Jenny Copeland – Motorsports, Marathons, Motherhood and now Mount Everest.

SeamusLawlessJennyCopeland

A river cuts through rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence. – Jim Watkins.

That’s what Jen reminds me of as she speaks of her pursuit to summit Mount Everest.

Studying Sports Science in Wales is where her love of the outdoors was ignited, having Snowdonia national park as her playground as a break from the books. Jenny returned to Ireland and went on to become a trainee outdoor instructor, gaining her rock climbing awards, mountain skills, and mountain leader training. The opportunities to gain mountain experience in Ireland and winter skills training in Scotland afforded six young trainees to set their sights on summiting Mount Blanc, as a self-guided expedition. Having always aspired to be a physiotherapist she pursued her studies as a mature student to complete an Honors degree in Physiotherapy from RCSI. Whilst the mountains may have slipped into the background, life in the fast lane continued. With her dad into motor-racing, Jen was introduced to motorsports at a very young age. At 21, she was in the Fiat Punto racing group. She raced in Kirkistown, MondelloPark and Pheonix Park (where in, 1903 the first Irish Grand Prix was held).

She met her husband Bob at Mondello racing track, career and family life ensued and she is now the mother of four children: Charlotte, Josh, Harriott and Elliott. Whilst a very different fast lane than the track, the pace of keeping up with the school runs was enough to put one in a spin! She laughs away as she says there were times when ‘bringing the kids from school’ routine was three times a day with an hour interval between drives. But that did not stop her from training herself on a daily basis. She targeted yearly marathons and managed to keep herself engaged with them. She ran the Dublin Marathon in 2009, 2011 and 2012. Striving for a work life balance of three days’ work and two days home with the children, life was a juggling act that many parents will relate to.

She hit an inexplicable low in 2014. While she couldn’t put her finger on the cause, she was grateful she could talk about it and seek help. “I tried to work full-time, manage a home and four young children. Many were affected during the recession with job loss and soaring mortgage rates and we were no different. I overcompensated trying to fix things, but it backfired. It’s a hard landing having to accept that I am only human, only capable of being such….not superhuman as I had strived to be, an unrealistic expectation of a life I thought I should be able to do and be.”

Bob, who knew her passion for the outdoors and sport asked her to check out Ian Taylor’s call for Irish mountaineers. In 2016, Ian Taylor gathered a group of Irish mountaineers to summit Mount Everest. She was drawn into the idea immediately as it was a team effort towards a common goal.

She started working towards the goal through her day – along with school runs, lunch packing and homework not to speak of the Pilates classes and physio work classes she held until Dec 2017.

Lauren Groff’s starting lines in the book FLORIDA ‘I have somehow become a woman who yells, whose little children walk around with watchful, frozen faces, I have taken to lacing on my running shoes after dinner” – seems to be a funny take on the situation.

From packed motherhood to bouts of ill mental health (anxiety and episodic depression) on towards her new goal: Mount Everest – we can but gape in awe at the pattern of her graph, while having its own ups and downs, has eventually taken on a beautiful shape. 

 “Being in the wild helps. It is free and your mind is set free”. Being in the mountains became the ‘me time’ for her as she sneaked in time between school hours and weekends. Thanks to being in a team, Ireland on Everest, she was able to work in a systematic manner towards her goals, one summit at a time.

From an original group of almost 30 people who met in March 2016 with the dream of putting Irish Climbers atop Mount Everest, four have eventually remained as the ‘Ireland on Everest’ team. The team have summitted the peaks across Asia, America and Europe as part of their training to climb the tallest of them all. Mera Peak, the Amphulaptse Pass, Island Peak and Denali were all tackled in two years (2017-2018). Jen and her teammate Prof. Seamus Lawless from Trinity College have marked Mount Everest for April 2019.

With ‘Everest’ being a few weeks away, her routine is packed with cardio, strength and flexibility training in preparation . She breaks her training into twice a day routine and goes for an 8km run for four days a week. The other part she does a mix of rock-climbing sessions with her teammate Seamus, 80 km cycling with her Dad, Yoga, TRX, and hill-walking in the Wicklow and Mourne mountains with 15 – 20 kgs on her back.

