Tackling the gender gap in tech in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic triggered job losses, put thousands of workers on furlough, and deepened gender divisions in the labour market, it also increased demand for high-skilled workers in sectors like technology, says EOLAS RECRUITMENT.

Demand for tech workers is currently close to an all-time high as companies push ahead on projects held back during the first wave of the pandemic, according to Eolas Recruitment Principal Consultant Stephen Daly.

Although hiring for IT roles slowed in the early months of 2020 due to fears about COVID-19 and ongoing uncertainty about Brexit, once the vaccination programme got underway this year, companies quickly started progressing the projects they had put on hold.

The HSE ransomware attack also contributed to increased demand for IT resources by heightening awareness of the need to address vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure.

Development, Project and Programme Management, Business Analysis and Security are the among the most sought after skills with both salaries and daily contracting rates reflecting this in the market.

Gender gap

In Ireland, as elsewhere, there is still a major gender gap in the technology sector. Indeed, this may have worsened during the pandemic.

Almost 80% of Irish ICT workers are male, according to data compiled by Eurostat, and with only one in five Irish computer science graduates female, the gap looks unlikely to close any time soon.

“Intervention needs to start much earlier in the education system,” says Stephen.

“Teachers need a better understanding of STEM-related careers so that they can help female students identify relevant courses and opportunities. The only way to achieve this is to engage with colleges and universities to get a proper understanding of emerging trends and the courses that are required for various careers. Unfortunately, there are still schools where this isn’t happening,” says Stephen.

So, while there has been tremendous growth in the number of  female role models in senior tech positions over the last 5-10 years, there are insufficient numbers of females embarking on tech careers and the industry continues to be overwhelmingly male.

Retaining women in tech

Attracting more women isn’t the only gender challenge facing the sector. Retaining female workers is also an issue. A Capital One Women in Technology Survey of senior women technologists in the USA who have remained in their careers for at least eight years showed that intellectually challenging work, fair compensation and flexibility to achieve work/life balance were key factors influencing their decision to stay in tech. Women who chose to leave their tech careers cited weak management support, lack of opportunity and insufficient work-life balance as the top factors in their decisions.

Leadership roles

Tech is not alone in finding gender equality at leadership level difficult to achieve. To address the issue at governance level, a Bill providing for gender quotas on company boards was recently introduced in the Dáil. It wants companies to have 33% of each gender in the boardroom within a year of commencing the legislation, and 40% within 3 years. Similar measures have already been adopted in a number of European countries.

Impact of COVID-19 pandemic

Meanwhile, across the wider labour market, various national and international reports suggest the pandemic has deepened the gender divide. In June 2021, ILO, the International Labour Organization, reported that women’s employment declined by 5% in 2020 compared to 3.9% for men and that a greater proportion of women fell out of the labour market, becoming inactive.

The European Commissions 2021 report on gender equality highlighted that women’s over-representation in sectors such as hospitality, retail and personal services meant that they were worse affected than men during the first wave of the pandemic.

In Ireland, proportionally, women were more likely to receive payments under the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) while men were more likely to receive the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS), according to a working paper on gender and COVID-19 by NESC, the National Economic and Social Council. Dr Anne-Marie McGauran, one of the author’s of the working paper, says this has implications for future employment, as those on the TWSS retain a link with their employer, which should make it easier to return to work than for those on the PUP.

Impact on working patterns

In terms of the impact of the pandemic on working patterns, an Ibec study found that almost half of respondents (48%) said more women than men had requested changes to their working patterns to facilitate caring responsibilities while 31% indicated that more female than male employees requested unpaid leave to facilitate caring responsibilities over the previous 12 months.

There is evidence, however, that both women and men experienced some positive outcomes from the changed living circumstances under Covid-19.

According to Órlaith Hennessy, co-author of the NESC working paper mentioned above, women were particularly likely to find spending more quality time with those that they live with to be a benefit while men were more likely to find a better work-life balance and reduced commuting to be beneficial.

The pandemic has been “a proof of concept of sorts”, wrote Deloitte’s Kristi Lamar and Anjali Shaikhin in a recent article on cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion. It has shown that new ways of working are an opportunity for companies to reimagine their strategies and policies to recruit and retain women technologists.

Shifting expectations

Eolas Recruitment, too, has noticed that candidates’ expectations around household and caring responsibilities appear to be shifting.

“In the past it was often the female who took a career break or went on a 3-day week to spend time with young children but remote working and more flexible approaches to work have allowed a lot of men to experience a far richer family life,” says Stephen.

More involvement with their children’s daily schedules is enhancing the experience of fatherhood and having positive impact on men’s mental health as well as on their children and relationships.

It will take a lot more time for the full impact of the pandemic on work patterns and gender equality in the tech sector to be fully understood but it’s clear that when it comes to tackling gender divisions, there is scope for all of us to do better, including encouraging more girls to study tech-related subjects at school and college.

For students interested in pursuing a career in tech, Eolas Recruitment’s top tips are to investigate relevant courses, focus on acquiring skills that are in demand, monitor emerging trends, and when you are ready to embark on your career, make sure to register with Eolas Recruitment so that we can keep you posted on upcoming opportunities. If you already have skills and are looking to advance your career, keep an eye on our job listings and check out our informational videos and online reviews for information about how we work with candidates.

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Planning to Change Job? Top Tips for Tech Workers

New research suggests over 40 percent of the global workforce are considering leaving their employer this year. The findings in Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index come from a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries.

We asked Eolas Recruitment Senior Consultant Peter Kirby what advice he would give to tech workers in Ireland who might be planning a career move in the coming months.

