Anton McGonnell on Harvard Business School and working for Uipath
We spoke to Anton about this experiences living away
I am from Killeeshil, Country Tyrone. I went to St. Patrick's Academy, Dungannon before studying at Queen’s University in Belfast. After graduation from Queen’s, I headed off to New York City on the US-NI Mentorship Programme. I then spent several years back at home working for BT before returning to the US to get an MBA from Harvard Business School.
I now live in Seattle and am Director of Product Management, Machine Learning at UiPath, which is a software automation and artificial intelligence company.
US-NI Mentorship Programme
At risk of sounding hyperbolic, I do believe that it was a life-changing experience. I worked for a healthcare technology company in Manhattan, called New York eHealth Collaborative. I worked on impactful projects while also being exposed to the wider business terrain of New York City through the access the USNI Programme gave us. The Programme gives you what you take from it.
Working for UiPath
After my MBA, I was lucky enough to join a tech startup that is officially the fastest growing enterprise technology company in history (measured by Annual Recurring Revenue growth). UiPath is an incredibly unique story; from humble beginnings in Bucharest, Romania the founders created a company that is fundamentally changing the way people work. It is a very inspiring narrative that I hope will resonate with those in Belfast who are trying to turn it into a hub for technology innovation.
We recently raised $225 Million from Sequoia Capital and Google at a $3 Billion valuation. As a Director of Product Management for Machine Learning, my job is to use this money to help us build artificial intelligence solutions that automate mundane and repetitive processes to free people up to spend more time on higher value tasks. I get to work with incredibly smart people and learn from leaders who have been at the forefront of the technology revolution.
I have lived in New York, Boston and Seattle; all of these places have their own identity and are all fun places to be. Seattle has much less of an Irish influence so I am probably a little more disconnected than I was on the east coast. I have a lot of family in New York which always made it easier. That said, I like to have new experiences and leaving home is really the only way to do that.
The US is a country of immigrants and so you are exposed to all types of cultural nuances – especially within the tech industry. What I have always appreciated about the US is how so many cultures have functioned so well together.
What do you miss about Northern Ireland
A lot. My girlfriend still lives in Belfast, if she reads this she will undoubtedly be scouring down the page looking for a mention so it is good to get that out of the way. She is doing a Master’s in Data Science at Ulster University, so it is tough to be so far apart but we make it work.
I also miss my family, not seeing my nieces and nephews grow up is frustrating but the 300 photos my sisters send me daily on WhatsApp ensures that I don’t miss much.
Then there is of course Killeeshil GFC and my friends that I grew up with. I come from a very rural area where there is a strong sense of community, which is what makes the GAA so special. You just don’t get that sort of thing over here.
I come home a lot. In fact, I am home in a few weeks for my best friend’s wedding and will be home again at Christmas. I spent one Christmas away from home and will never do it again. I am still very connected to home personally and professionally, so I will never leave it more than 6 months without being back.
The biggest change I've noticed is that young people have a larger appetite for risk, which will lead to an economy driven by innovation and entrepreneurialism – this is something I am very passionate about and the work done by organisations like Catalyst Inc. and Ormeau Baths are testament to this.
Do you see yourself ever moving back to Northern Ireland
I really do, although I can’t say with certainty that it will happen. My dream is to move back home but to do so without having to rein in my professional ambitions. This is something I believe I can do. I think my girlfriend wants to spend some time away when she graduates though, so it may be a while before I return full-time.