The Trinity Student Managed Fund’s first event of the year took place yesterday evening in the Ed Burke Theatre. The Leadership Perspectives 2017 event is part of an annual series of leadership events and billed itself as SMF’s premier event of the year. According to the official event description, “each event in the series brings together a range of esteemed business leaders from across the globe to discuss a particular topic in a panel discussion format.” The theme for this year’s event was ‘Guiding the Way into the 21st Century’.
The panel for the evening’s discussion was composed of a selection of key leaders in the business world; Helen Tynan, Patrick Coveney, Ronan Ryan and Alan Dargan. Paul Cooke, former MD of the Sunday Business Post, chaired the discussion and opened with a light hearted introduction.
The evening took on a structured approach, with each of the panellists taking the microphone to speak, with the audience then being invited to ask questions. Alan Dargan, the founder of Lonsdale Partners, initiated the discussion. He spoke about many aspects of leadership and was the first speaker- but definitely not the last- to bring up Trump and the recent elections in the States. He compared Trump and Clinton, describing the former as a leader and the latter as a manager.
While keen not to align himself too closely to Trump, Dargan conceded for better or worse he democratically rose to power. He also mentioned that Trump was the number one news item during 2016, and is estimated to have received $3 billion worth of free advertising during his campaign. He finished by aligning his views on Trump with that of the Pope; to judge him on actions rather than words. He argued that an individual who demonstrates successful leadership talents and skills can achieve almost anything.
The second panellist speaker was Helen Tynan, Director of People Operations for Google Ireland. Tynan spoke of the varied start to her career, beginning as a teacher in Cork and ending up working for several U.S. multinationals in the Human Resources sector. Her advice was that in today’s society, one should aim to develop broadly applicable skills. She also explained how to keep up with today’s rapidly evolving jobs market. She believes that we must place less emphasis on specialist skills and more on general knowledge. Her final piece of advice to those who want to succeed in the business world was to embrace diversity; both of thought and of people. She explained that as we enter our careers, we will meet a diverse range of people and will need to cater for a diverse range of customers.
Patrick Coveney, CEO of Greencore, was up next to discuss his views on leadership. He spoke about leading a growing company into the future as CEO. He told the crowd that he always believed he would reach this current stage of his career, and encouraged everyone to believe in themselves and maximise their self-confidence. He explained that on his Oxford application, he set out his career goal as becoming a CEO of an Irish public company before the age of forty- an ambitious and bold goal which he has amazingly achieved.
The last member of the panel to take to the stage was Ronan Ryan, President of IEX and a central character featured in Michael Lewis’ best-seller Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. He was perhaps the most entertaining speaker of the evening. Explaining the details of his time in America since he left Ireland 26 years ago, he focused especially on his experience of Wall Street. His speech was slightly long winded but invoked the attention and laughter of the audience. His parting advice was to always work hard- it was obvious that Ryan obviously believes in the power of hard work.
Overall, the event was both informative and inspiring. It educated audience members on the skills and talents that make a great leader and the panel discussion engaged with current affairs and real world issues. However, if I could find one downfall with the evening it would be that of the many speakers who took to the stage to give their views, only one of these was a woman.
This was also reflected in the gender balance of the audience members. Of the many questions raised by the audience, only one or two were asked by a woman. This is not necessarily a fault of SMF or the organisers; in reality it merely highlights the lack of women leaders in the business world. According to a recent study commissioned by the 30% Club Ireland, just 14% of Irish companies have women leaders. Despite the lack of female representation at the event, Helen Tynan was one of, if not the strongest speaker of the evening and made her voice heard and her opinions count.
This article was amended for accuracy on January 25 at 17:45