Thursday 26 April 2018

Orna Holland: My parents separated in 1974, which was not the norm in Catholic Ireland - my mam really had to graft

Orna Holland (41) is in charge of recruiting at Stripe, an online payments company. She has just opened Roller - a blow-dry bar. She lives between Dublin and Dunmore East, Co Waterford, with her husband, Clifden, and their daughters - Farrah (10) and Riley (7)

Orna Holland is in charge of recruiting at Stripe. Photo: Eilis McCormick
Orna Holland is in charge of recruiting at Stripe. Photo: Eilis McCormick

Ciara Dwyer

I get up at 6.30am. Normally, I wake up writing mental lists in my head. I live between Dunmore East - where my husband has a hotel - and Dublin. At the moment, I have a lot going on. We're doing a massive refurbishment in our house in Sandymount, and I have a full-time job. I'm the staffing lead in Stripe, an online payments company, which was set up in the US by Limerick-born brothers John and Patrick Collison, who are both in their 20s. It's a technical company, so it's very open to the hours you work, where you work and how you work; but you have to work.

I'm in Dublin from Monday to Thursday, and then I work from home, in Dunmore East, on Fridays. I commute up on Monday mornings. My kids go to school in Dunmore East. We've had the same nanny for nine years, and my husband is flexible in his job, because he is self-employed. Recently, I opened Roller, a blow-dry bar in Dublin, so life is pretty hectic. In the mornings, I either go for a run, or do reformer Pilates. I think as I've got older, I'm more into these things. After a run, you've got a pep in your step for the day.

I normally get breakfast on the go, and then I'll have it at my desk. I work on projects with people who are based in the US, UK and France, so you are not logistically in the office with these people all day, every day. I've always worked in human resources. I've worked in Microsoft, Google and Facebook. I wanted to work in tech because it seemed exciting, fast-paced and forward-thinking. Culturally, I felt like it fitted my personality; it's very open, and you don't have to pretend to be someone else. If I went into banking, I'd have to wear a suit and be very serious. I like to have fun and to be myself at work and to say what I want to say. With this, it's OK to commute, and to have another business.

I've been working my entire life. My first job was when I was nine -babysitting. Then I worked in bars and restaurants. My parents separated in 1974, which was not the norm in Catholic Ireland. I was an infant. My mam really had to graft, because she had three kids under the age of five. I remember looking at her and thinking, 'That's never going to happen to me. I'm never going to be thinking, "Where is the next €10 coming from?".' That's why I have such a strong work ethic. Even though I'm married now and have two kids, I'm still very focussed on work. In Stripe, I'm in the office until 7pm, because I work with North America. From 4pm onwards, people there start to come on. I talk to people in Asia Pacific and Australia, too.

I have a partner for Roller - Sonia Flynn. We worked together for 10 years in Google and Facebook, and we used to travel a lot on business. When we'd be away, we'd always say, 'Where are we going to get a blow-dry?' If you do it yourself, it's never as good. Women in the workplace feel very capable, and if your hair is done, it's an added perk to your confidence level. It's like you're saying, 'I'm on'. Sonia and I kept talking about opening our own blow-dry bar in Dublin, and eventually, we did. In Roller, we don't cut or colour hair.

I worked in London for two years, and blow-dry bars are huge over there. We decided to open ours in Hanover Quay because there were no hairdressers there. You've got all the law firms there, as well as a massive Facebook office and Google. People can pop out from their jobs for the 30 minutes that it takes to get their hair done. Apart from the few minutes at the sink, they can open their laptops and work, because we have Wi-Fi. That's what I've always done at the hairdressers. The salon is open from 7am on weekdays, and you can get an appointment or walk in. Business is going really well.

Often in the mornings, before I go into work in Stripe, I head into Roller to talk to the manager about stuff in the salon. Then, at the end of my working day at 7pm, I'll spend a couple of hours doing the accounting and payroll for Roller. Sonia is based in Berlin, and she does a lot of our website stuff. We play to our strengths.

I love work, and I like being busy. I've always worked for people, but I really wanted to prove to myself that I could make a business work. It wasn't a business I knew anything about, except for the fact that I've always had several blow-dries each week. This is the first salon, and if things go to plan, we'll start rolling it out nationwide, and maybe throughout Europe.

If I'm in Dublin, I'll always meet someone for dinner around 9pm. Why would I bother cooking for myself when I'm on my own? When I'm up in Dublin, I do FaceTime with my girls. They both have iPads, and they text me. That's a really nice way to communicate, because it's not you ringing them. I think every working mother suffers from guilt, but I think my girls will look at me as a role model - my mom was extremely successful in her career, and she opened her own business. I do miss them, and there are glimmers of guilt, but the positive outweighs the negative by a long shot. I'm a happier person not being a stay-at-home mom, because that would just not be me. But when I'm with them, I'm totally focussed on them.

I go everywhere with them at the weekend, as opposed to trying to get to some party. When I was younger, I was more concerned with what people thought about the kids, but I've realised that you can't let other people's feelings about how you're rearing your children transfer on to you. I'm really happy, my kids are really happy, and so is my husband. He is very encouraging and supportive - otherwise I wouldn't have been able to do it with two kids.

I usually go to bed around 11pm. I don't really go out late anymore; those days are over. I'm always organising things in my head, even in my sleep.

Roller Blow Bar, 23 Forbes St, Hanover Quay, D2; Tel: (01) 549-4922, or see

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