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Meet the Future Shapers: A conversation with Derek Byrne

We love to share stories from past entrepreneurial students of Tangent, Trinity’s Ideas Workspace. Here we chat to Derek Byrne, an academic and media professional who recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Thinking, Innovation & Entrepreneurship and has gone on to use his new-found skills in the pursuit of his political, creative and educational passions.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do?

I teach on the Addiction Studies programme in the Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University. I am a regular contributor to the Opinion page in the Irish Times and a regular panellist on a range of radio programmes on Newstalk 106-108FM. I am a campaigner for LGBT rights and promote the talents of people over 50 in the workplace. I am also a playwright and am currently working on my first novel, Diary of a Controversialist.

What has inspired you to do what you do?

Having grown up as a gay man in 1970s Ireland, I have a strong connection with the underdog, and I am driven by a sense of social justice and equality. I am lucky to have a public forum in which to encourage a debate and be part of the narrative of change in Irish society.

When did you first hear about the Tangent Creative Thinking, Innovation & Entrepreneurship course and why did it attract your interest?

I first heard about Tangent when I lost my full-time job in July 2018. My local Intreo Office suggested the course which was exactly what I was looking for at the time in order to assist me in moving forward with confidence and a renewed sense of hope about my future. I had absolutely no reservations about applying, it is one of the best things I have ever done for myself.

What you did enjoy most about the Creative Thinking, Innovation & Entrepreneurship course?

I enjoyed the comradeship, the mental and emotional support. I enjoyed learning new skills and working as part of a team. I enjoyed having fun again, studying again and being young at heart again

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What were your key takeaways?

Apart from rebuilding my shattered confidence, I learnt some valuable skills such as how to pitch an idea successfully. Other key takeaways were financial planning and how to protect my intellectual property.

How has the course most helped you & your business?

I had my first play accepted for the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2019 which I also successfully produced. The course also provided me with confidence to voice my anger at how people over 50 are discriminated against in the workplace during my 2020 political campaign for the Seanad.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I hope to continue with my political pursuits and use the next four years to place myself in a better position for election. I am planning to finish my Doctorate in Adult and Higher Education from September 2022 and in the meantime, I will continue to contribute to the Irish Times and draw attention to the issues which I feel passionately about.

Is there anything you would like to add for anyone reading this?

The course at Tangent helped me to see life from a very different perspective. I was shocked at how society placed me when I found myself in a vulnerable position. I was viewed as being "over the hill" with nothing new to offer or contribute. I had applied for almost 50 jobs but had no responses. The course helped me to see that the problem wasn't with me, it was with the world around me and I needed to change how I responded to that and rise to the challenge.

Thanks, Derek, for your honest account of your experiences which will no doubt bring inspiration to many others who are looking to open new opportunities. We are excited to watch your political pursuits and look forward to seeing more of your stage productions in the future! You can follow Derek on Twitter @derekjourno