2014 in Review @paugimenez.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 55 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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From Silicon Valley to Silicon Docks

In life, Sun is not everything

Dublin may not be Sunnyvale, Cupertino or Mountain View in sunny California, but within a few years it has become the home for the EMEA headquarters of most tech companies. The modern and renovated Docklands area is also nicknamed Silicon Docks due to the high concentration of tech companies based in Silicon Valley.

Google has its EMEA headquarters here with around 3,000 employees and continues to grow and acquire new buildings. Within a 5 minutes walking distance around 200 people work for Twitter. From there you can head towards a strong competitor: Facebook at Hanover Quay. With its 400 employees, it has its largest operations office outside their headquarters in Menlo Park, California, and it is moving to a new 11,000 square meters office in Grand Canal Square with the capacity to accommodate 1,000 workers.

Around the corner you will find Indeed, the main job site in the world, which this year will open around 100 new positions. Yahoo! is not far away, and it is also increasing their number of workers with 200 new openings. Dropbox is in Dublin too, and IBM, Amazon, PayPal, eBay, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, TripAdvisor, Betfair, and many other multinationals and start-ups.

And why, you will ask

There are different reasons and people will give a different value to each of them. From my point of view, the main factors are three: low tax corporation, geostrategical location and language advantage. Although some Irish people like to think that all these companies are here due to the high qualifications of Irish workforce, the truth is that other Europeans are equally qualified and probably speak more languages. Actually, some companies struggle to find qualified employees after having opened their offices in Ireland and have to bring them from abroad, with the extra investment of money that it entails.

It is true, however, that the fact that Ireland  is an English-speaking country is a big asset. At the same time, it is a EU member but it has always had strong links with the US due to a long history of emigration. For that reason, I think that Irish have a more entrepreneurial attitude than other European countries. Ireland is geographically located close to the UK, to continental Europe, and not too far away from the US. Plenty of Americans have Irish roots and they love to say they are Irish because their great-great-grandfather was from Kerry and their surname is Lynch. This fact results in a mixture of European identity along with an American working culture influence. If we add up that they are a pro-EU country, generally speaking, in contrast with their sceptical British neighbours, that Irish are seen as a friendly people. and that there is a lack of serious social or political conflicts, Ireland becomes the preferred base for American investment.

Is that all?

Not quite. The third factor, or the first, or the second, is the famous low tax corporation. Companies pay a very low tax in comparison to other European countries. Try to purchase a mobile phone in Spain with a Spanish salary taxed in Spain at the online shop of a tech giant and, guess what, oh surprise, it will be billed at the address X St., Dublin, Ireland.

Not nice? The European Union thinks the same way and wants Ireland to change these policies, as products acquired abroad are taxed in Ireland at a much lower rate with the resulting impact on competing markets. But Ireland was smart enough to attract investment through this system and they will fight hard to keep it.

So what?

As a result, and due to the highest birth rate in Europe as well, Ireland has the youngest population in the continent: there are young professionals from all over Europe and all over the world working here. At the same time, there is a lack of IT professionals and the Irish government is investing in conversion programmes for people with a non-IT background who want to change career.

That makes Ireland an interesting country for people looking for a job, especially in the IT sector. However, you have to keep in mind that if you plan to emigrate to Ireland your level of English has to be high and that you should have some money saved. Ireland is not cheap, especially Dublin, with living standards similar to London. You can read more about working in Ireland in this post.

Please feel free to leave a comment!

Rugby, Poetry and West Cork

Rugby, Poetry and West Cork: why this title? For those who have been in Clonakilty, Skibbereen, Inchydoney beach, Schull, Baltimore or Cape Clear, just to name a few places, you know already that they are really, really inspirational places. Inspirational to play hurling, football, rugby, or inspirational to paint, sing of write poetry, as my friend Isaac Xubin does. Isaac is a rugbyman, poet and West Corkonian in heart, all at the same time. We shared good moments together around 2 years ago when I was living in Co. Cork. West Cork is a place with many musicians, painters and all kind of artists who are looking for beautiful and quiet landscapes to relax and get inspiration. On the other hand, rugby and poetry may be considered by many as opposite poles. However, anyone who follows both things can see a relation, and Isaac is the tangible living proof of such connection.

Rugby is a quite military sport indeed. There are more rules than in soccer, and the tactics and strategy are more organised and rigid. Many players even confess they don’t know all the rules. Simplifying, although there are big skilled stars in rugby the same way as there are in soccer, I wouln’t imagine  a Lionel Messi or Maradona in rugby. Rather a Cristiano Ronaldo (The General according to Joseph Blatter), or a Frank Bekembauer. However, rugby is an epic and beautiful game. Rugby is a brutal sport where you can break every bone that you could break, but at the same time illegal violence and cheating are strongly punished. It promotes noble and fair principles, as of accepting defeat but respecting the rival when celebrating tries or winning. Even the famous Haka is somehow an anthem, dance or cry: a poetical expression in the end. Rugby is therefore a Romantic sport where individual ambitions meet group goals.

