In our latest Careers Blog John Bolger shares his journey from Graduate to the Head of our Innovation Labs.

Hi! My name is John Bolger and I’m a principal consultant with Version 1, an IT consultancy firm based in Ireland and the UK. I’ve been with Version 1 for 15 years now, having joined them originally in 2003 when I did my college internship! We now have a large and mature graduate program — Accelerate, which is brilliantly run and shows how far Version 1 has come. I, however, like to think of myself as the original grad!

I’ve worked with a lot of large scale public and private customers in that time, designing and delivering everything from mission-critical tax systems such as the high profile Property Tax for The Revenue Commissioners, to e-commerce solutions for a utilities company, to a mortgage application system (right in the middle of the recession — doh!) for an international bank. I’ve even built a startup, but ultimately this never got off the runway.

But none of these roles have been quite as interesting as my current role, where I am Head of the Version 1 Innovation Labs.

Wind back a few years and after a long stint with The Revenue Commissioners, I felt it was time for a change. With a particular passion for technology, I wanted a role where I could explore the latest tech and understand how that could be applied to disrupt or improve our customer’s business. I therefore had a stint in a “Rapid Prototyping Team”, where I led a small, highly skilled and focused team on behalf of a Version 1 customer to explore disruptive technologies such as Blockchain, Machine Learning and Chatbots. This was a really interesting role for me, and one which set me on a new path as an advocate for cutting edge tech. This even allowed me to represent the client and work as part of a merger team, doing the IT analysis and planning, the result of which would have been a unicorn company with global reach.

This experience made me a perfect candidate to help create and lead the new Version 1 Innovation Labs which was commissioned in 2018.

Since then, I have been leading and heading up the team, setting the technical direction, setting up the processes, recruiting, managing budget, performing customer engagements, getting involved in advisory and early-stage customer engagements, and informing the rest of the organisation on how the disruptive technology we are exploring will impact the rest of Version 1 and our customers.

We’ve had great success with this in 2019, developing some really interesting solutions for our customers which will bring real business benefits. Keep an eye out for a follow-up blog post where I will review the work we’ve done in the Innovation Labs in 2019!

One of the highlights for me was a Blockchain “Proof of Value” project we did with the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF). The ICBF are an amazing Agtech company and in 2019 we partnered with them to develop a Blockchain “Proof of Value” which aimed at enabling “Farm to Fork” traceability for Irish beef which consumers could access. This is a real use case of Blockchain, and one which caught international attention. We have since presented on this at the London Blockchain Summit, and more recently at Oracle Open World in San Francisco. This was also featured in several leading publications, including Forbes, Diginomica and ITPro.

I love technology, I love understanding how things work, and getting to understand the business of many customers working in very different businesses and sectors is one of the main benefits of being a consultant.

Ultimately for me, life is all about building strong relationships with those around you, and it would be meaningless without those relationships. I think this is reflected in the relationships I’ve built both within Version 1 and with our customers where I still regularly meet and catch up with previous clients to see how they’re getting on, both personally and professionally. Being a consultant enables me to create so many diverse connections that can only help to make you a better person.

I will continue to focus on doing the things I love — tech, talking (I’m my mother’s son), building relationships, and delivering Customer Success. I urge you all to really look at what it is that drives you in your career and make sure that you don’t lose focus on what makes you tick.

The Innovation Labs have been in operation since mid-2018 with a full-time dedicated team exploring cutting edge technology. We have delivered many successful PoVs and are keen to engage with our customers to help them explore next-generation technologies which might transform their business. Find out more about Innovation at Version 1 below.