Along with the self-training, she also trains young children and scout groups on ‘outdoor adventure’. As part of their team goals for Ireland on Everest, Jen and Seamus visit schools to try to inspire children with their stories of training and expeditions.

“Seek help, give help and enjoy the journey that the combined effort and kindness brings. It is the journey that is the most amazing part and often not the destination”

“Whilst I had an ultimate goal that at that time seemed unattainable, I dared to dream. You need to start with self-belief and small goals. Little by little you succeed and continue to increase your stakes till you’re ready to conquer ‘your Everest’” she says, as I struggle to get her to talk between peals of laughter.

‘Onwards and Upwards’ and ‘Conquering Everest’ are more ‘literal’ than ‘metaphorical’ for this mother of four, doting wife and, hopefully, the 9th Irish Woman to conquer Everest after her summit.

She is making ‘herstory’.

Content Marketing – It is a service of the kings by the kings.

Content Marketing – It is a service of the kings by the kings.

Content has changed its form and shape over the years! Marketers across the world are in a constant tussle to create trends and be disruptive. ‘What’s next’ is always ‘the next’ question.

However, that question has led us to the answer that – it is not as much about the content anymore as much as it is about its promotion. Today, to be able to spread the word, we should be able to create content that connects. Content that would help you build a community.

The process had begun with broadcasting information, interactive communication and now it is the time of ‘influencer marketing’.

So, in today’s content world, if you want to stand out and be original, it is a combination of the rules we have always been hearing.

“Content is the king” “Consumer is the King”

Your task as a marketer is today is to get both of the kings to serve each other 😊

Took some time to digest that? Well it is the time of equal rights and roles in every relationship and so is it in the world of content. Your content should be engaging enough for your consumer to be taking it to other consumers in an engaging manner.

We have content in every format you can think of and we are in a time that gratefully allows the creation of world-class content at zero expense, if you have the eye for it. There is significant progress or evolution in each type of the content out there – be it a Design, Blog, Infographic, Video, Prezi or Podcast. And there is constant research on the very ‘types of content’ so, while that continues, our focus should be on the research on ‘promoting techniques’ of such content.

While the digital landscape has given the opportunity to innovate new and different forms of content by the day, the true benefits of having a social media possibility of connecting with the world can be attained only by knowing well to navigate through it.

In short, it is the time for Marketers to marry the old concepts with the new context.

1.     Context – Understand your audience. Study their presence, preference and platforms

2.     Content – Quality and Volume

3.     Community – Connect with your audience. Use stories that they can relate to, and get them to tell your story through their own narrative

The digital marketing maze is getting complicated by the day. Likes and shares are being called ‘vanity metrics’ Twitter is contemplating to do away with them to foster ‘unbiased’ conversations. What we are left with is the variety of content we create and the connections we are able to establish through it.

So, let’s enthrone those kings we were talking about and let’s get them serving each other! 

Gina Miltiadou – Leading by Example in Business and Philanthropy

Gina Miltiadou – Leading by Example in Business and Philanthropy

Zahra Media Group managed by Gina and her husband John Mullins has its own list of accolades to talk about. But here I’m giving you a glimpse of my coffee-time talks with the Managing Director – Gina Miltiadou.

I was moved to see the time she cared to spend with every single person in the office. But the conversations we had gave me more reasons to be inspired. She spoke with immense passion on how the Vietnamese after hundreds of years of war maintain such peace. How they do not have a word for jealousy in their language as it is a foreign concept for them. She was touched by the zeal for learning she saw in the little kids of Zambia, she talked about the plights of abandoned South African kids who bore the burden of a family at the age of eight..

While we have and we are constantly searching for successful women to look up to, while we discuss the work-life balances and how women can manage a business and a family successfully – Gina’s setting an example of a beautiful new balance – giving back with a sense of being part of a global community.

