Monday 21 May 2018

Waking hours with Joan Mulvihill, Irish Internet Association CEO

Joan Mulvihill (42) is CEO of the Irish Internet Association. Originally from Ballymahon in Co Longford, she now lives in Mullingar and commutes to work at the Digital Hub on Thomas Street in Dublin

Ballymahon native Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Internet Association. Photo: Tony Gavin
Ballymahon native Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Internet Association. Photo: Tony Gavin

Emily Hourican

I made the big move from Dublin to Mullingar on Friday, March 13, this year, and so far, so great. My commute time to the Digital Hub is 55 minutes, door-to-door, which is almost the same as it was when I lived in an apartment in Rathmichael, and any extra is worth it to have a garden. I get up at 7am, unless I have an early meeting, and leave the house pretty quickly - shower, dress, out the door. My kitchen does not feature in my morning plans.

Once I reach the M4, I pull into a service station and grab coffee and a pastry. I eat pretty well in general, but I cut myself some slack at 8.15am. Also, I know I can I run it off later. I run about three times a week, maybe seven or eight kilometres during the week, and 17km at the weekend.

I started running about three years ago, and I have found so many analogies between running and work. I used to think I couldn't run up the steep hills, but then I realised that you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, breathe in and out, and you will get to the top. When I started seeing it like that, I started seeing a lot of challenges at work in the same way.

I never had a big plan to move out of Dublin. In fact, I never make big plans. I reckon you can talk yourself in or out of anything, so I just jump, on the basis of, what's the worst that can happen? This way, I'm much closer to my family, and I have noticed how different my relationship is with my niece, now that I can see her more. That means a huge amount to me.

There are two of us in the office, myself and Ailbhe Lee. The IIA is the independent representative body for internet businesses in Ireland. It's a non-profit business association, and my duties as CEO are various. I might have to attend a government briefing, or I could be organising our Net Visionary awards, planning other events, speaking at conferences, building relationships with multi-nationals and our own start-up community, formulating our position on educational requirements, or on the new Eircodes.

I have a lot of meetings, anyone from grad students to IIA members and representatives of the Young Social Innovators; if I can fit it in, I'll do it. I do have to do admin stuff as well, like manage the books, report to the board and check the management accounts, but I have Ailbhe to help me with that, and I could not do this without her.

My mobile phone is always on, and if I can't help personally, I will know the person who can. I don't often take holidays - but you know what they say - if you find a job you love, you'll never have to work a day in your life. I really believe that. If things are getting manic and Ailbhe and I are about to explode, we do a 3pm Kardashian update. That's our pressure release. It gives us a giggle, then we get on with our work.

This is the longest I have done in any job. I'm six years into it now. In October 2008, I was working for chartered accountants BDO, when I went the way of most of the world and got made redundant. I was out of paid employment for nearly a year, although I never stopped working. It's really busy being unemployed! I was working really hard trying to get another job. But I did a lot that year, too. I ran a series of events for other senior management professionals who had lost their jobs, and I probably learned as much professionally in that year of being unemployed as I had in all the years working before that. I learned to trust myself. Before that, I'd always had a boss, a reference point. If I hadn't had that year, I think I couldn't have been a CEO.

I hadn't worked in tech before. I went into this with no credentials, no tech experience, and I had to prove myself fast. I was on TV talking about cloud computing about 24 hours after I started the job, and I had to look it up before I went on! But I learned fast, and I'm proud of that. I think it was good that I hadn't worked in tech. The tech community can get quite inward-looking, and that's not an effective way to grow, because they are selling to traditional businesses.

I usually have lunch in the Digital Hub. There's a restaurant there, where I can get my staple lunch of the moment - couscous and halloumi salad. But if I'm out and about or at something, I could easily miss lunch. I never understood what it was to love a job until this. My sister had a baby around the same time as I started this job, and I think it's similar to loving a child. They drive you mad at times, but the rewarding days are so rewarding, and you never stop thinking about them.

I drive out of the city in the evenings, and once I get to the toll plaza, the whole countryside just opens out in front of me. Depending on what time I get home and what I had for lunch, I will either cook, or I might just have a bowl of cereal. I'm not the best grocery shopper. I can often open the fridge and find nothing there. But I love food, and I like to cook, so usually at the start of the week, if I know I'm going to be home, I will do a shop and stock up.

If I'm home late, I might just go straight to bed and watch a movie. Or I might check in on Twitter or Facebook, and suddenly an hour can be gone. I read books, but only on holidays. I live a quieter life than people might think. I seem very sociable, and I am, but I live on my own, and I like that. On weekends, I just mooch around. I'll happily go to a restaurant on my own, with a newspaper or an iPad, and I go to mass every Sunday. I call them my 'body and soul Sundays' - I go for a run first, then to Mass.

I try to get to sleep by 11pm, and the last thing I do at night is to check the weather, because if I get up the next morning and don't already know what I'm going to wear, we could have serious delays!

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