This week on Talk Learn Connect, writer Yvonne Reddin asks Sales, Project Management and Entrepreneur Rachel Thornburgh,to share some TLC (Talk Learn Connect)
“Through a series of unexpected, life altering events, I found myself embarking on a post grad in UCD. My name is Rachel and I am a forty-year-old student” (extract from an article you wrote in the College Tribune)
Can you share what the unexpected, life altering events were and if going to college was a positive direction for you?
I held a post for fourteen years, which I loved. It was full of variety, it challenged me and was incredibly rewarding. Over the years, various interested parties had approached the company that I worked for wanting to buy the building. It’s quite special. A Gothic Victorian edifice located in central Dublin. Eventually, the company decided to sell and sold it a lot quicker than any of us expected, which ultimately led to my redundancy. It left me feeling quite out of sorts and I struggled for the first couple of months.
Apart from looking for a job and trying to navigate the social welfare system, which I thought I’d be amazing at, I was terrible. A friend, who was in a similar position, had just completed a Diploma in the Innovation Academy in University College dublin (UCD) via Springboard. She nudged me towards their website and I perused the course listings. I found a Post Grad Certificate in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship that was accepting applications for their February admissions. I applied and was fortunate enough to be accepted. Apparently they can only cater to four per cent of their applicants, although I’m sure that has since changed as they have since become entirely virtual.
Returning to college was exciting and disquieting all at once. On my first day, I managed to not succeed at public transport, became lost and disorientated…twice. Belfield is an abyss and one that I had never encountered. I was nervous too, as I knew that the course work entailed a lot of project group work and multiple, impromptu presentations. Presentations, my biggest abhorrence, however I knew that I had been bestowed with a wonderful opportunity and magic certainly does happen when one steps out of one’s comfort zone so I went at it hell for leather.
During my first week, I had approached the College Tribune and, following my experience of day one, asked them if they wanted a piece on ‘Returning to College in your 40s’. I sent the editor a draft. He liked it. It resulted in me contributing an additional five articles to the newspaper, completely and entirely based on my college experience whilst raising and organising a family, coming to terms with being unemployed and juggling home school. Oh, and did I mention the pandemic?
All in all, college was a super experience, I catapulted myself in to it, and sometimes my kids were there in the virtual classroom with me. Surprisingly and entirely unexpectedly, of three awards available, I was on the winning team for a project award and winner of our final project award. Both awards were voted for by my peers. I’m moved every time I think about that.
"I didn’t even know what Zoom was back in March, but it quickly became my new best friend"
Can you tell the TLC audience about Re-Jingled, your business venture?
Re-Jingled has been in the background for several years. Re-jingling is the process of reusing and repurposing unwanted fabrics in the production of children’s sleepwear, occasion wear and accessories. The philosophy behind Re-Jingled is to promote environmental friendliness in an effort to combat fast fashion and to produce unique items of children’s clothing.
Each item produced tells its own story with a brief description of where the fabric came from and its previous life. Everything is handmade and each item is one of a kind. I am a self-taught sewist and have always been creative. My mother was a seamstress alongside her day job but I was never allowed near her industrial Novum, until she gave it to me after doing a big clear out. With my trusty friend YouTube, I learned some simple techniques and I started making things like straightforward envelope style cushion covers.
As a beginner, I was eager to learn more but didn’t have the cash to fork out on fabrics and so I began using what was already around the house. As I grew more confident, I made my daughter a pair of kimono style pyjamas from a beautiful duvet cover with china dolls all over it.
I sourced it from my local Vincent’s charity shop as I still wasn’t quite courageous enough to potentially mess up new fabric. Re-Jingled moved on from there. I have since done some research on fast fashion and its impact on the environment and it’s simply mind blowing and saddening. From working conditions to water waste and pollution and even as far as recycling practices - clothes production wreaks havoc on our environment. Re-cycling is great but what’s greater is to reuse. So, Re-Jingled is not only about making new from old but it’s also about creating awareness, in a fun, ‘non preachy’ way.
How have you managed personally and professionally throughout the lockdown and the ongoing pandemic?
I found the lockdown somewhat novel initially. That has since evolved. I was really enjoying my time in UCD and so was disappointed that we all had to go home and pick it back up virtually. Not only was it a time for learning again but it was also time for myself and suddenly we were all at home toiling with dodgy WIFI, fighting over desk space, overheating devices and home schooling. It was super challenging.
I didn’t even know what Zoom was back in March, but it quickly became my new best friend. Having said that, the pandemic opened up an opportunity for Re-Jingled to create face masks from reclaimed fabrics and so I began with those and really started embracing my Instagram account to promote Re-Jingled. Re-Jingled is like a third child to me, however it doesn’t pay the bills, so since finishing up in UCD, I have been focussing on securing employment. I enjoy working and collaborating with a team and quite frankly, I miss the camaraderie.
I’ve participated in a number of virtual career fairs and carried out ample research on how to perform in a virtual interview. It’s also quite possibly the worst time to be looking for employment but necessary nonetheless. With the pandemic has brought a profound sense of self-awareness. I have good days and bad days but seek gratitude and joy in the daily things.
You have a creative side and say that you “build community around shared interests and goals by bringing ideas to fruition” - How do you achieve this, what are your tools?
One of my primary roles in my previous job was to explore the needs of our internal stakeholders, reach out to external stakeholders and essentially join the dots. It was a dynamic, fluid and collaborative networking exercise which was constantly ongoing. It was satisfying, rewarding and fun. The same applies to my volunteer role as marketing lead in my daughter’s school.
A number of parents from different classes assemble regularly and brainstorm ideas. I assist with nourishing those ideas and encouraging ownership. I don’t have any specific tools, however, my mantra is that no idea is a bad idea and I remind myself that when I reach out to someone, the very worst they can say is no, and that’s really not that bad.
Can you share any words of wisdom that helped you in your successful career?
Well I collected many over the years, all of which were warmly received. They not only apply for career but also in the day to day. Here are some of my favourites:
Listening is sometimes the best way to help someone.
Step out of your comfort zone, that’s where the magic happens and really what’s the worst that could happen?
Stop caring what other people think, just go for it, get it done.
Treat others as you would like to be treated.
Don’t dismiss advice from your parents, they have your best interests at heart and have lived.
To find out more about Rachel's business Rejingled you can find Rachel here:
Linkedin: Rachel Thornburgh