International Women’s Day: An interview with Oonagh Gilvarry, Chief Technical Officer, HCI

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International Women’s Day is an important day to celebrate female achievements. At HCI, we are proud to say we have 60% female staff working in Management positions and across the organisation we have a 70% female workforce. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we decided to chat to one of our female leaders, Oonagh Gilvarry who is the Chief Technical Officer at HCI.

As Chief Technical Officer, Oonagh is responsible for the development of Quality and Safety Management Systems that effectively address organisational regulatory requirements while meeting business needs. Through her evaluation of emerging research, tools and technologies, Oonagh ensures that best-in-market techniques are utilised throughout HCI services. Oonagh has also been central to HCI’s work with regulatory bodies in the development of standards for key health and social care areas.

Today Oonagh gives us insight into her background, some lessons she has learned and what she enjoys doing in her spare time!

Q: How did you end up working in healthcare?

Leaving school, I initially completed an Arts degree in Economics and Politics in NUIG, and a Master’s in Quality Management followed, which was an evolving area way back then! I was then incredibly lucky to join MedNova, a start-up medical device company. This company provided me with an excellent introduction to the world of business, where leadership and teamwork were integral to its successes. My time there certainly formed the basis of my approach to working life, of dedication to the quality of the work and the importance of feeling part of a team. Within medical devices, Quality Management was part of the very fabric of the organisation, and when I eventually moved into general healthcare, I brought that commitment with me.   

Q: What leadership lessons have you learnt during your career?

I know it’s a well-worn phase, but communication is key to leadership. In my experience, the leaders that are most effective were those who are able to interact with people, had the ability to listen and accept that they didn’t always have all the answers. The vast majority of people want to do a good job, as a leader, its your job to ensure they are facilitated to achieve this.

Q: What leadership traits resonate with you the most?

Obviously, it’s important for leaders to be positive, enthusiastic and driven, but empathy and humility are also incredibly important to build loyalty and commitment within a team. Composure under pressure is an added extra but I think we all continue to work on as we progress through our working life!

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Hire for attitude, train for skill”. Working within a SME, we need to ensure that every hire we make is the right one. We see candidates from a range of backgrounds, of varying experience, but I have found that it’s people’s attitude that is central to their success within the organisation. If the attitude is right, HCI is happy to invest in training and personal development for team members.

Q: Can you name one woman who has inspired you the most?

I couldn’t possibly name just one, as I am constantly in awe of the women I work alongside, both within HCI and our clients, women who have dedicated themselves to ensuring the models of healthcare provided within our society are focused on achieving the best possible outcomes for others.

Q: In an organisation with 70% female staff, can you tell us why supporting the development of younger female staff members is important?

Mentoring and supporting all younger staff members is so important in any organisation. I think its important to give time to these individuals, to advise and support them with their professional development. By providing them with opportunities to develop their own competencies we facilitate them to achieve their career goals and take on leadership roles in the future.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring females?

If we have learned anything in the wider society from the last 12 months, we can see the value of having, and listening to, the female perspective, and correspondingly, the impact when we are not appropriately represented. It can be difficult to find your voice within an organisation, but knowing your strengths provides the confidence required to ensure you are heard.

Also, I would advise people to build their network, both internally within your organisation and in the wider work environment. Be deliberate to who you would like to network with and make an effort to connect with others based on your career goals.

Q: If you were a brand, which would it be — and why?

Mars – I’m all for a balance between work, rest and play.

Q: What have you enjoyed on Netflix?

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, it’s got to be Queens Gambit!

Q: If you had to pick one age to be permanently, which age would you choose?

Today is the youngest I will ever be – so let’s go with that.

Q: What three words would your family/friends use to describe you?

Probably determined, hopefully hardworking and fun!

Q: What would we most likely find you doing on the weekend?

In a muddy field, under many layers of clothing, willing a pony around a course of fences with a minor on board.

Q: If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

I’d take the ability to magically make technical documents appear – it would certainly speed up my working week!

Q: Do you have a hidden talent? What is it?!

Yes I do – but it will remain hidden for now!

International Women’s Day

For more information on International Women’s Day see or follow the hashtags on social media: #InternationalWomensDay #IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge.

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