When Emer Timmons walked into her class in Maynooth University for the first time, she was asked by a male classmate: "What are you doing here?"
Timmons, who's just stepped down from the board of Flutter Entertainment Plc, where she enjoyed three successful years as independent non-executive director, was the only woman enrolled in the bachelor's degree in economics and maths at the time.
"I remember walking in and a guy saying 'should you not be at home learning to cook and sew'," she told the Irish Independent.
"I turned around and asked him, 'is this not an honours maths class? Well maybe you should be the one staying at home then'. I made sure to stand my ground."
Timmons is used to working in male-dominated environments and has been outspoken in her career on the need for more women in business, particularly in the tech industry.
Perhaps uncharacteristically for an Irish person and a female, Timmons is more than happy to openly and proudly discuss her many achievements.
From 2006 to 2016 she held a number of senior executive roles at the multinational BT Group, focusing on international projects and business development.
She is considered one of Ireland's most successful business people and best exports.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny even rang her up to tell her so.
In 2015, she was awarded 'Woman of the Year' at the Women in IT Awards, and in 2017 she was the only European woman to be named as one of the '21 Leaders for the 21st Century'.
This event pays tribute to women and men who have made an outstanding impact on gender equality around the globe.
"Enda Kenny contacted me when I won it and told me to make sure that they knew I was Irish," she laughed.
Speaking about her secret to success, she believes her education really helped mould her into the woman she is today.
She went to secondary school in the Presentation Convent in Terenure, Dublin, which she credits for teaching her "a lot about discipline".
"I went to the local convent and like everyone else I got involved in Irish dancing and piano lessons and all the rest," she said.
"I believe that if you go to a non-fee paying school it prepares you much better for being a woman in the real world as you have to work for everything.
"I know some people who went to fee-paying schools and had everything handed to them.
"The nuns in Terenure were very strict but the education was fantastic. I quickly learned that if there was a group of girls running towards you to turn and go the other way as it usually meant there was a nun in hot pursuit over someone wearing the uniform improperly."
After the Leaving Cert, she went on to graduate from Maynooth with a degree in maths and economics.
Being the only woman in a class of all men helped give her a taste of what her career in business would be like - and instilled in her an instinct to compete.
In a picture on the BT Twitter account, Timmons can be seen holding a sign saying "#NotJustForboys".
"I'm proof that the tech sector is a great place for women to build a career," she said.
One of Timmons's first jobs after graduating was working as a sales representative for Denis O'Brien at Esat Telecom.
Although she took an initial pay cut to join O'Brien from Accenture, she describes the job as her "first big break" and worked her way up the ladder to become sales manager, and later got involved in the company's business development.
In 2003, Timmons again went to work for O'Brien as group sales, distribution and retail director at Digicel, which provides cellular phone service for people in the Caribbean.
She helped the company achieve acquisition growth of 110pc within a year and worked alongside an "incredibly talented" team of mostly females.
Championing women's rights has been a big part of Timmons's career.
She previously addressed the United Nations on the need to reduce the gender pay gap and in 2018 she was one of 100 people to feature in a book commissioned by the UK government to commemorate 100 years since women got the right to vote.
"The book features 100 women who over the years have been, and continue to be, trailblazers in their respective fields. I was very proud to be featured in this book."
She is due to take up a new role on a different board after stepping away from Flutter, which operates as a sports betting and gaming company in the UK, Ireland, Australia and the US.
Now the CEO and founder of her own business where she provides professional services and strategic engagement to global corporates and venture capital funds, Timmons said she is "thriving" in the role.
A piece of advice her mother gave to her as a young girl has stuck with her throughout all her years in business.
"No matter what, you always have to have confidence in yourself as a woman," she said.
"It takes confidence to set up your own company and it doesn't matter what age you do it. The Irish have an amazing work ethic, they always find opportunity during challenges and thrive on it and I want people to never forget that."