Niall Fennell is a PorterShed member who works for Skedda, the system many of us in the tech world use to book our meeting rooms. Originally from Baldoyle in Dublin, he now calls Galway’s West End his home and has enjoyed a varied career in a whole host of different industries.
With a degree in IT and trained in multiple complimentary health therapies he was, once upon a time, a barman, a maths teacher and a language school manager, followed by over 10 years in sales to where he is now, tech sales.
“Health and tech are my two nerd-ish fascinations,” he says, as he lists out some of the positions he’s held in recent times – working for a superfood brand called Nua Naturals, running a CBD company, and in financial sales with Volkswagen Bank.
He was always drawn to the topic of health and wellness, and also to how both of these topics tie in with technology – for better or worse.
Despite his journey into health and wellness, Niall had been experiencing a growing level of anxiety that he wasn’t able to identify clearly. “Throughout my career, stress and anxiety had been building but I was unaware of them because I always identified as the calm, relaxed guy. It was frustrating because I wasn’t able to do what I knew I was capable of. I had all the knowledge, all the experience, all the skills, all the motivation, but anxiety can put a barrier to moving forward on any of those,” he says, while quick to mention the support and guidance he received during this time.
“It came to a head while working for myself so it was time to change. That’s when I got the job in Skedda, and I’m loving it! I happened to already be in the PorterShed, and when I was navigating the anxiety, nobody in the PorterShed knew. When I addressed anything with Mary, however, she was unbelievably understanding. It was a help to the level that I’ll always remember, it was huge,” Niall says.
And Niall is really chuffed with his Skedda gig. For those who don’t know, Skedda is in the middle of the the global shift to hybrid work and is one of the leading space-booking softwares in the world. It’s a super intuitive platform, gets some of the highest rating reviews in the world and, according to Niall, has an amazing team behind it.
“They’re the most chilled-out, family-friendly, employee-focused company that I’ve been involved in, and it works! Other companies could learn a lot from their approach,” Niall says.
“For example, as a sales team we don’t have any targets, we don’t work on a commission basis, our wage is our wage, and we implement the sale process that Skedda have outlined. This allows for a cross-collaboration approach and a customer focus” he says, adding that it creates a flexible, enjoyable work environment that fosters a healthy work culture where employees turn up wanting to do their absolute best every day.
Niall likes being able to use his role with Skedda to help companies solve the new scheduling challenges post-pandemic, but he was also drawn to the tech aspect. Niall himself is a self-confessed tech enthusiast, and working with Skedda has allowed him to get back in touch with that world on a day-to-day basis.
“I knew I wanted to move into tech, and that was one of my focuses as I was moving away from the health food roles. I was focused on going back into tech and tech sales, and when Skedda emerged [as an option], I was always asking myself, ‘am I going to be problem-solving?’ because that’s what I love.”
Niall tells me that he is super enthralled with technology and some of the benefits that many emerging technologies are bringing to the fore right now – and he’s intrigued by what new modalities they will bring in the future.
When asked what he’s most excited about right now, he doesn’t hesitate in jumping straight in with his answer.
“That’s an easy one – it’s crypto, blockchain. Love it, love it. I’m incredibly excited to see where it’s going and I’m loving that there are loads of crypto projects going on here in the PorterShed. And it’s still in its infancy! I don’t think the average peson realises how much it’s in its infancy and how much it is changing, and is going to change, the world,” Niall says with enthusiasm.
“The other part of the tech space that’s really interesting – which I don’t know enough about – but it makes me equally excited and nervous, is the Metaverse. Again, that’s an unstoppable force, it’s going to happen.
“I recently read the book Ready Player One, and it really is two sides of the one coin – it’s super exciting, and super anxiety-inducing about what it can bring. It’s another level that can bring us so much good, but can also disconnect us so much from ourselves and others, by becoming us all-consumed by technology and lose that intuitive, natural voice in our head,” he says, adding that we shouldn’t forget the essence who we are as people.
Niall is all about trying to help people get the most out of their tech, but it’s also clear that he’s keen to see people connect with one another in authentic ways.
He’s just back from a nine-day technology- and alcohol-free camping festival which, he said, “totally gets us back to our roots and puts a magnifying glass on our human need for authentic connection”, however, he feels technology is taking us further away from that despite its hyper-connectedness.
“We’re seeing a huge spike in people needing connection. Connecting with someone, together, on a human level is not the same as connecting with someone on Zoom or via the million WhatsApp group messages we get a day,” Niall says, adding that we should continue to look for ways to get to know people around us in the absence of phones.
Dispute being hugely interested in tech and all the advancements and improvements it can bring, for Niall, there’s no substitute for one-on-one, personal interactions when it comes to making connections – and that’s an important point that we could all do with a reminder of from time to time.
By Trevor Murray