I grew up in the small, remote Donegal town of Kilcar. My dad was a fisherman and I spent my summers hauling out pots and lobsters from the sea. I was the inquisitive kid in the house who would immediately take the Christmas presents apart to figure out how they worked and then always had parts left over when I put them back together.
I was always interested in maths and physics and headed to Galway to study them as it didn’t feel that dissimilar to home. For those who graduated in 1995 there were no jobs but by the time I graduated a year later, all of us had jobs by Christmas. I remember getting a day trip to Dublin to visit Intel and even to head there felt like such a strange experience given the remoteness of my upbringing.
I came straight to Intel after college thinking I’d be here a couple of years before moving on and make a bigger impact. That was 26 years ago, because I soon realised what an impact I could make by staying. There were 80 of us from my college who started at the same time, and as I house-shared with three others the first couple of years, it felt like an extension of college, going out on Tuesdays and Thursday and back to our mums at the weekend! Not only have I stayed for 26 years, I’m also still in my original department. I like to joke that Intel years are like dog years but last a lot longer. My two brothers and sister all returned to Donegal but I met my wife, Audrey at an Intel BBQ and we bought a house in Kildare so I’m the black sheep. I’m a people person. The physics satisfies inquisitive people like me, but in the work I’ve used 1% of my degree. My degree proved I could learn, and the interview vouched I could interact with people. After that, it’s interpersonal skills and problem solving that are the most relevant skills.
When I turned 40, my midlife crisis was taking up archery. I had tried it years before on an Intel secondment to Arizona and the hobby lay dormant for 20 years. But on my birthday, Audrey got me a voucher and when I went back, something just clicked. Now, not only am I a passionate archer, I also collect vintage bows. I have about 20 in my collection including a traditional wooden one that is over 60 years old. As a kid, we used to run around the farm pretending to be Robin Hood so I feel it’s always been in my blood.
It’s not just about developing a skill because archery has a strong meditative element as you have to learn to quieten your brain. You can get good very quickly but then you descend into the ‘valley of despair’ because your brain knows enough to be dangerous by trying to be better and you lose the instinctual aspect you need. Most bad shots are made when you’re trying too hard. So, I find archery to be very mindful and relaxing because you have to be completely present. If I’m thinking about something at home or work, my shots all go astray, and I have to clear my mind and figure out why that’s happening, breathe and let go.
Men don’t talk well enough with each other, and this allows me to spend time together and chat without it being too intense. I found the best archery shop in Ireland is in a small village called Summerhill and the amazing man who runs it had competed and coached for Ireland in the Olympics. The first time I met him he told me he would sell me a bow on one condition: I was to come every Saturday morning and he would train me. So, I went along with a new bow I can hardly put together thinking I was going to learn techniques but it was more like a therapy session. We shot arrows and we chatted and I’ve been going for the last four years. Jim is close to 80 years old and still outshoots everyone there.
I think men don’t talk enough or take the time to reflect. It’s like there is a mental barrier that somehow talking and being vulnerable is perceived as a weakness. Mental health is a continuum. You can be high or low and it’s always a flow. During lockdown when Audrey and I were working from home, I tried to get better at communicating. We’d be extra careful if one of us said we weren’t having a great day and I think that really helped us manage the situation better. For most of my life I’ve lived at full pelt. From fishing flat out, then rushing off to college, straight into a job, and then marriage and kids and suddenly everything then becomes everyone else’s priority. Archery had given me back that time period to listen to myself.
I think it’s helped with my parenting too by giving me the space to recalibrate so I can focus on my kids and family when I’m there. I did a Masters last year in Data Analytics and Audrey took on more work at home, and so now we’ve swapped and she has started hers now and I try to pick up the slack at home. I think it’s important that both partners get to develop themselves as well as contribute to the family. After organising one holiday, Audrey told me it was my turn the following year and I realised how much work it was! Now we alternate roles as ‘carer’ and ‘caree’ and it works, especially when you have a family like ours. We were both managers for years and led a frantic lifestyle. When we had our first son Liam, Audrey took redundancy and we went to the US for two years. Just before our return to Ireland, our twin boys were born and three years later our daughter was born so it’s a mad house, with Liam being 14 and into his teenage years, the twins are nine and our daughter is six. Just trying to keep up with all their activities requires a Masters level degree, as they’re all so different. Parenting is the job I’m least qualified for but the most enjoyable. It’s really important to keep being playful as well as practical and that can be the hardest part.
At Intel I gave huge hours to progressing my career, and now I’m focused on working smarter rather than harder so I can enjoy a balanced life. Your life is about juggling balls and most are rubber but the only two that are glass and need constant care are your relationships and health. Finding that balance is the bullseye.