Last week, I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with the Startup Ireland team, helping them cover the announcement of the Startup Gathering 2015 Programme of Events at the NDRC in Dublin. Press events don't tend to be something photographers get enthusiastic about (the same could be said for weddings, but I cry, every time) but there was a genuine air of excitement and optimism in the room, an atmosphere that said to me, "This is a big deal".
I spent most of the past decade living and working in London. Without giving away too many secrets, I was thirty when I moved, blessed with the help of a friend and his little white van. He could carry a 32" cathode-ray-tube all by himself, and not having to hide three kilos of sausages under a pair of PJs in my suitcase was a godsend.
Like many young IT professionals at the time, I felt that in order to move up the career ladder, I was compelled to move elsewhere, and in a matter of weeks, things had progressed the equivalent of five years working back home. I was working with an exciting new company based in Camden, was leading my own team, had amazing colleagues - working with a startup was refreshing and inspiring, but it also presented some unexpected opportunities.
As a music nerd, with the hub of the UK music scene just around the corner from the office, I was spoilt. I began using photography kit to blag my way into gigs. I'll admit it wasn't for the love of photography initially, but with such engaging subject matter, I started producing material that made me look at my hobby with different eyes. The folks downstairs in marketing took notice, and before long I was offered an opportunity to work as their creative producer. It was a terrifying move, leaving behind eight years of professional IT experience, but it was a risk worth taking.
After a few years the company downsized, and I welcomed it as an opportunity to get out there and do my own thing. I set up up a boutique creative agency, which I named after the two Pomeranians I grew up with, Boxy and Midge (no laughing at the back, please). However, after five years working in-house, and without the team that I had worked so closely with during that period, to say I was unprepared is an understatement.
I was often asked what I missed most about Ireland, and for me it was the familiarity - anonymity does not feature in Irish vernacular. London is an amazing place, but like any big city, it can get lonely. Without a proper support structure it's easy to feel, not only professionally isolated, but emotionally also. When my landlady announced she wanted to sell up, the decision was made - time to give the Big Smoke a break.
A few months ago, a friend suggested that the insight from my experiences might be of value to people in the startup community, introduced me to some of the Startup Ireland team, and we arranged to meet at a Silicon Drinkabout event. I'm a bit of an introvert, so my preconceived idea of networking events was that I'd be standing alone with a beer and a badge, feeling like Forrest Gump. The reality is that, at some point, so does everyone else! It's fascinating to hear people's stories, many of whom are at the beginning of their professional career, and sharing their unique ideas with complete transparency. It's a proper sense of community, and we need more of it.
As I've gotten to know the Startup Ireland team and what they represent, I've become more and more enthused and excited that there are young people with creativity and ambition, who know that there is a community that supports their efforts and goals. As The Rock would say "Finally!"