Why these tech companies are growing their teams in Limerick

The website chiefs of the two companies expanding in Limerick talk about growth plans.

Limerick is close to the mouth of the Shannon River and about two hours’ drive from Dublin, the capital of Ireland, to Limerick. As a base for multinational companies wishing to do business in Ireland, Limerick is undoubtedly suitable.

But Limerick isn’t just close to Dublin. It is itself one of the largest and most populous cities in Ireland.

While Galway is known for medtech and Dublin and Belfast for fintech and SaaS, Limerick has been busy carving out its own niche in the Irish business environment.

“There’s an enterprising spirit here, where innovation and R&D is nurtured and supported,” says Gert O’Rourke, manager of the Nexus Innovation Centre, the region’s entrepreneurial facility on the University of Limerick campus.

O’Rourke added: “New companies are being established and successfully growing, creating highly skilled jobs and bringing investment to the region – with an increasing number of international companies choosing to do business in Limerick. “

Some of these multinationals, such as American semiconductor company Analog Devices, have been in the region since the 1970s.

Others like FileCloud, Vitalograph, WP Engine, and Legato Health Technologies are newer offerings. All have one thing in common: they are actively developing their teams in Limerick.

WP Engine has been in Limerick since 2016, when Limerick City Council provided them with a temporary co-working space. It quickly expanded to take over entire co-working spaces. Back in 2016, WP Engine committed to recruiting 100 staff for Limerick over three years. As of recently, it had 120 employees working in Ireland. The company specializes in WordPress technology, offering managed WordPress hosting and e-commerce services, among other things.

Due to its rapid growth in Limerick, site owner Paul Ryan and team decided “it was time to really put down roots and find our own space in Limerick”.

Paul Ryan, Limerick Site Leader, WP Engine.Image: WP Engine

Ryan added that the Limerick operation has grown from a very small support and engineering team to a “mature” branch with finance, human resources and a growing e-commerce team focused on R&D and e-commerce. What the future might look like.

By chance, they robbed their Henley Street building a week before the lockdown. While announcing their move to the new location, they also plan to hire 20 more employees.

The company wanted its new office to create a tangible connection to the city, which has seen its Irish team grow over the past few years. The new building on Henley Street – a former gym – now houses staff lounges, meeting rooms, phone booths and a large collaboration space in the basement where the gym’s changing rooms once housed. Ryan joked that the building even “technically still had a swimming pool”, but it has now collapsed.

While the WP Engine may not be well suited to accept underwater work life (if ever), it has embraced the mix. Many of its employees are spread across the country. According to Ryan, this is a relatively new post-Covid development.

He was adamant that the Henley Street offices would not be just another “opaque, obscure window” for people to pass by outside, but that “you could actually see the people inside and see the building, you could see what we were doing”.

So what exactly is WP Engine? What is it like to work at this Texas-based company? On Ryan’s first day at the Austin headquarters, CEO Heather Brunner hugged him. He recalled it with a smile.

It is a leadership style he aims to replicate in Limerick. “You don’t really see office doors with names and titles written on them. We’re not that kind of business. There are hierarchies in the organization, but we manage it as a flat organization. Everyone’s just part of one big team.”

He loves seeing people smile when they walk into the building, because that’s not always the case with people walking into offices. “Even when you arrive, you get into an interesting environment. It’s not your corporate reception area… there’s usually something quirky about it. For example, in Limerick we have a moss wall and the reception is almost like A coffee shop area. Passers-by might guess it’s a boutique hotel.”

Ryan is glad the team didn’t separate the engineers from the tech support team as originally planned. He often hears engineers talking to support staff about the project for the building’s common areas, and he thinks it’s definitely a positive development for everyone.

WP Engine isn’t the only company making forays into Limerick. Legato Health Technologies is a new addition to the city, celebrating its first year in Limerick this November. The company, a subsidiary of US-based Elevance Health, specializes in software for the insurance and insurance industries.

Legato’s R&D center has been operating at the Limerick Technology Park since late 2021, and the company announced a series of recruitment campaigns last year and this year to build up its team there.

Legato’s recent hiring announcement says the company aims to have 200 employees by summer 2023.

According to John Shaw, Legato Ireland’s country head, the company had originally planned to employ 60 people in Ireland and now has 136.

When the company president visits Limerick to celebrate the first anniversary, he will meet Irish staff at the office for a number of networking events. It will be a celebration of Legato employees and the products they work on, which Shaw says is ultimately about improving lives.

People chat at desks in Legato Limerick's office.

Legato, Limerick. Image: Arthur Ellis.

Like many companies these days, Legato doesn’t force its employees into the office except for special occasions. Most of the time, employees have the option to work remotely or in the office. Trust, optimism and purpose are all important values ​​at Legato, Shaw said. He said he would prefer to treat employees like adults.

“We talk about measuring results, not attendance. Our result: it’s software product delivery. That’s what it’s about. You’re not at your desk at 8:30 this morning,” he said.

“You assume that the people we have are smart, professional, and want to give a good day’s work. You start with that assumption, you act like that’s true, and it flows from there.”

Given that Legato is a company that develops software designed to help insurance companies predict medical outcomes, is employee health important to Legato, too?

Shaw said all employees benefit from Ibec’s benefits package, which Legato is following. The program involves things like live shiatsu massages every Tuesday and guided meditations every Friday.

Best of all, crews can close early on Fridays. “Our work week ends on a Friday at 4pm. You have to allow people to get it done on Friday, or they have a mind contest all weekend, right? We’re well aware of the need.”

Unlike WP Engine’s site lead Ryan, Shaw is not a local who moved to Limerick from Leinster. But he has accepted everything in Limerick. Legato participates in community and sports outreach programs and works to repatriate the remains of Patrick Sarsfield, a prominent figure in the city’s history.

As for Ryan, he admits he may be biased, being a Limerickman, but believes WP Engine’s success in Ireland is down to its location and local talent. “We found that we could find people with a similar mindset to the WP Engine culture.

“I would of course be there to promote Limerick in Ireland as a business location – even within our company – as much as anything else to keep these teams moving in our direction.”

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