To what extent do you think the trends highlighted in Microsoft latest Trend Index are reflected on the ground here in Ireland among tech workers?

Peter: Eolas Recruitment is certainly seeing heightened interest in movement among tech workers at the moment. While most tech professionals have positive reasons for wanting to switch jobs like wanting to develop new skills or advance to the next level in their career, some have been under enormous pressure due to the changes companies introduced during the Covid-19 lockdown. Teamwork and collaboration are really important in this industry and remote working can make it harder to motivate teams. People can feel disconnected from their colleagues and the blurring of lines between work and home life have been difficult for some people to cope with. So burnout and feeling discontented can also be reasons for wanting to change job. I think the trends we are seeing on the ground here largely mirror the findings that Microsoft highlight in the Trend Index.

For people who are planning to change their job, what are companies looking for when hiring and how can Eolas Recruitment help tech workers find the right role?

Peter: Demand for IT skills is very strong, particularly for software developers, analysts, designers, engineers, architects, and technical support staff. Data and security-related skills are also in demand with incidents like the HSE ransomware attack raising awareness of the need to invest in strong cybersecurity. Technology is advancing all the time and the pace of change really accelerated during the pandemic but it’s not just technical skills that companies are looking for. They want people who are flexible, willing to learn and who have the soft skills and emotional intelligence to be good team players whether that’s working effectively with colleagues in-house or collaborating with external teams.

To find the best roles, having a good relationship with a specialist recruiter like Eolas Recruitment is key. You also need to monitor industry trends and keep your skills up to date. That’s really important because change is happening so fast at the moment.

In terms of the help that Eolas Recruitment can provide for candidates, as specialists in the IT sector we have great connections in companies across Ireland. We understand the technical requirements of roles and can advise candidates on the specific skills that an employer is looking for. Our team also provides advice on things like the best post-grad accreditations for specific roles to help candidates enhance their qualifications and improve their chances of advancing their careers in the areas they are most interested in. When candidates are applying for roles, we provide practical advice on things like CVs, presentation skills and interview preparation. A good way to get a sense of what we do is to read what candidates say about Eolas Recruitment when they review us online and check out the informational videos for candidates on our website.

You mentioned help with CV preparation. Most people hate updating their CV. What tips would you give to someone who needs to update their CV?

Peter: It might sound obvious but it’s really important to remember that you CV is the first indication an employer has that you are interested in a particular role. You need to make sure that it will create a good first impression.Obviously, your contact details need to be correct so if you’re updating a previous CV, that’s something that you need to check. However, I would strongly advise that you write a new CV each time rather than updating an old one. You definitely need to do this if you are applying for a senior role. Obviously, your CV should explain who you are, your skills and experience, and why you are a good fit for the role in question. Often candidates have broadly similar qualifications and experience so it’s important to highlight any relevant qualities that can help your CV stand out from the crowd. For technical roles in areas like DevOps it’s a good idea to include a skills matrix with your CV.

What is a skills matrix?

Peter: You can think of it like an Excel sheet that itemises skills and experience. So your list items might be things like PHP — 5 years, Scale Python — 3 years, Kubernetes / Docker — 2 years, and so on. When you are applying for a role, our Eolas Recruitment team will advise you on how to create your Matrix and explain what to include.

You mentioned that it is important to monitor industry trends and keep your skills up to date. Is that something that companies specifically look for when they are hiring tech workers and how can you show that you are really committed to learning and not just saying it?

Peter: Yes, companies definitely want to know that you are committed to learning and keeping up to date so if you have relevant industry accreditations like PRINCE 2, PMP, AWS, Azure or Kubernetes, those are great to have on your CV

We’ve talked a lot about applying for roles and CV preparation, what about interviews? Any tips on how to prepare or pitfalls to watch out for?

Peter: A big change since Covid-19 is that most interviews now are happening online but even if you’re not meeting face to face you still need to make a good impression. Obviously for IT roles, you absolutely must make sure that your technology is properly set up, that you have a good Internet connection, and that you present yourself in a professional manner. In terms of preparing for interview questions, there are lots of tips on the Eolas Recruitment website — for example, we have blogs on interview preparation for .NET roles, interview presentation skills, and tips on competency-based interviews. In general, though, if you are applying for a role through Eolas Recruitment, our team will always advise you on the specific things to focus on so as to maximise your chances of securing the role in question.

If you are successful and get you get the job you want, any tips on how to handle handing in your notice?

Peter: Check how much notice you need to give your employer and think about what you will do if they make a counter offer to encourage you to stay. If you manage a team, give some thought to when and how you will tell your colleagues that you are leaving. There will be a few practical things to do before you leave like deciding what to do about any outstanding annual leave and preparing handover notes for whoever takes over your role. Lastly, and most importantly, whatever your reason for leaving your current role, try to leave on good terms as you could find yourself working with your former colleagues again at some time in the future.

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Leaving Cert Students — Shape the future with a career in tech

If you enjoy solving problems, are well-organised and want an exciting and rewarding career, consider the tech sector, says Eolas Recruitment.

As the Leaving Cert exams draw to a close, now is the time to check your CAO application, make sure that you are happy with your choices, and if necessary avail of the change of mind facility. The deadline for this is 5.15 pm on 1 July.

After a long and stressful year, you now have a chance to relax for a few weeks before the first round of CAO offers on 7 September. This is a good time to find out more about the types of career that will be open to you when you graduate from third level.

One path that is definitely worth considering is a career in the tech sector, says Eolas Recruitment Principal Consultant Stephen Daly.

“Technology increasingly impacts all aspects of our lives and there are great tech roles, even at entry level, in all types of organisation— companies, public sector organisations, financial services, sporting organisations, charities and not-for-profit entities.”

