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‘When I started in mobile, manufacturers were constantly trying to reinvent the phone’

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Samsung Ireland’s Quentin Doran O’Reilly discusses the changing world of electronics, a focus on foldable phones, and the ‘cool’ part of his job.

With 17 years’ experience in the mobile telecoms industry, Quentin Doran O’Reilly is now head of product management within the IT and mobile (IM) division for Samsung Ireland. This is the section of the electronics business that deals with mobile, tablet, PC and wearable technology.

After graduating from Trinity College Dublin, Doran O’Reilly went on to hold a a number of positions across the telecoms sector, from both an operator and manufacturer perspective. He has spent the last 11 years with Samsung Electronics in Ireland.

‘We live in an incredibly exciting time where technology is playing an ever-increasing role in both our work and personal lives’
– QUENTIN DORAN O’REILLY

What does your role entail?

It is a very broad remit, which gives me huge insight into the day-to-day workings of every aspect of the business. In this role, I have the opportunity to share my views on the market, identify where the next opportunity lies and, most importantly, ensure our portfolios fit our Irish customers’ needs.

It is my job to act as a bridge between Samsung headquarters in the UK and Samsung in Ireland. I help align the global strategy with that of the Irish market and I’m the guy who gets to introduce our customers to the latest innovations and devices from Samsung – which is, in a word, cool.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

Security is an area that is facing increased scrutiny both in and out of the technology sector. In the past, it has been viewed as primarily an enterprise issue, but we are seeing increasingly complex threats to individual’s digital security, such as fraud and phishing scams.

At Samsung, we take security seriously and understand the importance of delivering a safe and secure experience to our customers when using connected devices. We have a team of engineers that continually think of new ways to build on our security credentials, combating even the most sophisticated of threats in our connected world.

In order to challenge our assumptions, we also established the Samsung Mobile Security rewards programme, which offers incentives to researchers who identify potential vulnerabilities in our products.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

We live in an incredibly exciting time where technology is playing an ever-increasing role in both our work and personal lives. Within our IM division, there are some really exciting things happening.

When I started in mobile, manufacturers were constantly trying to reinvent the form factor of the cell phone. There were sliders, jack-knives, candy bars, clamshells and a whole host of devices with shapes that didn’t even have a name. When smartphones hit the market, it put an end to this – because, no matter what, you needed a single sheet of solid glass screen and that limited design innovation.

This limitation is now old and with the introduction of foldable glass technology, Samsung is leading the way in reinventing what can be done with a smartphone. Foldables are at the fore of innovative smartphone design. It reintroduces some of the old favourite designs, while bringing a whole new world of productivity and possibilities to the smartphone market.

In the wireless audio category, we are seeing huge growth as people consume media and use wearable technology as a health and fitness companion. Due to this increasing trend, we launched the Samsung Galaxy Buds family of products. The same applies to the smartwatch category, where the Samsung Galaxy Watch series offers the ability to not only track your fitness but also keep up to date with work and social media without needing to reach for your smartphone.

The reintroduction of our computing business in 2020 saw strong growth as the demand for laptops for home working and education grew. We expect this growth and opportunity will continue into 2022 and with our new Samsung Galaxy Book portfolio, we have an incredibly compelling line up for both end consumers and enterprise.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

It was circuitous, but then all the worthwhile journeys are. After college and about five years working in the public relations and event management sector, I made the move to Vodafone, where I discovered my love for working in technology.

I spent six very happy years there in the handset testing department. Through this role, I got involved in end-user issue resolution for Vodafone’s enterprise clients, which then allowed me to gain an understanding of the network side of the business.

In 2010, I took on a technical product manager role in Samsung’s Irish office and I’ve never looked back.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I lead a team of incredibly talented engineers and product managers. It’s my job to provide both short and long-term focus and direction, as well as give support and guidance where needed.

The method that has worked best for me is providing the ‘why’ at the outset of a project. Why do we need to resolve a given issue? Why do we need to launch this flagship? Why do we need a new process or system?

