Tech Insider: Ronan Hughes, Saongroup

Ronan Hughes, Saongroup
Ronan Hughes, Saongroup



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21 February 2018 | 0


What does your company do?
I work for Saongroup and we are a leader in e-recruitment with websites in 12 countries across Africa, the Americas and Europe. We have sites in countries including South Africa, Mauritius, El Salvador, Panama, Mexico while here in Ireland we have, and

We help people find jobs that are right for them and, we help recruiters find candidates who are perfect for their vacancies. It sounds pretty straightforward but in reality the whole process in underpinned and driven by some pretty sophisticated tech, the bulk of which we have developed and built ourselves.

What is your role?
I am CTO with Saongroup, so I have responsibility for all technical aspects of operating our 20 brands.

My role is to contribute and support the senior business stakeholders in our websites across the world. I work with them to determine the business strategy and then to develop and drive a technical and product roadmap to support that strategy. I also track and act, using data analytics to monitor agreed KPIs (key performance indicators) that support and grow our company.

How long have you worked there?
I joined in September 2012 so have been here nearly five-and-a-half years. The IT department has expanded dramatically in my time here. When I started we had a team of about 20 technical personnel and now we are a team of 120.

We’ve assembled a tech team who are dedicated to building best in class products to help people find their new job quickly and easily and at the same time ensuring companies find talented candidates for their vacancies.

What attracted you to working there?
I was attracted by the diversity of the different markets and operating within diverse cultures. It means work is always interesting and engaging.

We are headquartered in Dublin and have expanded through organic growth and acquisition so there is a real entrepreneurial, ‘can do’ culture here which is underscored with firm commercial focus from our board.
It’s the perfect blend for me.

I have a strong technical background and good commercial knowledge gained from a time working in consultancy, so I’ve been able to combine my experience to contribute to this successful business.

Tell us about your average day?
I am responsible for our websites around the world, so I have regular weekly one-to-ones with all my directs in all the regions so a lot of my day will be filled with these sessions.

They give a good indication of where projects are at, what issues there are and, importantly, how our people and managers are being supported and coaching them in the issues and items they need to resolve and action. I travel to each region twice a year and take time to meet all our great staff and get their feedback and views.

The other cornerstones of my day are KPI analysis and monitoring. This drives the immediate actions we need to take.

Finally, hands-on review of current projects in progress takes up the rest of the working day. It keeps us all focused on the business benefits we will deliver.

What do you enjoy?
I enjoy the people aspect the most. I used to be a rugby coach and I liken the management of the team to good football coaching. Everyone has strengths and areas for improvement.

My role is to bring out the best in people, create and develop a passion for what they do and ensure they are supported and coached in all areas.

Getting the people aspect right goes a long way in helping the overall team meet its objectives and allows everyone to develop professionally and personally.

What are the challenges?
When you are working with team and stakeholders in different locations and different time zones the way we do then clear communication is essential. It’s something we manage successfully with a ticketing system for requests, defined task and project ownership and clear timelines for delivery.

Our business environment is constantly changing which keeps us all on our toes. I am always challenged to ensure that the team and individuals are flexible and dynamic to respond to those changes. I look for people with experience and a good skillset, but mindset is just as important to me.

I firmly believe that tech teams need to know the business context. People should understand why they are doing something as opposed to what they must do. Our tech team is embedded in the company and delivers solutions that propel us forward.

How do you structure your team?
We run four teams: product management, IT delivery, IT operations and data analytics. These operate across locations in South Africa, Central America and Ireland.

We locate staff in each region dependent on being aligned closely with the business, availability and where it makes commercial sense.

Our delivery is based on the Agile philosophy – however, we do set dates or the ability to ‘timebox’ our projects for teams to adhere to – we find this keeps everyone focused. Delivering real business fast and efficiently is key to our success

What makes your company exciting for a tech professional?
We really are at the heart of the business. We work closely with the stakeholders to understand their concerns and then develop and implement new technical solutions to address these needs.

Describe your work culture?
Our work culture is very simple, respect the individual. That is core to everything we do. All our processes and communication are built on respect.

We extend that outwards to always putting the interests of jobseekers first. We invest heavily in new technologies and features to help jobseekers find their ideal job, when we are working on new products we actively question all our actions to ensure what we are doing will benefit jobseekers.

What advice would you give to somebody interested in working with Saongroup?
If you want to work in a ‘can do ‘atmosphere, no politics, a very flat organisation where everyone is treated the same, listened to and respected for their opinions then this is the place for you.

We work with the very best technical and data analytics tools and operate industry best processes.

All our brands are leaders in their country, so we get a lot of ‘eyeballs’ from jobseekers looking at our products. Our staff will always talk about the buzz they get working on projects that ultimately positively impact and support our jobseekers’ behaviour.

Absolutely all of us have been jobseekers so you aren’t building products you can’t relate to. There is an immense satisfaction to be part of a team that is making job hunting easier and faster for people.

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