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Inspirefest 2016, the low-down

Monday, July 4, 2016

Members of Philip Lee attended Inspirefest 2016, run by Silicon Republic and the formidable Ann O’Dea.  This was the second Inspirefest and was probably the best tech convention held in Dublin this year.  Whilst the event was a massive success and full of inspiration – three exceptional speakers stood out from the rest.

Judith Williams, Dropbox

The first was most definitely Judith Williams.  Judith is a diversity expert and advisor to Dropbox.  She spoke about growing your business and your career.  She also spoke about the main themes from the event this year – equality and diversity.

Equality makes us greater and sponsorship regarding this, sponsorship of people, sponsorship of ideas and sponsorship of a thought process.  Judith asked the question ‘does diversity matter in tech in Silicon Valley?’  The answer is definitely yes.  There is a difference, she explained, about being inclusive versus feeling included.  Extending the invitation to our cultural practices make us a group and better, because regardless of whether we like it or not, an unconscious bias exists.  There are blind spots when we process data and what we need to think is that we need to think differently about diversity.  According to Judith Williams the cultural contribution is what is most important for our businesses.  So when we look at the future of work and diversity, we must think about being able to build that future around responsibility.  It is not enough to speak up for the issues of what is pertinent to you but about the collaboration of your work and listening to your employee contributions.  She said that in Dropbox culture eats strategy for breakfast.  Once you get your corporate culture correct your strategy will fall in line after that.

She also spoke about the future of working in collaboration and the flexibility of your employees.  Listening to employee choices and seeing their attitude and how the attitude counts makes it easier to work for everyone.  She spoke about how progress versus goals is such an important part of employee diversity.  Fostering talent and stretching the capability of an employee will increase the productivity of the company.

Retention of a good employee means that there cannot be an annual review.  There must be a continuous review of how the employee is gaining in the team.  The reason why retention is good for companies is that it shows that they are open to diversity and to policy changes and looking at their employees as a way of gauging the future.  Two out of three reasons why people leave is because of culture and motivation.  94% of employees state that where their job is more meaningful they are more than likely to be engaged.  We can no longer say that business is a measure of our self-worth and the bottom line isn’t everything.  We live in era where the female voice is stagnant and we, yes, we can be the token and be proud of it.  But people are happier when they do something of value and are productive.  Where there is more productivity there is more diversity and that is a known and proven truth.


Shelly Hoey

The next exceptional speaker was Shelly Hoey.  Shelly is a venture capitalist and a thought leader on networks. She spoke about networks and how to create your network stating that human relationships drive ideas in businesses.  You need to build your expertise and to build your expertise you need to be curious.  You need to build your network around that expertise and gauge the ideas.  Ideas without a network, is like a career without a relationship.  It is not who you know that matters, it is who knows what you know that really matters.  We need to also focus on our own personal bank account.  How do we cultivate enough expertise in our world so that we can figure out the next steps for what we need to achieve in our careers.  One of the main messages I took from Shelly and Inspirefest 2016 was “we become what we do and we also become what we don’t do”.


Dr. Maureen Gaffney

The final inspiring woman at Inspirefest was the lovely Professor Maureen Gaffney, and her engaging talk about her principals of defining a successful life and being your best self.  We are happy as human beings and those who are happy are those who have and cultivate their unique talents and experiences.  They have an ability to adapt and be resilient if the master competence is adaptable to change.  One of our greatest resources is the brain and the emotions are a guide to action to do things that are too important to leave to the intellect.  So if you think about a negative emotion it can alter you to a threat or it can make you react.  A positive emotion will alter you to an opportunity so the twin of survival is recognising an opportunity.  When you have a negative emotion you have to recognise that it can be turned into a positive.  Hope brings strategies on how we mould the day.  There is a premium on happiness and positivity.  We are one third more productive when we are positive.  Life success and positivity are the most important things when it comes to strategy for employees and companies.  The ability to re-balance negativity and positivity is the key to resilience. In every case you learn something new about yourself. For every negative experience within an organisation you have an opportunity to learn from it. Emotions can be contagious and people close to their emotions are contagious.  For every happy friend you have in your group you should be about 9% happier, 40% happier if happiness is within your control. The rest is genetic, and dependent on age and circumstances.  40% is in your control so the catch line is to be optimistic. This keeps windows of opportunity open.  Companies should learn from this.


Contact Majella Crennan, Associate, Philip Lee

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