Job prospects

A recent survey for SOLAS Skills and Labour Market Research Unit which gathered the views of selected recruitment agencies in Ireland found that 53% of survey respondents experience difficulty sourcing STEM skills. Currently, in the IT sector, the skills that are most in demand are software developers, analysts, designers, engineers, architects, and technical support staff.

Entry-level roles

“While a degree in computer science is the most common entry-level qualification for tech roles, relevant skills acquired at school through coding camps and various industry programmes run in collaboration with teachers and schools are also of interest to employers,” says Stephen.

If you are reading this article while still at school, the Smart Futures website provides a list of Transition Year programmes and resources that enable students to experience STEM at first hand.

When hiring, larger employers and multinationals tend to source candidates at milk rounds and/or invite applications from graduates.

“When applying for these roles, your CV should list relevant skills, experience and voluntary work remembering to highlight in particular any experience of teamwork or managing people,” Stephen advises.

Check out Eolas Recruitment’s article on how to prepare your tech CV for tips on what to include and what to leave out on your CV.

Pay is generally good for tech roles, particularly as you climb the career ladder. Entry-level salaries vary but tend to be higher in larger companies.

Girls under-represented

A big challenge in tech, and indeed in STEM generally, is that girls are under-represented both at third level and in industry.

“Companies are more aware than ever of the benefits of diversity so they want to broaden their talent pool, bringing in different voices, skills and perspectives. While scarcity of female graduates is a challenge for businesses, it creates a lot of opportunities for young women with STEM skills,” says Stephen.

At policy level, work to encourage greater take up of STEM subjects in schools is ongoing. However, recent education indicators for Ireland (December 2020) show that there are still strong differences in the percentages of girls and boys studying STEM subjects, particularly when biology is excluded. The Government’s STEM Education Policy Statement acknowledges a need to increase the uptake of these subjects and enhance STEM learning for learners of all backgrounds, abilities and gender, with a particular focus on uptake by females.

Inspiring girls to study STEM

Elsewhere, various initiatives and programmes also aim to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers. Examples include CodePlus —a Computer Science engagement project based in Trinity College Dublin which provides coding workshops, teacher support and research to encourage greater participation by girls in Computer Science and IT courses at third level and in follow-on careers.

At industry level, events like iWish, the International Girls in ICT Day and the WomenTech Global Conference showcase female role models in the tech sector.

“These events are really inspiring and a great way to show how exciting and rewarding careers in tech can be. Lots of women in tech, including many Irish women, have achieved huge success. It’s really important to find ways for them to share their career stories so that other young women can see the opportunities and learn how to support each other and thrive in our sector,” says Eolas Recruitment Senior Recruiter Nollaig Leydon.

At post-grad level, there are also incentives that target female graduates. A recent example is a new scholarship for a MSc in Quantum Science and Technology. Developed by Microsoft in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, this post-grad programme focuses on accelerating advancements in next-generation quantum technologies and attracting and training future world-leaders in the field. The scholarship is open to applications from female graduates. The closing date 31 July 2021.

If you are interested in finding out more about other measures aimed at encouraging greater female participation in STEM, check out our recent interview with Nollaig about opportunities for women in the tech sector.

Role models

Although female STEM graduates are outnumbered by their male peers at the moment, there are nevertheless numerous high profile female role models in Ireland’s tech sector including Vodafone Ireland CEO Anne O’Leary, Louise Phelan former vice president of Paypal and now chief executive of Phelan Energy Group, and Sinéad McSweeney, who leads Twitter’s public policy team in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and is Managing Director of Twitter in Ireland.

“Probably the single most successful influence when it comes to encouraging girls and young women to enrol on IT-related courses or pursue a tech career is having positive role models. The saying that, ‘if you can see it, you can be it’ is as true in the tech sector as in any other industry,” says Nollaig.

“Our advice for Leaving Cert students is that if you have a positive attitude, an aptitude for technology, good problem-solving skills and are well-organised you should definitely consider an exciting and rewarding career in tech.”

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Opportunities for Women in Tech

In this article, we talk to Eolas Recruitment’s Senior Recruiter Nollaig Leydon about initiatives that aim to encourage more women to pursue careers in the tech sector.

It seems that there is a lot of focus in the last few years on encouraging more women into tech. Why is this so important?

In Ireland, we are fortunate to have some great role models in our tech community—you only have to think of people like Sinéad McSweeney, who leads Twitter’s public policy team in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and is Managing Director of Twitter in Ireland, or Cathriona Hallahan, Managing Director of Microsoft Ireland. Yet, despite this, it is still the case that only one in five of our computer graduates are female. It’s a similar picture in Europe. The European Commission’s 2020 Women in Digital (WiD) Scoreboard shows only 18% of ICT specialists in the EU are women.

Research shows that diversity benefits business so these statistics are disappointing. But there is more awareness of the need for diversity and things are beginning to change. Computer Weekly recently surveyed IT workers in the UK and Ireland and found that 67% said their firms are working on gender diversity although only 29% said their company has a plan in place to help improve the balance of men and women on their tech teams.

So, what kinds of initiatives are being undertaken to encourage more women to pursue a career in tech?

A good example of an initiative that is targeting gender diversity is Ireland’s Connecting Women in Technology (CWIT) network. They recently announced a partnership with the 30% Club and plan to deliver mentoring, education and training activities to encourage women into tech. The partnership will support leaders of technology companies in their diversity ambitions. There are also courses co-funded by the Government and the European Social Fund that aim to boost skills in areas like ICT and some of the big tech companies have specific programmes to encourage women into tech careers.

