“Don’t be afraid to colour outside the lines” – 60 seconds with Caroline O’Driscoll, Technology Media & Telecommunications Tax Leader, Deloitte North & South Europe

60 Seconds With, Interviews | Tue 8 Feb | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Caroline O’Driscoll, Technology Media & Telecommunications Tax leader, Deloitte North & South Europe

Caroline O’Driscoll is the Technology Media & Telecommunications Tax leader at Deloitte North & South Europe. She is also the co-founder of I Wish, a multi-award-winning programme dedicated to driving the power of STEM to female students in Ireland and across the globe. 

Caroline is a member of Deloitte’s European Diversity and Inclusion Council for the Technology Sector; Deloitte Ireland’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and the gender balance advisory group for the Department of Education to achieve better gender balance in STEM education at post-primary level.  

What was your first job?

After graduating from law in UCC, I joined KPMG under their graduate trainee programme where I trained as a chartered accountant and chartered tax advisor. I am now a tax partner with Deloitte Ireland, so I didn’t stray far from those original roots! 

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

I loved studying law but in the late 90s in Ireland there weren’t many available jobs. I always had a keen interest in numbers as well as corporate law and revenue law, so tax seemed like the perfect blend. With I Wish, a social enterprise that Gillian Keating, Ruth Buckley and I set up in 2014 in a volunteer capacity to encourage teenage girls to pursue STEM careers, it is very much a passion project. We have a huge sense of responsibility to enable every girl to live their brightest lives.

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

I am proudest of co-founding I Wish. Our motto is to give “choices, chances and changes” to girls, so they have every opportunity to participate in the economies of tomorrow.  As Covid-19 hit, we had to pivot to an online model for our flagship event and thousands of young female students from 19 countries logged in. The 2022 event takes place on 10 February and so far, there are already over 14,000 registrations for this free online conference, which is the largest of its kind. 

We have also expanded our offerings to engage girls globally and year-round at key touch points in their lives. It is incredible to see the success of this initiative seven years on. I am so proud of what we as founders, our incredible team led by Sharon Lombard, and our amazing partners have achieved collectively as an I Wish community. 

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

I have no regrets; I simply don’t believe in them. Things happen for a reason; it is how you respond to success, to failure, and to opportunity that makes the difference. Life is a series of moments, and an opportunity to learn. I have always been the type to push through doors, to take a chance and see where the winds take me. 

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Setting an ambition and achieving it but if it doesn’t work out, learn from it, don’t beat yourself up and go again. We only have one shot at life. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t be afraid to colour outside the lines. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I believe it is important to empower people to be the best they can be and to listen. In Deloitte, I work with such a diverse, entrepreneurial, and talented group of people and we just need to create the opportunities for them to shine. During Covid-19, I missed the interaction with the team. I found it was important to check in, have a chat, often not about work at all but at a human level. Each one of us has gone through this extraordinary experience affecting every fabric of life and sometimes it comes back to the basics of asking “how are you” and taking it from there. 

How do you handle adversity? 

I work in a high-pressure environment, and it is important to stay calm and focused. I am quite solution orientated so I do take the time to try and see things from another point of view to arrive at a balanced perspective. If that fails, charm and disarm! 

How do you relax?

I recently started running (well more of shuffle, really) and I adore Zumba. When I have the time, I like to read and spend time by the sea in West Cork. 

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

From an I Wish perspective, we release a survey every year, which is the largest survey of teenage girls in Ireland and their attitudes to STEM. This year, 77% said they are not confident in their ability to do STEM and 84% identify the lack of female role models as a barrier to pursuing a career in STEM. Today, there is a 13-year-old girl sitting in a classroom, full of ability, thinking that she can’t. My aspiration for her future is that she is empowered to know that she can. I Wish will not stop until then.