INSPIRING OTHERS Keira Keogh was among several women who were nominated for the title of Mayo Inspirational Woman of the Year 2017. Pic: Alison Laredo
TRACKING the journey from being a rather shy public speaker to acing a debate on the subject of ‘Sex is better with the lights off’ is pretty simple for the Vice-President of Junior Chambers International – Ireland (JCI). For Westport native Keira Keogh, JCI has ‘challenged and scared’ her ‘beyond belief’ but, significantly, also shown her that she ‘can achieve anything once she puts her mind to it’.
“JCI has given me skills in areas such as leadership, project management, conflict resolution, public speaking, PR and marketing, budgeting and finance. It has given me the opportunity to network and make friends around the world. It has allowed me the chance to give back to my community through projects like the Dogathon, the Ten Outstanding Young People, the Bra Appeal which supported women in Kenya and so many more. It’s allowed me to be a trainer in Ireland and abroad; skills to which I have brought directly back to my business,” Keira Keogh explains to The Mayo News over coffee in the Wyatt Hotel’s Park Terrace.
“It has pushed me to travel more, last year going to Oslo, Malta, Basel, Amsterdam, Sheffield and this year I will be going to Zagreb, Scotland, Riga, Japan, India and the UK. Through my travel and other ‘jaycees’ visiting Ireland I have learnt so much about other cultures and different personality types,” she continues.
While Keira Keogh is passionate about JCI, it turns out this writer is a tad confused: having always assumed it was the junior branch of Chambers Ireland.
In fact, Junior Chamber International (JCI) is a global network for young professionals and entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s, and while it has associations with Chambers of Commerce, globally it is an entirely separate organisation.
Keogh herself works as a behavioural psychologist specialising in issues relating to autism.
“Since I run my own business here in Westport – which can range from being a ‘super nanny’ helping a child to adopt better feeding habits to giving seminars in schools, colleges and community groups – I wanted to give something back and liked the fact that JCI contributes to different community groups,” she explains.
AMONG JCI Mayo’s volunteerism projects are initiatives with Mayo SPCA, Westport Tidy Towns and a community project in Swinford.
Keogh’s journey with JCI, however, is about to become more global, as her vice-presidentship for 2018 is effectively an apprenticeship for the role of president in 2019.
“Last weekend at an inauguration ceremony in Portmarnock, I received the Deputy President chain of office, and I now have a year to prepare myself to take on the organisation for its 63rd year in Ireland, as well as support the current President Laura Enache.
“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride, responsibility and excitement as I look ahead at the opportunities and challenges to come,” Keira tells The Mayo News.
A member of JCI since 2013, one could argue she has had a meteoric rise through its echelons. By 2015 she had taken on the role of Mayo President; she was appointed JCI Ireland National Director of Community in 2016; and in 2017 took on the role of JCI Ireland National Communications Director and appointee to the European Development Council.
This year as well as being JCI Ireland Deputy National President, she is the European Appointee to the International Skills Development Committee.
While attending the 2017 World Congress in Amsterdam, Keira was given the opportunity to host the ‘Morning Show’ which effectively meant she ‘set the upbeat tone’ for proceedings.
“We ‘jaycees’ work hard and play hard, and while there is lots of partying – we might have been at a Latvian Night in our Global Village – we are up early each morning for a busy schedule. On this occasion I had to create a fun and upbeat atmosphere while introducing the keynote speakers for the day and talking about strategy,” says Keira.
However, while Keogh’s calendar has increasingly become busier with global meetings, her commitment to building JCI branches in Ireland is steadfast.
She explains that the JCI movement is huge in Japan where there are 30,000 members and it has branches in over 100 countries world wide.
“There are eight branches throughout Ireland and we are now working on opening branches in Sligo and Limerick too,” she says.
Clearly Keira Keogh espouses the words of John F Kennedy: “Harvard gave me an education. JCI gave me an education for life.”