Leaders of Medium or Large Organisations in Ireland who have Dyslexia

Large organisations are beggining to embrace people with Dyslexia in their organisation. With companies such as Dell Technologies, SAP or Microsoft creating Neurodiversity Hiring Programs to mentor people with conditions such as Dyslexia in their organisation so that the companies can tap into a new, loyal, hard working talent pool for their organisations. However, there’s rarely examples given of leaders in large organisations who have Dyslexia themselves. Some of the most succesful Irish examples are:

Rosaleen Blair – CEO of Alexander Mann

Growing up in Dublin (next door to Bono), Rosaleen was diagnosed when she was in fourth year of school. Having never gone to third level she emigrated to London, after finishing the Leaving Cert. She states “this actually turned out to be an advantage, it forced me to figure out ways to compensate for my dyslexia, to work around barriers and to keep pushing in order to accomplish what I needed to do”. Having been given a start in advertising she then turned to talent acquisition, opening her own company Alexander Mann in 1996. Today the company itself has grown to over 3,000 employees in 80 different countries. In 2020, Rosaleen sold her business for $1.1 billion.

Eoin K Costello –  and Ireland’s ‘Digital Local Hero’

As a nine year old I remember struggling to read or write. My mother brought me to see a child psychologist. Draw me a picture Eoin he asked. I picked up the colouring pen with my left hand and drew my best house and car. Throw this ball into the basket Eoin. Picking up the ball with my right hand it flew straight into the basket first time! Hmmm he observed. Another hour of verbal and written assessments followed. During the drive home my mother said “He told me that you would probably get a first in Trinity College if I can help you to read and write.” She did and I did, the rest is history! Eoin is national director of DigitalHQ, the centre for rural digitalisation. He sits on the Government’s ‘Enterprise Digital Advisory Forum’, is Honorary Digital Champion to the Digital Ireland Network and is chair of the Dún Laoghaire Town Team. In 2022 he was named Ireland’s ‘Local Digital Hero’ at the .IE Digital Town Awards. Previously as CEO of Startup Ireland, Eoin was national director of Ireland’s startup week, the Startup Gathering and was an award winning incubation centre manager at TUDublin Hothouse.

Caroline Keeling – CEO of Keeling Fruits

CEO of one of Ireland’s most successful family run businesses, and speaking to Joe.ie, Caroline said “I think the one thing I learned about dyslexia was, yes, there’s some challenges to it in the way your brain works and in the way your brain sees things, With mine, there’s a level of creativity and seeing things differently that I think is part of dyslexia that has helped me” 

Ronan O’Brien – Founder of Zatori Results

Founder of Zatori Results which owns the likes of thecustomeshop.ie, Ronan says “Dyslexia has never held me back, if anything because my brain is wired differently it’s forced me to take a different approach to the way I work. For example reading books for me is very slow, but I consume a huge amount of business and strategy Audio books, over 120 every year. I have trained myself to have good retention even when doing other tasks.

Ross O’Dwyer – Co-Founder of Pundit Arena

Co founder of Pundit Arena, Ross spoke to Jobbio about his Dyslexia saying “When it was confirmed that I had Dyslexia I changed my CAO around. I put down UCC Commerce as my first choice, got the points and ended up there”. It was there that he moved to UCC incubator Ignite where he first pitched Pundit Arena. Now a highly successful business, Ross, his co-founders and staff promote content events and branded content for some of Ireland’s biggest sports brands.

