Ciaran Connolly of ProfileTree On Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The AI Industry
Ensure a consistent standard — Another major concern for us was to ensure a consistent standard of the quality of the work we produced and with the integration of AI tools, we have excelled in this. We now use AI within content creation to complement the creative process and lend a helping hand.
Artificial Intelligence is now the leading edge of technology, driving unprecedented advancements across sectors. From healthcare to finance, education to environment, the AI industry is witnessing a skyrocketing demand for professionals. However, the path to creating a successful career in AI is multifaceted and constantly evolving. What does it take and what does one need in order to create a highly successful career in AI?
In this interview series, we are talking to successful AI professionals, AI founders, AI CEOs, educators in the field, AI researchers, HR managers in tech companies, and anyone who holds authority in the realm of Artificial Intelligence to inspire and guide those who are eager to embark on this exciting career path.
As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ciaran Connolly.
Ciaran Connolly is the founder of ProfileTree — a leading website design and digital marketing agency based in Ireland. In 12 years, he has grown ProfileTree from a small team of 2 into a strong team of 24. He continues to drive innovation in the digital marketing landscape through the adoption of AI tools in business practices.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would like to learn a bit about your origin story. Can you share with us a bit about your childhood and how you grew up?
I was lucky enough to be raised on a farm in Ireland, this meant great freedom as a child — outside all the time — but also plenty of work and seeing my family working 7 days a week with very rare holidays. This was a way of life, which I think has carried through to today.
Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue a career path in AI?
As a business, we are always looking for ways to improve what we do. A lot of tasks are robotic and repetitive — there has to be a way to remove these from our lives! We dabbled with some AI tools some years ago and we started to see what was possible in the future. But we never believed the speed of adaption since November 2022. It is clear AI is the future, no matter what happens next — it will be a bigger part of everyone’s life. Better to get on the train early and be part of the journey than watch it happen all around us.
Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?
We are examining every part of our business, from how we build websites, write content and even create videos. We are going through a phase of digital transformation, I guess this is always part of any digital or web agency.
Like many companies it is harder to find great team members today, hence we see AI as a chance to remove some of these more basic tasks that we no longer need to do and allow our team to focus on the higher-level strategic parts of the business. It is super exciting. We can’t wait to see how we can implement AI across our whole business and what we will look like in 6 or 9 months’ time.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Wow, possibly more of what not to do! I have come through the school of hard knocks. I worked in retail for 12 years and moved into e-commerce and then focused more on web design and development through to content marketing.
I have had a lot of amazing managers on the road and worked with some great people. Looking back it is incredible how many different styles of management there are, but possibly, the key to everything is people and how you treat them.
I had some hard managers and some great ones. The hard ones I learnt a lot from — but would never like to be like them, based on how they made me feel about the job I was doing. So I would say it has been a lot of different steps to get here.
As with any career path, the AI industry comes with its own set of challenges. Could you elaborate on some of the significant challenges you faced in your AI career and how you managed to overcome them?
The biggest challenge has probably been getting staff onboard with using AI. We are naturally resistant to changing how we work and when you ask a team of writers to adopt ChatGPT, they initially think that they are sacrificing part of their creativity.
We overcame this by letting our writers experiment with AI platforms, allowing them time to investigate the benefits of it and how they could incorporate it into their everyday work life.
I saw AI as a tool for facilitating creativity and content writing, instead of staring at a blank screen or putting hours into research for an article, we now had a tool that could help us do all of that a lot quicker.
We set general guidelines for using AI, but for the most part, we trusted our writers to use it as a first draft creator, something that they could work off from and develop into their own. This freedom to try AI tools was essential in safeguarding the creativity of their work and there is now a healthy appreciation of AI in our work culture.
Ok, let’s now move to the main part of our interview about AI. What are the 3 things that most excite you about the AI industry now? Why?
- It’s going to be a game changer in how we work. I can see AI becoming intertwined with many aspects of our work tasks, from everyday emails to website development, data analysis, content writing and more. It’s a very exciting change and the aim for us now is to become experts in using AI, because those who don’t will be left behind in the technological revolution.
- There is a shift in customer demand. We have noticed a major shift in customer demand, instead of having us write their SEO content or build their website, they now want to learn the skills to do it themselves. The power of AI makes this very achievable, so we are now pivoting our services to digital training with AI. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses that have the dual responsibility of both owner and marketer. With this type of digital AI training, we can offer clients long-term value and an opportunity to upskill their digital marketing strategy.
- We will be able to do things in our company that we never dreamt of. There is so much we want to do in our business — from the basic stuff of posting on every social media platform to generating more ideas and publishing more content. AI is removing the cost and time factor from testing and trying new things. I can see us possibly increasing our creativity and output by between 70–100% in the next 12 months and thus the impact we can bring for our clients — it could be maybe 3–5 times what we do today. Super exciting stuff.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why? What should be done to address and alleviate those concerns?
