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Published in Lunch with CNI on 15/07/2020

Lunch with Garry Connolly Host in Ireland

#Hostinireland #lunchwithCNI

CNI Editor reports

Garry Connolly is the President & Founder of Host in Ireland, a strategic global initiative created to increase awareness of the benefits of hosting data in Ireland.

A Stubborn Digital Optimist with a Degree in Common Sense, Global Keynote Speaker and connector of people with challenges to the people with solutions.

If he had to choose one place in the world where he is happiest, it would be Enniskerry in Co. Wicklow, surrounded by his wife and daughters, strumming some chords on his Epiphone guitar.

How do you start your day?

Well, I’d like to say that I get up at 6am every day go for a long jog, meditate and do yoga, but the reality is, I wake up, and the first thing I always do is check on my three girls including my wife.

I then go downstairs to check on my fourth girl Margo, the cockapoo! The dog & I usually have a cup of coffee. That’s our quiet time in the morning, before the day kicks off.

Are you from a large or small family?

I guess by today’s standard it will be huge, but back then it was just very normal, five children.

I am the youngest, and the oldest is 15 or so years older than I am and I have one brother and three sisters.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I hope I’m not grown up just yet! I wanted to be a PE teacher more than anything. Unfortunately, I didn’t do so well in Irish in my Leaving Cert and in those days if you didn’t have Irish you couldn’t be a teacher of any type, never mind physical education.

Where were you educated?

There are a number of answers to that. For my formal secondary education was in Ballinteer Community School and loved every second of it,  in the late 1970s community schools where new, great sports facilities, young teachers and a real spread of people from a broad number of socio-economic backgrounds.

I went to college in Bolton Street and I also went to Rathmines College of Commerce where I became a bad (one of the worst!) computer programmer.

In the broader sense I feel that most of the stuff I learned was outside of the formal educational structure and I am still learning today.

Have you ever had a mentor?

So many. In school I had a great English teacher, Mr Higgins, and he just was just fantastic and gave us a real appreciation of the broader scope of what the poems and novels we were reading on our syllabus meant.

He also was a brilliant table tennis player which really helped and was probably a large part of the reason I liked him and paid attention in his class!

In my first job, Peter Comerford was my first professional mentor and Peter was your quintessential fantastic sales guy and tutored me on the WHY and psychology of selling more than anything.

His philosophy was that “it’s all about people, so get out and meet as many people as possible”. Also “don’t worry, you won’t remember anything you’re worrying about today when you’re on your death bed.” A terrific person and a great mentor.

How physically fit are you?

I probably could do better, but I am not doing too badly.

What is more important ambition, or talent?

This is a great question because in a different era I probably would have said talent. Now I have come to realise that ambition, or application, is probably a better answer for where the world is now.

If you have a little talent and a lot of ambition and you really apply yourself, you have the potential to fulfil so much . You can nearly always surround yourself with talent to achieve your collective goals.

If you are talented and you lack ambition, I feel it is unlikely you will fulfil your full potential. Ambition coupled with application is key.

Where in the world are you happiest?

Anywhere where my family are happy, I’m happiest. If I had to name a place, I would say Enniskerry in Co. Wicklow or on holidays, but I am most content when I see my family healthy and happy, wherever that might be.

What would you like to own that you currently don’t?

I wanted a Epiphone guitar forever – Elvis Presley’s favourite – and recently I finally bought one. I can nearly play four chords all in a row! There’s not a lot else that I want that I don’t have.

What drives you?

Collaboration drives me. Every time we have a change there’s always opportunities and risks, and identifying the right people to solve some of these challenges drives me.

It’s also not just finding the right people, though. It is the right people with the right mindset to do the right things in the right order.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I think I’d like to be remembered for being effective, but also being someone who was good craic to work with. I find that a lot of people take themselves way too seriously – they think they have to be serious to be effective.

What trait do you find most irritating in people?

Inflated Ego. There’s a certain amount of ego, drive, ambition necessary to fulfil your potential, but ultimately there are people who are so egotistical that they can’t see they are only a part of the solution.

Ego usually runs adverse to teamwork & collaboration and it often can distract people and hold them or others back.

What would 18 year old Garry think of who you are now?

I think he’d probably be happy and impressed with the road he’d travelled, that he’s been consistent, and hasn’t had to change.

What is the biggest challenge facing the industry now?

Specifically, for the data industry in Ireland and internationally, it’s a lack of awareness of the actual industry itself.

A lot of people just see data centres as a “thing” but it’s much more than that. The data that’s inside a data centre is driving innovation that can facilitate change. Many people don’t realise it’s actually an economic and  job multiplier.

Netflix, Revolut, Zoom, all of the tools and services that helped us get through the pandemic with some sense of normality, are facilitated by data centres.

The greatest challenge that we have is communicating to people the magic of these centres, the job and economic multipliers associated with them – doing that effectively continues to be a challenge.