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Network Ireland National Conference and Awards 2019

Network Ireland National Conference and Awards 2019

09/10/2019 | News

A sunny end of September day saw Network Ireland bring its National Conference and Awards to the Celtic Ross. Our team was more than delighted to play host to the 250 professional business women and leaders who descended on West Cork for the annual conference and gala dinner.

Hosted by the effervescent Sonya Lennon, herself a successful media personality and entrepreneur, the sold-out conference flowed seamlessly from the off. The delegates who hailed from the organisation’s countrywide network of branches were greeted with coffee and pastries before being welcomed to the conference by Network Ireland president Helen Wycherley. Also on hand to welcome a packed auditorium were John O’Doherty, Head of AIB Cork (National Partner), and Sharon Corcoran, Director of Economic Development, Enterprise and Tourism, Cork City Council (Event Partner).

Founder and CEO of LIFT Ireland, Joanne Hession, was the first keynote speaker on the podium, delivering an impassioned message about women in leadership. Joanne was followed by Future of Work Expert Peter Cosgrove, who led an attentive audience through managing opportunities and challenges and embracing change in the workplace.

A quick networking break was followed by an all-female panel comprising Michelle Noone (PAS), Sheelagh Daly (Enterprise Ireland) Helen Smyth (Facebook) and Rose-Marie Kennedy (Deloitte). Moderated by the hugely entertaining Kevin Cullinane, Head of Communications at Cork Airport, this panel of highly successful female business leaders shared some of the background to and secrets of their standout achievements, and how they faced down the challenges of their demanding roles by driving new initiatives and embracing change.

An inspiration to both current and future female business leaders, this panel of highly respected and unique women energised the packed auditorium. The empowerment was almost tangible!

After, a walk-through the sometimes-difficult world of networking with Dawn Leane of Leane Leaders, the delegates repaired to the Kingfisher Bistro for a hot buffet lunch before curling up for a ‘Fireside Chat’ with Deirdre Somers. In conversation with Wall Street Journal Deputy Chief News Edi-tor, Grainne McCarthy, Deirdre, the former head of the Irish Stock Exchange, spoke at length about what drove, inspired and motivated her to rise to such a prestigious leadership role, as well as the challenges that come with working in an environment lacking in equality and diversity.  A truly awe-inspiring tale by a trailblazing woman!

A fired-up audience was temporarily grounded by the harsh reality of Ronan Murphy’s insights into cyber security and the all too prevalent threat of cyber-attacks. The CEO of Smarttech247 shared invaluable expert advice with generation tech dependent.

Final speaker of the day was Fitness and Mindset Coach, Grace O’Rourke, whose ‘failure to success’ story held the attention of every person present. Undaunted by a string of personal and professional failures, and with literally nothing to lose, Grace took on the challenge of RTE’s Special Forces, and won, spectacularly. Grace’s uncompromising attitude towards Ultimate Hell Week saw her succeed where all previous female participants had failed, resulting in her becoming the first ever woman to conquer UHW and pass this gruelling special forces test.

Needless to say, Grace’s story received a very long and enthusiastic standing ovation. What a role model for young women everywhere! #conquerthechallenge

Key takeaways on the day …

“Don’t compromise on values” - Michelle Noone

“Marry well” - Deirdre Somers

“Learn to say no” - Rose-Marie Kennedy

“Culture is everything” - Grainne McCarthy

“Everything is relative” - Grace O’Rourke

“Get to the point straight away” - Helen Smyth

“Bring authenticity to how you think about things, be a role model, and others will follow” - Rose-Marie Kennedy

“Put yourself forward and take the risk” - Sheelagh Daly

“Data is powerful but like every powerful tool it can have a dark side” - Ronan Murphy

“People don’t extend trust easily” - Dawn Leane

And in a nod to a world in which we all constantly strive to achieve work/life balance … 

“If home is white, and work is black, I live my life in a constant shade of grey. The key is, what shade of grey can I live with?” - Deirdre Somers

Proceedings were brought to a close by MC Sonya who together with NI President Helen Wycherley thanked the panellists and keynote speakers and reinforced the theme of the day - #stepup - lead, adapt, motivate, and conquer. Afterwards, a completely energised cohort of business women repaired to the Tower for Afternoon Tea and more networking and connecting before repairing to their boudoirs to glam up and #stepup and out for the evening’s gala dinner and awards ceremony.


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