Alumni Spotlight

Michele Donovan - COO, Tapstak

15 Jan
Michele Donovan

Michelle Donovan is the COO of Tapstak, a company she founded with her father, Tony. Tapstak aims to simplify interaction using smartphones. The company have developed the world’s first portable push-button interface that can be used for everything from taking part in competitions to ordering services and making payments. Michelle looks back on her college days and tells us how UCC helped her in launching a Tech start-up.

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork
BEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Best memory of UCC
I have lots of great memories of my time in UCC, I loved being on campus and often stayed around until it closed. I spent a majority of my free time between the CAD lab, the Main Rest and the Societies hub.  My best memory has to be the SVP society campus sleep-outs. It could be freezing cold and lashing rain and everyone who was taking part would still be smiling and laughing. I remember one year, we organised a projector to show a movie before the sleep-out and contacted UCC Buildings and Estates about putting up a screen. When we arrived, there was an enormous screen constructed in front of the glass of the student centre – it was a great surprise and it really got the sleep-out off to a great start!

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?
When I was filling out the CAO I didn’t know what I wanted to be. While I didn’t know what I wanted to be I did have a good idea of what I wanted to do; I knew I wanted to design and create things, work with technology and change things. I thought the best place to start would be to figure out how things worked and build from there and electrical and electronic engineering really ticked all these boxes for me. While the engineering course covered topics like Laplace theorems and s-parameters, the main focus of the engineering course, from my point of view, was learning how to solve problems. 

Today, it could be said that, as TAPSTAK is a software platform, I’m not using the information that I learned in electrical and electronic systems. However, the problem-solving skills, innovation methods, and logical thinking that I learned all play a big part in the Tech start-up environment. At the moment, I’m only beginning my career but my time in UCC has allowed me to add several academic and social tools to my toolbox that I have already been able to make great use of. 

Even in the two years since I have graduated I have received great support and advice from the Engineering department and the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCC – sometimes when I walk through the gates it feels like I never left!

What is your advice to current UCC students?
Get involved and enjoy your time at UCC! UCC has a tradition of Independent thinking and I often found that if you look at an assignment as an opportunity to think differently and put your own spin on it, it becomes a lot more interesting and enjoyable – and your marks tend to get higher when you enjoy the work you’re doing!

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?
During my time in UCC, the staff in the Electrical and Electronic engineering department were always very approachable and willing to help when needed. The lecturers that taught me in UCC are some of the most interesting and impressive people I have met. Dr Emanuel Popovici oversees the embedded systems lab in UCC some really fascinating projects with applications like smart toys for assistive learning and IOT to save the bees. I was delighted to work on the smart-toys for my final year project.
 
Of course, the many classmates and SVP committee members I met and worked with throughout the years without a doubt have had a positive influence on me also.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?
The SVP society was a major part of my life while I was in UCC. I got involved through Engineering in my first year. The Society was setting up an afterschool LEGO club in a local primary school and they were looking for volunteers to build robots and play LEGO with the kids. I loved it and after first year I became more involved in the SVP committee and other events and activities the society was running. Joining SVP was one of the best decisions I made at UCC.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition
While the oldies might be the best for some, with so many of the long-standing superstitions providing sure-fire ways to fail your exams, it’s nice to see that if you manage to forget and walk through the quad you can now offset it with some good luck by rubbing the nose on the George Boole Statue.

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