Rachel Gawley: Come and work for the 'good spuds' at Bloc Labs

  • Dr Rachel Gawley is taking on an exciting new role, heading up Bloc Labs, the newest innovation division of Bloc Blinds.

    The consumer technology spinout is focused on creating new products, customer experiences and business ventures within the Bloc family, all enabled by tech. 

    Based in Magherafelt, with offices in Belfast and The Netherlands, Bloc is 'taking global growth seriously by putting innovation and the consumer at its core'.

    To grow and scale Bloc’s international reach Rachel has come on board and is trailblazing yet again by creating an innovation lab based in Belfast.

    Rachel found out about Bloc a few years back when she was working at PwC, and said she has followed the firm ever since.

    “Cormac Diamond (Founder and Managing Director of Bloc) and I got on really well. Last year, whenever Covid hit, I remember saying to friends and family, if there's any company that's going to help with the Covid response, it's going to be Bloc.

    “And sure, enough, Cormac and team did do it! [Bloc even won a Catalyst NI Innovator Award last year for its pivot from manufacturing blinds to the design and production of face shields, a move that enabled it to bring all of its workforce back from furlough and employ a further 200 local staff.]

    “We’ve always kept in touch and I’ve visited them in Magherafelt to bounce ideas off each other every so often. These are good spuds, doing really great work."

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    Passion for Product

    Rachel’s last couple of roles were in consulting and client work for global brands, so she told Sync NI that coming to Bloc Labs is a ‘welcome return’ to her roots of product creation.

    She noted she is happiest when working with teams that are motivated to have a purpose around creating their own products.

    “Bloc do it for themselves, it’s their people, with their own process and products to create jobs, with a commitment to Northern Ireland. They’re growing the talent here, with the commitment to reinvest locally as well.”

    The tech groundbreaker emphasised her passion for the regional aspect of Bloc, with a focus on the local economy and providing jobs originally starting out in Mid Ulster.

    Dr Gawley is also a member of Matrix, the NI Science Industry Panel

    “There is something special about ‘homegrown’ and I think sometimes it does get overlooked,” she added.

    “The people who want to join that ride are purpose driven, they're the people who see the community, that sustainability is key and the bigger picture.”

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    Rachel firmly believes it’s the simple things that make a team tick and bring enthusiasm to your work: “It is what you do; are you having an impact? Do you enjoy it? Do you have the flexibility? Do you have a team of people that you trust?”

    She has short-term goals of raising awareness around Bloc and the innovation that attracted her to the organisation initially. 

    “Anyone who knows me knows that I would have waxed lyrical about Bloc. They’ve been my favourite growing, innovative company in NI.

    "It's not just about blinds or healthcare equipment, it’s about how they do things, the creativity, the agility and the fact we can have fun doing it.”

    Change leads to innovation

    Bloc’s founder, Cormac, is not avert to change himself. He diversified his machinery engineering business after the economic downturn in 2008 and realised an opportunity to design and manufacture high quality window blinds.

    The news of the spinout follows further global endorsement for Bloc who recently achieved the prestigious Red Dot Award for Product Design in recognition of its agile approach to innovation and problem solving and comes on the back of a Digital DNA marketing win this month.

    Cormac Diamond, Director of Bloc Blinds has inspired Rachel with his consistent "passion and positivity"

    Cormac’s dedication to innovation has driven others to push their own boundaries and continue to design products which are unique to the market, highlighted Rachel.

    “We know that growth is outlined in ecommerce. We know it's going to be on that experience, like if you’re buying something online, we want you to have the most delightful experience.

    “Labs are going to own all that next generation of experience.”

    Rather than figure out the legacy and sort of just inch things forward, Bloc have taken the decision to create Bloc Labs to shape the 'entire customer journey of the future'.

    The new busiess is hiring over the next few months, and with Rachel being the site lead, she is encouraging people from failed start-ups and wider tech ventures to get involved.

    “I find that interesting people come from failed start-ups, or start-ups that had to be parked or became passive income. They’ve had that hustle, but it's hard and then you take a more stable job. This is an opportunity for those people.”

    If you are considering applying for Bloc Labs, Rachel has one more question; “Are you up for the journey?”

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