Needing direction: I was an A-student at Inter Cert but the grades disintegrated by sixth year as my social life proved more absorbing.
I repeated the Leaving in 1990 and then did a computer programming course, dropping out when I realised what writing code involved.
I'm from a working class background and earning a regular income seemed most important then, so aged 16 I started working in the local Quinnsworth (now Tesco) in Cork for four years.
Good career guidance at school was not something I had and I feel strongly every child should get decent direction. Chance and fate played a part in my career but many won't be as lucky.
I did some basic typing and secretarial courses and in 1995 started with insurance brokers, McCarthy Insurance. I completed my exams but found the industry boring and a bit of a boys' club.
I then joined Fannin - one of our competitors today - covering everything from customer service to debt collection.
This is where I met my then mentor Owen Curtin, who insisted on giving me tasks completely over my head. He saw the potential in me and involved me in projects and acquisitions that challenged what I thought I could do.
I moved into marketing and sales - which I found lonely so I was ready for change in 2003 when Owen asked me to work for the medical supplies distribution company he was setting up.
What followed was the busiest three months of my life; I got married, finished my degree in business at CIT, (I completed my Masters a few years later), and started as commercial manager at Healthcare21.
We started with 37 employees so I was involved with everything from placing purchase orders to processing orders. Today we offer it all - marketing and sourcing medical supplies and devices, right through to servicing and recycling them.
We employ more than 500 and as I have been here from day one, I know what needs to happen at every level, so I struggle daily not to get involved with the nitty gritty.
We place great value on mentoring - it does not have to be formal, it can be a chat but one that is planned and regular - if a business is to be successful you need that input.
Our main markets are the UK, Ireland, Germany and Austria and in 2018 we doubled our size and while I have no single secret to being effective I have certainly honed my ability to draw a line under tasks.
If I have a deadline, I want to complete the task to the best of my ability, in the time available; I'm not looking for perfection as I could be obsessing over things like presentations for hours. It makes little difference and the time is lost.
Fixing issues, moving on
Rapid growth did not come without complications. When buying a company we are very open but sometimes it's not possible to know what your exact plans are; you do your due diligence but you need to get inside structures.
There is an optimum moment to get into the workings and try to detect and fix any problems - it can't be done too quickly or you won't get a true sense of the situation.
There was an acquisition a few years ago I left as a stand-alone for too long. We lost €1m - I saw where I went wrong and took the hard lesson.
I don't let regret eat into my self-confidence - better to focus on what I've learned rather than beat myself up.
Women in Business
Pre-Covid I would travel a lot and always at least a couple of days every week. At 4.30am I am on the road to Dublin or heading to Cork airport.
I overcompensate at the weekend trying to spend every minute with my three-year-old twin boys - I am reluctant to make a hair appointment or meet a friend if I have been away.
The kids will only be small for so long and this presses on my mind.
I feel men are made up differently in this respect - there is no benefit to saying we are all the same.
I'm aware women can be a lot harder on themselves; they often need more feedback to prompt going for a promotion or asking for a pay rise.
Being a leader running a business I am proud my management team is 40pc female - there are no quotas, they are the best people for the job.
I also know I would have lost many of them if flexibility was not there when they needed it.
Eye of the storm
We are a large company, but not a multinational. Most of our back office is in Ireland, so when Covid-19 struck we were nimble.
The pandemic has been the third most stressful time of my life.
The first was having twins, the second was when my mother was dying in hospital five years ago, and the third was the first few weeks of lockdown when I had no childcare in what was our busiest time at work ever.
While surgical demand fell, in a three-week period we had three years' worth of orders in areas such as life saving equipment - most we could deliver. We had not sold visors before but sold around five million of them.
Top of our agenda now is ensuring critical product lines in case of a second wave.
I am based in Cork and when visiting our other offices I always schedule walking around time to chat - it's useful to know Mary's mum is in hospital and that is why she is not performing at her best. Getting to know your employees is always time well spent.
When travelling I schedule as many monthly business meetings as possible. I often have a business dinner - no two days are identical.
Our retention rate is high, we have a friendly, tight-knit culture and this has not changed with growth. My biggest fear with working from home is that we lose some of this cohesion - we have tried to replicate this with Friday informal calls.
Through lockdown I have been sending a weekly video message and I'm going to continue with this when we return to the office as it's a useful way to update and keep everyone involved.
We ran an employee survey and found people would like to work from home a couple of days a week and I'm open to this. At the start of lockdown there was a mad dash for hardware so proper work stations will have to be set up.
I'm not happy unless I am very busy and exercise helps me switch off but I have let this slip over the last few years.
I found I only had the time at 5am or 11pm so my solution has been to treat myself to a Peloton bike - still in the box - as I need the motivation of an exercise class.
At the moment I'm in perpetual motion, squeezing five days into four. The boys are up at 7am and I'm up earlier to get a couple of hours' work done. I have childcare three days a week;
I am very lucky as usually my sister minds the twins but a family friend has stepped in as she is shielding.
I'm a night owl and won't be in bed before midnight. I find it hard to step away from the laptop - every new email generates five more so I need to stop trying to get ahead on what tomorrow will bring.
I'm looking forward to getting the Peloton set up this weekend so I can get more of a balance.