Inspiration from Tracey Donnery, Executive Director at Skillnet Ireland, to celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day 2020

When we support each other, we’re Stronger Together. We asked Tracey Donnery, Executive Director at Skillnet Ireland to share with us some insights on her experiences and how she draws inspiration from the environment around her, role models she had during her careers, the best advice she received since Covid-19 hit the world, and what does the slogan “Stronger Together” means to her.

Skillnet Ireland is a business support agency of the Government of Ireland. Their mandate is to advance the competitiveness, productivity and innovation of Irish businesses through enterprise-led workforce development. Skillnet Ireland currently support over 18,000 businesses nationwide and provide a wide range of valuable learning experiences to over 70,000 trainees. Their mission is to facilitate increased participation in enterprise training and workforce learning in Ireland.

Voltedge: What is your current role and how long you have held this position?

 Tracey: Executive Director of Policy & Communications since 2016 and I have been with Skillnet Ireland since 2006.

 Voltedge: Where do you draw inspiration from?

 Tracey:  I draw inspiration from people and nature.

At Skillnet Ireland, we focus on people and our success is dependent on the collective energy, foresight and commitment of everyone involved. I am so often inspired by the passion of others truly focussed on making a difference and innovating. With such a wide group you can’t but be inspired to see that everyone with drive can embrace new business challenges in so many exciting ways.

I love to see how expansive and complex nature can be yet also so peaceful and simple. More and more I am drawn to getting out, in as much as we can, to observe how beautiful the flowers and foliage can be in brightening our lives and smiling back at us.

Voltedge: During the course of your career, was there a role model or mentor that stands out for you?

 Tracey: I have been very lucky with both male and female roles models and mentors during my career. One role model that stands out is my good friend Attracta O’Regan, Head of Law Society Professional Training and Rule of Law Advisor for the Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe.  Attracta exhibits a determination to innovate and push the boundaries both in her career and life. Always a true professional, but also a great character, Attracta is an achiever and an excellent mentor and role model to many. I really appreciate our friendship and her many words of wisdom.

When I was cycling today, I was thinking who to choose as a role model and I also thought of Paul Reid, current Head of the HSE, for his leadership ability. Paul was one of my role models many years ago in eircom. He could mobilise huge teams with a clear vision and engage with employees at all levels. He is a great role model to so many young people, who can see that success is possible with hard work, focus, lifelong learning, and staying true to yourself.

For women I think it is so important to have a mix of male and female role models and mentors. Great value can be gained from both, bringing such different insights, helping us understand ourselves and each other in so many new ways.

Voltedge: What is the best piece of advice you received since Covid-19 hit the world?

 Tracey: The best piece of advice is that “we are all different and respond differently to things”. This has been important in terms of having patience and recognising that so much abrupt change can be difficult. I got this advice from someone after we lost my Dad during Covid, someone reminding me to be kind and patient both with myself and others. It has been of value in many ways as the pandemic has gone on.

Voltedge: Can you share with us 2 or 3 positives in your personal life that you have discovered during the pandemic?

 Tracey: I have found peace and gratitude during the pandemic. I know that I am lucky and that although this is hard on us all at times, we still have so much to be thankful for. The quiet walks have been very beautiful with less traffic or busyness.

Really enjoying food has been great. Meals at home have become more of an occasion and so enjoyable. Whether it’s trying new things or tasting things more, I don’t know but even our picnics haven been great during the lockdown when you couldn’t rely on a café etc. Simple but fun.

Really treasuring real-life and virtual smiles. It is so great to see faces and smiles and see others you know or not smiling and enjoying life. Our Irish humour has been fantastic throughout.

Voltedge: In light of so much remote working and social distancing, what practices or approach have you taken to try to communicate and collaborate effectively during this time and to support employees?

 Tracey: At Skillnet Ireland we have taken concrete steps to communicate and collaborate effectively with our employees and our wider Skillnet Network community. Together, through regular communication and engagement, we have worked closely to rapidly design new initiatives to support businesses and the workforce through our Networks and new MentorsWork, Rebound, Clear Customs and Skills Connect programmes. Developing these together has brought a great energy to our collaborations.

We also introduced a programme of measures and learning events to support all employees during the pandemic, with our full team participating together.  We have had some very creative approaches designed by our teams to communicate, support each other, and build our resilience. One practice I loved was our daily ‘thought of the day’ from a different employee each day during the lockdown. Each person would share their thought of the day, and this brought a fascinating array of creativity and joy, as the team shared poetry, philosophy, music, comedy, and family stories to brighten up our days.

 Voltedge: What does the slogan ‘Stronger Together’ mean to you?

 Tracey: This year stronger together takes on a very special meaning. Even without seeing others we can feel close to all our families, friends, colleagues, neighbours and strangers knowing we are all in this together and all wish the very best for everyone around the world to get through Covid-19.

Stronger together also means the solidarity and support of women and men to work together to champion and facilitate women’s capacity to achieve success within their careers, their own businesses and in their wider lives. Providing support to women to thrive in all areas is so important given the extra burdens women often face as carers and homemakers.

Stronger together also means standing together to champion our womanhood and being proud of how wonderful being a woman is – and having fun while doing it!

Voltedge: What is your favourite quote and why?

Tracey: One quote I like is “Change is the only constant in life” from Heraclitus. We are always in a state of flux making the present moment so precious to truly observe and enjoy.