Local Faces: Deirdre Ni Shuilleabhain
Meet Deirdre Ni Shuilleabhain, a scientist at Pfizer in Grange Castle and a member of the Clondalkin Toastmasters.
A self-described ‘blow in’ from her native West Kerry, Deidre moved to Clondalkin when she accepted a position to work as a scientist at Pfizer in Grange Castle over ten years ago.
Working in early-stage discovery, Deirdre’s job is to work in collaboration with drug engineers and biologists to look for the next treatment for various diseases such as solid tumours, lymphomas, cardiac disease and fibrosis.
It was through a colleague at Pfizer that Deirdre heard of the Clondalkin Toastmasters, something that has benefited her both in her personal and professional life.
Since Toastmasters was founded back in 1924 in California, more than three million men and women have benefited from the organisation’s communication and leadership programs.
Clondalkin Toastmasters, a branch of Toastmasters International, was set up in June 1998. The club serves the Clondalkin and surrounding areas and is made up of people from all walks of life who come together to practice public speaking, evaluating and impromptu speaking in a supportive and friendly environment.
“My colleague had told me that the toastmasters had brought them on so much in their public speaking and in their overall confidence”, said Deirdre.
“I was curious, so I attended a meeting that toastmasters offers where you can just sit in the background and observe and decide for yourself whether it is something you would enjoy or not. I really wasn’t expecting a huge amount from it and then when I saw the craic that they were having at the meetings and how relaxed they were, I was hooked on it straight away.”
Speaking about the reasons why she wanted to improve her public speaking, Deirdre explained that it is “vital” for her job.
“Being able to get up in front of a crowd and explain your work, your purpose and your objectives and yet make it interesting and relevant to the audience is so important”, Deirdre explained.
“Even though we are all scientists, my audience can be very varied. There can be someone who works beside me in the lab who knows the intricacies of my experiment and then I can jump up three or four levels above that to someone who is a director who hasn’t been in a lab in ten years, so pitching my information to different audiences can be really challenging.”
“I would say that toastmasters has definitely brought me on in that respect and makes the whole thing more interesting and enjoyable as well to put together a presentation, because very often you are presenting quite dry results, so putting the purpose behind it into the presentation has now become more doable.
“It doesn’t matter who the audience is – you feel more in command of what you are presenting, because it is your story.”
Despite only joining the club a year ago, Deirdre has gone on to compete in the international speech contest, passing through two rounds so far and is set to compete in the third round in the coming days.
“They hold the competition twice a year and they go from area to region and so on and so forth”, said Deirdre.
“I am very happy, and I got so much help, encouragement and practice from the club, they were so good, and I am delighted to have gotten this far. The standard of speeches is very high, and it is so enjoyable. You get to listen to the cream of the crop giving lovely speeches and I am learning as I go as well.”
Speaking about the effect that Covid-19 had on the club, Deirdre says that if anything, it made it “more accessible” to people as they held meetings over Zoom, allowing people to join in from anywhere in the world.
“We are on zoom as a club, which is actually benefiting us because we have people dialling in from places such as Spain and Mayo”, said Deirdre. “People who might be away can still log in and it means we have a larger and more varied audience, so Zoom has been working quite well for us.”
When asked what advice she would give to someone who may be on the fence about joining or hesitant, Deidre says her number one recommendation is to come along to a meeting to test the waters.
“I would say, because we are on Zoom, it has never been so accessible”, she said. “I would encourage anyone to come along, because it is so hard to explain the atmosphere, the positivity and the enjoyment that we get out of it.
“There is no commitment whatsoever and fees wont kick in until you make a decision to actually join. It is the people that make it and everybody and anybody is welcome.”