Q&A WITH OUR STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP TEAM
15 March 2023
The Digital Isle of Man Strategic Partnership Team was created in 2019 with a core focus of improving relationships with industry, facilitating and tackling barriers to business growth while attracting new businesses to the Isle of Man.
The team also plays an instrumental role in enabling job growth on island by supporting tech businesses across the different sectors to fulfil the demand for skilled workers in-line with their plans. The Strategic Partnership Team supported the creation of over 268 new roles in digital businesses in the Island in 2022.
No two days are the same, to find out more we caught up with the Strategic Partnership Team to hear about their roles, what attracted them to Digital Isle of Man and what a typical day looks like.
Abby Kimber (Head of Strategic Partnerships): Let me start by explaining the thought process behind creating this team and how we differ from just core business development. While our previous business model was largely based upon attracting and bringing new businesses to the Isle of Man, we felt there was a gap in supporting organic growth within those businesses and sectors that already call the Island home. We sought to establish an environment of continuous feedback and improvement by engaging with industry to understand their needs and pain-points. Additionally, we collaborate with businesses and wider Government to create solutions which enhance the value proposition of the Isle of Man and support business growth. To achieve this, we created the Strategic Partnership Team and I am proud to say that I have helped to create and embed this way of working from its inception.
The best part of this role is the diversity it brings. We nurture relationships, problem solve and act as an intermediary between industry and government. We promote the Island as a great place for digital businesses and generate new leads for those looking to licence here and relocate in full or part. There’s always opportunities to get stuck in and learn something new and to work on important initiatives that benefit the Island as a whole.
Looking ahead, the growth of our existing business base will continue to be a key focus for us. We hope to support the creation of over 300 new jobs in digital industries in 2023, with the Strategic Partnership Team working to remove friction around growth of the workforce, and to attract new and exciting businesses to make their home here.
Now, I’ll leave it to Nathan, Chris and Tara to explain a bit more about what brought them to this role, what surprises them about it and how they feel they have made a difference during their time with Digital Isle of Man.
WHAT INTERESTED YOU MOST ABOUT WORKING FOR DIGITAL ISLE OF MAN?
Chris Reilly: What interested me most about working for Digital Isle of Man was the exciting industries that we work with; everything from the established eGaming and Telecoms sectors to the emerging Blockchain, Crypto & Esports spaces, it’s a really exciting time to be involved and we are working with some really interesting projects.
Nathan Lunt: I was most interested by the opportunity of working across a range of sectors – recognising that the digital ecosystem was not only growing at a rapid pace, but also that the Island is home to some really innovative and pioneering technology which has the potential to shape the future of how we all do business in the future both here and globally. I also found the prospect of being able to promote the Island as a place to live, work and do business internationally exciting. I relocated myself back in 2014 and haven’t looked back since.
Tara Leneghan: As the fastest-growing sector in the Island, I was most excited at the prospect of being at the forefront of supporting the digital sector - working closely with the industries to understand their pain points and working collaboratively on solutions to ultimately drive them forwards.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT THE ROLE WHEN YOU STARTED?
Chris: I wouldn’t say it has surprised me, as I expected the learning curve to be steep when I came in but there is a lot to learn. I actually see that as a great opportunity for me to grow as an individual. If anything, it sometimes surprises me just how much I have learned in a relatively short space of time. I also think there is a perception of government that isn’t necessarily accurate, having come from fast-paced environments in the private sector, I can tell you that Digital Isle of Man is every bit as dynamic.
Tara: I knew the role would be a steep learning curve, but I’m surprised at just how much I’ve learnt and the amount of people I’ve met in such a short time. We work across a variety of sectors within digital – from mature industries such as eGaming and Telecoms to more emerging sectors like Esports, Fintech and Blockchain.
Nathan: I was surprised by several aspects, but having worked in fast-paced environments in the private sector, I was mainly surprised by how dynamic Digital Isle of Man is. I was also surprised how often as a team we look across the whole picture of the digital economy and have the opportunity to influence policy development and in some cases legislation, which goes a long way to make the Island a better place for businesses to operate.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE IN YOUR ROLE?
Chris: A typical day would involve any number of things; it might be helping an existing business on-Island navigate processes like immigration when relocating their staff. It might be talking a start-up through their options for support and funding, it could also be an initial meeting with a new blockchain project looking at the Isle of Man as a potential place to set up or it might be helping to organise and deliver an event like Digital Isle. I’d say the role is really varied and relies on me drawing on a range of different skills and experiences on any given day.
Nathan: It can be anything from account meetings with on-island businesses, working through areas in which we can support their growth and creating action plans to feed into their goals. Almost daily, we are speaking to people who are considering the Isle of Man as a new home for their businesses and working through a transition plan to ensure their smooth landing on the Island. Each day is truly different and we often have to pivot quickly to manage priorities as they emerge.
Tara: A typical day would usually involve meeting a variety of businesses to see where we can support and assist them to grow and thrive on island. This support can range from well-established businesses looking to relocate their staff members to the island or guiding start-ups in navigating the island’s business community.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT WHAT YOU DO?
Chris: The thing I enjoy most is the people I meet and the relationships that I’m building. I’m working with everyone from well-established businesses on Island to small start-ups that need help in getting off the ground. That brings with it all sorts of different people, with different challenges they’re looking to overcome, and no two conversations are the same. It’s also really satisfying to see the help that you provide yield real results as businesses either relocate here or grow.
Tara: I think it’s the problem-solving and variety that I love the most about the role – this could be assisting a company with locating new office premises and navigating funding support for them, or assisting a new blockchain project get set up and off the ground.
The calibre of people I’ve met in the industry so far has been impressive – there are some very intelligent and knowledgeable people working in the space. I am really enjoying building these relationships and having the opportunity to learn from industry experts in the field along the way.
Nathan: For me, I love meeting and building relationships with people. From well-established businesses to businesses of all sizes looking to relocate here – I support businesses to relocate anything from 1 member of staff to 250 of their team here! There are so many ways that as a team we add value and support their journey. It’s a really rewarding position. I enjoy meeting people with an interest in relocating to the Island because I am so passionate about my home, it’s a fantastic place to live and I love sharing my experience with others.
WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE MADE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO A BUSINESS?
Chris: An example of where I have made a difference to a business is when I helped a new blockchain business set up on the Island. The initial enquiry came to me and they were unsure about whether the UK or the Isle of Man was the best place for them. I helped guide them through the various processes, initiating introductions to the people they needed to make the right decisions and providing them all of the relevant information. They’ve now incorporated in the Isle of Man, are growing their team and are set to land some large contracts! This was extremely satisfying for me given that I’d only been in the role a short time!
Nathan: Being a central point of contact into government and therefore being able to quickly reach out to the right people and assist businesses with challenges they are experiencing or questions they may have, and making it easier to resolve, is a stand out example for me.
Tara: This isn’t specific to one company but one of the major barriers for tech businesses we often hear about (and it’s a global issue) is the availability of digitally skilled workers. I think for me, collaborating with industry to deliver events such as STEMFest and partnering with local businesses and charities to support their delivery of digital education benefits the industry as a whole. Seeing our young people keen and excited to enhance their digital skills and discussing the array of careers they could have in the field is very rewarding.