The Sunday Interview - Mark Nagurski

Mark Nagurski, Connor Doherty, Rachel McClure and Silje Helmersen.'DER0714SL222 Photo, Stephen Latimer
Mark Nagurski, Connor Doherty, Rachel McClure and Silje Helmersen.'DER0714SL222 Photo, Stephen Latimer

If digital media was a language then CultureTECH founder, Mark Nagurski, would be profoundly fluent.

For the last decade, Mark has immersed himself in all things online and digital and in 2012 he launched CultureTECH.

CultureTECH is a festival that celebrates everything relating to digital media locally. From Smartphone applications to computer games, CultureTECH has virtually every conceivable digital base covered.

“When I talk to people about technology and digital media I tell people that it’s simply just technology that was invented during their lifetime.

“I remember when I was at St. Columb’s College in the mid 1990s and we had an email club. We would stay behind after school and send emails to one another - it was a new technology back then.

“To someone aged 23 or 24, the Internet has always been around - it’s normal to them, they don’t know a life without it,” he explained.

The surname Nagurski is not common place in Derry but Mark was born here in 1977.

“My dad and mum met in Texas. My dad, Jan Nagurski, is an American accountant and he met my mother there when she was working as a nurse.”

Mark’s parents, Jan and Bernadette moved back to Derry where they were married and Mark was born.

Mark is the oldest of three boys and when he was four years-old he moved to Los Angeles in California.

“I spent the best part of my childhood growing up in America - I still hold a US passport.

“Growing up in Los Angeles was great and I enjoyed living there.”

Mark’s parents split up when he was 15 years-old and along with his mother and two younger brothers, he returned home to Derry.

“We went back to Derry every summer when were living in America but as soon as we moved back permanently I started school at St. Columb’s College.

“I studied English, Economics, Mathematics and Computers at the College and after my A-levels I secured a place studying International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE).”

Mark likes to describe his degree from LSE as “posh politics” and soon after he graduated he realised he wanted to do something completely different.

“My degree prepared me for a job in the civil service or the foreign office but I didn’t want to do that.

“Like everyone, after I graduated, I started looking for a job and I managed to get one with a company called the Marketing Firm.

“I really enjoyed my time with the Marketing Firm and I liked the work I was doing.

“The company decided they wanted to open offices in Ireland so I put myself forward and came to Derry again 2000/01 where I set-up an office here and one in Belfast.”

It was around this time that Mark started to take an interest in digital and social media.

“I was also working as a consultant in places like Belfast,London and Dublin.

“Ten years ago was a remarkable time for digital and social media. Facebook had just been launched and if I am honest, I haven’t looked back since.”

In 2006, Mark founded his first company, ‘Really Practical Marketing’.

It was a small business and focused on content marketing and web content development.

Mark then founded ‘Own Brand Media’ in 2009. The company worked with mostly online ventures but in 2010, Mark’s career took an unexpected turn.

“Derry City Council was looking for what they called a ‘Digital Champion’ so I decided to throw my name into the ring to see what would happen.”

Mark was appointed Derry’s ‘Digital Champion’ in August 2010 and was immediately tasked with the responsibility of spearheading and championing all things digital in the North West.

“I can’t convey to you the talent and originality there is locally when it comes to digital enterprise and ventures,” said Mark enthusiastically.

“Some of what I have seen over the last few years is as good as you will get anywhere in the world but we just need to learn to shout about it more.”

In early 2012 Mark founded CultureTECH and set out to host Derry’s first ever digital event.

“It was essentially a pilot project and whilst there was plenty we got right the first time around there was a lot we knew we had to improve.”

In September 2013, Mark and his team hosted their second CultureTECH festival and it enjoyed unprecedented success.

“What made last year’s CultureTECH so successful was the fact we did so much work with CultureTECH Junior.

“The young people of Derry and further a field are so enthusiastic when it comes to all things digital.

“There are some amazing teachers, doing amazing work in amazing schools in Derry - we hope to develop CultureTECH Junior more this year.”

The next few months will be extremely busy for Mark and his small team as they set-out to plan and put together this year’s CultureTECH festival.

If that wasn’t enough to keep the team busy, Mark confirmed that they are hopefully going ahead with two pilot projects later this year; CultureTECH Brooklyn and CultureTECH London.

“I doubt we would be able to put on a seven day festival in Brooklyn and London but we will probably do two two day festivals in both locations.

“They are strictly pilot projects and if they are a success we will do them again but if they are not as successful as we would hope then we won’t do them again - it’s that simple,” he smiled.

Mark is an extremely modest and to the point man and refuses to take any of the limelight whatsoever. He said his hopes for CultureTECH and digital media locally would not be possible if was not for the amazing enthusiasm and enterprise of so many.

“The Chamber of Commerce has been so supportive from day one and without them I don’t where we would be but the real credit has to go to all those people out there who are making a go of digital media.

“We want to hear from anyone who has something digital they want to show off to the world. We have a platform with CultureTECH and we want to use it to get these people the recognition they deserve,” he smiled.

If you would like to contact Mark Nagurski and his team visit their website