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> Shane Carmichael (97)
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21.08.06: Shane Carmichael (1997)

Shane Carmichael volunteered to be the summer WIP Office Manager in Washington DC as part of his year-long sabattical. Now teaching children in India, he takes a few moments to give us a snapshot as to how life has turned out for the Draperstown lad.

Where are you from?
Draperstown, which is a little village in Derry/Londonderry (delete as appropriate!!). Though when I come home now, I rarely get out of Belfast.

Where did you go and what did you study at university?
UUJ where I graduated from the CAM course in 1997. After a flirtation with PR/Lobbying I completed a MBA at the Ulster Business School in International

Where are you now?
In Rajasthan in India to be specific...more generally, I've been living and working in London and across England for the last seven and a half years...though its the open road for the next year as I am one a sabbatical.

Where do you work?
From January '99 until May this year I worked for Accenture, a business consulting, technology and outsourcing firm in London for 7.5 years. I am a Manager in our Government UK practice. I specialise in what we call 'Human Performance' which is not quite as salubrious (or rewarding) as it sounds!!

I am currently volunteering as a teacher in a tribal community in NW India. Classrooms full of cow pat and trying to explain tenses to 7 year old kids who only speak Hindi has made for an 'interesting' few weeks.

What is a typical day at work like?
That's why I joined Accenture. In consulting there is no typical day - anything from client meetings to crisis management to project analysis or running workshops. It's been a varied and interesting time so far. Occasionally I crave some monotony or even a little consistency but I soon revert to type. Typical Gemini apparently - easily bored.

How did you choose that career path?
I'm not sure I chose it, I think it chose me. I had no plan other than travel post Uni. I wanted to do something that was challenging and afforded me the opportunity to work with bright people and on different projects. Accenture ticked all those boxes and those are the same reasons I stayed so long.

I never really have had a definite sense of vocation - I admire and envy those who do – but I wasn't really keen on dilly-dallying waiting for my 'light bulb moment'.

I've learned through experience that you just have to keep making choices and if the choice is the wrong one then you just make another. I doubt I will be with Accenture for the rest of my career so a new career path - a very different one - awaits somewhere I guess.

When did the light bulb go off and you decided, 'This is it!'? Or has the light bulb gone off yet?
My light bulb has flickered a few times but mostly I stumble around in the dark. Sometimes I think that's more fun! Most of the fascinating people I've met still don't know what they want to do

What have you been doing for the past six months?
From Jan-May I was working on one of the largest Consulting engagements in the UK Government at the Department for Constitutional Affairs in London. Accenture were working with DCA to realise efficiencies in the administration of the Courts Service in the UK. It was hard work but I learned a lot and made some great friends.

In May I started a year-long career break from Accenture. As part of that I volunteered my time and limited expertise in helping Paul and the 06 WIP Management Team to administer the summer program for the Class of 2006. It was a great experience - also very hard work - but ultimately very rewarding. I could ramble on about it for a while....

What motivates you?
Fear of failure. Making good on opportunities afforded to me thanks to the sacrifices my Dad and others made for me. My aging (31!!) and the terminal nature of life... I read a great speech by Steve Jobs once where he described the inevitability of death as the greatest motivating force known to man (sorry - bit heavy but you did ask). Trying to be a decent person. A constant worry that I'm not quite good enough at anything...nothing like a sense of inferiority to get you motivated.

Who is your hero?
Oh, that's the easiest question so far - it would have to be JC!

What do you care about? And what do you do to demonstrate that?
Apart from the obvious stuff like friends and family, I care about the services afforded by our Governments to their citizens - hence why I work in the Government Practice of Accenture and why I think I will ultimately end up working in the Public Sector (if lucky enough to be asked).

I care about people being able to realise their potential and giving back a bit of the knowledge I have been lucky enough to have gathered on my journey - as a result I do a lot of teaching at Accenture, that's part of the reason I volunteered for WIP this summer and that's why I am in India to teach for a while now.