Isaac was one of the first friends I made in Ireland. When I was living in Clonakilty, I attended  the seminars organised by UCC Hispanic Department for professors and PhD candidates, and he was a Galician language lecturer there. We connected soon, as I had just started my rugby experience with Bandon Rugby Football Club.  Isaac was a much more experienced player, since he had been playing for many years in Galicia. I had started to play at Bandon RFC thirds, and that was my first rugby experience. I knew that you had to pass the ball backwards and little more. Training was on Friday, and Isaac joined a couple of times. We played a few matches together on Saturdays and Sundays. While I was just given the last 15 minutes of each game due to my lack of experience, Isaac soon impressed the coach, Aidan, and played from the start as a scrum half under the name of a South African player that had left the team in order to be ‘legal’ and be covered by the club insurance. I was a winger, the best position for a newcomer, as you touch the ball just a few times during the match and, basically, what you have to do when you have it is run, run, run.

I always had interest on rugby, but in Spain it is not very popular, or at least as a professional sport. It’s difficult to get to watch a live match on TV unless you go to an Irish pub. Since my days in West Cork, though, I watch it as much as I can Munster, Leinster, Conacht or Ulster matches, and I have been a few times at Aviva Stadium or RDS, even a 6 Nations Ireland-England!

Also, during my time working at Google, I tried to join a team, but during my second training I badly broke my finger and I have two permanent screws and a stitch. I would have liked to continue, but rugby is a sport which is better to learn at the earliest possible stage, like cycling or driving. Not knowing how to play it properly is quite risky, so if you work with your hands, or with your legs, and you are a starter, I would think about it twice. For the time being, I will continue watching it on TV and following Isaac’s rugby blog.

If you follow his stories, you will understand how Rugby, Poetry and West Cork are words that share a story, a space, a color, and a rhythm, and if not always that story has happy endings, there are beautiful things one can learn from being in West Cork, playing rugby, and writing poetry.

Isaac’s blog, ‘Melé a cinco‘ -‘scrum at five’-, is written in Galician, but it can be automatically translated if you use Google Chrome and you click the option ‘Translate page’.

Working in Ireland

Many people from all over the world come to Ireland for tourism, to learn English or to try to make a living working in Ireland. There are many things to say about how to survive in this competitive world: in this post, I will give you some tips that hopefully will help you to integrate and get a job in Ireland, if you decide to move here.

Have you considered working in Ireland?

First of all, as I said, having a good or very good command of English is essential to succeed here. There are many immigrants, from other countries and from yours, who will be as qualified as you are or more, as multilingual as you or more, as young as you or younger, as beautiful as you or more. So English is just the least skill you should have. That said, it doesn’t mean you should refrain from coming if you are willing to learn quickly. I have met many Spanish au pairs who had a BA degree, bud hadn’t a good level of English. However, after a few months with Irish families, they improved a lot, and some of them took courses or masters that allowed them to find more qualified jobs afterwards.

Working at Google in 2013

Thus, an interesting option to consider as a bridge to get a full time position is coming as an au pair: an Irish family will host you, feed you and you’ll have some pocket money to do your things. And most importantly, you’ll learn English with them, you’ll build a network of contacts and you’ll have a platform to jump into the job market. Another option is to try to find a job as a waiter or similar professions while trying to study English or pursuing further education.

I think it’s very important to come with a plan, even if it’s a two week intense course instead of just coming with some savings with the intention of looking for a job. This is an option too, but you might end up burning your savings with a flight back home. Another interesting way to go abroad is the EU Leonardo Da Vinci programme. I have met a few people that came to Ireland through Leonardo for 3-4 months, which included two weeks of English classes, lodgement, work placement, and a small weekly allowance. Some of them found a job afterwards or their contract was extended.

Once the plan is designed and the decision made, the first thing to do once you touch down in Ireland is to find a place to live. Ireland is expensive, especially compared to southern countries like Portugal, Spain, Italy or even France. And within Ireland, Dublin is very expensive. If you don’t have a clear plan of action, I would recommend to avoid Dublin and go to smaller cities or towns with good communication with Dublin, Cork, Galway, etc. A room in a shared apartment in Dublin may cost easily 600-700 €/month, being that a normal price. That means that you can pay even more depending on the area. It won’t be easy to find anything cheaper than that unless you live far away or you share with many people. I have seen ads of 2 room apartments for 3,000 € /month (check daft.ie if you can cope with strong sensations).

