|Ellen Byrne talks to Smart Futures about her career as the co-founder and creative director of the Festival of Curiosity.
What is a creative director?
I have the pleasure of being the creative director at one of the most exciting festivals of science, culture and curious technology in Europe. As the creative director, I get to work on the design and development of all elements of the festival. This includes everything from conceptual (what we are, our mission, long-term strategy) to developing, curating and producing events, to marketing, PR, and web design. As we’re a small team we all get to do a lot of different exciting things, no day is ever the same!
What happens at the festival?
The Festival of Curiosity is Dublin’s annual festival of science and culture. It happens during the summer in July, over four days. By day, we transform Dublin’s city centre into a curiosity filled hub with free day-time adventures for all the family. This includes robot-building, adventures in electronics, a curious trails treasure hunt across the city, street performers and the curiosity carnival (the first science playground in Dublin). By night, we have the Curious Mind series of events where we have great role models as speakers.
What subjects did you take in school and did they influence your career path?
Along with Irish, English and maths, I did French, technical drawing, physics and biology. I have always had a love of science and was the only girl in my physics class. One of my favourite bedtime stories was the science of sleep from the encyclopaedia. Since I wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, I picked subjects to help me with that. I loved art but didn’t choose it as I thought it wasn’t a career path that I was going to go down.
What courses or training did you do after college?
Pharmacology in UCD! I think any degree in science is a great passport for lots of different jobs and for travel. You can apply problem solving and critical thinking to so many different areas.
When I lived in London I was really inspired by the Science Museum. I was working in pharmaceutical market research but I struggled with the fact that I was creative. I used to write short stories, draw and take photos. I felt that they were hobbies since I was a scientist and should be doing something more scientific.
After a while, I realised that when I combined both of these things, I could do a job I really loved. After seeing there was a masters in Science Communication in DCU, I gave up my job in London and came home to complete the masters and work on Science Week . From there, my career naturally progressed.
What kind of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Anything in a fast-paced environment that involves problem solving! What do you wish someone had told you before you started out? Don’t silo yourself! Creativity, problem solving and science can go hand-in-hand together. Sometimes we think that science and engineering is one thing and creativity is another thing. Follow your curiosity and see how you can combine them.
What inspired your love of science and engineering?
I was a really clumsy kid and used to break everything. I was always trying to put them back together. Because of that, I got to look at the inside of a lot of different things. I was also lucky to be surrounded by really strong female role models and teachers. One of my sisters was doing engineering at the time and another was training to be a science teacher. Also, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan and Jocelyn Bell Burnell are my three absolute heroes. The three of them are just fantastic!