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Galwayman is one of Guinness’ top men in California

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It seems like a lifetime ago since Aidan Fallon, now the Senior Sales Director for Diageo in California, was working at Higgins Hardware store in Shantalla.

His grandfather had helped set up the business and his father ran the manufacturing plant so it was only natural Aidan would follow in their footsteps working there as well.

Even at 18, Aidan had his eyes set on higher things, so when a better job opportunity opened up in the business, he took initiative and applied for the sales representative role.

“I told my boss I was really interested in the role and he was shocked. He said promotion is not based on talent, but on tenureship and that blew me away,” said Aidan.

Aidan requested a year of absence and told his boss that he was going to go to America, a bold decision for any 18 year old to make.

“He said you’ll be back in three weeks and that was it. I never came back.”

The second youngest in his family, with no job set up and no immediate contacts, Aidan arrived in Boston in the early nineties with nothing but an address book and a few quid in his pocket.

“I had just turned 19. I had $400 and a dream. I had a little address book full of numbers just to call people up and hope that somebody would come to the airport to pick me up.”

Aidan was among several Galway soccer lads who had moved to Boston, and eventually tracked one of them down, a young man called Jimmy Nolan.

“Jimmy’s was the first floor I slept on. I slept on his floor for about two weeks before I got my own place and job and then obviously when you get a new job you get a new bunch of kids and rent an apartment.”

The Mervue native managed to secure a job in construction and landscaping for two years, and it wasn’t long before he was faced with a similar situation as he had while working at Higgins’.

“I was on a roof in Brookline and we had stripped the roof and if you know anything about roofing, it was just a bare shingled roof, easy to strip.

“A normal roof would take you two or three hours to strip, but this roof took us two days, that’s how big this house was.”

The young man was all fired up to learn how to lay a new roof and gain a valuable skill, but it didn’t go exactly as planned when on the third day, three lads arrived on the scene with carpenter belts.

To Aidan’s disappointment, he was informed that he would not be laying a new roof but rather, his job would be to gather up all the old shingles he had just helped strip and put them in the dumpster in less than a week.

“That was a shock to the ego and to me. In those four and a half days of filling barrows of shingles, cleaning around the flower beds, I just thought is this really what I want to do for my life?

“Did I really leave Galway for this? I left family, friends, should I go back? I’m not legal. Is it truly a dream to become a full time labourer? This isn’t what I want.”

Ever the opportunist, Aidan decided to avail of his soccer skills he had honed at home and earned himself a soccer scholarship at Mount Ida College studying business.

“Once I graduated, got my legal student papers, everything changed because I was allowed to work.

“During that process, six months after college I got my green card and about two months after that I got hired by Guinness.”

Because his scholarship was just education, Aidan worked nights for the Green Briar to pay for room and board and a car and later, the Harp Bar in downtown Boston where he met his future wife, Lori.

The two of them shared high aspirations and a powerful work ethic, with Lori working in the bar to support her Masters Degree in biology from the University of Massachusetts and Aidan working to make ends meet to support his Business degree.

While working at the bar Aidan believed he could be a good sales representative and sure enough, after ten interviews and ten months he was hired by Guinness PLC as their first ever Draught Specialist in 1994.

It was an experience that allowed him to travel all over Canada and the United States promoting Ireland’s favourite alcoholic beverage.

“As I became successful in that group that grew from 1 to 45, I too grew within in the company and moved on to a different role within Diageo, to run the Boston sales team and I’ve done many more roles since then.

“I always knew that I wasn’t ready for a role until I had the right toolkit or skills in place and a lot of people try to rush up the corporate ladder and then they get to a point or role where they’re not really successful because they just haven’t developed the skills.

“I was more methodical, going width.”

Aidan’s career skyrocketed, going from a marketing role in Boston, to Director of the New England Region for seven years to now where he lives in California running all 13 states of the Pacific Region.

“The advice I give to the team that work for me is you get to dictate your own destiny. You work with your manager to help him manage your aspirations and help you get there but if you’ve got the motivation to be successful, you will be successful.

“It doesn’t matter how smart you are, it’s what your work ethic is like. If you’re willing to learn, you’ll learn and if you’re not, you won’t.”

As part of his job, Aidan brings his colleagues to Ireland on a business trip to two cities in Ireland (one of which will always be Galway), to showcase the history and culture of the brand and how big it is.

“I just had a party of 28 over here and the majority of them came up to me and said, ‘Aidan, the Galway people are so friendly and this town is buzzing.’

“That means a lot to me when I hear that and I hear it consistently. Their vision of what Ireland must be like is walking down Cross Street and Quay Street and the cobblestones and that’s what we give them.

“You have your high end restaurants, high end hotels, you’ve got everything.”

Diageo sell many different beer brands, with Guinness being just a small part of the company in the US, so it’s trips like these that really highlight its significance in Ireland.

“To see how big that brand is and to experience and see and learn about the history and culture of the Guinness family and what they’ve done for the Irish people, it just blows them away.”

Aidan and Lori have a 17 year old son Jack who’s getting ready to part take on a fundraising trip to help schoolchildren in Cambodia while their daughter Cara is a successful cheerleader for her high school varsity team and isn’t too keen on leaving sunny California.

“My wife is a Bostonian so she’s going through what I went through when I arrived in the US – she’s struggling with it but we’re committed to getting the kids through high school.”

With three years left in California, he’ll hope to find a post back in New England so his son Jack can study medicine in Boston.

