Monday December 9, 2019

Bringing tech and talent together

Oliver Surdival of Arkphire tells Quinton O’Reilly why bringing interns into the centre of the action means you’re creating your own highly skilled and loyal future workforce

10th November, 2019
Oliver Surdival, head of cloud services at Arkphire: interns play an active part in the company

While Oliver Surdival, head of cloud services at Arkphire, has officially been in the role for five months, the years of experience that he already has means he’s seen the cloud services industry develop since the early days.

With a background which includes companies like Custom Software Solutions and Boston Scientific, he later founded Microsoft cloud specialists CloudStrong in 2011, which was acquired by Arkphire last year.

In a way, his current position is a continuation of his work over the past few years, bringing with it more opportunities and challenges.

“It’s a more exciting role because of the opportunity that Arkphire is bringing to the table in terms of the investment that they put in, and the type of customers we’re looking to acquire now,” he said.

One of those challenges is talent acquisition, something experienced by all companies with a tech perspective. While most companies are in a battle to find and retain talent, Arkphire’s operations in the west have taken a different approach.

Setting up a global centre of excellence for public cloud in Castlebar, it focuses on the public cloud across the three leading providers: Microsoft, Google GCP and Amazon Web Services.

Through it, the company offers internships to college students and sometimes secondary-school students to help create the next generation of tech engineers, innovators and leaders in the cloud space.

Arkphire does this by making interns an active part of the process instead of putting them on the sidelines.

“When you come in here, you’re playing the game straight away,” he said. “Yes, there are certain things you won’t be able to do [straight away, but] . . . they’re mentored one-on-one to do certain tasks, and it’s a very hands-on role. They love it because they feel they’re adding value, they’re learning and progressing.”

More importantly, by getting them in early and focusing on the areas they’re interested in, the company builds up a talent pool that will stay with them for years to come. Having the centre of excellence located in the Mayo region brings with it certain benefits.

“The major benefits of having a division in the west of Ireland is salaries are not as competitive as they are in Dublin and secondly if we tend to get someone in the business, they tend to be here [for a long time],” he explained

“The core people here, 80 per cent of the people who started are still here and some of them are here since day one.”

While there’s certainly one eye on the future, his cloud services team’s primary focus is on the here and now.

One good example is how security is a major concern for businesses, and it’s tying into that by offering a free migration service for those using Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

Since support for them is ending on January 14, 2020, it means that machines are under risk as security patches won’t be delivered to them.

Arkphire is offering to migrate their services to Azure for free, something that Surdival says has really resonated with businesses, especially since the habit is to put it on the long finger until something happens.

“That’s been generating a huge amount of interest and demand and fast-tracking companies’ journeys to the cloud because they want to take advantage of this offer,” he said.

“We’ve taken on quite a large number of new customers through this which is fantastic and we’re hoping to have them for a lifetime.”

While much of their work is focused on helping businesses with digital transformation and modernisation, which means moving workloads to the cloud, another area that’s a big driver for Arkphire is data analytics and productivity.

The demand for those types of services like automation, dashboard visitation and connecting data silos together are growing rapidly, but as Surdival mentions, it’s more about how you use it that’s important.

“People often talk about productivity, especially around Office 365 or G-Suite, but what they do is they get these solutions and work the same way they did with no real efficiency and productivity,” he said.

“We’re able to go away and advise customers how they could increase productivity and show them a clear return on their investment. That way, it’s clear to the business, it increases their efficiencies, everyone is working smarter and quicker, and overall it’s beneficial.”

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