B!G Mentor Interview – Donnacha Neary
03 November 2021

B!G Mentor Interview – Donnacha Neary

We had the pleasure of speaking with Donnacha Neary, Managing Director of Sonica. Sonica is a construction company based in Dublin and The B!G Idea were so excited to host the Showcase Event there last May. 

Why do you think creative skills are important at second level?

Creative skills are so important at secondary school level because not only do they foster confidence within the kids, there is some misconception that the only thing that’s stopping human advancement is technology. That is not the limiting factor at the minute, the limiting factor in human social scientific advancement is ideas, not technology. Technology doesn’t come up with ideas, people come up with ideas so being creative at a school level is just fostering the next traunch of leaders, the next traunch of innovators and entrepreneurs that are coming through so voicing and fostering creativity is massively important to the future of ideas and the future of development. 

What is Mentoring?

I am a huge believer in what I call sending the elevator back down so not that I am sitting in my ivory tower but the lessons that I have learnt, the journeys that I have been on, the corners that I have come around, every one of those has had an opportunity for me to learn as a person and as a leader. For Mentoring, for me, it is that analogy of sending the elevator back down to the ground floor and bringing people back up to where I am here at the minute. I feel I’ve learned a lot in my 25 years in business, not just in business but socially in everything I’ve experienced in my life, so the ability to hand something back albeit small nuggets are all very, very helpful I feel and hugely important to the development of our school children coming through.

Can you take us through the process of The B!G Idea Mentoring?

The B!G Idea was targeted at Transition Year students specifically. They are at an age where they really are kind of finding themselves and it’s a great age to get them so Mentoring Transition Year students where you’re seeing not only creativity but collaboration, you’re seeing skills like identifying roles, leadership roles, management roles, research roles, seeing how the kids interact with each other. There’s a great energy, there’s a great enthusiasm about it and to be part of that as a Mentor and to be able to advise and give a little bit of a steer to what is a hugely enjoyable process for them was a great kick for me. I really, really enjoyed it.

“There is some misconception that the only thing that’s stopping human advancement is technology”

Donnacha Neary

What has been the most important aspect of Mentoring for you?

I think for me the most important part of any Mentoring process is just to understand that it’s believable, that it’s been heard and I’m encouraged to see that what I’ve given back to the kids they’ve taken that on board. Some of the things that I was looking at in the sector that I was Mentoring on in the housing crisis, they’ve built that into their concept, they’ve built that into their future designs so yeah it was great to see my input hitting the page and coming back at me. That was reassuring for myself that I was being listened to and that it was believed and it’s great to see that the kids are open to a little bit of guidance. A lot of this was their selves and their courage to push forward with their ideas and their collaboration but it was great to be seeing their ability and their passion and their receptiveness to take the comments on board and bring them forward with them.

Would you have benefitted from The B!G Idea at school?

I would absolutely have benefitted from The B!G Idea in school. I’ve been an ideas man my whole life. It’s kind of driven me to set up my own business, I’m still chasing ideas day in, day out. So having a system or an initiative there that would have fostered that certainly may have accelerated where I am now but I think for people, dreamers like myself you know ideas, innovation, pushing things, looking for concepts, looking for complexities in everyday situations, having a programme that recognizes that and tailors it and puts you together with Mentors, for me, if I had that coming through the ranks absolutely, I would have loved it.

Did you enjoy the Mentoring process and did you feel supported through it?

I’ve talked about technology not being the be-all and end-all of ideas, that people are the be-all and end-all of ideas but the way that this was set up made it so easy for me to interact with the students. Everything was set up on a very, very easy to understand user interface where I could get my comments in, I was followed, if I was late on any commentary I was reminded, pleasantly, and given a nice little nudge but it was so easy. The system was really, really well set up; the communication was excellent; the people were great fun; it looked really professional all the way through it so yeah it was a really good experience.

Would you recommend Mentoring to other people?

If you’re passionate about giving back and people are saying that all the time. I know that’s quite cliché but for me the ability to interact with the next traunch of generators, idea generators coming through the ranks to me just to give ourselves, the last generation, the last guys that did it the push through, the confidence that the people coming behind us are carrying the torch for us. That is hugely encouraging for me and I saw a lot of myself coming through in the young kids aswell and I’m so encouraged that the baton has not been passed just yet but certainly, I’m very confident that they are well equipped and ready to push forward now.

 Be part of The B!G Idea journey and become a Mentor for 2022. 

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