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'I bought myself a ring to congratulate myself on surviving the first year of motherhood' - Q&A with entrepreneur and broadcaster Áine Kerr


Áine Kerr

Áine Kerr

Áine Kerr

Born in Co Monaghan, Áine Kerr is co-founder and COO of the technology company Kinzen. She started out in teaching before moving into journalism. After co-founding Storyful with Mark Little, she moved to Facebook. She recently graduated as a Fellow of the Sulzberger Leadership Program at New York's Columbia University. Áine is married to Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and the couple live with their daughter in Dublin. What was the first book you loved?

My pocket money went on buying up every single Famous Five, Secret Seven, Adventures of Tom Sawyer-type book I could find in a second-hand bookshop in Carrickmacross.

What's your best holiday memory?

Holidaying in the Westport Woods Hotel as a child, where they had a Kids' Club, and beating everyone at everything and taking home lots of prizes. I wasn't at all competitive, nope, not me.

What are you most proud of?

My two-year-old Boss Baby Anna. I'm thankful every day for the joy her kind and funny soul brings to my family as the first grandchild and niece.

What's your least attractive quality - and what is your most?

I get impatient for the type of change and impact I want to see in the world, especially when running a start-up that's trying to help solve complex issues, like disinformation and helping quality journalism survive. But I pride myself on getting things done, one day at a time, through sheer resilience and persistence.

What's the first thing you'd do if you were Taoiseach?

Where to even start, given our problems with homelessness, Direct Provision, gender pay inequality, resources for frontline services, and on and on. But one long-term investment is news literacy training for every citizen so we can be smart consumers of news and information.

Who would you most like to go for a pint with?

US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to thank her for leading the good fight on women's rights, to remind myself that change is slow and often doesn't move in straight lines. And to ask her about her plank technique at age 87.

What fictional character do you most identify with?

CJ Cregg in The West Wing, especially when she became Chief of Staff and had to put order on the chaos, while staying focused on her sense of purpose and remaining true to her values.

What is your most treasured possession?

On Anna's first birthday, I bought myself a ring to congratulate myself on surviving the first year of motherhood and to have something of meaning to pass on to her in future.

What's your guilty pleasure?

My so-called guilty pleasures have just become part of the survival routine in lockdown, such as red wine, dark chocolate, takeaways, and watching recordings of heartbreaking Monaghan GAA matches.

What's the best piece of advice you've been given?

"Think about what's the worst that could happen, then go and ask that person for a coffee." That advice spurred me to talk to Peter Woods, head of RTÉ Radio 1, about an idea for a show that started this very morning.

What item in your wardrobe do you wear the most?

Most of my wardrobe was redundant in Covid so I'm living out of my Gym+Coffee yoga gear. I'm especially partial to wearing my 'Stand in Awe of All Mná' jumper these days.

When did you last cry?

I suspect like many other women, I wept listening to radio tributes to cervical cancer campaigner Ruth Morrissey. She was clearly an amazing person, with an incredible sense of justice and love for her daughter and husband.

What did you learn about yourself during lockdown?

Lockdown allowed for something of a reset in which I finally got to practise the principle of "ruthless prioritisation". It's been an introvert's dream that's allowed for a better balance between meetings and quiet, productive work.

What keeps you awake at night?

Apart from the two-year-old, who fancies a late-night chat on occasion, my tired brain is definitely guilty of slipping into that paranoid 'what if?' mode, especially when you feel responsible for the livelihoods of a team of amazing people who've joined your plucky little Irish start-up.

If you had to choose only three adjectives to describe yourself, which would they be?

Resilient. Kind. Thoughtful.

What's your favourite film?

It's a Wonderful Life, for its perfect blend of black-and-white cinematography, old romantic charm and powerful messages at the most wonderful time of the year.

What's the last TV show you binge-watched?

The 1970s drama Mrs America - starring Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly and Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem - is superb.

What one piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I'd say… Don't worry about a perceived binary choice between journalism and teaching. Your generation will have so-called "squiggly careers" where you can do both.

What does your dream weekend look like?

A long hike, followed by the newspapers, strong coffee, Anna mucking about on the farm at home, and Monaghan beating anyone anywhere on any given weekend!

What job would you be terrible at?

My mother is a super-creative woman who can turn her hand to anything, but I have not inherited any of those skills, having opted out of doing home economics in secondary school. Let me near your kitchens or gardens at your peril.

Do you believe in a God?

I believe in my beloved Granny McNally who believed in her God. So, I talk to her in moments of quiet gratitude and reflection.

Áine is the host of RTÉ Radio 1's 'Reignite', a five-part series that starts today at 10am

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