‘The Swedes probably have a better work-life balance to what we have in Ireland’

Wild Geese: Mark Duffy, Stockholm

Life in Sweden is a great place to live for anyone looking for work-life balance, an outdoorsy lifestyle and unbeatable public infrastructure, says Stockholm-based Mayo native Mark Duffy, who heads up the data centre focused operations of Suir Engineering in the Nordics, as regional director for Scandinavia.

He has worked for the Waterford-headquartered company for almost 27 years, having started as an apprentice electrician straight out of school in 1997 and working his way up through the ranks to his current role.

“I worked in some brilliant high-profile projects with Suir down through the years, from semiconductor [projects] with Intel to some of the large pharmaceutical projects in Ireland and also data centre projects,” he says.

“I never thought I’d be nearly 27 years in the same company but I’ve made great friends and colleagues down through the years. I also never really expected to move to Stockholm. I just went from one role into the next and progressed up the ladder. It was a great opportunity to get.”

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Duffy moved to the Swedish capital in 2021 to set up Suir’s new office, where they now specialise mainly in projects for data centre clients across the Nordics.

“The attraction of the Nordic countries is that especially Sweden and Denmark are world leaders in generating electricity through greener energy – Sweden from hydroelectric generation and Denmark through wind energy – so they are good countries to build data centres in,” he says.

Initially nervous to uproot his family, (wife Siobhán and teenage children Molly and Jack), Duffy said the transition three years ago was very smooth, with no language barrier issues.

“I’m still struggling with Swedish, but that’s the thing with Sweden: they speak such good English. A lot of the companies and contractors we work with are Irish or British, and once the Swedes know you’re Irish, they just automatically switch to speaking English – which isn’t a bad thing,” he says.

Duffy has adapted to the Swedish work-life balance. “The Swedes probably have a better work-life balance to what we have. They like to work their 39 hours, but us Irish have a very different approach to getting a project built,” he says.

Stockholm is a lovely, clean and uncrowded city to live in, and the schools, healthcare and public transport are excellent here; they’re all top class

“They more or less shut down during the summer months out here. A lot of the supply chain, they’re just off for the months of July and August. You even see it with some of the bars and restaurants, which is sort of strange and hard to get used to.”

He says Stockholm is a great city that caters to those who like an outdoorsy lifestyle. “They have a saying out here that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing – it’s a lot more outdoorsy than Ireland. The winters are long and dark, but the summer months are really nice.

“Stockholm is a lovely, clean and uncrowded city to live in, and the schools, healthcare and public transport are excellent here; they’re all top class,” he says.

Though he sometimes misses the craic and pub culture of home, Duffy says there is a strong Irish community in Stockholm, with Suir Engineering one of the sponsors of the St Patrick’s Day parade every year.

“It’s quite a big parade here in Stockholm and a lot of our staff are part of the Swedish-Irish Society, so that’s a great day out. And then we get together after the parade for dinner and Irish music and dancing,” he says.

“There’s not the same craic at the pubs out here that you would have in Ireland, but there are a few Irish pubs.”

Duffy says his advice for anyone starting out in their career is not to write off the option of doing an apprenticeship.

“I think the apprenticeship scheme is not encouraged enough. It’s a great thing to do for young people. They can go anywhere in the world once they have their apprenticeship, especially electricians and plumbers, and they’re even going down the apprenticeship route for engineering now too.

“It’s a great career move, and once you serve your time as an electrician, there are so many other paths you can go down, like engineering or BIM [building information modelling]. It opens up a lot of doors.”

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