A Day in the Life: Orla Flynn


SETTLING IN President of GMIT in Galway and Castlebar, Dr Orla Flynn, took up her position in March of last year. Pic: Aengus McMahon

Name: Orla Flynn
Age: mid 50s
From: Originally from Lismore, Co Waterford, living near Claregalway
Occupation: President GMIT

I thought I was an early riser until I met some of my colleagues around here who get up very early, but I would get up sometime between half six and quarter to seven. In my previous job in Cork I had an hour’s commute every day, so I was up at six every morning and now I have to say it feels like a massive lie-in.
My routine in the morning varies … I might go through a phase of having porridge, but I like to have an egg or some protein in the morning and that’s it. I’m out the door then to work. I drive to work and I like to listen to some light-hearted radio in the morning.
I live just outside Galway, and I usually have a 20-minute commute from where I am living, and I like to be at my desk for half 8. The first thing I do is make a cup of tea and bring it to the desk and check my emails … My first meetings would start around 8.30.
The great thing about here is there is rhythm to the year, and right now our big focus is getting what is like a big cruise liner out of the dock and out to sea. We have many students returning to our campuses [in Galway and Castlebar] and staff coming back and Covid preparations. There are no two days the same.
A big thing for us at the moment is the Connacht Ulster Alliance and working with our partners in Sligo and Letterkenny … We have regular meetings and there is a lot going on at all levels at the moment.
There are so many brilliant things happening at work it doesn’t feel like work half the time. Going to events and engaging with colleagues on projects they are doing doesn’t feel like work. It feels like a really energetic, exciting thing to be doing.
If I was travelling to Mayo in the morning I might spend a lot of time on the phone. I would ring colleagues who are up early and go through a good bit of business on the phone. I might listen to music on the way home. If you have a long commute it is a good way to decompress on the way home.
I started in GMIT in March 2020 and straight away I found myself back down in Cork for the lockdown. That was such a strange time, we all thought it would be two weeks and then six weeks and then we wondered if we would ever get out of it.
During the lockdown I bought a house in Galway and my family moved up just as that lockdown finished, so it was a big adventure anyway. It was moving out of the comfort zone, and to be fair Covid was just another unknown factor.
It wasn’t easy for us to decide to move to Galway. We sold a farm and a house, but we have committed to the move to the west. The consequences of getting the job does mean a good bit of uprooting of family.
I have a boy who just graduated in chemical engineering and has just started work. While he moved with us he will probably view Galway as a destination to bring friends and have fun. My daughter has just gone into Transition Year, so it was tough for her, but she has joined a local camogie club. The GAA is terrific for getting to know people in the community. She is getting on fine and enjoying her sport, and she has settled in well to school.
Covid has impacted on the social connections a new person in the community can make. We have very good neighbours, but the social interaction after a match or gathering in community hall have been curtailed. They are things I am seeing getting back to normal once the pandemic winds down to an end hopefully.
I was born in New York, but both my parents are from west Waterford, and we moved back when I was quite young. I am a proud Déise girl. I played a lot of camogie when I was younger. I played for Waterford for ten years, so I still shout for the blue and white above anyone else.
The west of Ireland is magic. It is a special place to live but there is so much potential and in fairness the pandemic has shown people the benefits of working from home and staying in the community you are living in.
The length of my day would vary. The last couple of evenings it has been 7.30pm before I leave the office, but since moving to Galway I try to get home for about six and spend some time with family.
There are only three of us there now, but it’s nice to sit down together and talk about each other’s day. We might eat out the odd time, but we are pretty good at making a healthy meal and eating at home.
I could go back to my office at 9 o’clock and do another three hours of work. I have a good enough work ethic where I would find myself a couple of hours late at night in the office. I work quite well late at night when I can really focus and get ready for the morning.

In conversation with Anton McNulty

Quickfire questions

If money were no object, what would you do everyday?
Once upon a time I would have said I would buy a villa in Spain, but the older I get the more I realise I have everything I need.

Most unusual thing you have eaten?
In my last role I did a lot of travelling to China and Asia, so I’m pretty sure I ate unusual things like hearts of animals, but nothing too controversial. I am open to trying anything.

Favourite place you have visited?
There are a couple of places that stand out, but if you get good weather there is no place like Connemara and the west coast. Lismore where I grew up is a beautiful part of the world and I love going back as a visitor.

What makes you nervous?
There isn’t a whole lot that makes me nervous. I get nervous watching my daughter play camoige or Waterford hurling. It is more nervous for other people to do well watching as a spectator.

Best advice you ever got?
It is not advice I take all the time, but it is to make time for thinking.
We live in a busy world but sometimes you just need time to let your brain relax and take a step back.

Three celebrities you would invite to your Zoom party?
I am going to go for women – Leona Maguire, Ivana Bacik and Michelle Obama.

Last book you read?
I might have a couple of books on the go at any one time. I usually read crime thrillers, and I’m a big fan of Terry Prachett. The most recent I read is a Donal Ryan book called ‘Strange Flowers’.

Three things always in your fridge?
Milk for my tea, eggs which are a big food in our house and cheese for a sandwich.

Most prized possession?
My family obviously; if the house were on fire, once the family is out I would not worry too much about losing anything else.

Favourite TV programme?
I don’t tend to watch TV, but I watch sport and I enjoy GAA Beo and Rugbaí Beo on TG4.