John Dennehy on Zartis and Make IT in Ireland

Grand and less grand assemblies of the good and not so good have gathered over the last few years united by a stated desire to resurrect Ireland from the builder’s rubble of the recent financial calamity. Many of the voiced aspirations are lofty and aspirational and Technology Voice offers what support it can to any activity which shows promise of getting Ireland on its feet and fighting fit again.

That is all very nice, but no amount of ‘help’ in the form of ambitious sentiment and rhetorical incitements to action can take the place of people being rewarded for their efforts through working in wealth creating jobs.

While the general economy still leaves much to be desired, Ireland’s Information, Communication, and Technology (ICT) sector is a gem not only in the country’s crown but Europe’s as well — so carpet baggers need not apply.

According to these remarkable figures supplied to us by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation the ICT sector is not just surviving but is actually thriving.

All of the top 10 technology companies are present in Ireland

Current employment: 90,000+

Employment growth: 6% in 2009; 4% in 2010

Jobs announcements: 3,500 in 2010; over 4,000 in 2011

6,000 + jobs announced in 2012

5 of the top 10 exporters are technology companies

Total number of ICT enterprises: 5,402 – most are services

233 foreign owned ICT companies
Ireland receives one third of US European-investment

ICT Manufacturing:
39% foreign owned which represents 99% of turnover of ICT Manufacturing in Ireland
Average people employed in an ICT manufacturing company: 173 people; turnover: €230 million
51% of total ICT turnover

ICT Services:
45% foreign owned which represents 88% of turnover in ICT Services in Ireland
Average number employed: 11; turnover: €7 million
49% of total ICT turnover

Certainly, there is a way to go. In the temporary absence of a robust financial system, riskier innovation will need outside financing and International companies, large and small, will always be welcomed.

However, the most pressing need in the ICT sector at the moment is appropriately skilled people.

John Dennehy is trying to solve this problem from two angles. The first is with the recently launched Zartis of which he is the CEO. It is a web based recruitment service that promotes job opportunities that a company may have through the use of social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. The Zartis software can then, in turn, help manage the responses from applicants. Storing their CVs in a database and so on.

According to John, “It is basically a software tool to find the right talent.”

“We have spent the last eight months working with a group of companies in Dublin. Talking to them about what the need and the types of people they need to hire. We spent a lot of time talking to the recruiting teams in the multi-nationals and the feedback is consistently that we need more people with IT skills, marketing, business analytics, and operations.”

Another category that is much desired by employers are people with native-language skills.

“The makeup of a lot of the jobs in the software sector come from the fact that we have a lot of US multi-nationals based over here and … they are serving local European countries. So if you are serving into a local European country the chances are you need a local language skill.

“At the moment in Ireland, there is an awful lot of people looking for people with native German skills, Dutch skills and Nordic language skills.”

This is understandable as, “They are the strongest economies that are the growing the fastest and buying the most products.”

Even with a sickening unemployment rate of 14+% unemployment rate, there are not enough Irish people with the requisite skills.

A solution to this shortfall is to bring people in from other countries that can do the jobs that are being offered. The question is how? Despite the astonishing health and promise of the ICT sector a casual overseas observer of Irish affairs could be forgiven, (even if mistaken) for thinking that the country was a basket case.

This is where John’s other project, Make IT in Ireland takes on significance.

“Make IT in Ireland is a completely industry-led project. We are trying to reach out to the people in Europe to effectively inform them of the opportunities that are here.”

Using some of the technology from Zartis it also uses social media to let people in Europe who have an interest in the ICT sector about the possibilities that are available in Ireland for employment and career progress.

“When people come to the Make IT in Ireland site we tell them about Ireland and about how to come over here. It also links them into the careers sites for the multi-national companies (MNC). The other thing we do is to allow the individual to submit their CV into a CV database so that any of the recruiters from the MNCs can log in and see those CVs.

“Make IT in Ireland is not a philanthropic venture. It is sponsored by business. Effectively, a group of multi-nationals run the project and we are paid to run it but on their behalf. The multi-nationals wouldn’t be paying money if there wasn’t a gap.

“There are no agencies or other companies, that I am aware of, that specifically have a major focus on targeting everyday people that might work in the technology sector and try and get them to move over to Ireland.”

