View from the Foyle - New opportunities are opening up

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a journalist having become obsessed with Press Gang, a British children’s television comedy-drama that was broadcast from 1989 to 1993.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 10:21 am

The programme was based on the activities of a children’s newspaper, the Junior Gazette, produced by pupils from the local comprehensive school.

I was attracted to the hustle and bustle of the office, how they were overcoming challenges everyday, working as a busy team and tackling important issues.

I didn’t get the grades I needed to pursue this career academically, so I took alternative routes, pursuing it in my own time.

I wrote for my university student magazine as the fashion editor, focusing on sustainable fashion and contributing regular reviews of star purchases I had found in charity shops in Edinburgh.

I became a food critic, writing reviews on restaurants and cafes in Manchester and I produced short radio packages for Radio Foyle on new and emerging businesses in the NW.

Not getting the grades I needed to become a journalist wasn’t going to stop me pursuing a passion.

In an Elemental team building session last month, I asked my team what they wanted to be when they were young.

People’s faces lit up as they talked about wanting to be a post office worker who just wanted to stamp everything, a professional golfer, a Barbie, an interior designer, a police officer and someone who wanted to work in Bridie’s.

It got me thinking how easily we can be inspired about what we want to do long term and how COVID has opened up a whole new world of opportunities with remote working.

It’s great to see so many new jobs emerging in Derry and the wider North West at the moment; roles that never existed before in and around Derry’s developing tech space.

Whilst my son is still only 12, he knows the course he wants to do in LYIT and even the company that he wants to work for (Hypixel).

My 9-year-old daughter wants to open her own bakery having been given responsibility of creating the weekend supply of pancakes and scones in our house.

They know that things don’t always work out as planned but it gives them hope, an interest and a focus to concentrate on whilst they move into the next phase of their lives.

Careers advice has changed so much in the region since I was young.

We’re so lucky to have the likes of Finneen Bradley and her team at NWRC, the programmes and initiatives led by the team at School Employer Connections, Alistair at Startacus and school careers programmes like that in St Mary’s.

Seeing what’s available now and what’s potentially achievable is so important to young people and not-so-young people on so many levels.

Understanding what is available and what it is like to work in that environment is critical.

They say ‘you can’t become what you can’t see’.

At Elemental, we are all about giving people opportunities and we regularly take on students from NWRC and people who might not yet have the skills they need to be what they want to be, but are ready to learn the ropes and move up through the organisation.

We advise people to research the industry they are interested in working in and the company they are applying to.

Opportunities are there to be grasped, and more often being able to put your hand up and say ‘I want to go for this and here’s what I can do’, is all it takes.

Whatever age you discover and follow your passion, it shouldn’t matter.

What matters is that you have been supported and empowered.

We all have a responsibility to inspire others and create opportunities for people to try, experience and develop their personal and professional skills.

It’s what makes life more enjoyable.

Jennifer Neff is CEO, Elemental Software