I have tried, and I have worked with people who have tried. It is much easier to work with charities in your own countries. But trying to operate or fund a charity from abroad needs a lot more work, commitment and patience. This is what awed me about Gina. She was constantly driven by her decision to help the hapless. She wasn’t into mainstream charity – she was an entrepreneur – a successful one at that, she was a mum of two and a doting wife and amidst her daily chaos she invested in the art of ‘giving back to the society’.

Gina’s parents were in the restaurant business in South Africa and charity was a culture she learnt from childhood. From a very early age she was a part of her Parent’s involvement with Rotary. From soup kitchens to litter collection and school book projects, the activities instilled a deep sense of responsibility towards a global society from a very young age.

As part of her career in media, Gina had her fair share of exposure to the challenging life conditions of people in South Africa and her role in ‘Multichoice’ took her across Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Nigeria etc) which further intensified her desire to be able to bring a change to at least few of the countless miserable situations she came across.

It was in Australia that she met John Mullins, her partner in all the crimes – family, business and charity! When they decided to settle down in Ireland, they travelled around the world for 6 months and then spent 6 months volunteering full time with a Vietnamese Charity – SCC (Saigon Children’s Charity). What seemed like a walk in the park, later dawned on them as a hilarious challenge when they were assigned to sell Christmas cards – in a Buddhist country!

Impressed by her ideas and initiatives, Gina was invited to create the curriculum for the first post-graduate PR course for the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City (UEH).

She not only drafted the modules for the course and taught them, but also coordinated with multinationals based in Ho Chi Minh City, to get them to be guest lecturers on the course. This gave students the opportunity to get working insights into the PR industry, and also to receive guidance about their chosen career path. All students had to present their final project to a panel which included some of these multinationals.

In 2003, when Gina and John reached Ireland and set up Zahra Media Group, they set up a registered a charity called Zahra Helps as part of their decision to set apart 10% of their income to charity. Zahra Helps’ first project was quite like divine intervention. Gina had met a Vietnamese nun, Sister Clara at an airport looking for directions to her gate and she approached Gina almost a year later when Zahra Helps was just launched. She was raising money to buy lice shampoo and combs to help a hill tribe community of children who were infested with lice. This was a cute little start for Zahra Helps!

 In 2004, again through this nun, Zahra Helps was able to help build a road and water system for a Leper Community. There was a leper community whose only source of water was at the bottom of a hill and these sick people had no choice but to climb up and down the hill with large pots of water, risking their lives in the process.

Two years later ‘Zahra Helps’ helped build a community centre consisting of an infirmary, a classroom, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom to house and educate 12 children and serve the wider community. A few years after Gina unfortunately lost contact with Sister Clara but still dreams of going to back to Vietnam to see the work that was done.

“It is always better to work with a reputable third party in a country. It gives you the assurance that the money is administered correctly and also provides local knowledge. So, we turned our focus to South Africa where we could help through Rotary, St Vincent’s de Paul and other NGOs.”

“One of the biggest problems in South Africa is AIDS and it is not uncommon for children as young as 8 to become the head of their households because their parents have died. They have to earn money to feed their family and can’t go to school. The danger of rape and sourcing food are major concerns.”

Zahra Helps along with Tapologo built a day care facility for children in a township called Freedom Park, where the kids were fed a meal and taught vocations to make them self-sufficient and away from the dangers of being out there alone.

In 2017, Prishilla, an employee at Zahra Media Group told Gina about some charity work that she had been doing in Zambia with an organisation called RIZE founded by Neboth Chalwe. Neboth, had built a literacy and training centre in Zambia all by himself and Gina, when she heard about his venture started supporting him in his efforts which includes the supply of proper desks and chairs for students, the rent for the school, teacher’s salaries and financing the food on an ongoing basis for 100 odd students! As we were discussing about it, she was roping in more resources to scale the project and explore the possibilities of a sustainable system for a larger number of students.

