For our latest Network Insider interview, we caught up with Dee Timoney, the Network Manager of ITAG Skillnet to find out more about how the network operates.
Name of Network: ITAG Skillnet
Number of members: 85
Sector(s) covered: ICT
Year established: 2002
Please describe what your Network does and how it came about?
In September 2000 ITAG (Information Technology Association Galway), our promoting organisation, was established by a group of forward-looking IT professionals representing both multinational and indigenous ICT companies. It was recognised by the founding members that a unique combination of economic factors and social conditions makes Galway an exciting place to do business, work and live. Our aim is to promote, strengthen and grow the tech sector along the west of Ireland and continue to drive the industry forward as the primary connector and to advocate for our region.
ITAG Skillnet was formed in 2002 as a direct response to the ICT community seeking to improve the skillset within the sector in order to maintain global competitiveness and enhance employability. The main objective of ITAG Skillnet is to deliver high quality, cost effective, and customised training locally in the west and midlands of Ireland to employees in the member IT companies.
Can you outline one key way your Network impacted positively on the sector?
We are very proud of the impact that the Atlantec Festival has had on our sector over the last 5 years. What started out as a 1-day technology conference in 2015, has now expanded into a Technology Festival which runs over April and May each year. This year, we ran 20 events over the 2 months which included site visits, members evening, ITAG Digital Women’s event, tech tag rugby tournament, and a tech musical event. Over 1000 participants attended events throughout the festival.
The cornerstone of the festival is the Atlantec Conference. This year’s conference title was ‘The art of artificial intelligence and machine learning, new paradigm or false dawn?’ The event combined futuristic thinking, real-life case examples, and deep-dives into technologies and trends. Over 400 business leaders, expert software developers, and technologists attended the day-long conference.
Dynamic keynote talks and panel discussions featured futurist Denis Rivin, IBM expert Inigo Viti, medical innovator Catharine Bowman, Ally Watson from Code Like a Girl and Microsoft’s Gary Short. Three afternoon parallel sessions covered Artificial Intelligence (AI) Implementation, Tools and Techniques and the MedTech AI revolution.
The conference provides our members with a wonderful opportunity to hear from experts in our sector talk about future trends in technology without having to travel long distances.
What has been the most transformative initiative in your sector in the last year?
ITAG’s Digital Women is a network for promoting technology careers for women. Our member companies understand the virtue of diversity and encourage open discussion and sharing of knowledge amongst women and men working in the technology industry. The activities of the network are free and open to all. We run a range of activities through the Digital Women’s Network including in-company networking events and mentoring programmes.
In 2018 we developed a Digital Women’s Leadership Program for middle level managers to focus on developing leaders, empowering women and enabling them to thrive in the workplace. Fourteen managers participated in the first program with a further thirteen taking part in the second program. In total, 11 companies have participated. In addition to the learning, one of the other key benefits is that it provides participants with an opportunity to connect with other female leaders who can support them both personally and professionally well after the course finishes.
Technology companies need, more than ever, women’s skills and knowledge. Broad thinking gives birth to the best products and solutions. Our network’s activities aim to discuss how women could have a larger role in creating success stories in business and technology. Diversity brings business value.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
Technology continues to shape and re-shape the professional landscape and as a result we’ve seen significant changes to the role of ICT in the modern workplace. We are seeing more and more members looking for training in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Autonomous Vehicles/Devices, Blockchain, Augmented Analysis, 5G Networks, Digital Twin Big Data, Cyber Security, DevOps and Cloud Computing. We have also just developed a Diploma in Inside Sales with TU Dublin. The first cohort of students will start in October.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
The success of a business demands more than hard work, resilience, and expertise in your field. To succeed, business owners need to understand and to become proficient in a set of fundamental skills. These skills include strategic and financial management, communication skills, leadership and management skills, sales and marketing, project management, delegation and time management. Top skills our members are looking for include: Professional Management Skills, Negotiation Skills, Inside Sales, and Executive Presentation Skills.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
Just do it! Only positive things will come from being a member of a Skillnet Network. Not only does it give you access to high quality, affordable training locally but it provides you with an opportunity to meet with like-minded people who you can share your experience with and vice versa. See the Skillnet network as an extension of your HR/L&D function and reap the benefits. ITAG Skillnet provides training, but more importantly, we provide access to the technology sector, help with your strategic talent needs and give you visibility to our sector along the west coast of Ireland through a range of activities, initiatives and events.
ITAG Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.