- Beware of redundant and repetitive content. There is a major concern that the internet will become a sea of redundant and repetitive content. If writers don’t take the initiative to make AI content their own then we risk losing originality altogether. This is bad for both SEO and the user experience of browsing the web, but there is a silver lining. Those who are currently taking the initiative to edit AI content and truly make it their own will rise to the top, and there will inevitably be a demand for this type of unique, personable content.
- The power big firms will have AI initially. The large firms that are developing internal AI platforms will be able to push ahead even more, leaving the rest of the smaller and medium-sized businesses with a bigger gap to catch up. We will see billion-dollar companies become multibillion-dollar companies. Hence I think we all need to be running today to take full advantage of what AI presents us.
- The legality of AI. Governments tend to be slow to react to technology, so we will have a few crazy years and a wild west AI until everything becomes more controlled and regulated. It will be interesting to watch what some governments are doing around the world and what rules will govern copyright and IP.
For a young person who would like to eventually make a career in AI, which skills and subjects do they need to learn?
Skillswise, I would recommend familiarising yourself with AI tools. They are built to be user-friendly, so you don’t need to be an expert in order to use them. The main platforms I would recommend using include Claude, ChatGPT and Bard. They all currently offer free versions, so you can start learning them straight away.
Subjects-wise, those based in computer science and STEM will probably be good avenues to get into the world of AI, but it’s worth noting that AI is going to become immersed within almost every industry, so stick with a subject that interests and inspires you, AI will be integrated into it soon enough.
As you know, there are not that many women in the AI industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women in the AI industry?
There is a lack of women and girls in STEM-based subjects, within all levels of education. More needs to be done to encourage the uptake of STEM which is the foundation for entering the world of AI.
Our sister company Learning Mole is currently in the process of developing accessible educational content that is STEM-based. The goal is to provide fun and educational resources for schools and parents to teach and inspire.
At ProfileTree, two out of our three C-Suite level staff are women. We believe in supporting career progression across all genders, which is beneficial in inspiring younger generations to enter the AI industry and see career progression that is accessible to them.
Ethical AI development is a pressing concern in the industry. How do you approach the ethical implications of AI, and what steps do you believe individuals and organizations should take to ensure responsible and fair AI practices?
At ProfileTree, we have been incredibly cautious about AI content and its ethical implications, particularly within the realm of copyright infringement and misinformation.
We have emphasised to our staff that all information needs to be manually verified before publication. We recognise that AI isn’t always correct or up to date, so these steps need to be taken in order to ensure a consistent quality of our work.
There are some AI platforms such as CanvaAI that allow you to create images from a text description. We have been cautious about using this feature as some of the images may include a watermark, leading to copyright infringement.
Our advice for individuals and organisations is to always be mindful that AI is using what is already out there. Make it your own, double-check the information and ensure that your staff value and understand these principles for fair AI practice.
Ok, here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share the “Five Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The AI Industry”? If you can, please share a story or an example for each.
- Keep testing AI tools — Whilst AI tools are brilliant advancements, we also need to recognise that many of these AI tools are still in beta mode. We are constantly testing new AI tools on the market and evaluating their performance.
- Communicate change effectively — When employing AI tools as part of everyday business tasks, top-level communication is essential for navigating this change. Employees will undoubtedly have concerns and there is a natural resistance to change how we usually work.
- Allow for trial and error — When we started adapting AI tools as part of our strategy, we didn’t just demand that our writers create more content in unrealistic time scales. We allowed them to experiment with AI tools, allowing for trial and error and supporting them as they learned how to master new AI platforms.
- Use it to aid not replace — We see AI as a tool to aid us in the creative process, not replace us. Instead of staring at a blank screen, we now had something that could produce a first draft, generate ideas and essentially get the ball rolling.
- Ensure a consistent standard — Another major concern for us was to ensure a consistent standard of the quality of the work we produced and with the integration of AI tools, we have excelled in this. We now use AI within content creation to complement the creative process and lend a helping hand.
Continuous learning and upskilling are vital in a dynamic field like AI. How do you approach ongoing education and stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in the AI industry? What advice do you have for those looking to grow their careers in AI?
I tend to consume way too much YouTube and news on my Feedly app. I tend to skim the news daily and read the latest breaking stories — but I also watch a lot of YouTube to keep up to date on new software developments as well as the latest business news around AI. I think traditional educational means will not keep up with the constant changes in AI, with new stories breaking every week — if not every day.
What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?
“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” rightly or wrongly attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Without a doubt I do believe that most of my “lucky” wins have been due to the number of shots I have taken. It’s down to numbers — if only taking one shot — chances of making it are slim, but taking 100 shots — some are bound to score and be close.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We provide as much free content and advice as possible to small business owners through our website, YouTube and social media. We are really trying to help educate small business owners about the benefits of investing in digital. If I could do anything — it would be to invest more time in this and reach more people. There is nothing better than seeing a small business owner with little or no digital marketing knowledge figure out how to generate leads and sales online.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
ProfileTree is a leading web design and digital marketing agency based in Ireland. We help clients develop a strong online presence through sleek website design, SEO, and engaging content creation.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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