Top four takeaways from Inspirefest
We were lucky enough to attend day one of the recentInspirefest event in Dublin’s Bord Gais Energy Theatre. From start to finish the day was packed full of incredible speakers with amazing and inspiring stories, the majority of whom were women working in a variety of STEM careers.
Inspirefest organiser Ann O’Dea started the day by welcoming everyone with a recap of some the previous year’s speakers, a taster of the speakers to come and a nod to the returning speakers who have continued to excel and inspire in their careers. We were delighted to be there and are excited to share our top four takeaways from the day with you.
As the day progressed a number of themes came up again and again; many of the speakers started out in one career only to switch to something different, from journalism to NASA in the case of Dr France A Cordova. She’s an amazing woman with lots of great stories, one of our favourite takeaways from her talk was the advice to say yes more than no. According to Dr Cordova we often don’t know ourselves as well as we think and in some cases, other people see our potential before we do. Because of this we often run the risk of missing out on opportunities as we don’t feel like we are up to the task, imposter syndrome anyone? We recommend that people follow the advice of Dr Cordova’s friend whose motto is ‘I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it’.
We were enthralled by Niamh Shaw who posed the question, what do you do with impossible dreams? Having taken a very academic path with 2 degrees and a career in engineering Niamh later returned to education to study performing arts. This change led to a rediscovery of a childhood wish to travel to space, which in turn became a play, My Place In Space, that Niamh went on to perform at the Dublin Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and the Adelaide Fringe.
As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Niamh has used her experience in engineering and the arts to help her on her mission to get to space. She’s an astronaut in training, has taken part in a two week Mars simulation, is currently in training for a longer Mars simulation and wants to be one of the first people on Mars with Elon Musk’s colony of space pioneers. What seemed like an impossible dream at 8 years old is becoming more and more likely to happen! Niamh’s story has taken many twists and turns and is one the really resonated with us when it comes to making your own path regardless of what other people may think.
Girls and STEM
The importance of encouraging young girls into STEM subjects from an early age was another recurring topic throughout the day. We were treated to talks from DCU’s Lisa Looney and Trinity’s Dr Arlene O’ Neill who both agreed that STEM needs to be presented as a viable option for girls from very early on in their education. By the time teenage girls are looking at the college courses they want to apply for many have already been discouraged away from key areas of STEM, despite an early interest and aptitude for these subjects. It’s becoming increasingly important to reach these girls in primary school and allow them the opportunity to learn about STEM subjects as we are facing a shortage of qualified STEM workers, despite the fact that we are becoming increasingly reliant on technology.
An inspiring advocate of women in STEM is Dr Sue Black, founder of techmums, whose mission is to create
and connect kick ass, tech savvy mums. Dr Black’s goal is to have one million mums using techmums by 2020, from what we saw at Inspirefest she is well on her way and we have every faith that she will achieve her goal. She encourages everyone to ‘disrupt yourself’, saying that you can do anything you set your mind to; it’s impossible to resist her positivity and we came away from her talk feeling like we could take on the world.
From young girls with an interest in STEM subjects to mums who have never considered themselves to be particularly techie, there’s a growing movement to bring women and girls of all ages into the world of science and technology, something that we wholeheartedly support.
If You Can See It, You Can Be It
There were lots of other inspirational stories and speakers throughout the day but one that stuck with us is Eimear Noone’s fascinating talk about seeing an orchestra being conducted on TV as a child and deciding there and then that it was what she wanted to do. Eimear told us about her absolute self-belief in the fact that she could be a composer and conductor and the challenges along the way. It was a long road but Eimear has composed music for multiple Hollywood movies, composes the music for hugely successful video games like World of WarCraft and is arguably the world’s current premier conductor of video game scores, she travels the world conducting orchestras and has turned her childhood dream into a reality.
Subscribing to the belief that ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’, Eimear has used technology to showcase how she works in order to show other girls that they can do what she does. Eimear has worn go-pro’s and motion capture devices while she conducts so that people can see exactly what it’s like to conduct an orchestra of 80+ musicians. If you’d like to know what that looks like check out this video of Eimear in action.
We could go on about how amazing the day was but if you’d like to get an even greater insight into the event, take a look at Silicon Republic for lots of excellent Inspirefest coverage. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!