A strong female contingent leads the way at First Derivatives

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By: Jordan Hendricks

With offices around the globe and an exponentially expanding workforce, we’re proud to recognise some of the women that are making it all possible at First Derivatives. Today we are celebrating female leaders at FD. Meet four of the women that play a vital role in our success.

Victoria Shanks

When Victoria first came across an ad in the Belfast Telegraph for First Derivatives, she had no idea she was taking the first step in a long-term career in technology. Twenty years later, Victoria is still with the company, and has progressed from Office Manager to Executive Director and Global Head of Kx Services, and she has watched the company grow from 5 employees to over 2000.

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Coming from an engineering degree and an MBA, Victoria was well equipped to take on the challenges that come with a growing technology firm. She has spent time working as a Financial Engineer within various banking institutions and managed several global accounts. Working for a company that has clients in many different parts of the world, Victoria has had many opportunities to travel and meet new people.

Although most of the tech sector has a low female employee ratio, Victoria said that “FD has always identified really strong females. For example, when the company had less than 10 people on staff, the two females that were on that team are still with the company today. Clients often say to me that they are in awe that FD could find and hire so many females that excel in this business.”

As part of the leadership team, Victoria plays a vital role in FD’s strategy for the future and she is excited to see how Kx technology will develop beyond finance into other industries.

Catherine Harrison

As the population of employees across the globe continues to grow, Catherine has a busy and demanding role as the SVP of Human Resources and Training. Since joining in 2009, the company’s growth and success has been phenomenal; no two days are the same. With the number of employees now exceeding 2000, keeping everyone connected and feeling part of the FD family is one of the top priorities for Catherine and her team.

Catherine_HarrisonOriginally graduating from Queen’s University Belfast with a BSc Honours in Accounting and Finance, Catherine started her career as an accountant in audit, management consultancy and forensic accounting at PwC. Towards the end of 2008, she met Brian Conlon, who told her that he was looking to significantly grow FD and that he needed someone help drive the HR team. Whilst Catherine wasn’t an HR professional by training, her background in figures, consulting, managing clients, managing internal teams and managing upwards made her a perfect fit for the role.

Despite the number of awards FD has won, such as “Best Place to Work” (Glassdoor) and being one of The Times’ Top 100 Graduate Employers, she is most proud of the relationships and friendships she’s formed over the last decade she’s spent with the company – not only being able to watch employees develop their professional skills, but also personal milestones such as getting married and starting families. Having watched FD hire over 400 graduates in 2017 alone, Catherine is excited to see what the future holds for the FD family.

Naomh Rooney

Also celebrating 20 years with FD, Naomh now takes on a dual role – MIS Manager (Management of Information Systems), and more recently POC manager (Proof of Concept). In her career at FD Naomh has found many opportunities for growth, from writing software to working with clients and training engineers; to her current role where she develops and analyses systems for FD’s employees and management.

Naomh_RooneyNaomh studied civil engineering at Queen’s University Belfast, before she found herself switching over to a mathematics degree. She hadn’t expected to work for a technology company however she ended up following her mum’s advice and got a job in the finance sector, one of FD’s specialities, and joined the company on a 10-week placement. She was offered a job as a Financial Engineer just two weeks after she started.

That role took her all over the world, including Vienna, Paris and San Francisco. Having the opportunity to travel for work, and be part of a company that has had such tremendous growth, are among the most rewarding aspects of her career. When asked about her achievements, Naomh said “It’s impossible for me to highlight an individual achievement at FD because I am proud of all the chapters in my career. Travelling and working in fantastic cities as a Financial Engineer, settling back home as a Software Engineer, dabbling in HR, managing various projects and POCs, mentoring young graduates progressing through their careers and working with the CEO. You get back what you put in.”

FD has branched into a broad variety of industries and because of this Naomh is excited for the new opportunities that come along with it. From learning new programming languages to taking on different roles and projects; there are many diverse offerings and she’s excited to continue to evolve with the company.

Colette McMullan

Colette joined the team at First Derivatives in 2013 after working in various industries, from aviation to banking. With an academic background in law and accounting, she was the perfect fit to run the in-house legal department.

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Since joining, she has grown the legal department from just two people to a team of nine, which continues to grow. The team takes on much more complex challenges than it did a few years ago, and the team’s skillset has evolved as the company has evolved. “I’m really proud of the strong team we’ve built in-house; we work together to come up with innovative solutions and our lawyers are lucky to get to work on projects that are at the leading edge of big changes coming in the technology sector.”

Working for a global company doesn’t come without its challenges. Colette starts her day as soon as she’s out of bed, checking in with colleagues and clients in the Asia-Pacific region before they end their workday. In the office, she’ll catch up with the Northern Ireland team, and then check in with US colleagues when they come online in the afternoon. No day is ever the same, but they are always busy.

Colette continues to strengthen the team at the HQ in Newry and this extends to our offices and employees all over the world; she is looking forward to seeing how tech will change over the coming years and how some of the leading-edge projects FD is working on will drive change across various industries.

Be on the lookout for more about these women in the March edition of Ulster Business Magazine!