John Harkin
John Harkin

John Harkin moved home and launched Alchemy Technology Services

John located Alchemy's European Centre of Excellence in his home town Derry.

About John

I am a senior executive and specialist in Business and Organisational Transformation and Technology enabled change.  I have worked in the consulting and IT industry for more than 30 years.  I have held a number of high profile roles where I have advised and assisted clients in the areas of strategy, technology, process and organisational Change, leadership, team and individual effectiveness. Companies that I have worked for include KPMG, PWC, CSC, Towers Watson and Xchanging.

I recently launched a new company based in Derry, Alchemy Technology Services, to create a Centre of Excellence for the Implementation of Insurance Software. I am the Founder and Director and the company is supported by Invest NI and the DfE and will create 256 jobs over the next 3 years.

I was born in Derry and grew up in the ‘Top of the Hill’ area of the Waterside. I went to the Waterside boys primary school and St Brecan’s for my O’ levels. I studied for my A levels at NWRC. I left Derry in 1981 to go to London to study Computer Science at The University of the Southbank. Since leaving Derry I have lived in London, Paris, New York, Sydney, San Francisco, Chicago and Kent.

Why did you choose to base Alchemy in Derry?

I was approached by Invest NI about the possibilities that NI presented. I had already identified the need to attract new ‘talent’ and the energy that brings into the Insurance Industry and we were beginning to identify locations and an approach to develop Alchemy. The idea that NI, and Derry in particular could be the home for Alchemy, resonated with me and we added this to our short list.

When Invest NI organized our first visits for my team and investors to meet with North West Regional College and the University of Ulster, we where looking for a place that not only could provide the flow of talent that we would require but people and a culture of working that would embrace our vision for Alchemy.

We found people that we could work with in the team at InvestNI, the Dept of Economy, the NWRC and the University of Ulster and Magee. We also found people from the Derry and Strabane council who joined with these folks in offering support to help us make Alchemy the success that we know it is going to be.

How has NI Changes since you have been away?

NI has Transformed since I left. People have embraced peace and embraced the opportunities that this change has presented. My wife asked me recently what it is like to be back in my home town. I honestly said that it is so different it really does feel like I have moved to somewhere completely new but with the added bonus that I know my way around.

How have you benefitted from moving back to NI?

My wife and I love the beauty of the countryside. We are outdoor people, my wife has a horse, I play golf, we have three dogs, there are just so many places to explore and see and to do what we love doing. We can get to a beach to a beach in 20 mins and the dogs love that. Everything is less expensive so our money goes so much further.

The golf courses that are within a short drive are world class, Portstewart, Portrush, Ballyliffin, City of Derry and just a little further away, Lough Erne. I look forward to emploring the many other course that are outstanding but perhaps not so famous such as Castlerock, Enniscrone, Portnoo and Greencastle to name but a few.

I still regularly visit London but I can leave home at 6:15 to catch a flight at 7:05 from City of Derry airport and I can be at my desk in London just after 9:00. Incredibly convenient! The return flight is perfectly timed for me to leave the city at 17:30 to catch the 19:25 flight and be home in Derry by 21:00, fabulous!

Would you recommend moving back to NI?

So far the move is very positive and I would seriously recommend this to others. We still can do things we love as we now have more disposable income. So for example, when we lived in Kent we would enjoy a trip to Paris so we still do that, the flight from Belfast international is great. We recently went to Belfast for a day of shopping, took in a show and had dinner. The drive time was very similar our Kent to London journey before we moved back home.

What are your favourite things about home?

  • Favourite things to do - I play Golf, my wife and I love to load up the dogs and to go exploring the countryside and beaches.

  • Favourite Hotel - The Bishopsgate in Derry, Accommodation, Food and Service are just outstanding!

  • Favourite Restaurants  - (we are vegetarians); Brickworks in Derry and Harry’s Shack, Portstewart Strand Beach.

  • Favourite Café - The Quirky Raven Coffee Co. Spencer Road, Derry. Soup always suitable for vegans and the bread is delicious!

  • Favourite Food -  My brother-in-law Billy's soup and wheaten bread - unfortunately this is not commercially available!

  • Top Recommendation for Visitors: Just dress appropriately and get outdoors and see the beauty of nature this land has on offer. There is just so much to see. Go to some of the pubs and listen to the local artists, there are some great venues showing off some excellent talent.

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