What skills do these programmes encourage?

Government programmes generally aim to develop the skills that are needed in the market. There is always strong demand for technical skills in areas like software development and engineering but companies are also looking for soft skills because the boundaries between ICT and business skills is blurring. Team work, problem solving, a positive attitude, good communication skills, commitment to continuous development and being willing to learn from feedback — these are all advantages when it comes to finding tech roles in the current market.

In terms of technical skills, how easy is it to acquire these if you have no previous experience?

There are lots of online courses around where you can learn the basics of Java, Python, .NET and C++. This will help you begin to pick up the kinds of skills you need to build, test and debug the programs that underpin business operations. Even if you have a computer science degree and experience in the tech sector, online courses are a great way to keep your skills up to date.

If you have the right skills, where are the opportunities at the moment?

There are always a lot of opportunities for developers. Project managers are in strong demand and security skills are also highly sought after. There is growing awareness of cyber risks as more business is conducted online and companies are becoming more proactive about risk management. Employers are looking for candidates with analysis, forensics and reverse engineering capability to investigate, monitor and diagnose threats to their systems. Roles are also opening up in areas like artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, data analytics, IoT and blockchain.

Are these permanent roles?

Many organisations hire both permanent and contract workers. Demand for contractors increased during the Covid-19 pandemic because so many companies needed help to adapt their work processes when they switched to remote working. For women interested in getting into tech, I would say that if you have good technical and problem-solving skills and are well-organised, contracting can be a great way to advance your career. It tends to suit confident, self-reliant people with good communication skills who can integrate quickly with relevant teams when they are needed.

In terms of applying for roles, do you have any tips on finding relevant opportunities and CV preparation?

A good way to find opportunities is to use Eolas Recruitment’s online Job Search. As a specialist in the IT sector, we have strong relationships with employers and we work closely with candidates to help them find suitable roles. When you register with us, we are able to alert you to upcoming roles that match your skills and experience. This is a free service for candidates.

As regards CV preparation, my main advice is to ensure that you prepare a new CV each time you apply for a role. The biggest mistake that we see is applicants just updating a CV they used for a previous application. It’s really important to explain how your qualifications and experience match the role that you are applying for. You need to explain this in a way that is easy for recruiters and employers to understand.

Any other tips or advice for women who want to pursue a career in tech?

Building your network is very important so I would encourage women to participate in industry groups and attend relevant events where possible. There is a major online conference happening this week which is bringing women in tech from all over the world together to learn, share insights and discover opportunities to collaborate and network. The WomenTech Global Conference has a full week of live events with a great line up of inspiring speakers. Events like this are a good way to find out about the diversity of careers in the tech sector.

It’s also important to monitor the tech trends that impact business operations and keep your skills up to date. Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you register with Eolas Recruitment so that we can keep you posted on relevant upcoming opportunities. Check out our informational videos and online reviews for information about how we work with candidates.

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How Irish tech is helping in the battle against Covid-19

Innovation and collaboration are enabling numerous Irish companies to make significant breakthroughs in the global battle against COVID-19.

From leveraging artificial intelligence and wifi to analysing digital trends and rolling out new applications, Irish tech innovators have been centre stage in the battle against Covid-19.

“It’s really inspiring to see the innovation and collaboration that is currently taking place,” says Eolas Recruitment Managing Director Vincent Flynn.

“The challenge when we emerge from the pandemic will be to keep up the pace.”

Contact Tracing

In one of the best-known examples of Irish innovation since the outbreak of the pandemic, Waterford company NearForm achieved international recognition and success for their Covid Tracker apps which assist public health authorities while helping individuals to protect themselves against the virus.

Artificial Intelligence

Another early initiative saw Ireland’s applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) centre CeADAR offer its expert scientists and researchers to help companies, government agencies, medical centres or charities in the fight against the virus. AI tools can be used to help detect Covid-19 and track the compliance of the general public.

“We want to help make a contribution to improve people’s lives and help reduce the spread of the virus,” CeADAR Director Edward McDonnell said at the time.

Social distancing

Elsewhere, Taoglas, a leading provider of next-generation IoT solutions, launched a people movement analytics platform to help manage crowd sizes and social distancing. CROWD Insights uses existing WiFi infrastructure to monitor the numbers, flows and dwell times of people in public areas and sets thresholds to alarm if an intervention is necessary. The solution, which is suitable for use in any healthcare facility, venue, retail store, restaurant, airport, city or town, can be deployed remotely in a single day via a cloud management platform.


At community level, GPs have implemented digital solutions to enable online booking for prescription renewals and vaccination appointments while Zoom-style consultations are helping to minimise the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Tests used by RocDoc Health Check, a GP practice based in Ashbourne, Co. Meath who provide Covid-19 testing services via an online booking system, include a rapid molecular test developed by Irish company HiberGene Diagnostics.


In March 2020, the Irish Independent reported how Shane O’Sullivan, a Dublin-based pharmacist, has developed bot technology to deal with increased demand for pharmacy and GP services due to Covid-19— a great example of the benefits of learning to code.

Shane’s Dundrum-based business Healthwave has made its CareBot Covid-19 Assessment tool available to GPs free of charge during the pandemic.

Digital trends

The HSE are tracking trends in the questions they receive through their social media channels and sharing this information with their wider digital team. The results are used to proactively prepare responses and develop online content. At a broader level, across healthcare as in other sectors the use of algorithms to make discoveries and generate insight from search trends and big data is accelerating.


Meanwhile, interest in the potential of wearable devices to monitor patients with Covid-19 and chronic illness is also on the rise. Data collected by wearables is analysed by algorithms which can alert doctors when a potential problem is identified.

