Jobs Expo sat down with Clodagh Geary of Aspira to find out what working for the company is like. Aspira will be recruiting at Jobs Expo in Belfast. They are an award-winning Irish company with global reach. Aspira have offices in Dublin and Cork, and offer consultancy and IT services to companies around the world. Their clients include AIB, Coillte, DePuy Synths, EirGrid, ESB and Electric Ireland and Laya Healthcare.
You have offices in Dublin and Cork. Are you recruiting for both?
Aspira have clients all over Ireland, and also in the UK, USA and Europe. Some of our team work directly on site with clients, while most work from our offices which are based in Dublin and Cork. We have technical IT and Project Management roles to fill in both locations, and given our geographic spread of clients we are also interested in hearing from people who may enjoy travel and would like to work in different locations.
Describe a typical day in the office?
A typical day depends on your role. We try to keep people focused on one project at a time. If you are a software developer, you might spend three to six months focused on designing a system or application and then developing and testing that solution for release to a client. If you are a project manager, you will be focused on whatever is going on at that stage of the project. However, if you are working in a general operations role, then you need to multi-task! You could be meeting clients, writing proposals, attending trade shows, delivering consultancy, reviewing tenders, selecting vendors – you name it! We have a very diverse business environment! We try to match the roles to people’s preferences – some people love to focus on a single project and get into the zone, whereas others enjoy the variety that comes with multi-tasking.
Other than skills, what are the qualities you look for when hiring new team members?
In addition to qualifications and certifications, we have a set of core competencies that we look for in our people. These are intelligence, professionalism, work ethic, initiative, attention to detail, ability to communicate and teamwork. To us, these qualities are more important than experience using a particular set of tools, because smart, committed people will quickly learn new tools. We also like to complement our team with diverse cultures and a clear view of our common company objectives.
What can new hires expect during their first week?
We have an induction programme that takes people through the company’s structure, mission, values, culture and so forth. Then we assign a mentor to the new hire so that he/she has somebody that they can informally approach with any questions. The mentor takes responsibility for ensuring the new hire is being looked after. As a project management specialist company, it is important that we live up to our standards. The small things are important – things like ensuring the new hire has their accounts set up in advance, has a desk, and has a laptop. It never ceases to amaze me how some companies leave their new hires hanging around for weeks while they ‘find’ them a laptop or give them email or internet access! We aim to get people to be productive quickly, as the best way to learn and integrate with the team is to take on some real tasks and deliverables.
Is there anything many new hires find challenging when they first start with Aspira?
We are not a hierarchical company. I think this is great as it means everybody is encouraged to express their opinion and to challenge things. Nobody is ever told “it’s not your place to say that”. However I know that some people who have joined us, coming from more rigid hierarchical background, have taken a while to ‘get’ this. Our CEO encourages us to tell him if his ideas are rubbish. Of course, you then need to be prepared to explain why, and ideally have a better idea ready to propose!.
What makes Aspira a great place to work?
Three things – the client focus, the expertise of the team, and the wide range of services. There is intense focus on identifying and meeting client needs. This makes it a very enjoyable place to work as our clients really appreciate the service we provide, and it makes it a pleasure rather than a chore. The people working in Aspira are seriously smart, with loads of experience, and the culture encourages sharing of ideas and bouncing questions and theories off each other. This makes it a very engaging and learning experience. Finally the range of services is huge, so rather than get pigeonholed into a particular narrow role, people have the chance to get involved in lots of different areas. I think you gain as much experience in one year with Aspira as you would in five years in another multinational.
What about opportunities for advancement?
There’s a lot of emphasis placed upon learning and development, and people are encouraged and supported in gaining professional accreditation and certifications. We are a training company as well! There is also a culture of promoting from within wherever possible. Because Aspira has been consistently growing, there is a lot of career opportunity for people – not just to become a manager, but also to take on more senior technical roles. Some companies force people down the managerial route in order to advance their careers, but Aspira has a twin track, covering both managerial and technical roles.
What do you enjoy most about your own job?
Aspira have enabled me to take a broader view of my own skill set. I have previously worked for system integrators and resourcing companies. Because of my skills in that particular area, and the ability for that type of business to be a high revenue earner, I was often left to run that type of division and churn numbers for the rest of the organisation. I am much more involved in every level of the company, and hope that my own input has helped us achieve the growth of the organisation, not just through placing consultants on projects.
Most of us have had at least one interview that didn’t go according to plan. Have you ever messed up a job interview yourself? If so, could you tell us about it?
Once, I was part of a group interview, with two of us being interviewed by a panel. I noticed my co-interviewer starting to act strangely. It turned out that years earlier she had been in the army and had worked with one of the interview panel him in the army. Unfortunately, back then she submitted a complaint that ultimately led to the interviewer being dismissed from the army and turning to civilian life. When both parties realised who the other was, it was obvious there was not going to be a job offer. I could not get out of that room fast enough. Awkward!
Is there anything else you’d like potential recruits to know?
Aspira is a company that treats people with respect, and has a great culture where people work hard and have fun. There are a lot of people here who have been here since the company set up ten years ago, and they are enjoying the recent plans being made for even larger future growth. They like the consistent values and culture that we have promoted from day one, being enjoyed by new staff members. The newer approach to aligned objectives, and a gentle introduction to a more structured organisational chart has been received well.
There is a great bonus, working for a training company! Particularly in relation to career development from a technical perspective. Newer recruits are surrounded by some seriously talented technical people, who are happy to share their knowledge. We adapt the same approach with clients, always looking to share and adopt a skills and knowledge transfer approach to our engagements. Having strong partnerships with Microsoft and Dell, and other great technology leaders gives our staff access to a wide arrange of courses and certification opportunities. For the PMs and BAs, we encourage them to follow PMP, CBAP or Prince 2 certifications. Careers don’t stand still at Aspira!