Derry 2.0 - Why Derry needs talent

Starting and growing a business is often compared to the skills and efforts needed to run a successful sports team. You can build a great brand, have fanatical fans and develop the best stadium but at their heart successful sports teams are built on the collective talent of the players. Great players build great teams - not just as individuals but also in their ability to work together effectively.

Startup companies are very much the same. You need both star players and a cohesive team to really make it work. Little wonder then that the world’s best developers regularly earn six and seven figure salaries and superstar sales teams are frequently some of the highest earners in any company.

Derry’s startups are no different. To take on the best in the world we need to be able to attract the best talent and build the best teams. Being a small city, that’s not always the easiest task, and some of our most exciting digital businesses are already stretching to attract the talent they need, most notably senior developers and business development professionals.

Talent is also fundamental to encouraging new startups in the first place. Smart, experienced people with big ideas are exactly the kind of people we want starting the next wave of Derry-based companies.

So where will we find this talent?

In the long term we need to foster it ourselves; firstly by promoting these high-value jobs to the next generation of employees and entrepreneurs currently studying in our secondary schools, further and higher educational establishments. In practical terms this also mean detailing the kinds of courses and work experience that leads to these jobs.

More immediately, there are a few things that we can do.

Firstly we should look further afield in our search for talent. Many jobs can now be done from just about anywhere and sales jobs in particular are often better delivered by staff based in their target markets. A more flexible approach to how our businesses function will be required.

Secondly we should be promoting the region as an attractive place to live and work. A collective effort here would make sense and is currently on the Digital Derry agenda. Thirdly, for non-technical posts - like sales - we should reach out to other industries which could provide exceptional staff requiring only minor re-training.

Training itself is also an answer. Local firms need to invest aggressively in raising the skill level of their existing staff and recruit accordingly. That means recruiting based on mentality and potential rather than simply CVs and qualifications.

There really isn’t a short answer to this issue but as Derry attracts more digital businesses - and starts more and more of its own - getting our hands on world-class talent will become increasingly important. It’s time to start looking for solutions now.

n Mark Nagurski is Derry’s Digital Champion, based at the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. You can contact him by email to or by visiting