Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Rachel Steenson

  • Name: Rachel Steenson

    Role: Market Engagement Manager NI, Esri Ireland

    What does your typical day look like?

    What I love about my role is, there is no such thing as a typical day! I can be working with my Key Accounts one day, workshopping on how they can get even more value from our software and services. The next I can be meeting with potential new customers, talking about how we can apply our Location Technology or what we call “The Science of Where”.

    This helps our customers gain even more insight into their business, reduce costs and improve customer service. The next day might involve creating awareness of our Education & Life-Long Learning amongst schools & universities in Northern Ireland or even presenting at a conference to evanglise about the new exciting developments coming down the track.

    What are you currently working on?

    I’m never working on just one thing, but this week, I have been reviewing upcoming tender opportunities in Northern Ireland where our technology would fit. I am planning my calendar for January, arranging meetings with partners, customers and potential customers. I am working with the Head of Marketing to review upcoming conferences and events in Northern Ireland and I am talking to a number of local StartUps about how they could be building their solution on Esri’s ArcGIS Platform capabilities and join our Start Up or Developer Programs.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    It was not just one thing but a combination! I had used Esri’s technology for a good part of my career previous to joining and I knew how transformational the technology had become. Esri Inc is the market leader in GIS and spatial technology and this is definitely an inspiration.

    But probably the biggest inspiration was the philanthropic side of the company. The Schools Program is a worldwide program giving students (primary and post-primary) across the world access to our online platform to teach geography and STEM subjects. Just this year we launched the Northern Ireland arm and it was amazing to be in W5 on the 14th February to announce this, which equates to a £100million investment in the NI Education System.

    The vision of Esri Inc since 1969 has not changed. The vision is that using Geographic Information Systems can deliver positive change in business, government and the world at large and it’s a vision that we genuinely believe in. This ethos runs right through our organisational culture to our Esri President Jack Dangermond.

    Our capabilities are being used the world over to help when natural and man-made disasters strike, helping those on the ground see in real time where they need to be and what resources are needed. As a member of BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, I signed up to a Royal Charter that at its essence is about ensuring that IT is used for good not evil. Esri embodies that vision and lives and breathes it every day. That inspires me on a daily basis.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    No, believe it or not I wanted to own my own restaurant! So, my first degree was in Hospitality Management at University of Ulster. I then went to Queens to do a Masters in Computer Science and the first line of code (‘hello, world’) I wrote changed my whole outlook and career path. Then I started the database module and I really got excited!!

    After Queen’s I worked for the Equality Commission for 6 months as an admin temp. An experience which opened my eyes to the complexity of our world, but also gave me access to my next step. Part of my job was to read all the newspapers and cut out any articles that was related to the work of the Equality Commission, this also meant I got to see the job ads!! I saw an ad for a job at University College London for an Oracle Financials Developer and the rest they say is history!

    I should point out that my Hospitality Management degree, the skills and knowledge I learned during those 4 years have stood me in good stead as I work with customers to understand their needs, or when I have managed teams or budgets. And yes, when I need to open a bottle of wine at home or set a table!

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    The best part of my job is working with a wonderful team of men and women who are committed to finding solutions to our customers problems. There is an amazing camaraderie in Esri Ireland and across the Esri family worldwide, a willingness to help each other, to share knowledge, and to always ensure the customer comes first. That moment when you have all agreed on the solution and you present it to the customer and everyone in the room has the ‘light bulb’ moment is a real adrenaline rush!

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    Do it! It is such an amazing time to be part of the tech industry. There are so many exciting developments in the tech field especially here in Northern Ireland. The Start Up scene is exploding, just take a look at Kinsetsu, SustainIQ or B-Secur all brilliant companies with ground-breaking ideas.

    Here in Esri Ireland we are seeing a burst in the spatial data analytics arena. Organisations are realising how much they can improve their business by utilising their own data. Not just by simple data science but by bringing in the spatial dimension they are able to view their customers, suppliers, assets and teams in a whole new way, realising so many benefits.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Esri provides platforms and solutions for businesses that individuals like you and me have been using for years. How many of us, plan our routes using a sat nav or maps on our phones? Or use the ‘find my friend’ app to locate your other half, or where you last left your phone. These technologies are now available at a corporate/organisational level and Esri is working across the public, private and third sector to help them realise the same benefits.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    I would love to be able to give you the names of women in tech that I looked up to over 20 years ago when I made my decision to apply for the Masters In Computer Science, but the truth is back then I wasn’t really aware of any. However, throughout my career I have worked with some amazing women, like Dr Joanne Stuart, who I first met when she worked for Oracle and I worked for Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland or more recently Claire McBride the Managing Director of Olenick and Dr Rachel Gawley who is heading up New Ventures at PWC. Amazing women who like me haven’t travelled the ‘traditional route’, instead they have all tread their own path and forged impressive careers that inspire me every day.

    In terms of who gave me the confidence to try IT, it would have to be my mum, she always told me growing up that I could do anything I put my mind to, and I still have her voice in the back of my head to this day when a new challenge or experience presents itself to me and I’m not sure if I have the skills necessary to carry out what is required.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    Where to start?? I don’t think it’s any one tech innovation, I think it is a combination of how tech can be used to help the problems the world is facing right now. How can we use AI to ensure diversity and inclusion across the board? How do we combine multiple technologies like, IOT, digital mapping and machine learning to help fight global warming? How do we use our technologies to improve the lives of citizens, all citizens not just the ones that can afford it? I think the awakening of the IT sector to the Ethics of what we do is fundamental to ensuring that we are helping not hindering.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    It has to be my iphone, without it I would be lost. I do everything on it, banking, reading, communicating, spending too much time on Instagram, you know all the important things!


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