The next role for Aidan would potentially be a vice president role, or perhaps he’ll veer away from the beer side of the company working with spirits, but he’s comfortable knowing there will always be an opportunity waiting for him.

“I would love to stay with Diageo and in the 22 years I’ve been with them they’ve been a wonderful company. It was like going back to school working with them, they’ll teach you, manage you, stretch you and when you get comfortable they’ll come knocking on your door with more opportunities.

“What I love about my job now is the managing people aspect, developing new talent, and watching them grow and realize they can do what they thought they couldn’t do.

“It’s been really fun and I feel now it’s my obligation to give that back. I’ve had some tremendous managers that got to know me personally so my goal right now is simply to create memories, develop people and have them exceed their career aspirations.”

Connacht Tribune

Covid boosts college coffers

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NUI Galway

NUI Galway reported an operating surplus of almost €19 million during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic when its campus was closed for months.

The healthy finances reported by NUIG has prompted its student body to call for it to waive repeat exams’ fees and student levies, and to invest in mental health services.

Consolidated financial statements for NUIG for the year ended September 30 2020 show the university reported an operating surplus of €18.9 million. This was up by €16 million on the surplus generated in 2019.

The financial statement said that while Covid-19 was ‘extremely challenging’, the ‘extraordinary dedication and work ethic of its staff have mitigated against the financial impact’ of the year.

The report said a surplus of €18.9 million was a ‘commendable performance’ given that 95%  of staff and students withdrew from campus in March 2020 to study and work remotely in line with Government regulations.

It noted that core income fell by a net €4 million compared with the previous year.

“Drops in research income of €9m and a Covid-related decline in commercial and student accommodation income of some €5m were offset by increased fee income of €4m, a €3m increase in the fair value of investments, and other increases of €3m relating to Government grants and other income,” the report said.

It said that the increase in Government grants includes Covid Support grant funding from the Higher Education Authority to cover additional specific Covid-19 related costs of €2.2m.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or  HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Workers leave hospitality sector to seek job security

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Pearse Doherty...morale has never been lower.

The severe restrictions for hospitality and entertainment are widely expected to be lifted next month – but already workers in the sector are reportedly leaving in their droves to source more stable employment.

And that could spell disaster for Galway’s vibrant arts industry which is a crucial cog in the wheel of local tourism.

When Covid regulations are eased for those staging events – thought to be announced this week – one of their biggest challenges is to secure staff for operations, according to prominent Galway event organiser Pearse Doherty.

Morale has never been lower in the industry, with even loyal customers getting fed up having to book and reschedule constantly when the goalposts shift so many times for shows.

“I really think it’s going to be very difficult for any venue going back or festival being staged. I don’t think things are ever going to go back to normal. Any event over 5,000 people will likely have to have fewer tents, a bigger space – all these things have to be taken into consideration for people who invest in the business,” he reflects.

“Having 50 per cent capacity and closing time at 8pm does nothing to make things financially viable. A lot of business models are built on having a bar and selling to 100 per cent capacity so I’m just not sure how many will survive the pandemic, even with all the very welcome Government supports for the industry.”

He knows of many in the industry who are changing careers or moving abroad in search of work in a location where restrictions nowhere as strict.

The head of production for the doomed Galway Capital of Culture 2020, head of production for Aiken Promotions which is behind the biggest gigs in the country and the site manager for the Electric Picnic, Pearse has himself pivoted in his career, taking up the role of producer with Fíbín Theatre at An Taibhdhearc.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway author dedicates children’s book to brave young nephew battling DMD

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Dedication....Fionn Brogan – new book aims to help in his fight.

A flying mouse with a skill for hurling is the subject of a book a Galway man has dedicated to his cousin’s son – six-year-old Fionn Brogan who, like Lumo the mouse, must overcome a myriad of challenges in his everyday life.

Ballinderreen man Tom Costelloe tells the Connacht Tribune he wrote the book to raise funds for his cousin Michael’s son, inspired by the strength and resilience Fionn has shown since his diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) when he was just three years old.  A disease which attacks the muscles, DMD will leave Fionn unable to play football or do many of the things he loves to do as time goes on.

As a result, his family wants to raise enough funds to make the next few years the best possible for Fionn – and aim to adapt their house so he can freely use a power wheelchair among other alterations that will be required.

For Tom, who works as a speech and language therapist, the Covid lockdowns presented an opportunity to put pen to paper and create this story of Lumo, a mouse with wings.

“With a positive message of self-acceptance, the story is brought to life with wonderful colourful illustrations by Thomas Quinn from Kinvara.

“Like Lumo the flying mouse, Fionn and his family have no shortage of strength, resilience and sprit – and thanks to our printing costs being generously sponsored, every euro raised from the sales goes directly to the Fionn Brogan trust,” he says.

Tom, who lives in Galway City, says the family had a series of fundraisers over the past year and he hopes this will add to the momentum of achieving what’s necessary to support Fionn as he continues to defy all odds.

And through his work, he’s had a good research group to test-run Lumo – getting very positive feedback.

“I work with kids so they became my research team, and they were very useful in making sure the book was of interest,” he laughs.

‘Could a Flying Mouse Play Hurling?’ is available in in Clarke’s Pharmacy Kilcolgan, Burke’s Eurospar Kinvara, Circle-K Kinvara, Poppyseed Café Clarinbridge and First Chapter in Gort.  For more information on the Fionn Brogan Trust, visit fionnbrogantrust.ie where donations can also be made.

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