Demand for IT skills

With tech-enabled initiatives emerging almost every day, it is not surprising that demand for IT skills is on the rise.

Data and security-related skills in particular, are a focus, at the moment.

“During the pandemic, we have seen how data can be used to track the progress of Covid-19. That is just a glimpse of Big Data’s potential to accelerate the efforts of researchers and policy makers. It is also clear that there is a lot of work to be done in areas like integrating medical systems so that all of the professionals involved in the delivery of services have access to relevant data,” says Vincent.

“Of course anything that involves data also involves risk. There have been numerous instances of ransomware attacks on healthcare organisations and reports of hackers being able to manipulate devices like pacemakers. So, data protection and the security of systems is a huge challenge and a good example of an area where demand for skilled IT professionals is only going to become more intense.”


Looking to how future health platform capabilities are likely to emerge, EY recently predicted this will happen at two levels: “In immediate proximity to consumers, companies developing different applications, products or tools will join forces to create platforms of care that address specific health needs. Above these individual platforms of care, global technology, artificial intelligence and data analytics companies will combine skills to become supra-platform aggregators, helping to scale insights gained at the platform of care level across multiple therapeutic areas.”

Opportunities for IT workers

While the convergence of technologies is creating exciting opportunities for IT workers, candidates need to keep up to date with emerging trends, says Eolas Recruitment Technical Manager Peter Kirby,

“The pace of change really accelerated during the pandemic and one of the trends that is particularly strong is collaboration. So, it’s not just technical skills that companies are looking for. They want people who can learn and adapt quickly and who have the soft skills and emotional intelligence to collaborate and work effectively with both in-house and external teams,”  says Peter.

Advanced technologies like robotic automation and artificial intelligence are also driving demand for IT workers who can manage teams made up of both humans and bots, says Eolas Recruitment Principal Consultant Stephen Daly.

“Getting experience is the key thing. Contracting can be a good way to acquire skills with emerging and cutting-edge technologies. It’s also a great way to build your professional network. While developers, engineers, data analysts, project managers and candidates with expertise in areas like security, ecommerce, quality and project management are highly sought after, it’s vital that your skills are up to date.”

Another tip for candidates is to show commitment to ongoing learning and development, for example by doing online and distance learning courses. Relevant qualifications add value to a tech CV, says Senior Recruiter Nollaig Leydon.

A good way to keep up with what companies are looking for in terms of skills and qualifications is to keep an eye on the Eolas Recruitment job listings.

Some companies have found it difficult to source suitable candidates during the pandemic but this is where Eolas Recruitment can help, says Nollaig.

“As a specialist in the IT sector, we understand what companies are looking for which is very important when it comes to innovation and technical skills. So, we are ideally placed to manage every stage of the hiring process, from identifying candidates to screening applicants, arranging interviews and contract negotiation — all of the services that companies need when hiring IT workers in the current market”

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Ransomware attacks push up demand for IT security skills

With ransomware and other cyber crime costing businesses millions of euro every year, competition to attract IT professionals with strong security skills is growing, says Eolas Recruitment.

This time last year, a Microsoft blog (5 March 2020) explained how auto-spreading malware is not the only ransomware threat that organisations and their IT teams need to worry about. Preventable human-operated campaigns that take advantage of network configuration weaknesses and vulnerable services are also on the increase.

Exploiting software vulnerabilities and targeting supply chain weaknesses are among the ways cyber criminals attack organisations. The Solar Winds incident, widely reported earlier this year, highlighted that such incidents can go unnoticed for a period of time, making it more difficult to implement effective remedies.

Elsewhere, personalised attacks, spear phishing and using advanced technologies to target businesses and remote workers are also on the increase.

Motivation for ransomware attacks

Financial reward is usually the motivation for these attacks, whether through ransom or by obtaining and selling data. Globally, there are numerous reports of ransomware attacks on hospitals where patient records can be valuable to cyber criminals. Attacks on businesses are also on the increase and state-sponsored actors are targeting weaknesses in government bodies and national infrastructure.

Preventing ransomware attacks

According to Arcserve, who specialise in helping organisations protect digital assets, “an ounce of ransomware prevention is worth a pound of cure—especially when the ‘cure’ includes paying for forensics, legal fees, fines and penalties, data recovery, and more.”

Cloud based solutions, effective backups, a security-aware culture, applying patches promptly, restricting access privileges, developing and testing business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and having integrated cybersecurity and ransomware protection in place are among the steps Arcserve says organisations can take to protect themselves.

Out of control

While solution providers recommend adopting an integrated or holistic approach to protect organisations against ransomware and other forms of cyber crime, others suggest that legislation will be needed to tackle the problem.

Ransomware is “close to getting out of control” the former head of the UK National Cyber Security Centre told Dan Sabbagh, the defence and security editor of The Guardian recently (24 Jan 2021) arguing that changes to the law are needed to prevent companies paying ransoms and claiming back on insurance.

In September 2020, the European Commission announced a new Digital Finance Package and highlighted that technology companies are becoming more important in the area of finance, both as IT providers for financial firms, as well as providers of financial services themselves.

The EU’s proposed ‘Digital Operational Resilience Act’ (DORA) “aims to ensure that all participants in the financial system have the necessary safeguards in place to mitigate cyber-attacks and other risks”.

The proposed legislation will require all firms to ensure that they can withstand all types of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – related disruptions and threats. It also introduces an oversight framework for ICT providers, such as cloud computing service providers.

Paying ransoms

If the worst happens and you are the victim of a ransomware attack, Europol guidance available on the Garda website, says that you should not pay the ransom.