When the world is turning more self-centric by the day, we need more inspirational leaders like Gina to look up to. I’m sure we all are familiar of an age and time where our families were larger, the earning members were lesser and still there was a lot more sharing within the family and outside -for those who didn’t have much. Today, we are too busy, and we think of charity when we are decluttering our wardrobes, or we need to include a CSR in our profiles.

There is a happy surge of successful women entrepreneurs today. There is an equally happy trend of women rising as the masters of all trades. Trending questions like ‘how do you manage it all’ and ‘how do you get it all’ should have ruminations on giving back to the society attached. For that, we need more accomplished leaders who are invested in philanthropy like Gina.

Purnima Menon – Committed to Celebrating Life to the Hilt

Purnima Menon – Committed to Celebrating Life to the Hilt

Before I begin on anything about Purnima Menon – I have to explain ‘Kathakali’ as an art form. It is important that you know because, within my limited knowledge, it is one of the toughest art forms ever. Its rigorous training involves the mastery of all the body’s muscles. One performance alone takes hours of preparation – just for the ‘costume and make-up’. The performer applies natural irritant to the eyes to change the eye colour. The footsteps for the act involve hard thumping on the floor with the sides of either feet. There are 144 pieces of jewellery that go into the performer’s attire! (and this is a very shallow/small glimpse of the complexity of the artform)

“How do you manage it all” – is one question that repeats itself to most women who get on the dais after any success. ‘Work-life Balance’, ‘Work-life Integration’ – there are many terms coined for the same. When I saw Purnima’s name in LinkedIn’s List of ‘Must Know Writers (India)’ and her profile as ‘CMO of MicroLand and Kathakali Dancer’ – there were a thousand questions that I had.

She is an active performer of an art form of such complexity, she’s the CMO of a ‘Billion Dollar Company’, She’s in LinkedIn’s list of ‘Must Know Writers in India’, she’s passionate about CrossFit (an intense strength and conditioning form), she loves music and had just finished recording a ‘Karaoke’ song when we spoke!

 AND…the chat I had with her was at 6 a.m. on a Sunday morning- she filled with love and laughter. This lady here has coined a new term for managing it all! – ‘Work-life Celebration’!

Considering the fact that Kathakali is Kerala’s very own art form, I was in for a surprise to learn that Purnima was initiated into it in New Delhi when she was 9! She, along with her sister (aged 5 then), learnt the basics from Sadhanam Balakrishnan Asian (ex-principal of ICK, also associated with Kalakshetra). Her father was passionate about Kathakali and insisted that the girls continue their training. It was her interest in music and percussion that kept Purnima connected to Kathakali till her mid-twenties with long gaps in between. Then, inspired by her own sister being connected to Kathakali with much greater fervour, she decided to take it up again. She dedicates her current interest in Kathakali to Guru Evoor Rajendran Pillai and his storytelling techniques.

Speaking of her career, she said she started as a management trainee with a leading retail chain in Mumbai when she had to move to Delhi due to her father’s health. She joined a company called BATES where she handled reputed clients from electronic goods to airlines. From there it was the aspiring curve of being a marketing leader, marketing manager, and CMO. She was the head of Marketing for great brands like Tata Telecom and Infosys BPO in her Thirties.

 She considers her corporate journey as one that couldn’t have been otherwise. Storytelling and connections are what she was all about, and she was blessed to have great mentors who took her under their wings all along the way.

 As long as you bring the requisite values to the table, find the balance of letting go of the small fights and standing up for the right ones, and maintain the right attitude – you are bound to reach your destination.

Her biggest learnings have come from significant failures and risks. Her failure in an interview with Infosys propelled her to turn the tables for the next. A risk of taking a coder under her wings and entrusting him with a marketing position rewarded one of the best digital marketers in the industry.

 “If you are passionate about something, you will not find it as a chore. You will not exhaust or have your hands full”.

