Why local talent is a silver lining for cloud company 3EN in Belfast

We hear from four 3EN employees with very different career stories about their experience at the cloud services company.

It’s always nice to hear good news stories about companies that hire local graduates and give them a good start in their careers. One of the many employers on the island of Ireland that sees the value in nurturing local young talent is Holywood-based cloud tech company 3EN.

Over the past four years, the company has offered opportunities – such as placements, sponsorships and jobs – to graduates from local universities in the hope that they will join 3EN’s team long-term. Business management student Callum Donnelly from Bellaghy in Derry did his placement with the company and was subsequently offered a full-time position as a client services representative.

From student placement to professional

His relationship with 3EN began while he was still a student and led to a professional role as a graduate. Why did he choose to stay? He explained that when he was first researching companies for potential college placement opportunities, the “morale and culture” of 3EN appealed to him.

“The team seemed so easy to get on with, and my first impression was right. Everyone who works here is really good at what they do.”

They are also, in his experience, very patient with newcomers who need time to learn the ropes like he did. “The team is great at not overwhelming you with lots of information all at once and there is always someone to ask if you need some help. Everyone is easy to work with and I feel that I’ve been eased into the extra responsibility that comes with a full-time, permanent role. Having a foot in the door from my placement year made the whole transition a lot easier, too.”

Flexibility helped this grad find her feet

Unlike Donnelly, Claire McKeown from Tandragee in Armagh did not do her placement at 3EN. She joined as a graduate, having completed her degree in computer science at Ulster University. She works on the the client and technical services teams at the company.

Like Donnelly, she describes the team as “really welcoming”. She also notes that the company culture is quite flexible and adaptable. “There is a lot of flexibility. I’m in a role that has never existed before, and there has been a lot of support in navigating that. 3EN also really values you looking after yourself and managing your life outside of work. The flexi-hour model we follow has been so helpful in striking a work-life balance that can sometimes be hard when moving from university into the working world.”

The scenic route

Like Claire, Daniel H from Belfast studied computer science, but his career trajectory is different from both Claire and Callum’s. Before he went to college, Daniel worked part-time for eight years with 3EN. He rejoined the company after his graduation and now works full-time as a software engineer.

“I really enjoy the working environment at 3EN and have always felt very supported,” he says. “You aren’t pressured with too much too quickly, and are offered help rather than blame. I think university doesn’t really prepare you for the real world and almost instils a fear that it’s bad to ask for help in a corporate setting, but that’s not what it’s like at 3EN. There is always someone willing to help you when you need it.”

Employers that offer opportunities to graduates and students are, of course, helping students get their first professional experiences, but they are also feathering their own nests, hand-picking the best local talent to join their teams. But this exercise in talent acquisition won’t go according to plan if the students and graduates don’t feel supported by the wider team.

“It is so important for tech companies to value the perspective gained by hiring recent graduates. Businesses will always benefit from new ideas, and if we let them, these are the people that will bring about exciting new developments for our teams,” says Dale Cree, CEO of 3EN.

Everybody learns, not just the graduates

“As a company, we learn a great deal every time we bring on board a student or graduate. We are really looking forward to watching Claire, Callum and Daniel grow as they begin their careers in the Northern Ireland tech industry.”

McKeown, Daniel and Donnelly’s positive experiences are luckily mirrored by happy employees at other tech companies that offer opportunities to early-career workers, such as Liberty IT, Accenture, SAP and Fidelity, to name just a few. And, from the graduate’s perspective, there are a couple of things they can do to ensure they have a good experience – such as keeping an open mind.

“Keep your mind open and don’t close out opportunities too quickly,” says Donnelly. “I wouldn’t have seen myself here before I looked for placements, but once I got on board it was something I really enjoyed.”

While McKeown advises that people should not leave looking for opportunities to the last minute. “Even if you don’t initially understand what the company does, check it out anyway. Go to everything your university has on offer and don’t leave it to the last minute, because you might miss out on a great opportunity.”

Future plans and promotions

Of course, ambitious graduates don’t stay in the same place forever. 3EN’s trio of graduates can look to their colleague Laura Blacklock for a positive example of someone who has been able to progress through the ranks at the company. Blacklock is one of 3EN’s  longest-serving employees, having started out in administration before moving onto sales and ultimately becoming head of client services.

More recently, she took on the role of head of revenue operations, before being promoted to to an exec role – chief client relations officer earlier this year. She has worked with 3EN since 2012, starting at it one year after it was set up. For Blacklock, one of the best things about her promotion is the opportunity she gets to help other ambitious people at the company develop.

“The promotion is especially exciting for me because I gain another platform to use to help our exceptionally talented team members step into new opportunities and shine bright in their careers. We plan to offer our clients some new and improved services in 2024, which we’re excited to launch together.”

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