CLAIRE CONNEELY: Education Programme Manager, Google Ireland
Former teacher Claire Conneely was halfway through a PhD when she joined Google Ireland in Dublin in September 2014 as its education programme manager.
But rather than abandon her studies, she was encouraged to complete the PhD by a company that continues to motivate her in fulfilling her goals — including educating the next generation.
As someone who is passionate about education, Ms Conneely says she landed her dream job in 2014, which has seen her maximising Google’s impact in the area of computer science education in Ireland, elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“We focus on promoting access to technology learning opportunities for students and young people in primary and secondary school level,” she says. “It’s all about teaching young people how to think, how to create, how to solve problems. It’s about teaching them to be active creators with technology.”
In 2003, Google opened a small Ireland office with a handful of employees in Dublin. Today, as its Europe, Middle East and Africa HQ, it has a workforce of over 9,000 in Dublin from over 100 nations — with people such as Ms Conneely leading the charge.
Being part of a global company means she has the opportunity to build partnerships with education initiatives, deliver computer science and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programmes and implement strategies to help influence educational policy.
“It’s the kind of place if you have an idea, we have the autonomy and support to make it happen,” Ms Conneely says.
Her role is constantly evolving, and earlier this year she helped to launch a new education task force when Google Ireland partnered with six primary and post-primary schools in Ringsend and the surrounding community.
The idea behind it is something she feels is vitally important — a need to address the challenges of transitioning to digital learning necessitated by Covid-19.
The creation of pilot projects is supporting digital skills development for students, parents and teachers while helping to protect students’ digital well-being.
“Getting to work in this area means a huge amount to me,” Ms Conneely says. “Education is something I have always been passionate about — to make a difference in the life of a young person. Our work is around making sure that the task force represents everyone and I have a special interest in getting more girls into computer science and technology because we need to have more females in the tech workforce and also minority groups.”
Developing teaching methodologies that will equip young people with the skills they need to learn, work and live in the challenging world of the 21st century is something that is a “high priority” at Google.
Google Ireland’s Barrow Street base has become part of a thriving digital quarter, with the Google office aiming to create a “stimulating and interactive environment for employees”.
It now serves as a hub for dozens of functions and teams supporting Google’s global operations.
“The building has wonderful facilities — from the cafes to the way the meeting rooms are designed — and now it is catering for the new hybrid model with new team pods for collaborative working,” Ms Conneely says.
“There is a really special vibe in the Dublin office. When you walk into the office there are smiles and there is a desire to help one another. There is a great energy about the place.”
With well-being days introduced — essentially bonus holidays every quarter — Ms Conneely says she feels able to balance being a parent to three children alongside work and life.
“Google has given us so much flexibility — not just for families but for those who have carer responsibilities. They allow you, no matter where your comfort level is, to return to the office to be supported.
“I started out as a teacher and now I get to work with organisations to help increase technology and computer science in schools. I believe technology can be a force for good, and I get to apply that to my job every day. I feel incredibly lucky.”