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Caroline's 5,000 mile trip home for Christmas


 ‘Flexible’ commuter Caroline Dowling.

‘Flexible’ commuter Caroline Dowling.

‘Flexible’ commuter Caroline Dowling.


IF you are driving home for Christmas this week spare a thought for Caroline Dowling, who must have the longest commute of any North Cork resident.


The Millstreet native, who lives in Kanturk, will be travelling about 5,000 miles home for Christmas - that's about a fifth of the circumference of the Earth.

The 46 year-old, who left school at 15 and got work doing housekeeping and bar work, is now one of the most senior executives at Flextronics, which is an €18 billion American supply chain solutions company that offers design, manufacturing, distribution and aftermarket services to original equipment manufacturers.

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And while 'Flex' has a perfectly good facility on Dublin Hill in Cork, Caroline - as president of Integrated Network Solutions business group - works in California, USA. So, she lives in Kanturk and works in ... California. That's a 16,328km round-trip commute on a weekly basis.

In an interview with The Sunday Times recently, Caroline explained how she got pregnant at 15 - with her now 30-year old daughter Sarah - and dropped out of Millstreet Community School.

However, when Sarah toddled off to school, Caroline reverted back into the books. She then got a job at the newly-established Alps Electric, a Japanese electronics manufacturing company near Millstreet, where she was employee number 15.

As the company grew, she simply put up her hand for more and more responsibility. She pointed out that when you get in early to a fast growing company, then great opportunities can go an employees way.

From working on keyboards and disc drives for Alps customers such as IBM and HP, she then became a supervisor, and basically continued moving upwards.

INow a senior vice-president in a company that employs 200,000 people globally she's come a long way - and travels a long way, too.

Her routine involves spending two weeks in California, then home to Kanturk. Going to work means leaving Cork at 5.15am on a Sunday to be at her desk in San Jose for Monday afternoon. Mixed into the fray, every three month period includes a couple of weeks in Asia, where many of Flextronics factories are located.

Though she spends about 37 or 38 weeks of the year out of the country, Kanturk is still very much home.

Despite working thousands of miles away from Cork, she still holds a keen interest at the Flextronics' plant in Cork, which employs about 300 people.

In August, Flextronics started making the Motorola Google Moto X smartphone in Texas, the first smartphone manufactured in America. Other division make everything from medical devices to vacuum cleaners and higher margin products for defence and aerospace clients.

Caroline's partner is Owen and she has two stepsons, Cian and Eanna. She listed her favourite book as 'The Reluctant Fundamentalist' by Mohsin Hamid and her favourite film as 'Untouchable.'

She is an early riser when in San Jose and she gets up at 5am and goes for a run. She noted that "it's a California thing," and is then at her office for 6.30am. Despite working all day, she also has to have client dinners in the evening and is finally home to bed by 9.30pm.

Despite such a hectic working style, she adores cooking. And Christmas is very much a time for that.

"I'll have the whole extended family around for Christmas dinner," she told The Sunday Times.

So, if you're stuck in the car on Christmas Eve just focus on the fact that it's only a few miles to home.