Mental Wealth – musings from Day 1 at InspireFest

Just in from my annual day out to #Inspirefest in Dublin, hands down my favourite event of the year and that’s including non-work related festivals and events. It’s the event that I know will be the gift that will keep on giving until we meet again next year. Today’s talks seemed to be less about how we work but how we live and how technology and art might enable us to live better. Having read a few chapters of Huxley’s Brave New World on the train, I arrived just before 10.30 to catch the end of Leo Varadkar’s talk about how everything is swell and how the old jobs were being replaced with well-paid jobs for the educated so let’s not worry about the Epsilons!

Here are the majority of my tweets and random thoughts and notes throughout the day but my twitter profile is probably more accurate.


  • Unlike previous years, we were given less work/diversity stats and more stories and journeys which are infinitely more digestible and in fact many of the speakers spoke without slides.
  • Ever Inspirational [should be all caps] Joanne O’Riordan (@JoanneOR_Ox) is on a mission to get her very own Jarvis while Kirk Donohue (@kirkMichaelD) from Solvers Labs explains how our biases can impede us from seeing problems from fresh perspectives with examples of cognitive biases, fixations, stereotyping, the curse of knowledge. His concluding clip featuring the ‘Look At Me’ App that teaches autistic kids to look at faces and to read facial expressions gave me a knot in my throat thinking of my less intuitive homemade efforts with my autistic son ten years ago, an on-going activity.  
  • Another inspirational talk [with a capital ‘I’] from Mark Pollack () with partner Simone () really put out trials and tribulations in the ha’penny place. “Acceptance is the knowledge that grief is a raging river. You must get into it, to get to the next place;” said Simone as they share their love story from dance partners to friends to lovers and their transition from dealing with just blindness to blindness and paralysis. They’ve made huge strides through scientific collaboration, the benefits which are reaped by many people across the world but the standing ovation with the big screen footage of them dancing so merrily way back when almost undid me and I had to all but stop myself from howling their raging river of grief.
  • It was fantastic to see a panel discussion on Mental Health Literacy chaired by Elaine Burke, managing editor, Silicon Republic with Laurent de Saint Sernin, general manager of commercial operations, Janssen Sciences Ireland; Nicole Owens, Dublin Senior Ladies football player and Dr Lee Motherway, consultant psychiatrist, St Vincent’s Hospital. Motherway set the scene and provided tips on managing mental health and wellness; Laurent gave us the company take and initiatives they have in place for their staff but the bravest soul on the panel was Nicole Owens who shared her mental health journey from her teenage years to its escalation in adulthood.
  • Following on in the Brave New World theme, Cat Oyler, vice-president of global public health, Johnson & Johnson separated science fiction from science fact as she outlined how the future of medicine is more about prevention and interception which will hopefully reduce the need to cure disease. Asking us ‘How many of you realise that your car has better healthcare than you do?’ really brought home the message.
  • During lunch, Digital Native Content Editor of RTÉ News, Philip Bromwell (@philipbromwell) in his ‘Storytelling with your Mobile Phone’ workshop, showed us how small stories can make a big impact and can be made on small devices. Tricks of the trade and the best apps he’s used throughout his years of shooting, editing, and posting video stories made for a very good brown bag lunch (literally).
  • Erika Cheung , co-founder of Ethics in Entrepreneurship told us and then Ann O’Dea (in an interview style chat) about the lead-up and aftermath of her 22-year-old self taking and whistleblowing on the Goliath that was Theranos.
  • Autism, a topic very close to home or indeed at home was covered in detail by Adam Harris and Ciara Beth  with the future for autistic people in Ireland certainly looking brighter than it did for us in the early years of our diagnosis, well done the pair of you.
  • Jennifer Romolini , through her story from picking herself up from the depths of depression following being fired, told us that Competence, Community, Commitment, and Compassion are C words far more powerful than Confidence.
  • I loved the presentation by Domhnaill Hernon , head of Experiments in Art and Technology at Nokia Bell Labs. Anywhere that art meets technology is always my cup of tea and I can only imagine what the people holding hands that caused a digital tree to bloom on the wall must have felt like, which sought to emphasize our need for human contact rather than relying on technology and gadgets. The overuse of innovation and creativity without understanding what it is; lack of diversity and lack of human-centered design are hindering its progress.
  • I’ll 100% admit that I had no idea what Seth Cluett, Artist in Residence at Bell Labs and percussionist Levy Lorenzo were talking about in the lead up to their performance of what seemed like sonic responses to scratching a snare drum with a piece of plastic. There was talk of some 3d printed models contained within the instruments but sorry, I’m a ‘cat sat on the mat’ type of gal and was clueless or cluetltess in this instance.
  • Interesting closing chat from dancer/scientist/mathematician Tammuz Dubnov about the evolution from the agrarian economy to the experiential economy using a simple idea of cake – flour – cake mix – buying a cake – a cake experience in perhaps a play centre, His talk closed with a very professional acrobatic dance involving some trapeze equipment and a very supple dance partner, no pressure fellow founders and CEOs!

So lovely to catch up with old friends and to finally meet various tweeple in person. Thanks, Ann O’Dea and all the crew for a truly inspiring festival. Off to Germany tomorrow so alas cannot make day 2 but I’m sure it’ll be as inspiring and by the way, Happy 5th Birthday.

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