“Paying does not guarantee that your problem will be solved and that you will be able to access your files again. In addition, you will be supporting the cybercriminals’ business and the financing of their illegal activities,” the guidance says.

Whether you pay or not, there is a risk that data breached in an attack will be published online with potentially serious consequences for your organisation and customers.

Demand for IT security skills

“Reports about ransomware attacks targeting businesses, public bodies and even high profile individuals are making people more aware than ever of the need to implement integrated, holistic defences across their IT infrastructure and systems. This is feeding the demand for security related skills in areas like applications development, infrastructure, networks and telecoms,” says Eolas Recruitment Technical Lead Peter Kirby.

Peter says Covid-19 has also had an impact on the risk environment for businesses.

“In Ireland, working practices changed rapidly last year due to people having to work from home. While this helped a lot of businesses to keep trading, it also highlighted weaknesses in systems. We are now seeing companies very focused on sourcing candidates with proven integration skills who are capable of developing a holistic approach to managing security related issues,” Peter adds.

Peter’s comments echo findings in the latest Threat Landscape report from Enisa, the European Union Agency for Cybersecurity, which says that existing cybersecurity measures have weakened due to the changes in working and infrastructure patterns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experienced candidates

Asked about the type of work that IT security professionals are doing, Eolas Recruitment’s Principal Consultant Stephen Daly says there are opportunities for both permanent and contract IT workers in the current market.

“In terms of the actual work that roles involve, this varies depending on the level of the role. For IT engineers and architects it can be anything from developing cyber security policies to reviewing architectures, recommending changes and enhancements, defining requirements and managing risk.

“Companies are looking for experienced candidates with a good working knowledge of network and web related protocols who understand how to model threats and are comfortable working at every level across discovery, analysis, design, build, test and deployment of solutions. As well as knowledge of various platforms and strong technical skills, it helps if candidates are good communicators and can demonstrate problem-solving ability, forensic skills and evidence of commitment to ongoing learning and development,” adds Stephen.

If you are interested in finding out about current opportunities or are seeking to attract candidates with IT security skills, it is worth touching base with Eolas Recruitment. Contact a member of the team for information and/or advice. Current opportunities for candidates are listed on this website’s Job Search page while you can find out more about how Eolas Recruitment works with companies and candidates in these informational videos  and online reviews.

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Blockchain and Crypto Opportunities in the IT Sector

As bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies make headlines, exciting opportunities are emerging in the IT sector. Our Technical Lead Peter Kirby gives us his insight on the impact Blockchain is having on IT recruitment.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are rarely out of the news at the moment. Late last year, Paypal announced the launch of a new service enabling its customers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency directly from their PayPal account. Mastercard is expected to start supporting select cryptocurrencies directly on their network and Tesla made headlines with their recent announcement that they have bought $1.5 billion in bitcoin and may start accepting bitcoin for car sales “subject to applicable laws and initially on a limited basis”. (For an interesting take on the Tesla story and other developments that have driven up the price of Bitcoin in recent weeks, have a listen to journalist Adrian Weckler’s podcast interview (29 January 2021) with BNY Mellon’s Lory Kehoe on The Big Tech Show).

Digital currencies

Of course, it’s not just bitcoin and blockchain making currency headlines. Digital currencies, too, have been in the news. Towards the middle of this year (2021) the European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to decide whether to launch a digital euro project in order to be prepared for the possible issuance of a digital euro at some point in the future while the Bank of Japan is also understood to be planning early phase experiments on issuing a digital currency.

Blockchain and crypto opportunities for IT workers

With stories like these breaking almost every day, it is not surprising that exciting opportunities for IT workers in various crypto and fintech roles are starting to emerge, says Eolas Recruitments Peter Kirby.

“Financial institutions and other organisations are starting to beef up their digital assets teams to prepare for changes that they see coming in the not too distant future. So, as a specialist in the IT sector, Eolas Recruitment is beginning to see more demand for IT workers with strong analytical skills and experience working with fintechs and start-ups in the blockchain/DLT space. Candidates that have two or three years’ experience have a definite advantage when it comes to securing these roles,” says Peter.

In terms of qualifications, advanced degrees in maths, science, engineering and related disciplines, along with relevant work experience, are among the criteria that employers are looking for.

Government policy

At the policy level, Government has been working to make Ireland a global blockchain and crypto hub for several years. Blockchain Ireland, a combined effort of Government and Irish based companies, was set up to support this effort and create blockchain and crypto-based jobs. They run regular webinars and have recently put out a call for speakers for their 2021 programme. It is worth keeping an eye on the Blockchain Ireland, website for details of these events.

What kinds of blockchain roles emerging?

In terms of the types of roles that are emerging, Peter says there is a lot of interesting stuff happening around the potential for private blockchain networks in B2B transactions as well as in topical areas like using blockchain to help detect fakes.

“The more these types of innovation take place, the more opportunities there will be for IT workers like solutions architects, project managers, data scientists, quality engineers, and so on,” Peter suggests.

Currently, though, it’s in areas like Project Management and Programme Management that Eolas Recruitment is seeing strong demand.

“This seems to be due to more projects getting sign off in the last few weeks,” says Peter.

What if you don’t have the necessary qualifications or experience for crypto-based roles?

“If you don’t have relevant experience, there are plenty of courses around so now is the time to consider skilling up,” says Peter.

“From basic online introductions to courses leading to formal qualifications, there are loads of options to choose from. However, don’t discount your previous work experience. It may be that you have relevant skills if you previously worked in areas like software development, distributed computing, payment protocols, security protocols or encryption,” says Peter.

