering talent” are two of the big reasons that Genesys chose Galway as their AI centre.

“The AI ecosystem in Galway is steadily growing, we do have good universities here that give us access to engineering talent and an exceptional quality of life. What we don’t have in comparison to larger cities is access to a strong  pool of local, senior AI technical talent who have “seen it all” over a long career in AI.” Maciej adds. “In the past, I would say there were not that many AI jobs in Galway – there was Genesys and a handful of other companies working on AI to some degree. Now there are many more opportunities for finding AI jobs in the West”.

Maciej also makes the point that Galway has good engineers that are transitioning into AI, something that is working really well to fill that senior talent gap. For him, the West of Ireland has an abundance of world-class engineering talent on all levels, and with an increasing number of companies working on AI, many engineers will pick up AI skills and transition into core AI. He points to NUIG’s degree to help with this transition and makes the point that Genesys are providing the opportunities to make that switch – with success.

And there is another big positive that Maciej sees, something that Galway can do, in particular:

“If I were to pick one of the things we can do really, really well that will boost the ecosystem, it would be the start-ups. We have a relatively small but critical mass that is working on that, and one of the best ways to grow the AI ecosystem is to develop start-ups that get acquired by a big company and then start building around it. “If that start-up happens to do AI, then that’s obviously an anchor to build around them. So, one of the things we can do is to get more AI start-ups rooted in Galway because that will pull in the AI talent, engineers, new companies, and more resources into our AI ecosystem.”

Maciej Dabrowski

When it comes to exactly what AI can do for people and the wider world, our conversation veers towards the idea of what is best, what is useful, and whether AI always needs to follow either one of these paths.

“We should not approach AI as a magical, all-capable solution to the most-pressing World problems out of the box – it’s not, at least, not yet” Maciej explains, adding that there are lots of studies about how and why AI companies fail when they lack focus on the suitable use case that is feasible and can deliver value. What it all comes down to in most cases, he says, is value generation that depends on the focus on applying AI to the right use case, and access to talent that can solve it using available data and technology.

For Maciej, the best way to attract talented people is to create products that solve problems – big or small.

From Genesys’ perspective, artificial intelligence is all about making things easier for customers and users. Because while AI can sometimes have the cachet of being futuristic and otherworldly, Maciej makes the point that it needs to be understood by those who are using it – and getting the benefit from it.

“We want to make AI accessible and simple. There are a bunch of things that underline that, such as transparency and privacy, for example. Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is build AI into the products that people use and don’t require advanced degrees to operate them. So, we have to explain what AI does, how it does it, in a way that people understand it and trust it enough to use it.”

Maciej gives an example of a product they launched last year which they ultimately redesigned to be uber simple. The predictive routing software applies AI to connect customers with the most suitable agents, finding areas in the call center that can be optimized. Businesses can identify the areas they can create value with AI within a matter of a few simple clicks. Essentially, queues which would benefit from optimization can be identified and targeted leading to better customer experience and business results. It’s certainly an everyday AI win that, on the face of it at least, is accessible and easy to understand. 

For Maciej, AI is a means to an end. He points to Genesys’ predictive routing as the ideal showcase of why that should be the focus. “In most cases It’s not really about the AI technology (algorithm) itself, it’s more about how you apply it to create value, how you make it simple, how you embed it, and how it improves people’s daily lives and makes them better.”

Rory Timlin is Playing His Cards Right

This article was originally published on portershed.com and has been republished here with permission.

Rory Timlin is from Galway and works in the PorterShed. Like his Bowling Green peers, Rory hasn’t always done things the way most other people do. In fact, for a period of around eight years, he became a professional online poker player before ultimately going on to become a business analyst and financial controller. 

This followed a period of time over a decade ago, in the wake of the most recent recession, where Rory backpacked and lived abroad for a time following his studies. Today, Rory works for a company in Galway, and it was his decision to push for a remote-working role there which would allow him to say in his hometown of the city of Tribes

“I love Galway and I’m not a major fan of living in Dublin for a number of reasons, like the rent – and I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend living in Galway as well,” he says.

The co-working and open innovation culture of the PorterShed suits Rory down to the ground, and Rory adds that the PorterShed is certainly a big part of what keeps him in Galway – especially the open and humble atmosphere.

“That’s one of the things I love about the PorterShed is that when you walk in the door, you don’t really know who’s this big-shot important guy. You know they’re there, but unless you really get chatting to people…and there’s nobody going around bragging to people about how great they are or anything like that.”

To go from a poker player to a professional analyst/wearer-of-many-hats with a company headquartered in Dublin called Meltdown is not your average career path, for sure, but it has certainly been one that has stood Rory in great stead. After all, it has allowed him to learn things most people wouldn’t, put himself in extraordinary situations, and figure things out in quick and innovative ways. 

Rory, in fact, managed to earn enough money over the course of his poker career that was the equivalent to quite a decent wage year after year. 

“I wanted something more steady, but also something that I could progress at. With poker it’s always going to be a struggle, there’s no natural progression – there’s no going to someone for a raise or ‘look at everything I did in the past’. There’s no obvious progression aside from: get better, get lucky, see what happens.”

Rory Timlin

So, Rory decided to go ahead and put his poker skills to a different use: taking the pragmatic, clinical perspective of strategies and analyses to help a business understand the hows, the whys, and the what nexts.

And Rory explains that numbers, statistics, and data are what keeps him motivated, and it’s what he’s best at.

