People of Intel - Colin MacHale

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Colin MacHale,
EMEA Sales Director

At 16 I got very involved in marching bands and was very active until my early twenties, eventually becoming the conductor. We ended up winning the World Gold Medal in Holland. It kept me fit and healthy, but then work and then family life took over and I became less active. I’m married with three daughters aged 16, 18 and 20 and I know now I wasn’t role modelling how to take care of yourself.

Thankfully, eight years ago, a comment from a colleague changed the trajectory of my life and has had an impact on my whole family, especially my daughters.

I’d been asked to take part in Intel’s annual charity cycle. I didn’t even consider it because I was so out of shape. A colleague of mine kept trying to persuade me but I kept saying no. I wouldn’t have been able to cycle down my street, let alone 40km from Leixlip to the Kildare Curragh. When I finally told her why I wouldn’t take part she said something that shook me out of my stubbornness. “I did it last year six months pregnant, so you have no excuse!” That was the moment.

That evening I dusted down an old bike from my shed and pedalled shakily out of the driveway. I cycled for 15 minutes and knew I was going to be under a lot of pressure to get fit enough to do the race. But I did. I’m not saying it was easy, but something significant shifted in me that day. I was so proud of myself and felt so exhilarated by the sense of achievement. I couldn’t walk properly for a few days, but it was my mind that had changed.

I joined the local cycle club and continue to cycle regularly. For the last few years I’ve also cycled an annual 180km trip round the Ring of Kerry. 

But that’s not really the biggest benefit. There has always been a very strong culture of volunteering at Intel and as such I’ve spent 20 tears volunteering in the junior and senior school system. It just so happened around this time, I’d finished up being on the board of some local schools and had a gap. Once I joined the cycling club, I quickly started volunteering to go out at weekends to accompany the younger children who needed adults to go out on morning 30/40km cycles. Just starting that routine of getting up and out every Saturday morning at 9am had such a positive impact on my life.

My eldest daughter Keela is sporty and started coming along at the weekends. She was offered a place by Cycling Ireland on the youth camp where they bring 15-17 year olds away over 3 days to experience mountain biking, road biking and track biking. She fell in love with the track velodrome cycling and as she advanced, I got more involved. I volunteered on the Women’s Commission for Cycling Ireland and I’m now Chair of the Women’s Commission.

Keela has gone from strength to strength and recently won a Gold National Elite medal at Team Pursuit for Women in a team competition. I know I sound like the proud dad, but she’s won six national medals since 2019 and not only did she win Gold, she broke the national record.

I became more and more involved with the women’s sport, realising the disparity between it and men’s cycling. I helped establish Ireland’s premier women's stage race called RÁS Na mBan, a gruelling five stage race across Kilkenny. I’ve been heavily involved in helping to run the training races and coaching. It was really important to create a safe environment where women can race without fear of traffic. Because of the extent of training and coaching available, some people who only started cycling two years ago were able to compete on teams for RÁS Na mBan.

I’ve been able to bring a lot of what I learned in Intel in terms of diversity and inclusion into the Commission to bring about these events, and also what I’ve learned from working at this national level back into my job. We do a lot of diversity training but seeing on the ground what supports and coaching women need has been really important, and certainly impacted on how I support my female colleagues at work, even in terms of language and how I address a mixed group. I just wouldn’t have thought about it before, but as I see my own daughters navigate their environment and how the Women’s Commission for Cycling has had to fight for the same space and supports that is taken for granted in cycling for men has had a real impact.  

The Commission this year initiated a Masters Competition on the road which until recently had only been for men. This was a huge feat as we had to ensure we got the minimum number of women into the race and it would be seen as a national jersey. It’s been an amazing success and this year’s winner was in her mid 40’s and had only stated cycling in the previous few years so the sport is opening up not only to young women, but to women who might come to it a bit later.

I’ve really come to understand how important it is to have sport available for young girls and women of all ages. In Cycling Ireland our goal is to have cycling clubs everywhere so that we can provide opportunities at every level from beginner to elite. Girls in particular can fall away from sport and activity in their teens and I hope there can be opportunities in all sorts of levels of sport and movement to keep them engaged.

The growth of women in cycling has been strong and I hope I’ll be out of a job at some point as there shouldn’t need to be a Women’s Commission because the focus on women’s cycling should be as natural and dynamic as for mens. But we still have work to do to advocate for better support and opportunities. When you see the Women’s Tour de France for the first time this summer you can see it is making progress however.

The decision that day to stop being scared, and get out the old bike changed the trajectory of my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t. That combination of being active, but also being actively involved in your community has been life changing. I probably didn’t recognise it at the time as a teenager, but being involved with the marching band, learning how to direct people gave me the skills to do this, and gave me the foundation for leadership and management. But the diversity aspect has really had a huge influence on me. Seeing the differences in terms of women’s needs and supports has changed the way I support and encourage women at work. Nine out of ten women can do the job they want to go for, but often lack the confidence to even apply and talk themselves out of it. I’m beginning to understand the cultural conditioning that has impacted them in this way and am very aware how much I can support and encourage women to go for the jobs men wouldn’t think twice about. I’ve realised how lucky I’ve been in being able to come to work every day as me and not everyone can do that.

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