Meet the Team: Michelle Connolly

New Frontiers Programme Manager, Sligo & Letterkenny

Michelle ConnollyWhere are you from and how did you get here?

I am from Kinlough, Co. Leitrim – a village nestled at the Head of Lough Melvin and at the base of the Dartry mountains. I grew up in a very picturesque part of the county with sweeping views of the Drowes River to the Atlantic Ocean and across Donegal Bay to the Blue Stacks.

Eager to get to University, I left home at 17 and headed further north to Coleraine where I completed a primary Honours degree in Biological Sciences, majoring in Biotechnology at the University of Ulster (UU). Subsequently, I completed a PhD in Environmental Biotechnology from UU in partnership with a private company in the area of commercialisation of oil spill bioremediation products. Keenly interested in all things environmental, I then worked for the Environment and Heritage Service in Northern Ireland before moving back to Leitrim. I moved back to take up a post-doctoral research position on a European Union (EU) Framework 6 project at IT Sligo to validate and commercialise oil spill remediation products for a European collaborative partnership. Since then I have been involved in a variety of project and programme management roles both in the public and private sectors.

What is it about business and start-ups that so interests you?

Working with dynamic, progressive and resilient individuals is a source of motivation and inspiration for me. The business and start-up environment has great energy, is challenging and forever changing. There are very few dull moments!

When did you become a New Frontiers PM and what inspired you to become one?

I started my New Frontiers PM journey in 2012.  After having spent time working as a self-employed provider of Research and Project management services, I found working with start-ups a truly engaging and immensely stimulating experience. It’s a hugely rewarding process to work with and support a start-up to achieve success. I am a people-focused person and am driven to help people succeed.

From my early work as a scientist I have realised that one should never fear failure. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” In my role working with entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, I adopt this same thinking and work to ensure that every participant learns from the journey and is equipped to apply the learning to the current business or the next opportunity.

What do you feel are the skills that you bring to the role?

I am an experienced project manager with the ability to balance strategic planning with tactical execution. I am a tenacious researcher with the ability to think outside the box, I have been able to apply this skill to help the businesses that I work with directly through guidance and advice and indirectly through making connections with appropriate services and expertise. I am a lifelong learner, having recently completed an MA in International Business Management and again I work to apply this thought process to the businesses that I work with.

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