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02 Dec 2020

Gareth Fleming, Commercial Director of Brightwater who oversees our IT division is in conversation with Gordon D’Arcy, Commercial Director of the Group.

First of all, I’d like to offer a huge big welcome from all the Brightwater team to Gareth Fleming who has joined us as Commercial Director of our IT division. He brings with him a wealth of experience over 14 years in the recruitment industry, specialising in IT. It’s really good to have you as part of the Brightwater team.

Please give an overview of the Irish IT market

We’re towards the end of 2020 and it’s extremely busy. With the pandemic throughout the year, things did slow down but they now still have budget to use and headcount to use and they’re looking to use that now otherwise they face the possibility they may lose that hiring budget in 2021. It’s busy across all the typical verticals such as engineering, IT security, PMO, perm and contract are all busy and there’s a lot of confidence out there which is great to see.

Can you give us a review of 2020 in terms of the IT market?

Q1 of 2020 was very busy, coming off the back of a busy 2019, we thought it would be a big year. It has been an extraordinary year but not necessarily as planned. Q1 – all the tech vertical started extremely strong and Ireland was really an attractive place to be for a technology professional. Obvious  as we went into April , things slowed down.

In terms of the big names like TikTok, Facebook, Google, how much does the technology sector in Ireland rely on FDI?

It plays a huge part. Dublin is a great example. Nearly every pillar company in technology is headquartered here. It drives immigration, bringing really talented people into our country. It puts us on the global map and we really punch well above our weight when it comes to FDI investment into Ireland. A lot of it is down to the IDA who do a phenomenal job. This is really important as a lot of the smaller organisations feed off the people that those big companies bring into Ireland.

One of the things that really interested me is the repatriation of talent and then the overseas talent coming in. How have you found the LI Enterprise package for recruiting from an overseas perspective?

Technology makes the world really small. I’ve been using LinkedIn Enterprise package for some time recruiting and it does makes the world a much smaller and accessible place. Placing someone in New York or finding someone for a role in Asia is the same as finding someone for a role in Dublin, Cork, Galway or Limerick. It really does make the process easier.

It’s so important now as when you look at what’s happened this year. The migration of talent into Ireland for obvious reasons has slowed down and we are dependent on that source of talent. There’s always a skills shortage in Ireland for different areas of technology that’s usually filled by those people coming in. That has stopped this year. What has helped is the fact that we haven’t lost people going abroad. Typically, a lot of Irish IT professionals go to the UK. For contractors, there are much better rates over there and the USA, Australia, we’ve kept a lot of talent here. There is also a lot of remote working here which has really helped as well.

What was the immediate impact of Covid-19 on the IT market? With lockdown going on for over 9 months. How did things play out in terms of all the verticals? We’ve looked at the growth in the temporary & contract side and on the different verticals but what was the effect?

Things stopped, they came to a halt in April/May of 2020. Tech is very resilient. Some parts were very badly affected, anything relating to hospitality, travel, aviation, all really suffered with people losing their jobs. Other areas, the more disruptive sectors, such as med-tech, ed-tech, fin-tech and sci-tech did really well out of the pandemic and they really began to scale as the months went by.

If you look at some of the med tech and fin-tech companies that were really start-ups coming into the year and probably not expecting to grow as much, they’ve had to hire very quickly because of demand. It’s been very good for some parts of technology. For others, not many, it’s been really awful like every other industry. The one silver lining is that it’s a highly skilled workforce with really transferrable talents and skillsets. Those people with those skillsets like engineers and security people that are on the market because their industry has been affected, they won’t be on the market for long. There is a lot of demand built up for these people again.

What are the skill-sets in demand at the moment in the IT sector?

The regular areas of demand are in engineering and security. We knew coming into 2020 they would be popular anyway but as a result of the pandemic, as companies and organisation look to shrink their physical presence but increase their online presence, digital skillsets have really come to the fore.

We’ve seen a huge increase in demand for front-end development, UX and UI, customer success, customer experience, web and app mobile developers. Anything front end, anything that helps with the look of a website, helps to drive traffic into a website, has really become very popular along with the likes of security where big organisations have had to move a lot of people home to work, an absolute logistical nightmare for any IT function. They’ve had to cope really quickly and really dynamically and that’s where good security and good infrastructure people come to the fore. Those areas because of the pandemic are in demand.

How have salaries, bonuses and benefits held up during the year?

Salaries have stayed pretty stable for most of those areas. Some areas such as travel and hospitality have been decimated but salaries in areas such as engineering and security stayed stable. UX professionals and anyone involved in front-end development have seen a small increase in what they can get on the market. If you look at contract staff, again they’re in demand in some areas so they’ve either seen their rates stay the same or increase. There is huge demand out there for contractors. The technology sector is pretty resilient when it comes to downturns. The only areas that we’ve seen IT salaries take a hit have been those areas that everyone else has been badly affected in, namely travel, hospitality and aviation, the industry rather than the skillset.

What are your predictions for the IT sector in 2021?

If you look at what’s going on now, there’s a huge amount of confidence going on because of the vaccines. The week that the vaccine news was announced, we began to see more jobs come in. The first half of 2021, I believe we’ll see a slight improvement. I think that Q1 will remain tricky and slow but Q2 should begin to see more jobs and a return to normality then as companies begin to find their way back into the office, as they begin to increase headcount. Maybe some decisions will be made around physical footprints for larger organisations. We’re already seeing this happen in the USA.

We may see increases again in front-end type roles and those security and infrastructure roles. The second half of 2021 with the vaccines rolled out will hopefully see a big improvement. I think a lot of companies have taken a 40-50% hit so there has to be a claw back in the second half of 2021. That’s what we expect in technology.

We’ve seen how robust the IT industry is and the skillsets involved. They will play a huge part in the recovery. A lot of activity will be focused on the SME market and getting their digital presence up and running as well as the bigger organisations that generate a huge amount of revenue and tax. It’s been a tough year and IT has been no different. It’s reassuring news to hear about the transferrable skills and that companies are starting to make plans for the first half of 2021. Hopefully as that demand grows, and the competition for those roles, then hopefully the economy opens up and we can find those IT gems overseas again who want to work in Ireland.


It’s been a fantastic chat, thank you so much. It’s really good to have you onboard and we’re very excited for the future.


Thank you for the IT insights.