I also care about issues specifically related to blindness and asthma - for personal reasons. Having been lucky enough to travel through Africa before starting work I also care about the AIDS pandemic. It's hard to know what you can do in the face of something like that (although Claire Walsh - Alumni 2004 is a real inspiration) but in April I completed a 26 mile cross country trek/run across Yorkshire's Three peaks to raise money for an Accenture team fundraising effort. They managed to raise £115,000 in total and although I only contributed a part of that I'm proud of what was achieved - particularly by my girlfriend who went on to climb Mnt Kilimanjaro to complete the fundraising. I care about a whole load of other stuff but I'm starting to sound sanctimonious...yawn.

So, I really care most about Manchester United. That and the fact I'm 31 now - I have a Peter Pan complex.

When you were on WIP, what host family did you stay with and where?
Initially with the Kleins at Tenleytown and then with Carol and Tom Wheeler in Georgetown. A few amazing weekends were spent in Delaware with Kathie Hepler and Rich Field. Those three families were and have been amazing to me. It is an astonishingly personal act of charity that never ceases to amaze me.

Any good stories from your summer that you'd like to share?

Lots of good stories but none I'd like to share. I know how many members of the legal profession might see this.

Please tell us a bit about your work placement.
I interned at a Lobbying/PR firm near Dupont circle. It was very interesting. I worked on two main clients - Alliance USA, a conglomeration of 300 of the nations largest corporations who were lobbying the administration to abolish, or reduce, their reliance on economic sanctions as a tool of Foreign Policy. The other main client was the Vietnam Veterans Association who was lobbying the Administration to abolish the use of landmines as a tool of war. Two really different and interesting clients.

I spent a lot of time researching facts on trade and landmines, helping to write Press Releases and researching voting patterns on these issues. That and lots of photocopying and binding of course!!

Back in that summer, what was your ambition?

Not to get found out as a chancer! Funnily enough, at the start of this summer we were clearing out some old files from the office which belonged to Kathie Hepler. We happened to find the profiles from my class - 1997. It was amazing to read my own - it seemed like a different life. Anyway, apparently my ambition was: "to work in strategic marketing". Not only was I short and ambitious beyond well my station but I was hopelessly wrong.

How has the WIP experience impacted on your life, personally and professionally?
In many ways. On a personal level it gave me great confidence having survived and contributed to such a program and an intellectually strong group of NI students. I hadn't travelled much prior to that experience and it gave me the bug. I've been lucky enough to see a lot of the globe since then. It also humbled me as far as charity goes - what the Host Families give us really beggars belief.

On a professional level it definitely gives the CV an edge - and it continues to be a source of interest for many people I meet in the course of life. It's not until a few years later that you realise what a unique and surreal privilege that whole summer was.

It also made me understand the personal experiences of other young people growing up in NI, many of whom had been affected very personally by the Troubles. It definitely made me realise that there by the grace of God went I...

What is your favourite memory about your WIP experience?

Too many to mention. From Kermit the Frog to Ticks to Teddy Kennedy to the IRA ceasefire announcement to horseshoe throwing in Delaware...

What's the best thing about Ireland, North and South?

Someone said once that home is where you are understood and that's how I feel wherever I am in Ireland - North or South. People understand you.

That and a rainy Saturday in Whites Tavern with a group of mates, a pint of Guinness and the papers.

And the worst thing?
Our somewhat insular nature; the attitude that prevails among many that success is something to be ashamed of and risks are for others; the growing racism that seems to be replacing the sectarian hatred in Northern Ireland. And of course the weather.

But there's more to love than loathe, that's for sure. It's exciting times for the whole island but for NI in particular.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future, personally, professionally and for WIP?
Who knows. For me - to have my light bulb moment; to make a positive difference to someone or something in society; to keep on travelling with an open mind and open eyes; to move home to NI and contribute to an exciting future for my home; to be healthy and happy.

Re WIP, I hope that the Alumni will step forward and pick up the baton. It's definitely time for us to take on more responsibility for ensuring that others have the opportunity to partake in the programme in future - either by donating our time, money or influence. Also that more offshoots like YES will start to flourish as a result of our experiences on WIP.


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