It’s 21 weeks tomorrow since we cut short our long awaited trip to SXSW & dashed back to Donegal in a hurry from New York City. Since Monday 16 March I’ve been working in a makeshift office in the porch of our house in Co Donegal. Ok – it isn’t really an office – it’s a table and a garden chair with a couple of cushions but there’s glass on 3 sides and all day long (since early April when they returned) the house martins swirl around me and I listen to their babies (we’re onto the 3rd batch in all our nests) burbling with delight when the food arrives in. It’s getting greener in here too as the seeds we planted one desperate weekend in April are now fine big plants.
We’re right up near the top of Ireland (yes – some parts of southern Ireland are actually further north than Northern Ireland) on the shores of Lough Foyle near the start of the Wild Atlantic Way. Anyone who’s been on a zoom call with me since March has probably seen the view from my desk as I always show off the beauty of Donegal when I can, even when it’s raining.
Apart from 3 brief trips across the border to NI we haven’t been anywhere in that time. I didn’t even have my car for the first 3 months. It sat in Quigley’s Point where I’d left it in for a service early March. My old life included a lot of travel. A lot.
Already in 2020 I’d been in Scotland twice, London many times, Budapest, Vienna, Brussels in February for work at the EU, Ghent (for the magnificent Jan van Eyck 600th year exhibition), Oxford, Galway & the Portershed in the snow in early March, running an Enterprise Week event with Sharon O’Dea, Belfast with Susan Hayes for IoD NI’s annual unmissable International Women’s Day event, on to NYC on 9 March and a whirl of events and parties with Mary Ann Pierce. Always busy. Always on the move. Always with people.
When everything stopped I wondered what I would do. I wondered if I’d be able to work. I really didn’t know how to figure anything out. The basis of all that I do had shifted. Other people have written about lockdown far more eloquently than I ever could so I won’t go on.
But this morning, almost 5 months on, I spent a few minutes reflecting on what an enjoyable and productive working week I’ve just had. These are the 10 work related things that have brought me joy in the past week:
- I started mentoring a new team through the Oxford Foundry. I’ve done loads of zoom mentoring right through lockdown. I started off by offering my time back in March via Pauline Logan at the Dublin City Women in Business Network to women whose businesses had disappeared overnight and who were trying to figure out what their pivot was and it’s grown from there. Mentoring is such an enriching two-way process and zoom makes it so easy and efficient. Jump in & give it a go if you haven’t already. Everyone has something to offer and something to learn.
- I caught up with 4 of my American friends and colleagues in this past week (Brian McMahon, Kelly Hoey, Marc Ventresca and Mary Ann Pierce). I set aside time for a proper chat with each of them and was grateful for the time they spent with me and the news and ideas we exchanged. From time to time I think back over the conversations we had and it makes me happy. Friendship and time spent with friends is precious.
- I reconnected with Limerick sisters Perry and Jacqui Meskell, Huggnote co-founders
and we had a great call. Thanks John Collins for the nudge. Perry and Jacqui’s energy and enthusiasm for their startup is completely infectious and I’ve been sending people Huggs ever since. Try it – you’ll love it too. It’s great to circle back & reconnect with people.
- I joined Northwell Health’s amazing star studded Constellation Forum event in New York City #TCF20 (thanks to Mary Rodgers for the invite) and was blown away by listening to Stryker CEO Kevin Lobo. He talked first about some of the benefits that have accrued to his company’s teams as a result of lockdown but what really impressed me was what Kevin said about Stryker’s approach to Diversity and Inclusion. I am paraphrasing but the basic premise is that diversity focused recruitment campaigns attract great people but when they find there’s no real inclusion in place in the organisation they quite rightly become disillusioned and move on. At Stryker they’ve developed an internal grass roots initiative called “Think Twice”. You can’t be responsible for your first thought but you can be responsible for your second thought and your first action. You can consider and make your first action more thoughtful and inclusive. I was on a panel with Sheree Atcheson earlier this year where I heard her refer to unconscious bias as unchecked bias and this ties in well with that train of thought. Go Kevin. There aren’t many people these days that I would willingly work for but I would come & work for you!
- I participated in Imperial Enterprise Lab’s Summer Accelerator as a mentor. This week we saw the progress our 7 teams had made in the 4 weeks since we last met and it was inspiring to be part of. Thanks to Euan Bell for organising.
- The new venture Awaken Hub that a few of us started during lockdown is really gaining momentum. We already have lots of people engaging with us and our next event which is happening Mon 10 August is more or less sold out. Looking forward to the conversation on Monday evening and can’t wait to hear from our speakers. Thanks to Mary Carty, Sinead Crowley and Clare McGee for being co-founders with me. We think this is the start of something amazing for women founders in Ireland north and south and beyond. Join us awakenhub.com
- I got a call from a friend asking me if I would be interested in joining his newco Board as a non exec. I’ve been appraising my various Board roles over the summer and have decided to step down and move on from a few and make room for new blood but also give myself something new to get involved with. This call came as a nice surprise because I hadn’t actually announced that I was looking for new challenges. Shout me if you’re in the market for new non execs.
- I was on the panel at this week’s Derry Chamber webinar. Our topic was Building
Your Digital Business. It was a lot of fun and the audience posed us some lively questions. Great to meet the new Chamber team and to have a chance to catch up with Sharron McCormick of With Love Recipes and to hear how she’s getting on.
- I conducted an experiment and introduced two of the founding teams I’m mentoring to each other. One team has bags of experience & is working on a new innovation, one team is newish graduates with tons of ideas. It was like lighting a fuse. Now I am waiting to see what emerges. Professor Ventresca that I mentioned earlier in this blog once observed that I’m building a guild with my investee portfolio. I find it’s good to have collaboration at the heart of most of the things that I do.
- Last but not least I had a brand new investment close this week as part of an angel syndicate. Angel investing is certainly not dead. I have a couple of others in the pipeline too. I’m sure that the founding team will be having a great weekend as it’s been a stressful enough time to raise money.
There. They were my 10 sources of joy. Writing them down has reminded me what a varied, privileged and interesting life I’m lucky enough to have in this very uncertain world we live in.