On the contrary, going to Cork, which is a way smaller city but cosy and with many multinationals like Amazon or Apple, may save you around 200 € per month o more. Even more if you are in a town outside Cork or smaller cities.

The second important thing to do in order to be able to open a bank account or get any kind of social benefit is to get your PPS number (ID/Social Security number). To get it, you will need a proof of address: a bill with your name and address, your house lease, if you have it, or a letter from your landlord stating that you are living in that address. This is quite easy and it should be easy to get a PPS number. This is the first and most important thing you would need to do after getting a place to stay. It will open the doors of the administrative labyrinths to you.

Once you have your PPS number, you can go to FÁS offices and register. There (or online) you can get information about courses provided by the Government, and you can search for job vacancies too. There is also the Springboard program, which sponsors certificates, diplomas and masters in public and private universities if you are unemployed. ICT Skills is a similar programme to Springboard, but people working can do these courses for free too. On the other hand, the most visited website for jobseeking is Indeed. You can also browse jobs at jobs.ie, irishjobs.ie  and many others.

I guess these are the first good tips to begin with. From here, the world is yours! It won’t be an easy start, but don’t despair: stay active and try to build a good network of friends and contacts. You never know who could offer you a job. If you are interested in sports, Ireland is a great place: GAA, football, rugby and many others. Socialising is a good way of making new contacts. There are very interesting Meetup groups where you will not only meet nice people but also learn a lot. You may spend weeks without work or with a job you don’t like, but if you stay strong with the idea of learning, training and willing to succeed, I think Ireland is a country where one can have good opportunities, especially in the IT sector.

Keep fighting and good luck!

I love Ireland

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I love Ireland. I say it all all the time and I think it all the time.  I think it when I go to West Cork, Kerry, Mayo or Louth and I see amazing landscapes. I think it when I watch a hurling or rugby match in Croke Park, RDS or in a pub, I thought it when I played with my football in Inchydoney beach, and I think it when I am invited to have dinner with an Irish family. Sometimes I am afraid of insisting too much about how much I love Ireland because I wouldn’t like it to become the Salou or Marbella of the British Isles.

Ireland has the good things of being a small country, like a strong feeling of community, and the good things of being a modern and quite prosperous country, as it is the base of the EMEA headquarters of the big companies. The landscapes I have seen, especially in rural Ireland, are some of the most beautiful sceneries I have ever seen. There are small villages and towns in places like Kerry, Cork, Galway, Mayo or Donegal where it seems as if time had stopped 60 years ago. And this is, for me, an important factor of the Irish charm in today’s 3.0 times.

If you go to a shop in, let’s say Clonakilty, Co. Cork, the lady in the counter will most probably make some comment about the weather like ‘Yera, it’s been a miiiiserable week, but sure it’ll be grand anyway!’, although she has never seen you before. Irish people like to talk, and Irish people are nice in general. They remind me a bit of Andalusians. They like to talk, they like to take it easy. And yes, they like to drink.

Éire is not only what we saw in The Snapper or Angela’s Ashes. It is a very modern country too. Much more modern than Spain or Italy in many things. It is strategically located between the UK and the US, it is a part of the British Isles but it is more integrated in the EU. It has obvious historical and political links with Britain and also with the US. Because of that, and because the famous low tax corporation, most of the IT giants have their headquarters here, mainly in Dublin and Cork: Amazon, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter, Microsoft, and many more.

But ‘no todo es oro lo que reluce’, as we say in Spanish, something as ‘not everything that shines is gold’. If the country hasn’t become yet a Dubai, Costa del Sol or Bahamas, it is probably for one important reason: The Weather. Yes, the weather is c***. Yes, it’s very bad. That joke ‘I love summer in Ireland, it’s my favourite day of the year’ is almost true. Weather is unpredictable. It may be sunny at 9, raining at 9:30, dry at 9:45 and frosting at 10. And that can happen anytime during all year except for 3 or 4 months, which doesn’t mean that there will be good weather in 3 or 4 months. It just means that it probably won’t frost during 3 months.

Despite the weather, I love Ireland. But I think I’m not the only one, as thousands of Spaniards, Italians, Brazilians, Poles, Latvians and many other have decided to try to make their living here. (I will talk a bit more about working in Ireland in the section ‘Living in Ireland’)

This is the reason why I have been for two and a half years here and have no plans of going back to Barcelona. People seem not to believe me, especially coming from such a cool city. But I insist: I love Ireland, and as long as they don’t kick me out and I am happy here, here will I be.

Go raibh maith agaibh!