“Understanding our innate talent and passion helps us evolve better in our respective roles. Since I’m passionate about Kathakali, there is a lot that the artform demands which I do with ease. I constantly update myself watching YouTube videos, I got into CrossFit training to maintain the fitness levels and set aside an hour every day for it. We are reviving the ICK (International Centre for Kathakali) in Bangalore and plan to form a chapter formally and popularise it. This passion has also helped me in my career in terms of learning, laughing and loving every moment.”

“In India, we have women with priorities handed over to them in terms of ‘getting a job, get married and have children’. Instead, I encourage women to explore their innate talent and form a connection with themselves. This commitment to themselves will help them evolve into celebrating their work and life”. Her infectious smile and cheerful tone throughout the conversation was proof enough of the power of positivity.

I’m always awe inspired in the divinity of ‘art forms’ where people use their own being as a tool to tell stories of great impact. We chatted more than an hour and half and it was Purnima’s innate ability to connect that awed me. She made me feel like she was my long-lost childhood friend and I guess as an artist, as a blogger and as a CMO that’s her beautiful talent.

Fiona Brady – The Driving Force in The Driver’s Seat

Fiona Brady – The Driving Force in The Driver’s Seat

In 1980, Joan Doran created a record as she became Dublin’s first female bus driver. She told the reporter at RTE Archives that she had to renovate her Dublin Bus Uniform as they had originally been designed for men only.

Fiona Brady has her small list of firsts and ‘renovations’ too!

Fiona joined Dublin Bus in their HR department, taking care of admin/payroll/recruitment and training & development. Within a few years in the company, she proposed, designed and drove a ‘graduate program’ for Dublin Bus. In her words “I proposed the graduate program, designed it, applied for it and then got on it’! – This while she was 25 😊

“When I designed the graduate program, I gave every aspect of the business its share in the program. For example the graduates spent time with the engineering department, worked night shifts but also gained experience with other departments like marketing and finance.”

She was the youngest female manager in any of the Bus Depots in Dublin (and probably still holds the record), managing around 270 drivers, predominantly men, who were in different roles (drivers, inspectors and a clerical team). She was posted in one of the biggest bus depots working on operations, industrial relations and had weekly meetings regarding the disciplinary matters concerning the drivers.

As a young female manager, clearly outnumbered by men in such interviews, she decided she would have to gain as much knowledge in the field as possible to be considered serious. “I was probably the age of some of their daughters, and I was trying to handout rules to them – that was tough.”

She learned to drive a double-decker bus so that she knew what she was talking about. This is a best management practice that was exemplified by her. To have ‘hands-on’ knowledge of your employees’ work makes you an efficient manager. And in fairness, I believe that is another record Fiona has created where she, as a woman under 30, learned to drive a bus so that she can manage bus drivers better.

After Dublin Bus, she wanted a change, and the way she went about it was unique as well. She listed her priorities in life and work and researched the companies that promoted values she valued the most. She came across CarTrawler and how they promoted positive work culture. She reached out to the Chief People Officer and wrote her a letter, expressing her interests. They met and from that discussed two roles– one in HR and one in Operations! She decided to push herself out of her comfort zone which was HR and which she had done for over 12 years now – and chose to give the interview for operations.

I can’t stress enough on how this is a great example to follow – because I know a lot of women who mention that their greatest difficulty is in trying things they haven’t tried before. Fiona’s journey seems like a series of taking on challenges just to challenge herself.

As was her practice to set trends through her work, in the new role she helped the team grow from 16 to 290 in 18 months. There were eight different language teams, and Fiona was involved in their performance, development alongside the operational tasks of process improvements. She also drove the project ‘A Roadmap to Excellence’ for the company which involved People, Training, Systems & Processes, Product and Environment.

For that’s somehow her brain works, and it was beautiful to hear her talk about it! Give her something, and she goes into the requirements and efficiencies from start to finish. And she’d immerse in it to improve it.