Kevin O’Leary Investor in ‘Shark Tank’

Born in Canada but gained Irish citizenship through his father being Irish, Shark Tank’s Mr Wonderful is a highly successful entrepreneur and investor. He spoke to entrepreneur.com saying “The way to look at dyslexia is as a unique power instead of an affliction. You have to put it in your own mind that this is not an affliction that will negatively impact your future. It shouldn’t in any way diminish your self-esteem or be considered something that is going to hurt your chances to be successful at work or in life. Never give up and never let dyslexia hold you back. It’s a gift”

Greg Turley – Car Trawler

Leaving school early, largely due to his dyslexia, he joined the family business Argus Car Hire. He was one of the first businessmen in Ireland to change to an entirely online business. Then in 2004 he co-founded Car-trawler, a website for selling cars online. The firm has been sold twice, initially in 2011 for 110m and then again in 2014 for €450m. Along the way they’ve taken some cash off the table, but have managed to hold on to about 25pc. The company employs 600 people around the world and had revenues of €201.7m in 2017.

Hugh Wallace – Douglas Wallace

Hugely successful architect and judge on RTE’s home of the year, Hugh states in the Irish Independent “I’m dyslexic, so I find reading very difficult. I think people who can read are so lucky. The only time I read is when I go on holidays. I don’t read in bed at night. Instead, somebody reads to us. There’s a great app called Calm – they have all these actors with sexy voices, and they read half-hour stories. You become really engrossed in them. That thing that was driving you mad during the day, you can’t take it with you. You are listening to this other world. There was a lovely one by an astronaut who tells his story about looking down at Earth. That’s how I drift off.”

Brendan O’Carroll – Creator of Mrs Browns Boys

Brendan says “I grew up knowing I was different from other kids, because my mum spotted it. I didn’t know I was dyslexic. Back in 1960 who knew what dyslexia was?! I left school at 12 so I had seven years of formal education but I’m a member of MENSA. I’ve got an IQ in the top 1% in the world and I’m very proud of that”. Thanks to the success of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys’, Brendan’s  business BOC-PIX Ltd that Brendan O’Carroll and his wife, Jennifer Gibney set up paid out a dividend of €1.314m in 2017 – a total of €1.93 million over the last two years.

Kevin “Boxer” Moran – Former Government Minster

Kevin left school at 13 with severe Dyslexia and started work in the building trade, later moving on to developing a taxi business. Kevin spent 4 years as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief from June 2017 to Feb 2021 and was the TD for the Longford–Westmeath constituency during that time. “I was coming home and listening to the radio, people were giving out about the government and one person said I can sum up this Dail – we have one Minster that hasn’t even got a Group Cert (a modern day junior cert). I was very annoyed because I know so many people who suffer just like me and are afraid to come out. I was embarrassed, humiliated and hurt”. 

Larry Bass – CEO of ShinAwiL

CEO of one of Ireland’s biggest and most successful production companies ShinAwiL, Larry has been behind some of the most successful TV shows in Ireland producing The Apprentice, Dragons’ Den, MasterChef Ireland, The Voice of Ireland, Home of the Year, What are You Eating? and most recently Dancing With The Stars. Although not offically diagnoised with Dyslexia having members of his family diagnoised has made Larry more aware of his own issues with spelling and grammar which leads him to beleive that if he was in school today he probably would have been diagnosed with the condition himself.

Marcus Hunter-Neil CEO of the U = Can Network

Leaving school with no qualifications – as a result of severe dyslexia and bullying, Marcus works as a global communications facilitator expert and leadership development mentor across a variety of sectors. He enjoyed an award winning 7-year career in the BBC both in front and behind the mic. Marcus has a 21-year career as a Drag Queen. With his work being impacted by Covid-19 Marcus created the The U=Can Network. Saying “it is here to help with a supportive safety net to guide, nobody should ever not reach there dreams, because of, age, race, grammar/spelling, tec confusions or funds!”  So far The U=Can Network as help close to 600 lives globally and its still in its 1st year” Marcus is finishing of a manuscript for his 1st novel ‘MINE!’ by reading his handwritten manuscript into word dictate and a little help from Alexa, who is his spelling PA, he really welcomes any one to reach out and say hi form anywhere in the world on any time zone and grab a zoom coffee, his philosophy is a stranger is only a friend you haven’t met!  

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