There have been some pivotal moments since I began The Office Hub but last week was without doubt one of the proudest. It’s not often that you’re standing behind An Taoiseach and four of his cabinet ministers plus a large assembly of distinguished guests and members of the national media.
Cameras are pointed, microphones are at the ready, reporter’s pens are hovering over notebooks. We’re all praying that a live video feed doesn’t let us down. It’s coming from the Euronext Dublin Irish Stock Exchange, to the magnificent room that we are all standing in at the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. After a tense few seconds of silence, the screen flickers to life and soon we have live pictures and audio from Euronext as George Richardson, a director of capital markets at the World Bank, launches a €1.5 billion Sustainable Development Bond, just after the opening bell. Queue deep breath on my part, live stream delivered!
To provided context, this is the first bond announced by the World Bank in Dublin in over 25 years and one which gives the sustainability and climate finance agenda, and Ireland’s role in that, real focus.
The announcement was the starting gun for an event convened by Sustainable Nation Ireland and the Department of Finance, and that was weeks and months in the planning. Working on logistics with a tremendous collection of people from different bodies and agencies, we succeeded in bringing together over 340 people from around the world, across two days, spanning a high-powered dinner, networking and of course the set-piece conference agenda at the RCPI.
It was wonderful to have worked with Stephen Nolan, Catherine Daly and Sophie Smyth from Sustainable Nation Ireland, as well with Paul Ryan and his colleagues in the Department of Finance, to pull together a world-class list of panellists and speakers and coordinate the event called ‘Catalysing Global Savings to Advance our Sustainability Goals’.
This is also a great opportunity to thank the wider team who helped to make the event such a high-profile success including our hosts the Royal College of Physicians Ireland (particularly Maureen, Shay and Kerrie), our PR and content partner StoryLab, photographer Julien Behal (thanks for my ‘shot of the day’), Avcom and M310 Media Cube. Their help and input was a crucial ingredient for success in what was the biggest gathering of international financial institutions and asset managers held in Ireland and focused on this topic.
The line-up featured Nancy Saich, European Investment Bank; Constance Chalchat, BNP Paribas; Mireille Martini, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development; Kenneth Lay, former vice-president and treasurer of the World Bank Group; Stuart Kinnersley, co-founder and CEO, Affirmative Investment Management as well as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Sharon Donnery.
Another undoubted highlight of the event was the Government’s display of its ‘All of Government’ strategy to tackle climate change – in line with the ambition of its recently launched five-year plan for international financial services: Ireland for Finance.
We were delighted and honoured that the event was attended by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D. with four of his ministers speaking: Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform, Paschal Donohoe T.D.; Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton T.D.; Michael Darcy T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Finance; and Ciarán Cannon T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade.
So, a great success and one that attracted media coverage from Reuters, RTE, the Irish Independent and Environmental Finance among others, as well as front-page report in the next day’s edition of Times Ireland. I’m already looking forward to next year, but we’ll see about the live video feed!
I recently read a great article Own Your Career by Sarah Cunningham, Vice President of Mastercard’s Dublin Technology Hub, and in the opening paragraph Sarah writes that she believes ‘you can’t leave your career in the hands of fate; you’ve got to take control’. And that is where I found myself in 2014. Having stepped away from a job I loved a year prior to take time with my then young family, I was ready to return to work. The only difficulty was I couldn’t find the right fit! It was impossible to find a job that offered a flexible working arrangement. Remote and flexible working was not mainstream conversation as it is today. I had to take control, but the question was how?
The answer came in the form of an article from The Guardian sent to me by sister-in-law in London. It was an article on ‘Mumpreneurs’ (jury is still out on this terminology!) and starting a business from home. The seed was sown. After initial research, the term virtual assistant caught my attention. A virtual assistant is an independent contractor who provides professional administrative services to clients, with the services usually delivered remotely. With a background in office management, I had found my how.
What was borne out of need, soon became a passion. Be warned once you’re in it, you’re in it! You must be disciplined and tenacious, even on the days you want to throw it all up in the air. Research and defining service offering, identifying target market, setting up the office and developing a marketing strategy. Central to the planning was speaking with the few who were already established in the industry in Ireland at that time. The concept of paying it forward was practiced in these conversations, with time, knowledge and support given so freely by those who I had contacted, for which I will be forever grateful. And following this period of preparation, The Office Hub was registered and became a reality.
Through The Office Hub, I have had the opportunity to work across a broad range of sectors, projects and teams. From pan-European initiatives in sustainable finance, to implementing office functions for a start-up to general administration where needed. All the while reinforcing the benefits of remote working for the client, through productivity and continuously maintaining high standards in the deliverables. And I’ve been lucky to meet and work with some fantastic people along the way, people who embrace the culture of remote working and who share their sector knowledge time and again to foster team interaction.
I’ve always had great admiration for those who had a laser focus vision for their careers. Looking back, I never envisaged being self-employed, but it has been the most rewarding, challenging, worthwhile experience, and even with hindsight, I would not change it. But change is inevitable and in business
change is vital. The New Year sees a return to the business planning cycle to identify the direction the business will take in the next phase.
There has been a cultural shift, even since I started, in what we believe to be an appropriate workplace. The statistics on how traditional employment will evolve in the coming years are well documented. The move towards remote and flexible working arrangements is a welcome one; with many benefits, but a key benefit from personal experience, is the ability to create a new career path and stay within the workforce. With this shift change, I suspect the road less travelled will be busier!