She’s now in mytaxi. After a video interview from Hawaii in T-shirt, Blazer and pajama shorts – she became the Head of Operations in mytaxi. (I wish I had a picture of that and I hope her interviewers are not reading about it for the first time from here). I heard about her from one of her interviewers – Niall Carson and though I was instantly inspired and eager to meet her, I was quite distracted during the length of our conversation! At first, I was wondering how such a young person can be coming with such an amazing experience portfolio, every time she mentioned a date, I was mentally calculating her age. Long story short – I saw the velvet gloves on iron fists. She’s pretty and petite alright, but she has steered success for her and her teams sitting in the driver’s seat – literally and metaphorically.

Shero Tales. Cassie Delaney – Autodidact. Media Maker. Game Changer.

Shero Tales. Cassie Delaney – Autodidact. Media Maker. Game Changer.

At 23, she was a college dropout working in a care home. At 28, she is featured in the ’30 under 30’ article in the Business Post! Every moment of the conversation with Cassie Delaney was inspiring to no ends.

She dropped out of college because she felt that she was not really learning what she was passionate about. Along with the care home work, she self-learned with the help of YouTube videos whenever she could. This meant that she would be at the care home from 7am. to 11pm and she would study during the break and get back to work from 4pm to 11pm! Most of her learning was on photography/videography editing and illustration. This was her routine since she was 18. (translates to 16 hours of work and study everyday!)

Between the travels and one’s own daily chores, there was hardly any time left during such a routine. But she knew what she was passionate about, and she found a way to accomplish her goals one at a time. Social issues and women empowerment were areas that interested her the most.

She was passionate about the potential of media to impact social change and has led various other projects on feminism, mental health, international aid and youth unemployment. She did a documentary on young girls in East Africa who did not go to school and stayed at home to take care of their younger siblings. She was also the One Young World Coordinating Ambassador for Ireland.

Cassie is a self-proclaimed nerd who is in love with all things digital, and that did help her in her journey into the media world. She got her break in Her.ie with the help of her impressive portfolio. She got in as a multimedia producer and got promoted two levels within three years. She was a Deputy Editor by the third year in her job. Her.ie that had over a million readers a month, was focused on celebrity, news and fashion. Cassie realised that those were not the real or comprehensive representation of ‘HER’ in Ireland! She brought in initiatives like Her say and Her talks for a more accurate representation of the women in Ireland. She also directed and produced the multi-award-winning ALONE campaign the power of a simple Thank You. In 2017 the campaign received the Grand Prix at the Media Awards.

In 2015, Cassie along with Anna Cosgrave decided to give the ‘repeal the 8th’ campaign its first ‘visual’ identity. They together designed the t-shirt with the ‘REPEAL’ word which was an instant success. Cassie had also helped Her.ie. build their ‘Repeal hub’. The job gave her ample opportunities to explore her passion with the camera where she created awesome videos and home-made GIFS.

Her chosen routine since she was hardly 18 was to creatively and continuously work for things close to her heart, and that has reflected in her career timeline. She did not rely on a college degree or pause on the lack of technical know-how at any point in time.

She joined Jobbio as the Director of Content and helped steer the company in a unique content direction which places workplace issues like the gender pay gap, diversity and paternity at the centre of their campaigns. She helmed the campaign ‘Shatter the Glass’ which conducted original research on the salaries of senior tech professionals in the UK and US and revealed the disparity in pay. Through the campaign, Jobbio encouraged customers to pledge to alleviate the gender pay gap.

She is also the co-host of Lovin’ Dublin’s Before Brunch podcast which has amassed over 100,000 listeners over the past few months.

It is not just a career growth that I see in these years. Nothing deterred her from her chosen path, and she invested every minute she got in the canvas she got to paint her dreams. Not having enough time, knowledge or opportunities were never an excuse for her to stop working her way towards her dreams. Well has she stopped now? Not quite so..as we speak she is planning on opening a compact studio in Dublin dedicated to delivering brilliant podcasts. – And this, while she is packed with a full-time job as the Director!

“Don’t make excuses. Make things happen. Make changes. Then make history.” Doug Hall. Cassie surely is on her way through making things happen, making changes and making herstory!