Boyden Dublin's Assembly September 2023 explores the recent space missions led by private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, highlighting how these missions represent a new era of leadership and innovation, while emphasizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in these industries.

By Boyden Ireland

Boyden Ireland, UCD Smurfit Executive Development and guest astronauts Jeanette Epps and Norah Patten together prove: there is no limit to what can be achieved through human curiosity, continuous learning and teamwork. This, from an event held at the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business in late September, co-hosted by Boyden Ireland and UCD Smurfit Executive Development.

Nick Robeson, Managing Partner, Boyden United Kingdom & Ireland opened the event, saying, “We are honoured to co-host these two outstanding women at Boyden’s inaugural annual assembly in Dublin. Their achievements are humbling, even from an earthly perspective, and there is so much we can learn from the personal demands of their professional lives”.

“Jeanette Epps and Norah Patten are distinguished female astronauts, trailblazers in scientific discovery, both advocates of STEM education and learning through adversity,” explained Tim Wray, Director of UCD Smurfit Executive Development.

In a fireside chat led by Tim, Jeanette and Norah discussed their careers from both sides of the pond – America and Ireland: learning in exceptional circumstances, living on the international space station (ISS) and team relationships under pressure.

Jeanette’s comment “It doesn’t get any bigger than this” defines the personal and professional perspective when training for and working in space.

UCD’s Tim relished the opportunity to reframe executive education in terms of space. "It's about having an explorer mindset; it's about pushing the boundaries and learning something new."  

Norah Patten is an Irish aeronautical engineer and award-winning STEM advocate from Ballina, County Mayo. She developed an early interest and passion for space, designing rockets at school and studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Limerick. She initiated and managed ‘The only way is up’ project, sending Ireland’s first student experiment to the ISS in 2014.

Norah shared her outlook. "Space exploration brings a uniqueness of international collaboration and common goals that are rarely achievable; it brings a truly unique perspective of the Earth – our home; it brings a different lens for research and an opportunity to answer scientific questions that simply is not possible down here on Earth; and it inspires the next generation of adventurers and explorers. We can all learn and implement something from Jeanette's incredible background, progression, and personality, and her explorer mindset of always pushing forward. These qualities and characteristics are applicable to us as individuals but also as leaders in the workplace."

Jeanette Epps is an astronaut at Johnson Space Center, and in February 2024 will be one of the first black females to live on the ISS. She illuminated the need to dig deep into personal attributes and capabilities, explaining, “When you live for six months in close confinement to other people, you have to be able to build relationships, handle everyone’s ups and downs and proactively manage the emotional impact. It’s a question of actively demonstrating the ability to respond, not react, looking deeply into yourself and learning the right lessons from experiences outside of your control”.

Co-host Kevin Keegan, Partner, Boyden Ireland, commented, “Having a supportive team is crucial in situations where anything can happen, externally and internally. We see this on executive boards, where uncertainty has become the norm in commercial life. Teams need to be cohesive, while drawing upon the strengths and capabilities of individuals. Jeanette’s point about being really honest with yourself and how you are performing is well made”.

Summing up the event, Kevin said, “In all walks of life, collaboration and empathy are key to pushing the boundaries of what we can achieve together. For us, it’s about leadership performance; for Jeanette and Norah, it’s about discovery and survival! We thank them for sharing their fascinating stories and remember, together, how we are all part of something so much bigger; something we all seek to understand in our own way”. 

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