High Flyers: Rachel's success 'down to balance of privilege and not having a safety net'

 Dr Rachel Gawley.

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Dr Rachel Gawley, site lead and chief technologist at Bloc Labs, the Magherafelt-based spin-out of the Bloc Group. It designs, tests, and develops the next generation of consumer technology products and experiences for global markets.

What was your first job?

At a young age I was packing and sending out ground rent letters. It was the part-time job of my older brother, who sub-contracted it out to me. That was an early lesson in business. As a student I had jobs as a butcher, bouncer and music store assistant. I then started my own online retail business before leaving university as it was more bang for buck. After graduation my first “real” job was as a research assistant in Ulster University.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a PhD from the Computer Science Department at QUB. I still use the core research skills developed in my daily work.

What do you attribute your success to?

A balance of privilege and not having a safety net. I’m white, living in a developed country with a great education and healthcare system growing up in a supportive family. That’s one of the best starts anyone in the world could have. Nevertheless, I didn’t have a family business, network, or money as a starting point. I had to make my own way as there was no other option or backup.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

Casual and always looking ahead. I am serious about the diligence of my work, and I am always doing something to move things forward, which might not match up with my informal style.

Who do you look up to in business?

Anyone who builds something with deeper connections to the wider world that is investing in the local economy, people, greater good beyond the profit.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I open doors, provide opportunities and the safe space to take a chance. It is up to the person to grab on with both hands and take it. The best thing I can provide is safety to try and Bloc Labs offers the scope to bring ideas to life.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

More focus on home-grown businesses scaling globally rather than the businesses coming into Northern Ireland.

What website or app could you not do without?

DuckDuckGo the search engine.

What was the last book you read?

The Last Resort by Jan Carson, who is from Northern Ireland.

What car do you drive?

A Vitara and Swift. I’m a fan of Suzuki and keen to add a Jimny to the mix.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I have a personal collection of over 500 tee-shirts (I used to own a tee-shirt company)

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

The sea.

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