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This event takes place online (via Zoom) on 15 January 2021 from 10am to 12.45pm and is a partnership between Ulster University Wo/men's Network and Alumni Relations.

In March 2020, our lives totally changed when we found ourselves working in new and unexpected circumstances. For most of us, our home also became our workplace. The lines between our personal and professional lives became blurred. We are calling this ‘living at work’.

We want to consider how this has impacted on us, the lessons we have learned and what this means for the future.

During this virtual event, we are offering three 45 minute sessions, starting at 10am, 11am and 12pm involving a range of contributors. The event will be facilitated by Wendy Austin.

You can register for the whole event and join at the times you are able to do so.


Session 1: Taking off the Mask - Has 2020 encouraged us to be real at work?

In this session, we will consider:

  • The impact of 2020 on our workplace attitudes and behaviours.
  • Leaders being authentic, empathetic and vulnerable.
  • Whether we can or should bring our whole selves to work.
Panel Contributors:
  • Jenny Pyper (Interim Head of Civil Service)
  • ACC Barbara Gray
  • Rachel Doherty (Marketing and Organisational Development Manager, PAC Group)
  • Barry Phillips (CEO, Legal Island)
Session 1  Panel Contributors
Jenny is currently the Interim Head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service and Secretary to the NI Executive, having taken up this new role in December 2020. Prior to this, she was Chief Executive of the Utility Regulator for seven years, moving into this post in 2013 following a wide range of senior roles within economic development areas across the Civil Service. Jenny is also Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Ulster University Council (the governing body responsible for overseeing the institution’s activities) and a member of the board of Business in the Community (NI).
ACC Barbara
Barbara is Assistant Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Her present portfolio includes responsibility for Serious and Organised Crime, Paramilitary Crime Taskforce, Homicide Investigation, Terrorist Investigation Unit, Cyber Crime, Intelligence Branch and Specialist Operations Branch. Barbara has a considerable range of experience having served in many areas across Northern Ireland and is highly committed to a community based model of policing. Barbara is an alumna of Ulster University and is currently the highest ranking female officer in the PSNI.
Rachel has worked in the engineering sector for 10 years and is an experienced business strategy, marketing, and communications professional. She is active in a range of industry bodies such as Manufacturing NI, the Mid and East Antrim Manufacturing Task Force as well as being a founding member of local social enterprise, 4C UR Future and a Non-Executive Director of ONUS, a social enterprise providing awareness training to organisations around domestic violence or abuse.

Rachel is passionate about young people achieving their potential through opportunities presented by Industry 4.0, and is a self-described ‘lifelong learning’ advocate. As well as being an alumna of Ulster University, she is currently completing the MSc in Executive Leadership with Ulster and is proud to own more books than anyone could hope to read in one lifetime!
Barry is Chairman of Legal Island and is responsible for a multitude of Diversity and Inclusion initiatives in Northern Ireland including the D&I Gala/Awards, the Legal Island D&I Chartermark and more recently, the D&I Discussion Forum which he set up last year to encourage debate on key D&I issues.
Barry is a long time member of the 5am club choosing to start his day early and finishing come what may at 4pm after which it’s exclusively about family time! But it’s also about quality family time which is why most weekends are spent walking, wild camping or travelling with his wife and daughter disconnected from the Internet and savouring meaningful family moments together.

Session 2: The Work/Life Mix - Is it possible to find balance?

In this session, we will consider:

  • The blurring of the lines between work and home.
  • The challenges of having both personal and professional lives.
  • Whether there is such a thing as a work/life balance.

Panel Contributors:

  • Sarah O'Donnell (International Communications Manager, DELL)
  • Patrick Gallen (Partner, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton)
  • Karise Hutchinson (Professor of Leadership and Provost, Ulster University)
  • James Lloyd (People Director, People Puzzles)
Session 2 Panel Contributors
Sarah is International Communications Manager for Dell Technologies where she has worked for 12 years. She is based in Glasgow with her husband and two young children. With a wealth of experience across marketing, sales, and communications, Sarah thrives on bringing people and ideas together and figuring out how to best convey messages for customers. Sarah is an alumna of Ulster University having graduated in Applied Languages; she is also a graduate of Dell's award-winning Global Marketing Rotation Programme, a three-year Marketing leadership development programme; and she plans to complete a Business Sustainability programme with The University of Cambridge in 2021.
Sarah is hugely passionate about Diversity, Inclusion and Sustainability, particularly looking at outreach programmes to encourage young females to consider careers in the technology sector. She is an active member of Dell Technologies’ ‘Women In Action’ Employee Resource Group and is a current mentor in their STEM Aspire outreach programme.
Patrick is the Partner leading Grant Thornton’s People and Change Consulting practice in Ireland. He is an alumnus of Ulster University and has over 30 years’ experience in People and Change, working right across Ireland, the UK and on a global basis. He specialises in delivering behavioural change through capability building, which can range from working on complex transformation projects right through to coaching senior Board members on a one-to-one basis. Patrick has deep cross-sectoral experience and his clients include large global banking and financial institutions, utility companies  and well-known global brands in the food and drinks sector alongside clients in the public and semi-state sector including Government Departments in the UK and Ireland.

