Paul Hill, Dailypay: 'Belfast has been very influential in leading the way within the company'

  • Photo: John Hill, Dailypay

    Paul Hill, Site Lead at Dailypay, on the attractions of Northern Ireland; the importance of diversity; and how they created the all-important ‘one company, one team’ company culture at Dailypay.

    Read our Q&A with Paul below to read all of his fascinating insights.

    Sync NI: What are the key attractions of Northern Ireland and Belfast in particular as a location for establishing a business?

    Paul Hill: Primarily from a technology perspective, I had already researched a number of locations when I set up my first FDI business here in 2017. For me I discovered a great balance of very high-quality engineers at a reasonable cost.

    In 2021 when I had an opportunity to work for Dailypay and to grow their engineering department, for me Belfast was an obvious choice. The talent pipeline from Queen’s and Ulster Universities was exceptional and the emphasis on nurturing the adoption of STEM at an early age was also very important to me. Initiatives to bring the kids into STEM at 11 and 12, and even younger in some cases, is crucial. My daughter was 10 when she started getting interested in technology and I was 14 when I started writing code, so this environment was obviously very attractive to me.

    Sync NI: How does Northern Ireland compare to other countries you currently have offices in, and does Belfast stand out for anything in particular?

    Paul Hill: DailyPay has office locations in the United States and Northern Ireland and R&D is a leading driver for the company in terms of successful product and service delivery and generating revenue. Dailypay’s first entirely new product after ‘earned wage access’ was built here in Belfast and we recently released a major update to this application with teams both in the US and Belfast, and a lot of the drive and work came out of the Belfast office to make that happen.

    Belfast has in many different aspects been very influential in leading the way within the company. Outside of R&D and engineering the head of our HR Business Partners is located in Belfast. He did such a great job in that role here his scope has grown consistently and considerably. In fact, across the board all of our leaders and managers here have seen their responsibility grow within the business so it’s not just a Belfast office, it’s a truly global team. This has also been the case outside of software engineering and our operations and payment operations teams have all had a significant impact on the business. For example, the cost of operations has decreased by more than 50 per cent over the course of the last couple of year. A lot of that was driven based on the capabilities of our operations teams here in Belfast.

    Sync NI: When working across multiple locations, with different time zones, how do you build team morale and that all-important company ethos?

    Paul Hill: It's obviously a challenge but for me one of the main things is doing the same things in both locations as much as is possible. We've tried to be as equitable as possible across both locations so the benefits here match almost exactly to the US. Everything is very comparable and as a result that has helped create our ‘one company, one team’ culture. It is obviously difficult with the time zones so both sides of the ocean must be a bit more flexible on when they meet.

    Our mornings here in Belfast tend to be a great time to focus and then our afternoons are extremely busy interacting and collaborating with our partners in the US where we have people living across every time zone and little overlap so we adjust our schedules to align as much as best we can.

    Sync NI: As a business, what strategies are crucial in attracting and also retaining top level talent?

    Paul Hill: For me it's a matter of personal growth potential and the ability to grow within this company versus what you might be able to find someplace else. Tactical things such as salary and benefits have to be there, and these are what I would call table stakes and we have to be competitive. I never want to lose a candidate for pay and I don't want that to ever be the final determining factor if at all possible so for me, it's about the opportunity.

    When I'm talking to candidates that are trying to make a decision to go here, there or stay where they are I don't generally talk about pay or benefits, I talk about growth potential. It’s all about the growth potential of the company and the growth potential of the individuals within the company.

    It’s about understanding and exploring what individuals want in the future whether that’s to be a principal engineer, a people manager and then making sure they clearly understand they have that opportunity. That's across the board, not just engineering where we have seen tremendous movement across departments as well as significant promotions within operations on a global basis.

    READ MORE: 'Having low numbers of females in STEM is a repetitive cycle that needs to be dealt with'

    Sync NI: How do you ensure diversity and inclusion in the workplace as well as embracing different cultures?

    Paul Hill: At DailyPay, one of our core values is “we win with diversity.” Attention to detail is critical to ensure a diverse and inclusive workforce. When we're looking at candidates, we look for skills, what classes they took, have they shown regular growth in skills, and so on. Those are the most important factors for me, not gender, colour, or other diverse characteristics. However, we still must pay attention on a regular basis.

    If I'm getting ready to make an offer, I need to ensure I’m being fair and whether the skills at that level justifies that pay. If a man is making more than a woman, it has to be clear that the skills are the factor that justify that versus anything having to do with gender. If we don't pay attention, that's when things get missed. I've got a great HR partner that also pays very close attention to things like that to ensure we have fairness and provide equal opportunity for everyone.

    Sync NI: Have there been any specific examples of positive experiences from establishing a business in Belfast that you have been able to implement in other locations?

    Paul Hill: We’ve had success in hiring here in Belfast, by fostering a strong and diverse workforce that can drive innovation and growth.

    The company's Early Careers programmes offer year-long student placements and graduate opportunities across multiple fields. Through these partnerships, we offer students and graduates the opportunity to gain valuable work experience

    and develop their skills in a real-world environment and build a strong talent pipeline for us.

    Additionally, our partnerships with local universities, such as Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, have been instrumental in helping us hire talented individuals.

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    Sync NI: How does the quality of the talent pool compare to other office locations. How would you like to see that evolve in the coming years?

    Paul Hill: I think the talent is comparable however in terms of the evolutionary aspect I have a hypothesis and hopefully no one gets offended by this weird sort of thought.

    If you think about where the internet, networking and telephones were invented and established along with the computer side of things, for the most part it was in the US. When you consider where all the massive landlines and copper wire laid compared to the emerging technology companies of today. The emerging companies have all the new tech like fibre optics, Wi Fi and cell phones, they never had a landline and that’s all they’ve ever known.

    So for me as computer science was developing and becoming dominant in the US, Northern Ireland and other countries in Europe were able to learn from the mistakes that were made as the software engineering sector was building and developing into an industry in its own right.

    Every engineer who has had experiences with FDI’s here will recognise this as it has happened on so many occasions in the past. It was often the case that whenever a new FDI decided to move or create an office in Belfast there was a tendency to move their ‘problem child’ here where they wanted to rebuild, refactor, rewrite or whatever. It was like, ‘Okay, you guys deal with this problem while we go build this other thing.’ The engineers would start to encounter all these problems and think to themselves that this is horrible or scary and collectively conclude, ‘Okay, how do we not do this!’

    So instead of continuing to take that sort of chaotic approach to software engineering they improved on it and adopted a test-first approach; customer-first approach; user experience first approach. It’s all perfectly logical now but those concepts are emerging in the US now after 20 plus years of history of not caring about that. While that momentum is changing in the US. I think from my perspective that this engineering mindset was already ingrained here and Northern Ireland was able to adapt and change so much sooner that the US.

    In terms of evolution when I hire in the US I want to hire the same type of people with that mindset and continue evolving this approach in the US as well. I want to take how software is built here with a quality first mentality that might not be quite as prevalent in the US and wherever possible bring that from here to there where we can get the most benefit.

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