The Irish International Business Network (IIBN) Future Leaders Programme pairs young Irish entrepreneurs and professionals living in the UK with experienced mentors who can provide them with guidance and advice. About 20 young people aged between 20 and 35 are paired with a mentor each year.
Here, 24-year-old Olwen Sheedy, who has recently returned to Dublin to train as a chartered accountant, shares her experience of the programme.
Tell us about yourself.
I spent two years working in London after I graduated from DCU having completed a Bachelor of Business Studies. During my degree, I spent twelve months in Boston working for the American Ireland Fund. During my final year in DCU, I was selected for the Washington Ireland Program, a six-month programme focussing on personal and professional development, which brings university students from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to Washington, DC for summer work placements and leadership training.
I spent eight weeks living and working in Washington DC. On my return to Ireland, I moved to London where I worked with Enterprise Ireland for two years. I am now back in Dublin working for PwC, training as a chartered accountant. It has been a huge adjustment but I am very happy to be home.
How did you become involved with the Future Leaders Programme?
I consider was one of the first people selected to take part in the programme. While working with Enterprise Ireland in London, I got involved with the IIBN, and worked with the Enterprise Ireland team there to develop a strategy to work more closely with the Irish networks. I could see the benefit that these networks would be to Irish companies doing business in the UK. From this experience, I developed good relationships with the IIBN team.
When the Future Leaders Programme was proposed, I was very keen to apply. I had already sought advice and coaching from a number of people within the network as I was trying to figure out the best next step to take career-wise. The Future Leaders Programme was an opportunity to receive guidance on a more formal basis. I had been involved in a structured mentorship programme during my time in DCU and it was invaluable. I think mentorship is so important and can have a real impact when a good relationship is developed.
How were you paired with your mentor? How often do you meet, or contact eac other?
When I applied for the Future Leaders Programme, I was coming to the end of my contract in London and had made the decision to move back to Dublin to train as a chartered accountant.
I was paired with a senior partner at a leading global consulting firm. He was an ideal mentor given the role I was about to start in PwC. My mentor and I met in person every month for the six months before I left London. Since I returned to Dublin, we have arranged phone calls to catch up and have been in contact by email where required. He has been a huge support and our communication has been consistent.
Did you find the application challenging?
I didn’t find the application overly challenging. It required some preparation as in order to get the most from the programme it is important to know what you want out of it. I was honest in my application in saying why I had applied, what I hoped I would learn and the time I was willing to commit to participate.
What have been the benefits of taking part? What have you learned? Would you recommend it to others?
I have learned a huge amount from my mentor. He has guided me through a difficult transition moving back to Ireland from the UK, and beginning to train as a chartered accountant. I have appreciated his sound and honest advice. His awareness of the challenges I have faced, having done the qualification himself, is invaluable. He has given me advice based on lessons he has learned from his own experience and helped me overcome challenges. The programme has really helped me and I would certainly recommend it to others.
For more information on the Future Leaders Programme, including how to apply, see iibn.com/flp.