Once that’s understood, then we work on the ‘how’. This is solved through collaboration. I might have an idea of the ‘how’, but my team might have a better one. It’s always important to listen as my way is not always the only, nor indeed, the right way!

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Across the technology sector, there are issues with gender diversity, specifically in senior management positions. But there’s no question that we need greater diversity in the technology industry to reflect our customer base and bring together different perspectives.

We believe that innovation and growth are driven by an inclusive culture and a diverse workforce. To do this, we have brought about diversity initiatives such as conscious inclusion training for management, and various employee resource groups to retain and develop minorities in the workplace such as women, people of colour, and those in the LGBTQ+ community.

I truly believe that teaching our youth about diversity and inclusion in the workplace will help the next generation be even stronger. I got the opportunity to support the BT Young Scientist awards and the Schools Digital Champion Programme over the last few years, where I worked to impart this message and share the understanding that technology is for everyone.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

Over the years there have been many, I’ve been terribly lucky. There are likely 10 different people who have in one way, manner, shape or form, helped me to get where I am now.

The easy bit is getting advice, the hard bit is learning to listen and take constructive criticism and action where needed. No matter what the situation, you can take valuable learnings and next time you will do it better. It is important to learn from our failures and build on our successes. This idea has become a central pillar of everything I do.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

Stuart Diamond’s Getting More is very good book to help learn about negotiation. It centres around treating people as people, not as jobs or projects or targets. It offers a different perspective on both personal and business life and is well worth a read.

The Chimp Paradox by Steve Peters is another good one. It shares insights into listening to that voice in your head and understanding what drives your emotions and anxiety. In so doing, you can learn to be more positive and productive in your way of working. 

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Does coffee count? It is, unquestionably, central to my weekly arsenal.

I’ve started walking in the mornings, up to 10km before I start working. I find it centres me and helps to bring a bit of perspective. I don’t tend to bring any media or distractions with me, I just let my mind wander. I often get home with a plan for the day and solutions to problems that I had been struggling with.

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Tech neck: what are smartphones doing to our bodies? | Life and style

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Name: Tech neck.

Age: Two years old.

Appearance: The next stage of human evolution.

This sounds exciting! Are we all going to be cyborgs soon? Not exactly.

Then what on earth is tech neck? That’s easy. It’s the hunch you develop from staring at your phone too much.

That’s less exciting. And less deniable. It has been claimed by the Australian Chiropractors Association that our compulsive use of mobile devices is changing the shape of our bodies.

How? Let’s say you hold your phone at an angle that makes you lower your head by 60 degrees. That adds approximately 27kg (60lbs) of weight through your spine. Now, imagine doing that for several hours every day. That’s one messed up back.

Hang on, you said that tech neck is only two years old. Phones are older than that, and “text neck” was identified as an ailment in 2011, but the pandemic made things so much worse.

Posed by model Hunchbacked person with wrong bad posture, back bones pain and problems
All in the angle … tilting the head forward adds pressure (posed by model). Photograph: Михаил Руденко/Getty Images/iStockphoto

It did? For month after month you were starved of normal human contact, and had to communicate with the rest of the world through your phone. And when you weren’t doing that, you spent your time doom-scrolling in horror through a barrage of some of the worst news in modern history.

That sounds just like me. Me too. And guess what? All that bad news was a pain in the neck.

Well, on the plus side phones have only harmed us in one way. Or two, if you count “phone thumb”, a condition where your thumb can become inflamed from prolonged texting.

OK, fine, two ways. Or three, if you factor in the claim that the blue light emitted by phones can interfere with melatonin production. Or four, if you count the eye strain you get from prolonged use. And a couple of years ago it was suggested that humans are growing bone spurs at the base of their skulls to counter all the terrible phone-related posture.

Please, stop! Do you want to know the good news?

Yes! Anything! The posture problem is easy to correct. You can do a simple stretch, where you interlock your fingers behind your head and hold your elbows against a wall.

That’s promising. Or you could try holding your phone at eye level, to reduce the pressure on your spine. Or make an extra effort to stay active throughout the day.

This is good. I can do this. Then again, there is a better way to combat tech neck.

This sounds ominous. You could always try not using your phone as much.

Never! The humps are worth it! Suit yourself.

Do say: “The best way to avoid tech neck is to put your phone down.”

Don’t say: “You know, in a minute, after you’ve watched all those TikToks.”

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VMware demos ‘bare-metal’ performance from virtualized GPUs • The Register

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The future of high-performance computing will be virtualized, VMware’s Uday Kurkure has told The Register.

Kurkure, the lead engineer for VMware’s performance engineering team, has spent the past five years working on ways to virtualize machine-learning workloads running on accelerators. Earlier this month his team reported “near or better than bare-metal performance” for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) and Mask R-CNN — two popular machine-learning workloads — running on virtualized GPUs (vGPU) connected using Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect.

NVLink enables compute and memory resources to be shared across up to four GPUs over a high-bandwidth mesh fabric operating at 6.25GB/s per lane compared to PCIe 4.0’s 2.5GB/s. The interconnect enabled Kurkure’s team to pool 160GB of GPU memory from the Dell PowerEdge system’s four 40GB Nvidia A100 SXM GPUs.

“As the machine learning models get bigger and bigger, they don’t fit into the graphics memory of a single chip, so you need to use multiple GPUs,” he explained.

Support for NVLink in VMware’s vSphere is a relatively new addition. By toggling NVLink on and off in vSphere between tests, Kurkure was able to determine how large of an impact the interconnect had on performance.

And in what should be a surprise to no one, the large ML workloads ran faster, scaling linearly with additional GPUs, when NVLink was enabled.

Testing showed Mask R-CNN training running 15 percent faster in a twin GPU, NVLink configuration, and 18 percent faster when using all four A100s. The performance delta was even greater in the BERT natural language processing model, where the NVLink-enabled system performed 243 percent faster when running on all four GPUs.

What’s more, Kurkure says the virtualized GPUs were able to achieve the same or better performance compared to running the same workloads on bare metal.

“Now with NVLink being supported in vSphere, customers have the flexibility where they can combine multiple GPUs on the same host using NVLink so they can support bigger models, without a significant communication overhead,” Kurkure said.

HPC, enterprise implications

Based on the results of these tests, Kurkure expects most HPC workloads will be virtualized moving forward. The HPC community is always running into performance bottlenecks that leaves systems underutilized, he added, arguing that virtualization enables users to make much more efficient use of their systems.

Kurkure’s team was able to achieve performance comparable to bare metal while using just a fraction of the dual-socket system’s CPU resources.

“We were only using 16 logical cores out of 128 available,” he said. “You could use that CPU resources for other jobs without affecting your machine-learning intensive graphics modules. This is going to improve your utilization, and bring down the cost of your datacenter.”

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By toggling on and off NVLink between GPUs, additional platform flexibility can be achieved by enabling multiple isolated AI/ML workloads to be spread across the GPUs simultaneously.

“One of the key takeaways of this testing was that because of the improved utilization offered by vGPUs connected over a NVLink mesh network, VMware was able to achieve bare-metal-like performance while freeing idle resources for other workloads,” Kurkure said.

VMWare expects these results to improve resource utilization in several applications, including investment banking, pharmaceutical research, 3D CAD, and auto manufacturing. 3D CAD is a particularly high-demand area for HPC virtualization, according to Kurkure, who cited several customers looking to implement machine learning to assist with the design process.

And while it’s possible to run many of these workloads on GPUs in the cloud, he argued that cost and/or intellectual property rules may prevent them from doing so.

vGPU vs MIG

An important note is VMware’s tests were conducted using Nvidia’s vGPU Manager in vSphere as opposed to the hardware-level partitioning offered by multi-instance GPU (MIG) on the A100. MIG essentially allows the A100 to behave like up to seven less-powerful GPUs.

