Keep Ahead in the Cloud

Over the course of her career, Niamh O’Byrne (BA ’91) has come to know the value of travelling. Visiting countries as diverse as China, Japan, Brazil and Canada, she explains “each travel experience provided me with a new idea of how I can approach and solve different challenges in my job”.

Now living in New York, where she is Global Head of Certification at Amazon Web Services, Niamh says working in IT is exciting, especially “in the Cloud space”.

Growing up in Galway, Niamh was interested in taking European Studies. “In 1987, University of Limerick was the only Irish third level institution offering a degree in European Studies.”

After a summer spent in London, Niamh rented a room from a family in Elm Park, close to UL. “In the next room there was another girl, Michele, from Galway,” she remembers. “Today, Dr Michele O’Dwyer is Associate Dean at UL’s Kemmy Business School.”

In her second year, Niamh and her classmate, Helen Murphy, who is now head of the Education Department at Waterford Institute of Technology, rented a mobile home off the old Golf Links Road. Niamh recalls fondly, “that was such a fun time for me and Helen”.

Lit and Phil Society meetings and debates were the highlight of Niamh’s weeks. “The ones who kept me on my toes with their wild and passionate discussions were Donal Waide, now director of sales at BitFlow, Neville Bourke, HR director at Bank of Ireland and Brian O’Farrell”.

“My strongest memories of UL are the history lectures by Professor Brian Faloon and the challenge of finding a quiet place to study during the dreaded week 10 of every term, just before exams!”

Niamh also recalls her student days as a time when “no one had a laptop, so we all shared the computer lab. No one had mobile phones, so if you wanted to meet someone, you knew to go to the Stables and if you waited around long enough, they would eventually come in to have a drink or a coffee”.

Following graduation, Niamh moved to Boston after her father had seen an advertisement for US lottery visas and encouraged her to apply. Her first job was with a computer software company, Allaire Corp, which was purchased by Macromedia (now Adobe). She next joined PTC and then Pegasystems. She led the IT certification programme at each of these companies.

Niamh reveals, “many people ask me how I ended up in my field and the truth of the matter is that I did not choose the field, it seems to have chosen me. Early in my career, I was recruited by Steve Curtin, who saw something in me. At Allaire, I shadowed Steve for a year – it was almost like an apprenticeship – and he taught me everything he knew. I honestly believe if Steve had not taken that chance on me, I don’t think that I would be where I am today”.

Moving to New York, Niamh took some time away from the workplace following the birth of her daughter, Siobhan, in 2005. In 2008 she joined Motorola and a year later, her son Cillian was born. It was a particularly challenging time “juggling a three year- old, a newborn and a job in IT”.

In 2012, Niamh joined Amazon Web Services to build a new certification programme.

“The purpose of a certification programme is to validate a person’s knowledge of their job,” she explains. “I’ve been fortunate in my IT career. I’ve been able to maintain a less formal approach to work and have also discovered that my outgoing personality and my Lit & Phil debating skills have come in very handy,” she concludes.