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17 May 2022

Kildare business diplomat flying high in San Franciso

Kildare business diplomat flying high in San Franciso

Niamh is loving life in San Francisco

Niamh O’Donoghue finds out what life is like for Athgarvan’s Niamh O’Donnell who is creating opportunities for Irish businesses in Silicon Valley as part of her work with Enterprise Ireland

From waking up to find the Curragh’s sheep breaking into your garden, to greeting dawn among the skyscrapers of San Francisco, the daily views have certainly changed for Kildare’s Niamh O’Donnell.

The young Athgarvan native is working as a diplomat for Enterprise Ireland in San Francisco.
Helping Ireland’s best emerging digital technology companies enter and grow their business in Silicon Valley and the western US market, Niamh is connecting these companies to top level staff in world leading enterprises such as Google, Wayfair, and Intel to name but a few.

“I am beyond thrilled to have landed this opportunity to work on behalf of the Irish Department of Enterprise in the World’s Technology and Innovation capital,” she says.

Describing her childhood as idyllic, she recalls; “I lived right beside the Curragh, which thinking back on it now, is a truly wonderful place to raise a child. I have memories of waking up in the morning and sheep having snuck into our front garden, eating all of the beautiful flowers my mam and dad would have planted from Johnstown Garden Center.

“I can still remember walking across the Curragh to primary school in Scoil Bhride, Athgarvan, every morning with my little backpack, sometimes seeing horseback riders on the green plains, and the one time I even slipped while walking on the Curragh and got muck all over my school uniform — yuck.
“I played Gaelic football for years for my local GAA team, Athgarvan. One of my fondest memories was our ladies team getting to the county finals where we unfortunately lost against Ballymore Eustice — dad still calls that GAA team my biggest rival to this day.
“I was always a very creative kid and loved art, and one may say I always had a tendency to very naturally think outside the box. I represented Kildare at the All-Ireland Community Games Art Competition, so I’ve always been Kildare to the core.”
That entrepreneurial streak was evident from an early age. Niamh recalls going around her estate trying to sell her art to neighbours, which they still laugh about with her to this day.
“As a kid my favourite programme was The UK Apprentice with Alan Sugar, and I used tell my parents ‘when I’m older I’m going to become an international business woman’.
“I always pictured myself in San Francisco or New York city, so the fact that this has somewhat already materialised gives me a huge sense of self -actualisation.”

Fascinated by the dynamism associated with emerging technology, Niamh points out; “ You can work in many industries, but if you pick the tech industry, you must be prepared for a competitive, fast-paced, and sometimes tiring journey.”
Having attended Newbridge College, Niamh stresses all of her chosen subjects fed perfectly into her degree, Bachelor of Business Studies International and French at DCU.

“I also studied the equivalent of a Masters in Management through French in KEDGE Business School Bordeaux as part of my bachelor degree, which was a challenging but incredibly rewarding experience.”

This school is a Triple Accredited French Business School and a member of the French Conférence des Grandes Écoles.

During transition year, she jumped at the chance to set up her own mini-company organising the manufacture and sale of top quality makeup brushes with funky designs, made with the same components as MAC makeup brushes (synthetic goats hair) for about €25. They sold internationally, as well as to salons across Ireland and a makeup artistry college.

Her talents did not go unrecognised and she represented Kildare at the All Ireland Student Enterprise Awards in Croke Park where she was awarded the ‘Best Social Media Award’ and first place at the National Griffith College Enterprise Awards.
She was also sent to the Nexus Innovation Business Bootcamp in UL for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.

“In August 2021, I joined Enterprise Ireland’s team in San Francisco and became part of the global epicenter of new venture creation, technological innovation and venture capital.
“No two days are the same. My role requires me to share knowledge of the Irish innovation ecosystem to my network in California and identify opportunities for our clients in the market. The role also requires me to provide insights to Enterprise Ireland clients on the market, sectors trends, nuances about doing business in the market and so on.
“An important part of the role is networking, attending tradeshows and hosting events. Recently, I was part of the Enterprise Ireland team that welcomed Ireland’s Ambassador to the US Dan Mulhall to the opening of our new Ireland House in San Francisco.”

Despite a year of uncertainties with Covid-19, Irish digital technology companies still continue to prosper.
“San Francisco is one of the few places that has a perfect combination of city, nature and beaches. I usually spend my weekends hiking and exploring all of the beautiful places The Bay Area has to offer. There is so much to do between taking a day trip to Napa Valley to explore the vineyards, hiking up Muir Woods, enjoying authentic Chinese food in Chinatown or thrift shopping in Haight Ashbury.”

When asked about her future, she replies; “I am not sure where my career and the future will take me. I would love to stay in San Francisco or the US if circumstances allow for it. I have found a passion for innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, and I hope to keep leveling up my career in this industry. Maybe one day I’ll get an entrepreneurial twitch and set up my own company again, who knows? I’m just enjoying the journey.”

If you would like to learn more about Niamh and her role as a San Francisco Trade
Development Executive, you can contact her at:
@EI_NODonnell or on LinkedIn.

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