By comparison, vGPUs are defined in the hypervisor and are time-sliced. You can think of this as multitasking where the GPU rapidly cycles through each vGPU workload until they’re completed.

The benefit of vGPUs is users can scale well beyond seven GPU instances at the cost of potential overheads associated with rapid context switching, Kurkure explained. However, at least in his testing, the use of vGPUs didn’t appear to have a negative impact on performance compared to running on bare metal with the GPUs passed through to the VM.

Whether MIG would change this dynamic remains to be seen and is the subject of another ongoing investigation by Kurkure’s team. “It’s not clear when you should be using vGPU and when we should be running in MIG mode,” he said.

More to come

With vGPU with NVLink validated for scale-up workloads, VMware is now exploring options such as how these workloads scale across multiple systems and racks over RDMA over converged Ethernet (RoCE). Here, he says, networking becomes a major consideration.

“The natural extension of this is scale out,” he said. “So, we’ll have a number of hosted connected by RoCE.”

VMware is also investing how virtualized GPUs perform with even larger AI/ML models,

Kurkure’s team is also investigating how these architectures scale with even larger AI/ML, like GPT-3, as well as how they can be applied to telco workloads running at the edge. ®

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The Irish start-up tackling employee mental wellbeing

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Pause offers coaching, audit, supervision and training services in a bid to deliver measurable mental wellbeing improvements for organisations.

A new Irish start-up called Pause aims to help employers implement good mental wellbeing practices in the workplace following a tough couple of years for workers.

The company is led by Báirbre Meehan, who has been in senior leadership roles for 25 years and is a trained executive coach with a master’s in business and executive coaching.

Future Human

Meehan realised that there was a gap in the market when it came to managing employee mental wellbeing, which was only widened by the stresses of the pandemic.

She undertook a research project into mental wellbeing after seeing first-hand the impact that mental health issues were having on employee performance. For five years, she worked with GPs, psychotherapists and word-of-mouth referrals to support and monitor mental wellbeing improvements in more than 100 people.

Her research found that short-term coaching intervention led to a 70pc improvement in collective employee mental wellbeing, with positive mental wellbeing maintained at six-month and two-year review stages.

Meehan used what she found out to develop Pause. She is now launching the company at a pivotal time for employer-employee relations, as workplaces continue reopening and companies negotiate hybrid and remote work policies with staff.

Pause offers coaching, audit, supervision and training services in a bid to deliver measurable mental wellbeing improvements for organisations.

Recent Pause research, carried out in 2021, revealed that senior HR leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to support employee mental wellbeing due to the distance involved in hybrid and remote working arrangements.

New ways of working have made identifying employees struggling with their mental wellbeing challenging, and it is also difficult to convince employees to seek support, according to the findings.

‘People are finding it difficult to cope’

Meehan acknowledged that the pandemic had a “significant impact on people’s stress levels, which were already high before the pandemic, but are now at an all-time high”.

“The pace of life and working life has escalated to such an extent that people are finding it difficult to cope. The phased return to the workplace is causing a large amount of anxiety for varying reasons,” she said.

She added that people are finding it hard to draw boundaries between work and home, pointing to the introduction of the right to disconnect in Ireland last year to help people switch off and achieve a better work-life balance.

“In addition, the global pandemic caused people to re-evaluate their attitudes to work-life balance,” Meehan said.

“This makes employee retention and attraction a critical issue for organisations, and one they are struggling to manage. This is a really complex area, but Pause has developed a provable and measurable system of improving employee mental wellbeing, which has a clear positive impact on business results and employee retention.”

Meehan was the 2021 winner of the Empower Start pitching competition for women entrepreneurs based on her work with Pause. This was a Dragon’s Den-style competition delivered through the innovation hubs at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, IT Sligo and Letterkenny IT, which recently amalgamated to form Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

Pause is based at ATU Sligo’s innovation centre. The team currently includes Meehan and two other coaches, one of whom is a psychotherapist based in the UK.

Meehan plans to employ and train more coaches in the Pause method over the coming years.

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