Examples of the courses that Peter referred to include the DBS Diploma in Blockchain and Dublin City University’s part-time online MSc in Blockchain aimed at IT professionals in employment in Republic of Ireland registered companies.

There are also various Skillnet courses and then there are courses like Futurelearn’s Introduction to Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). LinkedIn Learning and Coursera also offer relevant courses.

Virtual recruiting

In the current market, virtual recruiting and onboarding are still prevalent due to the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When applying for roles, particularly senior roles, keep in mind that soft skills are becoming more important, Eolas Recruitment advises.

“Often, it’s not just your qualifications, experience and technical skills that employers are looking for. Soft skills are really important when managing your team, making presentations, communicating with senior stakeholders and so on,” says Peter.

Finding and applying for roles

When it comes to finding and applying for crypto-based and blockchain roles, or indeed other roles in the IT sector, building a relationship with Eolas Recruitment is a great way to keep in touch with what’s happening in the industry and find out where the best opportunities are.

As always, for further information and/or advice, check out our informational videos and online reviews or reach out to a member of our team for a chat!

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Remote working — What’s ahead for the IT sector in 2021?

Following the rapid expansion of remote working in 2020, Eolas Recruitment discusses three significant developments that may impact employers, employees and contract workers this year.

While many companies switched to remote working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, employers faced a lot of practical difficulties.

There was the immediate challenge of providing and securing suitable equipment such as laptops, mobile phones and broadband. Then there were issues around work environments, onboarding, supervision, training and performance management.

“One of the biggest difficulties is that employers still have all same legal and compliance obligations as regards health and safety legislation, ensuring that employees take breaks, implementing anti-bullying policies and so on. That’s an issue we are likely to hear more about in the coming months as arrangements that were originally supposed to be short-term are lasting significantly longer,” says Eolas Recruitments Sales Manager Peter Kirby.

Peter says that on the personnel side, remote working can make it harder to motivate teams and mentor employees.

“So, while an advantage of remote working is that it gives employers scope to broaden the locations they hire from, as with anything, there are risks to take into account.”

“Anecdotally, we are hearing concerns about payroll and tax issues where employees who would normally be based in Ireland are now working from other jurisdictions because of the pandemic, however we understand that Government plans to review the tax treatment of remote working in the next Budget,” adds Principle Recruiter Stephen Daly.

Public consultation on remote working

Some of the challenges highlighted by Peter and Stephen echo points made by various companies and organisations in their responses to a public consultation on remote working last year. Reading these submissions online, it’s clear that there are a broad range of issues to address if remote working is to be effective in future. Highlights include:

  • CIPD, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development pointed out that as “technology, AI and automation impact the nature and ways of working, a more systemic effort to build the infrastructure to support flexibility and agility for individuals and organisations is what is needed across Government.” Other points made in the CIPD submission include that as the labour force “grows, becomes more diverse and gets older, inclusive practices and flexibility will be central tools for retention and performance”.
  • SFA, the Small Firms Association included in their submission the need for detailed guidance to help employers and employees understand and adopt remote working practices.
  • The American Chamber of Commerce pointed out that time zone is a key advantage in attracting overseas investors who wish to locate their businesses in Ireland. “Our members have highlighted the key advantage Ireland holds of being able to talk to all parts of a global operation in a single working day from this location. A balanced and flexible approach is required to allow employees and employers to reach an agreed outcome in assessing working hours for global operability,” the American Chamber submission stated.
  • Dublin Chamber of Commerce recommendations included developing clear guidelines for businesses around health and safety and insurance liability as well as addressing childcare affordability and access.

National Remote Working Strategy

In January 2021, Government published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy which aims to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees and to provide infrastructure and guidance on how people can be empowered to work remotely. If implemented effectively, the plans outlined in the Strategy may go some way towards addressing the concerns of both employers and employees.

There are 3 pillars in the strategy:

  • Pillar One focuses on creating a conducive environment for the adoption of remote work. Actions under this Pillar include legislating to provide employees with the right to request remote working and the introduction of a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work.
  • Pillar Two focuses on developing and leveraging remote work infrastructure to facilitate increased remote work adoption. Actions in this pillar include developing and investing in the national hub infrastructure and the national delivery of broadband.
  • Pillar Three focuses on maximising the benefits of remote work to achieve public policy goals.

Remote working challenges

The Strategy acknowledges that remote working is not without challenges, noting that feedback from employers highlighted how “remote working does not easily support creativity, group dynamics, shared ownership and collegiality. If these obstacles cannot be overcome, it could result in long-term impacts on firms’ productivity.”

Regarding workers, the Strategy notes that research has identified that “remote work can have negative effects on mental health, with employees experiencing increased feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress. The impacts of these feelings can be different depending on where and how an employee is working. Employees also experience difficulty with switching off and often feel obliged to work longer hours.”

With Government aiming to complete the actions outlined in the National Remote Working Strategy over the course of 2021, Eolas Recruitment anticipates that companies may need to strengthen IT and compliance teams. This will lead to opportunities for both permanent and contract workers, predicts Stephen who says data, compliance, and security skills are likely to be in demand as well as Project Management and Programme Management contractors.

Right to request flexible working arrangements

Another issue on the horizon is EU Directive 2019/1158 which gives all working parents of children up to at least 8 years and all carers a right to request flexible working arrangements. Member States must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 2 August 2022.

Advice for IT workers

Whatever lies ahead on the remote working horizon, there will be good opportunities for IT workers, both at entry level and as careers advance. For candidates, it is worth keeping in mind that there is always movement as talented individuals progress to more senior roles. As a specialist in the IT sector, Eolas Recruitment can help you find suitable opportunities for your individual skill set. It is always worth registering with a specialist recruiter who understands the sometimes complex skills and requirements needed for IT roles. For more information on Eolas Recruitment services, check out these informational videos and/or contact a member of our team.