In his spare time, Patrick is a keen cyclist and  enjoys skiing when travel restrictions permit.  Married with three daughters, he lives near Killinchy in Co Down.
Karise is a Professor of Leadership at Ulster University and Provost of the Coleraine campus. Working in Higher Education for 20 years, her passion for education, entrepreneurship and leadership has earned her opportunities to work with businesses both large and small across the world as well as publishing in both academic journals and industry spheres.  In 2017, she published new research underpinning the importance of storytelling in leading personal and professional growth in her new book Leadership and Small Business: The Power of Stories. The combination of her significant academic and industry experience means she is an invited speaker at seminars, events and ceremonies and a member of various boards in Northern Ireland. Her recent TedX Talk Time for a Leadershift premiered during COVID-19 and explores why it is time to forget leadership stereotypes and debates and shift how we think and practice leadership.
Karise is happiest with her husband Ali and their four children living on the beautiful North Coast of Ireland or travelling on holiday across the world.
James is a self-employed HR/People Director who works with numerous ambitious small and mid sized businesses who need and want expert support, but on a more flexible and  ‘fractional’ basis (and not permanent or full time).
James has enjoyed a varied HR career and thrives on helping businesses evolve, transform and grow particularly in the context of a more complex global and digital world. James decided to turn his back on the 9-5 corporate world and become self-employed in order to be able to work flexibly and spend more time with his family (his wife and two young daughters). He acknowledges that whilst senior jobs in large organisations can bring many rewards, they tend to consistently require long hours and travel and whilst many organisations are trying to adapt and become more flexible, the gap is still big and is one of the significant reasons so many women have historically been excluded from or opted away from senior leadership roles.

Session 3: The 2020 Experience - What does this mean for the future of how we work?

In this session, we will consider:

  • The learning gained from the 2020 experience.
  • Opportunities for different ways of working in the future.
  • What might need to happen to enable us to have better working lives.

Panel Contributors:

  • Elaine Smyth (Director of Innovation Community, Catalyst NI)
  • Opemipo Koshemani (HR Business Partner, University College London)
  • Lee Collins (Head of Organisational Development and Learning, Kainos)
  • Damian McAlister (Director of People and Culture, Ulster University)
Session 3 Panel Contributors
Elaine is Director of Innovation Community at Catalyst, an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to enable a connected community of like-minded innovators in an entrepreneurial eco-system that is the key driver of the knowledge economy in Northern Ireland.
Elaine is an alumna of Ulster University and has been instrumental in collaborations with PWC NI (to set up the tech-enabled Operate branch which helps businesses with operational challenges such as financial crime operations and regulatory testing) and with Danske Bank (to establish the Catalyst Belfast Fintech Hub, a co-working hub for early stage tech companies in the same space as Danske’s flagship branch at Donegall Square West in the centre of Belfast. This is supportingthe growing number of local entrepreneurs seeking to create disruptive tech products and solutions and connect them to valuable expertise within the bank. Elaine enjoys spending time with her children.
Ope is HR Business Partner at University College, London. She has featured in HR Magazine as HR Future Leader of the Month. She is passionate about HR as it has the potential to shape and define the experience of every person coming into contact with an organisation – from a prospective candidate right through to those leaving – all of whom will share their experience with others long after their association with the organisation has ended. Ope sees Brexit, wellbeing, AI, automation and Diversity and Inclusion as the key issues facing organisations going forward.
Alongside her day job, Ope also undertakes consultancy work with external organisations on creating effective people strategies.
Lee is Head of Organisational Development and Learning at Kainos. He lives in Bangor and is married to Sarah who is a senior teacher at Regent House School.  They have two boys, Alfie (11) and Jude (9) who are involved in everything from rugby and jujitsu to Cubs and kayaking. They are great kids but far too active for his liking!
Lee has been at Kainos for three years, working across teams to support talent development and organisational change.  He absolutely loves it! Before joining Kainos, he had the privilege of working across the NI Health Sector, two years of which was with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.  Before this, he spent 15 years working in PWC and KPMG providing change management services across a range of industries.  He achieved his degree and PHD from Queen’s University.  He is 46 years old and enjoys reading, long walks, dinner and dancing!
Damian has just been appointed to the role of Chief People Officer at Ulster University, having previously been employed as Director of People and Culture since 2018. Prior to this, Damian was Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and held a number of senior posts across Health and the wider Civil Service.
Since joining Ulster, Damian has focused on employee wellbeing, development of leadership and management capacity and embedding organisational values across the University. During 2020, he also led the University-wide Recovery Planning Group that has guided the organisation through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Damian is an avid football supporter and has recently become a new grandad!

This event also marks the second anniversary of the Ulster University Wo/men's Network.

Please add this event to your calendar and joining instructions will be sent in due course.

For more information contact the Wo/mens Network ( or Deborah Sloan (

Event info

This event has ended

Friday 15 January

10am to 12.45pm


Wo/men's Network at Ulster