Our two most critical industries?

Apr 6, 2020

The most important sector in Ireland at the moment is clearly that of healthcare sector. But we mustn’t overlook the extent to which it is underpinned and supported by the technology sector.

Our healthcare sector is saving lives during the Covid-19 pandemic, while the technology sector is enabling the healthcare professionals to do their job.  And in a much broader sense, the technology sector is keeping the entire economy moving.

The world has moved into the Digital Era in a way we now hardly question.  But it’s at times like this that we realise if it weren’t for various technology platforms, our way of life would quickly shudder to a halt.

Technology platforms, in one shape or another, are  a product of, and entirely reliant upon, one sector: Telecommunications.

The telecoms sector is the Internet. It literally is the nervous system of the planet and you can see why governments now realise how vital telecoms are to national security and the health of economies.

At a time when governments finally understand that the integrity of national security, for example,  is at stake when the wrong sort of outside investment in telecoms infrastructure is permitted – we know telecoms is seen in the same way that airlines and physical infrastructure were in the past.

And not only has Huawei’s involvement in 5G rollouts become a political flashpoint between the US and China, the content enabled by telecoms, as evidenced by social media interference in the UK and US elections, brings the sector into even sharper focus.

Our millennials may have grown up in an ‘always on’ world, but this pandemic has made it clear to the rest of us that it’s our world too, and how reliant we are on the telecoms industry and its most pervasive ‘product’ – the Internet.
Technology has brought many problems: in some ways, many people are lonelier now, despite having hundreds of online friends.

But this pandemic has shown that the advantages completely outweigh the disadvantages.

We have surreal examples of fathers witnessing the birth of their children through video because they cannot attend the birth in person, to grandparents being able to see and chat to their grandchildren over video chat platforms.

With my recruitment hat on, the entire population of Ireland is currently pondering their careers: will it still exist when this is over?  Was it the right one in the first place?  And so on.

The Public Sector has always enjoyed the most valued quality of any career: job security. But at the moment the Public Sector is more than earning that privilege by defending, serving and helping  everyone else during this crisis.

Those in the Public Sector deserve great praise for their commitment and courage, as do all public bodies for coming together in defence of the country and for the essential elements of our way of life.

For people in the immediate sectors to be hit, including hospitality, transport and retail, many have been laid off or are concerned about the future in the short-term or have already been made redundant.

These jobs and sectors have the advantage that when this crisis passes, they will bounce back very quickly i.e. shops, pubs, restaurants and hotels will literally open one day and trading will come back very quickly. The other 80% of the private sector whose jobs are not immediately at risk must be considering the stability of their careers going forward.

For somebody who enjoyed 20 years in the Irish telecom sector before setting up a recruitment business, I have to say that the telecom sector is a great industry to look at for future employment. It was going through a golden period in Ireland with the recent instigation of the National Broadband Plan and now it will become even more prominent.

Telecoms has gone through many phases – from voice to text in the 1990s to social media, and now we see video as finally deserving its killer app status. And this is all before we move to the area of Internet of Things (IOT) and 5G.

This is when machine-to-machine (M2M) learning will come into its own.  The IOT era will have fully arrived when your home will text you to say there are worryingly high levels of CO2 present, or technology will notify your smartphone that the brake pads in your daughter’s car need to be replaced. And this will also be years before our fridges are ordering bottles of milk!

Currently there are 20,000 people in the Irish telecoms sector, and Irish telecoms software in particular punches way above its weight internationally.

Recruitment in this sector will rise immediately. Why?

Have you noticed in recent weeks that Netflix has downgraded their picture quality? This is because of the high levels of use of their service, and the consequent strain on broadband networks with everyone in lockdown.

The internet (think ‘telecoms sector’) is creaking. ComReg last week has rushed some extra spectrum, for free, on to the market to allow the telecom companies more bandwidth for calls and data. This is the same spectrum that the 3G auctions raised 100’s of billions of Euros in 2000.

If your day in the current lockdown environment consists of checking the news on your smartphone, working on your laptop all day with multiple video meetings, FaceTiming your elderly parents, making more calls than normal and forwarding funny memes from WhatsApp, maybe now is the time to look at the industry behind it?

Stay safe!

Bob Hoffman

Executive Search

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