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2021 Tech Predictions

As 2021 predictions emerge from key players in the IT sector, Eolas Recruitment selects a few highlights.

Making accurate predictions is notoriously difficult. History is littered with examples of industry leaders who got it wrong, among them vacuum manufacturer Alex Lewyt who predicted in 1955 that nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners would probably be a reality within 10 years and the President of the Michigan Savings Bank who in 1903 told Henry Ford’s lawyer, “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty—a fad.”

In the tech sector, Steve Jobs got it wrong in a 2003 interview with Rolling Stone magazine when he stated that the subscription model of buying music was bankrupt. The following year, Bill Gates suggested at the 2004 World Economic Forum that the problem of spam would be solved within two years. We’re still waiting for that to happen.

However, history also provides plenty of examples of predictions that proved to be surprisingly accurate.

Tech predictions that came true

Early examples include Nikola Tesla, born in 1856, who predicted the future advent of wireless data transmission. Move on a century and in a 1999 interview with Wired magazine, Jeff Bezos correctly predicted that online shopping would take hold by 2020 while Bill Gates, in his 1999 book, Business @ The Speed of Thought, predicted, “Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.” The following year, The Simpsons predicted Donald Trump’s presidency in the ‘Bart to the Future’ episode!

Jump forward to 2020, and this time last year few were predicting the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic would have. However, the changes forced on companies due to concerns about public health have profoundly altered attitudes to remote working in many sectors.

2021 Tech Predictions

So, what can we expect in 2021? Here are ten highlights from our round-up of this year’s tech predictions.

  1. Security threats look set to remain a strong theme in 2021. Microsoft’s Corporate Vice president Ann Johnson suggests that now is the time to adopt a Zero Trust approach based on three principles — verify explicitly, use least privilege access, and assume breach. Johnson says it’s time to move away from passwords plus SMS and voice calls as authentication factors. “For most users on their mobile devices, we believe the right answer is passwordless with app-based authentication, like Microsoft Authenticator, or a hardware key combined with biometrics.”
  2. With more people than ever working from home, Trend Micro predicts that cybercriminals will offer access to hacked routers as a new service for threat actors aiming to break into home networks. Trend Micro also predicts that APIs may be targeted as cybercriminals attempt to break in to enterprise systems.
  3. Forrester predicts that companies “will double down on technology-fuelled experiences, operations, products, and ecosystems in 2021. If this comes to fruition, we may see customer service and online sales making more use of virtual and augmented reality technologies enabling users to do things like try on clothing and accessories or experience 360-degree virtual reality events like music festivals.
  4. Dell’s latest tech predictions, reported in SiliconRepublic suggest that the needs of remote workers will see game-changing ‘intelligent PCs’ emerge to facilitate collaboration in hybrid working models”.
  5. Deloitte predicts an increase in the use of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) for training purposes in companies and educational institutions. They estimate global sales for enterprise and educational use of wearable headsets for VR, AR, and MR will grow by 100 percent in 2021 over 2019 levels, as will sales of software and services related to this technology.
  6. Writing in the Irish Independent (28 January 2021), Tech journalist Adrian Weckler noted that big tech firms may face privacy fines this year with a number of investigations currently under way. Whether any fines that are imposed will be sufficient to satisfy big tech critics remains to be seen. With technology enabling more surveillance of citizens than ever before, striking the right balance between privacy and security is proving difficult for policy makers, regulators and the tech industry.
  7. The Data Protection Commissioner recently published updated guidance on the transfer of personal data from Ireland to the UK however issues affecting data transfers to countries outside the EU and EEA are likely to remain on the agenda this year.
  8. Some people predict robots may become more human-like in 2021. A recent article by Johnny Wood for the World Economic Forum reports that 36% of respondents in a global Ipsos survey think it “likely that robots will look like, think like and speak like humans in the next year.”
  9. The cashless society may finally be here. More of us will use digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay this year, partly in response to health concerns arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic. Writing in the New York Times recently, Brian X Chen observed that “germaphobia finally pushed more of us to try the contact-free phone payments as opposed to a card swipe.”
  10. Got a video-doorbell? Adrian Weckler’s article (28 January 2021) highlights that you could fall foul of the Data Protection Commissioner if you fail to comply with data protection legislation.

Opportunities for tech workers

When it comes to making our own predictions for 2021, Eolas Recruitment anticipates plenty of new opportunities for permanent and contract IT workers.

“Already, we are seeing increased activity due to more new projects getting sign off for 2021. There is a lift in demand for Project Management and Programme Management contractors — a trend that is likely to accelerate over the coming months,” comments Senior Recruiter Stephen Daly.

Meanwhile, echoing some of the 2021 predictions highlighted in this article, Managing Director Vincent Flynn says Eolas Recruitment anticipates strong demand this year for software developers and engineers in areas like cloud projects, data privacy and IT security.

“For employers, now is the time to be thinking about resourcing requirements, focusing on blending permanent and contract roles because of the additional flexibility that this gives in uncertain times. For candidates, having an open mind when it comes to applying for roles is more important than ever in the current market. Taking on a temporary or interim role can be a great way to gain experience and advance your career in the industry. Keeping in touch with our specialist IT recruiters helps you to get to know what’s happening in the industry and where the best opportunities are,” says Vincent.

As always, for further information and/or advice about Eolas Recruitment, we encourage you to check out our informational videos and online reviews or reach out to a member of our team to arrange a chat.

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