Alumni Spotlight

Dr Seán McCarthy - Managing Director of Hyperion Ltd

14 Nov
Dr Seán McCarthy

Dr. Seán McCarthy, Managing Director of Hyperion Ltd trains research organisations how to develop their European Research and Innovation Strategies. He delivers training courses in 58 of the top 100 European Universities. Since 1995 over 65,000 people have attended his courses in 29 countries.

Course/subjects studied in UCC

B.E. (Electrical Engineering) 1980
M.Eng.Sc (Masters in Engineering Science) 1982
PhD in Electrical Engineering 1986

Best memory of UCC

My best memory of UCC was 4th November 1986 - the day I got my PhD. I arrived in UCC in 1976 as a country boy from West Cork (Drinagh). Ten hard years later I was standing in the Aula Max being conferred with my PhD. It was a magical moment. My parents, my wife (Mary) and my daughter (Sylvia) were there with me. I did not walk around UCC that day - I floated on air.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

When I was doing my PhD I was managing a research group on Photovoltaics (Solar Energy). I was involved in a European funded project based in Fota Island - known as the 'Fotavoltaic Project'. This introduced me to the whole world of the European Union - its politics, its bureaucracy and its funding programmes. I read everything that was available on the EU. I learned the procedures, studied the EU systems and participated in as many European activities as I could. I evaluated over 200 research proposals and I was member of range of EU 'expert' groups. From this experience I designed a suite of training courses for Universities and Research Centres. This is the basis of my company's business. Everything I teach was learned during my time in UCC.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

University education is very discipline specific (Engineering, Humanities, Law etc.) It is important to mix with people from different areas e.g. engineers mix with humanities and finance with engineers. This is what happens in real life. The best innovations occur at the interface of disciplines.
University courses will make a student competent in a specific area. It is important to develop Tacit and Soft Skills. Tacit knowledge is what you learn by doing.
The key 'Soft Skills' that organisations need are:
- problem solving
- presentation skills (most important)
- writing skills
- networking 
- working in a team
- project management
- listening skills
The last one (listening skills) is critical. When I started the company I wanted to sell the expertise I had. After a while I noticed that the companies only wanted me to supply what THEY needed. We had a few loss making projects. After that I learned to listen better.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

Prof. G.T. Wrixon. Prof. Wrixon arrived in UCC when I was in third year. Everyone was telling us to avoid him as a supervisor in final year. The more I heard about him the more I was attracted to this person. I did my final year project, my Master's degree and my PhD under his supervision. It was tough but it did a few great things for me.
- he beat the Irish attitude of 'Tis Grand' or 'Twill do' out of me. (That took a while)
- he taught me how to operate on the international stage. 
- he taught me how to present at international events. The first time I was invited to present at a European meeting I had to give a 10 minute presentation. I had to present it to Prof Wrixon five different times before he was happy with the content and the delivery. By the time I got to the conference I was on fire. These presentation skills are a key part of my training business today.
An amazing man.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
In my final year I was Auditor of the Engineering Society.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition
I was told that getting a PhD was like getting free travel tickets for life. This was so true. Since 1995 I had over 200 flights per year. Looking forward to my next trip already. Hoping it will never stop.

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