Unlike the opportunities for talking and ‘exchanging ideas’ the opportunities for action are always constrained by relevance and time. Neither of which care for sentiment, however noble. As John warns:

“We need people with customer service skills, marketing skills and native-language skills. We need all of them here in Ireland. And if we don’t get them here and if the skills don’t come here to work with multi-nationals then the jobs will be set up in the local territory.”

Weedle: Creating a Fabric of Credibility

Iain MacDonald started Weedle with the desire to provide a fundamentally better way of connecting people who have skills to people who need them within a trusted environment. Weedle employs 18 people at present, most of whom are mathematically and software orientated, and has users in over 160 countries. Not bad for a company that is only about a year old.

The origins of Weedle began when Iain needed to solve an arboreal problem at his home. He explains further, “I needed to find somebody who could help me cut down some trees at the bottom of my garden. I spent a bit of time asking my friends and my family if they knew somebody but unfortunately they didn’t. Then I went to Google and I found people who said they were very good tree surgeons but they were strangers to me. I found it very hard to trust them in terms of their competence, their value money, their reliability or their trustworthiness.

“I was pretty sure that the right person was out there. That they were out there looking to connect with me and I’m looking for someone with a skill I need and I am trying to connect with them. But the reality is that it is currently very difficult for us to find each other.”

Iain designed Weedle so that people who are searching for someone with a skill can go beyond just depending on how the suppliers have presented themselves, either via advertising or simply having membership of a professional or trade body. Using social networks as a means of verification there is now a way to assess other factors such as reliability and suitability in terms of being able to work with them.

“When you are looking for a lawyer or someone like that, often when a friend recommends them to you and you end up going to the lawyer they can turn out to be not the sort of person you are looking for. We can circumvent that waste of time by being able to see all the details of the person who has the skill before you contact them.

“What we have is a fabric of credibility. Say, I go to Weedle and I make my skill page. In order to be found when someone searches for me there are a couple of things we take into account in the context of our search algorithm. So, the first one is the content of my skill page and does it match for what someone would be searching for. The next element we take into account is who this person is actually connected to. We may have someone who has created a skill page and is connected to fifty people but they may be less credible then someone who has connected a skills page that maybe only connected to five people.”

How does Weedle compare to Facebook and Linkedin?

“Facebook is very good for communicating with your friends and Linkedin is very good for managing your white-collar network of contacts. But it is not so good if you are looking for a plumber or a carpenter.

“Even if you were looking for a corporate lawyer to float your company on the Nasdaq you’ll get a resume or a some type of CV. What people are really looking for is what projects has he or she been involved in, what role did he play, how long did it take him to do it and to see examples of the expertise that he has.

“It’s not just about say, a yoga teacher who simply states they have worked in ABC Yoga for the last five years. On Weedle you will see; this is where they trained, this is where they worked and here is a video of her giving a yoga class. Here are photographs of the yoga studio, here is a list of ten people that are in your network that went to their class.”

How much of a role does Semantic Web technology have in your system?

“It’s really very significant: A lot of sites using search have gone down the hierarchical directory structure route. A person would have to pick from a drop-down box and choose ‘telecom industry’ and then ‘mobile telephony’ and then ‘mobile network.’ It’s very hierachical and pigeon-holes people into specific positions.

“The particular benefit of using a semantic ontology is that we have no hierarchy to the classification of our user skills. If you go on to the site declaring that you are a carpenter then all you need to do is say “I am a carpenter.” We know that we need to present that search result in a population of search results generated when others search for terms like carpenter, woodworker or joiner.

“We can apportion levels of relevance to the skill pages we have versus search strings. Machine learning combined with Semantic Web technology creates a much better user experience.”

The underlying idea that determines credibility and trustworthiness both offline and online is social proof. Any claim you may make about yourself personally or professionally is validated, or not, against how you are perceived by your social network. Professional bodies may declare you competent and award you some sort of certification and send you out the door to ply your trade but it is how you handle your day to day dealings that really count for most people.

Iain has come up with a system that allows you to access the layers of social trust that surrounds us all and enables access to the sort of vital information on someone that would only normally become available over time and after, possibly, a number of encounters.