“I love numbers, I’m good with numbers. I could happily stare at stats all day and be happy. I like taking stats and making them into something that people who don’t like stats would happily look at and understand,” Rory says. 

“For example, when I take a deep-dive into what sells best in one of our cafés. I might talk to the manager or the owner of the shop, and they’ll all have an opinion on what sells best or better, but they won’t actually know, but when you show them the facts, they might be surprised because people’s perceptions of what’s happening don’t always marry up with what’s actually happening. So, for me the stats tell the real stories, and that’s how you make better, informed decisions.”

In today’s world where industries and individual companies are over-saturated with misconceptions and misreadings, it’s people like Rory who are able to scythe through the noise and create an impact that’s felt on a number of levels. And that all comes with his varied career which covers a number of disciplines – and Rory explains that this is part of what he identifies with.

“One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that there is no normal career path for most people, especially the people who are very successful. They just take their opportunities and see what happens.

“I was reading the other day somebody’s advice that if you’re reviewing a job description and you meet all the criteria, then you’re over-qualified – you shouldn’t be going into something you’re comfortable in, it should be outside your comfort zone.”

Rory has certainly proved that it’s best to test yourself, and even though some moves might seem like a gamble, the winnings are there to be won if you play your hand right.

Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit in the Portershed, Rory is now offering his services to growing companies in financial systems setup and business analysis. You can find him in the Portershed, on LinkedIn, or at timlinrory@gmail.com.

Carol Ho, COO of Baseworx, on the Rise of Co-working Spaces

This article was originally published on portershed.com and has been republished here with permission.

Carol Ho is the Chief Operating Officer of Baseworx, a company that helps hubs to better manage their co-working spaces. Their easy-to-use software means that hub managers can seamlessly oversee the day-to-day operations from their own devices. All across Ireland, the hubs on the ConnectedHubs.ie platform benefit from Baseworx’s solution – helping many of them to thrive as places where professionals from many locations can come to work and connect with the wider world.

The hub network across Ireland is key to the government’s initiative to make it easier for professionals to work remotely in a variety of locations. The push to have spaces available to work from has been catalysed by Covid and the shifting dynamics of the future of work. In Ireland, it has been encouraging to see so many new hubs opening up in recent times. However, as Carol explains, coworking has long been an existing option in other countries – and the landscape is very evolved elsewhere.

“You can see so many co-working spaces in a tiny city like Hong Kong – it’s super-competitive if you’re running a co-working space over there. They have their own territories. Over there, if you’re talking about social innovation, you go to Good Lab. If you are tech-focused, you go to Science Park. If you are a maker, you go to MakerBay. They have different themes and focuses for different hubs over there,” Carol says.

A quick look on ConnectedHubs.ie will show you that there are over 230 hubs open across the country at the time of writing – that’s quite an impressive number, and while we still have a way to go to catch up with countries like Hong Kong, it’s encouraging to see such a high number.

So, why is it that so many people are pursuing the co-working experience?

“Of course, working from home is still okay, but I do get more stuff done when I’m working in the PorterShed,” Carol explains. So, productivity is clearly a big factor in why people are ditching the kitchen table for the purpose-built desk.

But there’s another factor behind the rise of co-working spaces.

“Lots of big companies are getting rid of the office. If you’re running a business, you probably rent your own office somewhere else. But right now, a lot of big corporates have started to rent desks in the co-working space because it’s handy – they save time, they save the maintenance, and they reduce cost,” Carol says.

Carol Ho, COO of Baseworx

In addition, people view co-working spaces as a way to reconnect with the real world. Many professionals are still re-emerging back into office life, and some are still looking for ways to do so gradually. For many people, co-working spaces offer a chance to do exactly this. Ultimately, co-working spaces provide the sweet spot between traditional offices and remote working. Worldwide, too, that trend is clear – a recent newsletter from The Hustle explains that analysts are predicting approximately 42,000 coworking spaces globally in 2024, an increase of 116 percent when compared to 2020.

As Carol explains, these hubs are having a positive knock-on effect around the country.

“We see the benefits of Connected Hubs – it’s definitely supporting the development of the countryside of Ireland, bringing the jobs, and helping to boost the economy of the countryside areas.”

The ConnectedHubs.ie website, which is managed by Baseworx, is clearly in high demand, and Carol explains that they have big plans in store for the site in the near future – both in Ireland and internationally.

“We are launching version two of Connected Hubs, so that’s one of our flagship projects that we’re working on at the moment. Right now, we are pretty much focused on the Connected Hubs projects because it’s such an important government initiative. I’m spending lots of time talking to many of the hub managers to get their feedback on the software to understand what features they want to get.

“We are taking in some interns from Limerick and Cork – graduate students from some of the colleges there. So, we are doing a summer internship programme and spending some time training the students up. And they will help us with some of the international market research. Because apart from Ireland, we are looking at some other countries to see if other countries could have the same model.”

Back home, the focus of course is on continuing to help hubs harness the power of the Connected Hubs platform through the Baseworx software.

A lot of talk continues to centre around the future of work and what it will look like in the next five to 10 years. An important topic of conversation, for sure, but what does Carol think about the future of co-working? Will we see even further revitalisation of rural areas in Ireland in the near future?

“I just think that probably we will have more young families moving back to the countryside area and that way they won’t need to stay in the city with the high living expenses and all that. But it will take a while. Right now the government is trying to build loads of infrastructure to support that, but it will take some time,” the Baseworx COO said.

In the meantime, your local hub awaits with high-speed broadband, coffee, and the facilities needed to get work done, no matter where you are. The future can wait, for now.