Head Of Engineering at Novastone
One-On-One with Maurice
I’m a software engineer and engineering manager who has been working in the software industry for the last 20 years. I studied electrical engineering, but rediscovered my love for programming when taking software courses at university. I’ve worked in mobile telecoms, iOS app development, cyber security, and tech book writing. I am currently the head of engineering for a startup. I still program regularly but usually in my spare time and focus on engineering management during the day. I’ve worked in companies based in Belfast for most of my career, but have lived in Dromara in County Down for the last 11 years.
What attracted you to living and working in Down ?
I live in mid-Down, which is convenient for access to the technology job market that exists in Belfast. I wanted to move out of Belfast but keep close enough to be able to commute, while also living within a similar distance to mine and my wife’s family. The main attraction to where we live was to satisfy our desire to be in the countryside and enjoy a more peaceful and slower-paced environment.
Can you walk us through a day in the life of living in Co. Down ?
Life has changed dramatically since the pandemic, and very much for the better. In the past I would be leaving the house at 6:30am in order to get to the office early; this would allow me to avoid traffic and leave the office by 4pm and get home again to spend time with my family.
Now, I get to spend the mornings with my kids before bringing them to primary school in the local town. I get home a little after 9 and can get started on the work day. We will often go for a walk during the day, usually in the early evening, though sometimes it can be nicer to spend the evenings in front of a log fire. Regardless of the time of year the house is often surrounded by cattle so it can sound very idyllic with the windows open. Occasionally we will have a “down tools” moment if we have visitors like squirrels, rabbits, or foxes to the garden. It’s a nice interruption to the work day.
How would you describe transport within Down ? Is it easy to get around ?
It is very easy to get around County Down if you own a car. Otherwise, you need to rely on being close to major bus routes which connect the towns and have a decreasing number of rural stops. For my commute I would drive to a park and ride service just outside Belfast where I can park for free and take a bus into the city centre where many of the tech jobs are located.
How fast/reliable is your home internet connection ?
Our home internet connection has been very good for the last 5 years, since an improvement was made to bring a fibre cabinet closer to the house. Before that, we had a maximum of 5Mbps, but we’re now able to get around 65Mbps and it is pretty reliable. This has made a huge change to our ability to work from home, and we’re investigating the possibility of fibre to the premises as well.
Can you tell us about some of your favourite locations or attractions within Down ?
County Down is full of natural beauty and is great for people who like to get back to nature. The Mournes Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is in the south of the county, and the county borders the Irish Sea and Belfast Lough on a number of sides so there are numerous beaches to visit. Strangford Lough carves out a large portion of the middle of the county and is another AONB. There are also lots of rural pubs and restaurants that serve some amazing food.
What advice do you have for individuals or families interested in relocating to Down ?
North and Mid-Down are very good locations to live if you need to commute to Belfast. South Down is a good location if you need to work in or around Newry. It offers a great combination of rural living in close proximity to the facilities in urban areas and is in good proximity to the cities of Belfast, Lisburn, and Newry. If you are moving to a rural location it is worth checking on broadband speeds that are available to you. As of 2021 there is an active government project (Project Stratum) that is attempting to bring a minimum of 30Mbps to every rural home, but it isn’t completed yet and there still may be some locations that cannot be served by it.
Thank you very much Maurice for taking the time to talk with us and thank you for representing Co. Down as a Rural Ireland Tech Advocate.