It’s International Women’s Day and today we would like to shine the spotlight on our very own Fiona Kiely
Fiona has been with CalQRisk for over 10 years and is a senior risk analyst and expert in all things compliance and regulation.
We sat down to speak to her about her role, working in CalQRisk and how her passion for knowledge drives her to constantly learn more.
When did you start your career at CalQRisk and how have you found it?
My connection with CalQRisk began in 2010, while I was studying at the University of Limerick. CalQRisk has a strong relationship with the third-level institutions in the region and in the Spring semester, they extended an invitation to Kemmy Business School students to attend their Risk Management seminar. At lunch on the day, I shared a table with Gerard Joyce, Kevin Knight, and Karen Boylan – all seasoned risk professionals and speakers at the seminar. We chatted about risk, insurance, and lots of other things and I left that day with a new fascination for the discipline. Later that year, I got a call from the Kemmy Business School to ask if I would be interested in an internship with the company. I was taken aback but jumped at the chance.
My interview was a candid chat with MD, Paul O’Brien over a cup of coffee (the first of so many such conversations) and a demo of the software from CTO, Gerard Joyce. I remember watching it and being very impressed with the idea of using the CalQRisk software as a means of documenting the risk profile of an organisation. I was very excited to become a part of what was then a very small team, but which has grown so much in the years since… and I’ve loved being part of that growth.
Service is very much at the centre of what we do at CalQRisk. We deal with people who want to do risk management right and we meet people who are as passionate about it as we are.
What made you decide to become a Risk Analyst?
I didn’t make a conscious decision to pursue a career in risk, but a series of life decisions led me to it. Being an agent in the national personal lines office of an international insurance broker, I was often on the receiving end when customer frustrations bubbled over. I knew that their frustrations were justified and earlier roles in hospitality and retail meant I was well trained in customer service but there was little I could do to fix the situation. I had been working in insurance for about six years and during that time Mary Harney had been instrumental in the introduction of a series of sectoral reforms. I wanted to play a bigger role in implementing those changes that were so clearly needed so, I went back to school to study International Insurance and European Studies at UL. And that, indirectly, led me to CalQRisk.
What are you passionate about?
Knowledge. I want to learn as much as I can about everything, and it makes me incredibly happy when I can pass it on. My family have learned the hard way that if you ask me what I’m working on, you had better be prepared for a long answer. I’ve always been an avid reader and as a child my copies of The World of Knowledge were as prized as my Enid Blyton collection. I’m still like that, my book collection is divided pretty evenly along the fiction/non-fiction line. I’m also fascinated by the natural world – science and geography were my favourite subjects at school, and I once fancied geology as a career. I also wanted to be an astronaut, but what kid doesn’t?
Who is your biggest inspiration?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had many strong female role models… within my family, my friends, as teachers, colleagues, and beyond. These women have taught me the value of hard work, perseverance, friendship, and laughter. The greatest inspiration of all has been my mother. She’s a constant source of love and support who, along with my dad, has been a cheerleader, nurse, mentor, and counsellor. She is always ready with advice when I need it and she’s never afraid to tell it like it is.
I also count my two wonderful children among those who inspire me. Since my daughter Ali was born, I’ve striven to be the best version of myself that I can be, and my hope is to be as good a role model for her and my son Fionn as my mother is for me.
What is your favourite part of your job?
Can I pick more than one? A key part of what I do is to read – industry guidance, standards, and legislation. I also get to work closely with customers from diverse industries, sharing knowledge and learning from them all the time. And of course, I get to be a part of a superb team of people. Those who know me best say that there couldn’t be a more ideal job for me.
What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment since joining CalQRisk?
I’m very proud of the work I’ve done in connection with data protection and privacy risk in a series of projects that began in the years before the GDPR came into force. That work pushed me out of my comfort zone into boardrooms and on to podiums to talk about risk management to such diverse groups as credit unions, insurance intermediaries, fund service providers, legal professionals, and educational trusts.
On International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being #BreakTheBias, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in risk analysis, RegTech or compliance?
Go for it. Give in to your curiosity… sign up for the webinars, attend the conferences, ask questions. Believe that risk management is good for the organisation because it is. The discipline crosses all industries and there are great opportunities for career progression. You’ll find no resistance, encounter no bias. It’s the norm to see women in key roles here – regulators, business owners, directors, senior managers and professional risk and compliance practitioners. It’s wonderful that there are so many incredible women working in GRC roles and it’s great that I get to work with them every day.
Anything else you would like to add?
Today, on International Womens’ Day, my heart is with the women of Ukraine.
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