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Dr Lisa McGee, the playwright and creator of the award-winning series ‘Derry Girls’, Samantha Barry, Glamour's Americas Editorial Director, and renowned contemporary visual artist and Chancellor of Ulster University, Dr Colin Davidson, shared their personal journeys of ‘Becoming a Creative Leader’.

Fresh from her International Emmy Award win for the 3rd series of Derry Girls, Lisa McGee joined the 25@25 Leaders in Ulster Screen Academy to be interviewed by Professor of Creative Technologies, Paul Moore.

Ulster University Honorary Graduate, Lisa told them: “We are nothing without our stories, they are how we make sense of the world. Stories can help bring people together, especially if the stories make people laugh, comedy is very therapeutic.

“Working in the creative industry is 10% gift and 90% craft. While it’s fun coming up with a concept and characters, the technical elements are even more important and can be tough. Don’t give up! We need more young people and especially young women in this industry – if we don’t have them, we will be losing so many important stories.

“Have a clear vision and align yourself with people who can help make your vision happen. Be present, work on your craft and never stop trying to be better.”

Joining an afternoon session via video link from New York, Samantha Barry, Glamour's Americas Editorial Director and Cork native, shared her creative leadership advice with the 25.

Samantha’s impressive leadership journey and laser-sharp insights captivated the room as she explained her rise to success starting her career as a reporter for RTÉ, then working for ABC, BBC and CNN, where she was an executive producer for CNN Worldwide. Led by Barry, CNN's 2016 presidential election coverage received the first ever Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in social media.

Samantha Barry shared her leadership experience with the group, she said; “My advice on how to be a future leader in the creative industries is to embrace and lean into your ambition. Take unsociable hours, be the first to put your hand up and don’t be defined by your job description – go above and beyond. Always be curious and look out for emerging trends. But remember soft skills will never go out of fashion. People who can combine a curiosity in new technology, anchored with soft skills, picking up the telephone, meeting for a coffee – these are the people that will succeed.”

When asked how she made such a lasting impression on Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of Vogue who referred to Samantha as ‘the perfect leader of Glamour.’ Samantha shared: "It honestly gives me such pleasure to nurture my team and their talent. I want to inspire them. We work hard but I also want them to enjoy it and to get the most out of their role. I aim to make it straightforward levelling out the priorities and helping them understand what we’re aiming to achieve and why, I give them space for personal projects that they are passionate about, and I encourage the team to come together to help build relationships which is really important to me.”

Taking part in today’s session was 25@25 leader Katie McQuillan-Love, an award-winning director and graduate in 3D Animation, co-ordinating TV ads for global brands like Cadbury, EA Sports, FIFA and Visa where her work has surpassed over 15 million views. Katie said: “It was really great to hear Lisa talk about her journey from the very start where she had grit and determination to now, winning an international Emmy. For me, it was inspiring to hear her say “our stories in Northern Ireland have global relevance” which left me feeling really empowered.”

Dr Colin Davidson, renowned contemporary visual artist and Chancellor of Ulster University spoke to the cohort and shared his advice at a session during the day: “Each of you are unique, all individual. All of you have potential, like everyone else but you and only you are capable of doing what you do, in your way. Creativity comes from your mindset, you need to be open to opportunity, prepared to take chances and do what feels right. Never stop learning and have the strength to step out of your comfort zone and make yourself comfortable in the uncomfortable - don’t be afraid to be out of your depth, that is where the creative opportunities lie.”

The Ulster University 25 cohort of leaders have more to look forward to as they continue through the nine one-day sessions guided by an extraordinary line-up of talented guest speakers including a planned session in the new year with Tommy Bowe, TV presenter and former Irish Rugby international player.

These aspiring leaders from across Northern Ireland are Ulster University alumni who are currently rising to the top of their fields in international organisations such as PwC, EY and Factor Law; leading NI bodies: Translink, Catalyst, NI Fiscal Council and Belfast City Council; and well-known charities: Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Fund for Children and consultancy: Third Sector Connect; among many others.