‘On results day, I wasn’t confident or nervous’

Barry O’Sullivan, professor of computer science at University College Cork, director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics

“On results day, I wasn’t confident or nervous. I was having a great summer and was very relaxed. In fact, I forgot about the day of my results; it was my mother who reminded me. She drove me to the school to collect them. I said hello to everyone, picked up my envelope and chatted to my friends about it. And then the rest of the summer carried on as normal.

In my teens, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Oh, I had lots of ideas: I thought about studying music and becoming a musician, I considered taking up an apprenticeship in stone sculpture with a local artist, or going to college to study something interesting.

Because I didn't really have a specific plan, I applied for a course in production management at the University of Limerick. I chose the course because it included topics I was interested in: lots of mathematics, computing, engineering, and various aspects of business.

I didn’t plan what I’m doing now; I discovered it along the way. And by the time I finished my degree, I knew I wanted to do a postgraduate degree. By that time, I knew that being an academic was what I wanted to do.


Right now, I'm a full professor at the School of Computer Science at University College Cork, mostly working in the area of artificial intelligence. I am the director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics at UCC and I'm also the director of the national SFI Centre for Research Training in AI. I work a lot at an international level also. For example, I'm president of the European AI Association and the vice-chair of the European Commission's High-level Expert Group on AI. I did my Leaving Cert in 1990.

Different place

Looking back, the world was a totally different place then and I couldn’t even imagine how technologies that didn’t exist at the time would change the world. The world moves so fast that we can’t really know what we will be doing 10 years from now. The best we can do is follow our hearts and our interests in making the best decisions from the choices we have. Then we work hard and hope for the best.

Obviously, the experience is different for everyone, but I would suggest staying calm when you get the results. Nothing bad is going to happen, regardless of how it works out. There are lots of choices of career and lots of routes to get to where you want to go, even if you don’t know what the destination is yet. I certainly didn’t and it worked out just fine.”

Barry O'Sullivan attended St Colman's Community College, Midleton, Co Cork Twitter: @BarryOSullivan