I’m here in conversation with Andy McManagan, who worked in the RDI hub for two years starting as an intern in January 2021 and working his way up to becoming the RDI hub Community & Members manager. He is leaving Kerry for a new role in Cork in January and I ask him to talk me through his time in the hub.
‘In the run up to to joining the RDI hub, I was completing a Bachelor of Business in Marketing Honours Degree in MTU, and that was fantastic. It was a four year course and I was introduced to all different elements of marketing from digital marketing, PR and business law and ethics – all the different avenues in marketing. I knew that when I would be coming out of college that there would be many different options available which I was excited about.’
When I ask how he heard about the role in first place he replies;
‘I was introduced to the RDI hub in my third year of college, when I was seeking industry placement. That’s when heard about the role through MTU, it was advertised by one of our placement officers and even though to be honest I wasn’t really that familiar with the tech landscape, and didn’t really know all that happened in a hub, I loved that it was innovation-driven and entrepreneurial and so different. The more I found out about it (through Linkedin and the website) it seemed right up my street, I caught the bug!’
I ask him to tell me what a typical day in in the RDI hub looked like for him at the start and he laughs.
‘This was my first time working at industry level so it seemed almost overwhelming, as before that it was always just delis and making sandwiches! It was so different going into a role that required quite a lot of creativity! It was great, it allowed me to apply what I learned in college in the real world, which makes all the difference.
When I joined there was a team of only five of us and that meant that I had to wear many hats. One day I could be doing graphic design whilst the next day I could be recording videos or doing video editing. There was just everything in between, including social media posts, different calls with members and in general just getting a feel for everything marketing-oriented in the RDI.
It was good because I suppose when you join as an intern, you’re given that space to play around with different roles and kind of feel out where your passions lie in the workplace. I definitely had that opportunity – and of course then I was being managed by Reidin O’ Connor which was absolutely fantastic. She was my manager but she was also my mentor, she always kept it real with me which is very necessary and it got me warmed up to the place quite nicely!’
I ask Andy about how his role progressed as time went on, about how he become exposed to other projects and ask him to tell me more about these…
‘I’d say probably one of my proudest projects would have been the mentoring program which I organized. In the very beginning with Reidin, we identified a need for direct one-to-one supports between the founders who we engage with, and the experts who we build relationships with.
We just had a short list of different mentors at the time and we set up one-to-one sessions using Microsoft Excel. So very much just the basics. I was doing it all manually, and I’d be spending hours and hours a day on Outlook, sending manual email system these one-to-one sessions. So as time went on, I knew that it wouldn’t be a scalable process, but it was always something that I was ambitious to grow. So what I did was I designed a system which essentially made it so that it was mostly automated and that it was a scalable process. So as the months went on, and there were monthly mentoring sessions after each month, I was constantly making improvements to the point where I built a platform that with a few clicks, you could set up maybe 20 or 30 different one to one sessions.
It’s something that I was given complete freedom over as the months went on. I was shown great trust in that the platform I was building was good for the hub, which was great to hear because it felt like I could get a bit more creative with this, so I was really confident with the platform and it really worked out well.
Another passion project would have been the Founders Circle (a monthly tech founder networking event in partnership with Scale Ireland.) This was something that I supported for quite a number of months with Reidin leading the project. However as I progressed into the community and members management role I took on the lead on this which was something I really enjoyed.
What this event is, is just real down to earth advice that will help founders on their startup journey. Some of the topics we covered would have been Sales, low-code solutions for founders, startup storytelling, scaling your business and more. That really honed my skills on event management and event promotion, so I would have been involved in all avenues of creating Founders Circle events and making it making them the best they could be.
One thing I wanted to do in my Community and Members Manager role was make sure that I was really engaging with our members, because we had members from all different countries, and some of them only dial in virtually. I wanted to connect with all of them in the one place and I started running what’s called the Growth Sessions.
This was set up as an informal weekly chat session where members could meet up, share their news, and maybe discuss where they are along their founder journey. That’s something we realized is that often as founders progress along their journey, they have a willingness and a desire to give back. So with this in mind, I thought it made sense to get some of our more experienced members in with some of our newer members to sort of share their knowledge and see where we can support each other as a community. So what was great about this as well is that it kind of made people who had virtual membership feel well connected with the RDI team and the RDI community in general.’
I ask about his experience working with the NDRC programmes and inquire which was his favourite…
‘Hmm, I’d say my favorite NDRC project to work on was probably helping support the NDRC pre-Accelerator program. This was a six week program with workshops on every Tuesday nights and then sort of check-in sessions every Thursday. So two touch points a week for six weeks with a group of maybe 20 or so different tech founders. It was terrific working with Maeve Lyons, who’s on the RDI hub team delivering the NDRC program. It was amazing working with these startups for so many weeks, because I got to build up relationships with all of them and really get an understanding of what they were building out. It added a fresh perspective into some of the products coming onto the start-up landscape, seeing a brand new fresh set of founders in the program was it was a great experience and it was really, really informative. When you see their growth from week one to week six, it really gives purpose to the job as a whole because it shows really, that the programme is effective, and it shows that what we’re doing is creating impact and creating impact? That’s what it all comes back to.’
Key learning from the past two years?
‘I’d say my biggest lesson was probably one that a lot of people would experience when they actually go into the tech landscape, it’s that growth is not always completely linear, or it’s not always as straight forward as it seems. When you’re looking at new tech companies, you often see their successes, but you don’t often see their setbacks. I got to see the reality around entrepreneurship and developing startups in the tech landscape. Because, you know, rather than it being a straight line, it can go up and down and you have your wins and your losses, but ultimately, you get your learnings from it, and that makes all the difference. You’re always learning.’
Favourite part about working in the hub?
‘I think what made this such a great experience was that from my desk, if I turned my head left, I’d be talking to a founder, developing software in the robotics industry, whereas if I turned my head right, I’d be talking to a logistics company, managing thousands of line items transporting equipment for a huge American Football League match happening in Ireland. And that was only two desks out of 70, it was just such a diverse background! Often if I ever felt an energy slump, I could simply do a lap of the building and, and I’d have four or five conversations under my belt and each one would be as engaging as last which was always brilliant.’
So Andy, you’re leaving us for pastures new. What’s next on the horizon for you?
‘Well I’ve made the decision to move back to Cork (where I‘m from) and I’ve secured a position with an Irish charity that specialises in not-for-profit board recruitment. It feels like a natural progression from the work I’ve done here and I’m ready for the next step in my career.
Going into any job, the most important part is having a team you can trust, a team who can lift you up and people who you can do the same for as well. Finding a place that you can call your home even if it’s your ‘work-home’ makes all the difference and it’s something I experienced in the RDI hub and it’s set the bar very high for my next role.
I had a great experience here and I got to learn from everyone on the team. Everyone supported me when I needed help as well and it was incredible working with the likes of Liam Cronin and the people who are so well connected in the tech industry and all the mentors I’ve worked with, the founders I have engaged with, the different hubs who have helped me along the way.
There’s a truly connected ecosystem in the tech sphere in Ireland and that’s something that I really got to throw myself into with open arms and, and luckily, I was supported by pretty much everyone I spoke to. So it’s really it’s a community that goes beyond the scope of RDI, there’s just countless different companies I’ve been able to work with who have really sort of given me a deep, deep perspective on tech and how it’s shaping our future.’
I tell Andy that he has been an absolute pleasure to work with and that we wish him all the very best in his new role.
In conversation with Kerry Mac Connell