When I was 17, I was expelled from an Irish Catholic boarding school. I told a lay teacher she was a shame to her profession, which looking back on it today as a full grown adult, I will absolutely stand by. She was a terrible teacher and in the wrong job. If I had a child in her class today I would lobby to have her removed. I’m not sure it was really an expellable offence, but probably when lumped in with all the other minor infringements over the years added up to enough for the Nuns to boot me out. I was a decent student in the ‘Honours’ Class for multiple subjects, very involved in Drama, Editor of the School Newspaper, A keen participant in Athletics, debating team Captain, even Class President at one point. So Net/Net a good addition to the student body on balance. However, convent schools of the 1980’s and 90’s did not reward or encourage independent thinkers. In terms of inspiring me to ASPIRE as a young woman the nuns get a big fat Zero from me. The catholic guilt they instilled in me lives on though. Thanks for that Sisters.
Fortunately, I also did a lot of extracurricular activities too and shortly after being expelled I won a public speaking competition run by The Lions Club a truly wonderful organisation with their heart and mind in the right place. The prize was an 8 week trip to an International Youth Camp for young women held in Arizona, if you can believe it….I had never been on a plane or even left Ireland before, but I flew to L.A. alone and spent the next 2 months travelling the South West with other women from all over the world. I can safely say it changed my life. I saw the wider world, met diverse people and had experiences that blew my mind. We saw the Hubble Telescope being built for God’s Sake! If it had not been for that opportunity my present may have been very different. The scales fell from my eyes and I discovered that the world had a lot to offer, if only I would go and chase it.
20 years later I have global international career under my belt having worked and lived for major corporations in New York, Singapore, London and Paris. I’ve founded my own company and hope to build a global whiskey brand. I’m spending a lot of time back in the rural village where I was born and I’ve had a chance to reconnect with the place. When I won that competition, I was given an opportunity that was the catalyst for everything that came after it even though I was not aware of it at the time. I’m a believer in Karma, what goes around comes around and all that, NOT a concept taught by the Nuns I’d like to make clear. Their approach was mostly if you pray enough or go to confession it’ll all be cool.
I started a mentorship program called See It Be It because I fundamentally believe in giving back and in giving other women in particular a hand up. During my corporate days, there was simply no time to do something like this, 100% of my time was owned by the shareholders of the corporation. Now I’m the main shareholder of my time and I choose to use it working my ass off to build a global whiskey brand, but occasionally taking the time out to do something good and right.
See It Be It is based on the simple concept that in order to aspire to anything, be it a Job, a particular position, a career in a specific industry, you have to have exposure to it. It’s an old adage popularised by Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook in recent years. I’ve selected two young women from West Clare who are about to arrive in London for a week. They have a great quality of life, a good education behind them, but not much exposure to sectors or industries outside of agriculture, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. This part of Ireland does not have the right infrastructure to attract the booming Irish Tech or wellness start-up scenes. But London does.
Our two inaugural participants will spend the week meeting with successful entrepreneurial women in Tech, Media, Publishing, Fashion, Consumer Goods and Luxury Goods. they’ll be immersed in the London Start-Up scene, taking in a number of panels and they’ll even spend a day interning at Vogue Magazine and Neville McCarthy Public Relations. It will be a shock to their system no doubt, but one that will hopefully resonate far off into the future. I’m excited too. I’m a bit battle worn and launching this company is a lonely old road sometimes so spending some quality time with these young women just starting out on their journey will be a great way for me to be inspired too. I’m going to ask them to Guest Blog midway through the week which should be fun.