Twitter Ireland boss warns against outdated career advice

Sinéad McSweeney defends millennials and says mental health and wellbeing are priority

Young people today are being given slightly outdated advice in an attempt to encourage them into careers in science, technology, engineering and maths, the head of Twitter Ireland has said.

“There’s a saying in terms of encouraging young women in particular and young women in general to look for careers in stem subjects, that you can’t be what you can’t see. To my mind that is slightly outdated,” Sinéad McSweeney said. “What we now need to encourage people to aspire to is to be something that right now they can’t even imagine.”

Ms McSweeney used the example of her own career path, which has moved from politics to the Police Service of Northern Ireland and An Garda Síochána, to Twitter.

“When I left school in 1988, most of the jobs that I have done since didn’t exist. The technology that underpins my current job certainly didn’t exist,” she said, noting that the social platform was just 12 years old.


Ms McSweeney was speaking at an Institute of Directors lunch in Dublin.

She recounted some of the missteps in her own career, but noted there is “no such thing as failure”, describing it simply as a mistake, if there was something to be learned from it.

“We should never accept that there is such a thing as a wasted journey because every experience we have is something from which we can grow, and which we take learning and which we develop,” she said.


Ms McSweeney addressed the crisis that hit the social media platform at the beginning of last year, when the company was faced with headlines wondering if Twitter was over, following a significant redundancy programme.

“I had to take a team of people in Dublin through that and through the sense of loss and uncertainty who were worried they were going to be next to a situation,” she said.

However, the company has since had a “global turnaround”, she said. “The atmosphere and sense of energy and productivity and the site itself is a long way from where it was.”

She also addressed the characterisation of millennials, noting that Generation X were described as “cynical, aimless slackers”.

“Yet we were the entrepreneurs who drove most of the innovation from which we benefit today,” she said.

She also warned mental health and wellbeing needed to be a priority for business leaders, saying she was increasingly worried for millennials and the pressure they were putting on themselves.

“As leaders and managers I think we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re not adding to that but also that we’re helping them realise that it’s okay to slow down, it’s okay to enjoy the achievement that they have,” she said.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist