Limerick: Shaping the global future of work from the home office

Siobhan Ryan of enterprise automation software company UiPath believes there will soon be a robot for every person, freeing people up to do more skilled work

Siobhan Ryan, sales director for Ireland at UiPath, a New York-headquartered enterprise automation software company, works from her home in Limerick city. Picture: Arthur Ellis.

When Siobhan Ryan, sales director for Ireland at UiPath, a New York-headquartered enterprise automation software company, mentioned her plan to leave Los Angeles to return with her family to Limerick, people told her she would regret the move.

Now working from home on the Ennis Road, Ryan relishes the opportunity to further her career with a global automation market leader while surrounded by family.

After graduating with a bachelor of business studies from University of Limerick in 1994, she went to Dublin to work in Dell and has worked in technology ever since.

“I went to San Francisco for what I thought would be a summer in 1996 and ended up staying ten years,” she said.

“I did a graduate programme in IT at Golden Gate University and from there I went to Oracle headquarters in Silicon Valley where I had a progressive career path for ten years. I went through the whole dotcom era and the advance of ERP and CRM.”

The pull from the Pacific to the Shannon kicked in after the birth of her daughter in Santa Monica.

“When she was two-and-a-half, it got to a point where myself and my husband started looking at long-term plans, and moving back to Limerick – where we both had immediate family – had lots of appeal.

“Living nine blocks from the beach in sunny California, people thought we were mad when we came home in 2006. And we didn’t know it then, but we had timed it right for the Celtic Tiger crashing – ouch,” said Ryan.

It took a lot of work to get re-established in Limerick and she took a career break following the birth of her second child. Feeling she had to retool herself, she went back to University of Limerick to do a self-funded MBA.

“At that stage, in 2014, a lot of people told me that I wouldn’t get a high-tech job in Limerick or be taken seriously for certain senior roles if I didn’t go to Dublin,” Ryan said.

“However, the reasons for moving to Limerick in the first place were important to me. I needed to get creative.

“This is where the value of local supports and networking really kicked in. The city had funded career coaching evenings and I attended an Enterprise Ireland event and met the fabulously supportive Harriet Cotter who among other things recommended I also speak with the IDA.

“As a result, I helped a US firm EtQ select Limerick as a location for its first office outside the US and joined it as its director of sales, EMEA.

“Building on the success of this role, I was then in a position to make the move into the big data and analytics space. I joined MapR – now a HP Enterprises company – for a couple of years,” Ryan said. Connectivity from Shannon was key.

“I have always been excited about the power of transformative technologies and I really wanted to go into the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) space as its power to deliver results to both businesses and employees in a much shorter time than most Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies was game changing,” Ryan said.

Accessible automation

She moved to UiPath in November 2018. The organisation was created in 2015 in Bucharest, Romania.

In 2017, it moved its headquarters to New York and has since expanded to nearly 30 countries. It now employs around 3,000 people globally, serving over 8,500 customers, including 80 per cent of the Fortune 10 and 63 per cent of the Fortune 500.

“Our automation platform makes automation accessible to everyone. Automation does repetitive work so people can be more creative and innovative. We believe this means greater employee engagement and greater business value,” Ryan said.

“Our IPO, which valued the company at around $40 billion, was a big step towards realising our vision of a robot for every person. We are proud of where the company is today, but this is only the beginning of UiPath’s next chapter. We remain focused on UiPath’s long-term vision and the opportunity ahead.

“UiPath is fundamentally reshaping how people work. Our mission is to unlock human creativity by enabling the fully automated enterprise and empowering workers through automation,” Ryan said.

Having worked remotely for the past five years, one positive aspect of the pandemic, she said, is that organisations are more open to people working from home, and customers and partners are generally more comfortable with collaboration technologies like Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

“I am really enjoying working from my garden office in Limerick which has great connectivity. The smart companies are paying salaries based on your skillsets and the value you can bring and are not discounting simply for your choice of moving away from the big cities,” she said.

“I was able to buy a house cheaper than in Dublin. We don’t have gridlock. My children didn’t have to compete for school places and can walk to school.”

“One of the other big benefits for companies who support remote working is that they enable greater reach into more communities than where the office is located – the network impact is expanded.”

She is delighted that the company’s commitment to supporting anyone who wants to take RPA training has materialised in a local initiative in her hometown. The first ‘school of automation’ in Ireland launched last month in the Limerick and Clare region.

“Working together on the project, the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, the School of Automation and UiPath will teach Ireland’s next generation the skills required to develop software robots,” Ryan said.

“With nearly half – 48 per cent – of businesses saying they would increase investment in RPA in the next year, it is important that the necessary training is readily available to better prepare Ireland’s next generation for the future of work.

“UiPath hopes the school will help to fill a genuine need for democratisation of skills related to the future of work. The pilot is open to anyone aged 16-plus and those on social welfare. The pilot will see 30 learnings undertake an 18-month traineeship.

“I love my role working with our customers, partners and our UiPath community across Ireland and the fact that some of this is also having an impact on Limerick brings me joy,” Ryan said.

With the whole family happy to be in Limerick – her husband also works remotely for a global pharma company – she sees her native city as making great strides to reach its potential.

“Limerick has a ‘keeping it real ‘attitude and has a scrappiness and a resilience that I really like.”