My life through the lens – Derval O’Brien

As part of our new ‘My life through the lens’ series, we’re discovering how our people ‘live their best phone lives’. The new series is all about learning more about how some of the moments saved on our phones have shaped our people and how they contribute to #LifeAtThree.

Today we’re getting to know Derval O’Brien.

Vital Statistics

  • Job title: Sustainability Manager for Three UK and Three Ireland
  • Function: People Team
  • Tenure: 1 year and 9 months

Tell us about early Derval and what was she like? When I was a child I was a joiner – I did every extra-curricular activity under the sun: ballet, Irish dancing, speech & drama, tennis, tap dancing, swimming, tin whistle. I loved being part of things. This continued into college, where I joined every society possible during Freshers Week; a diverse range spanning the rock climbing society to the European society.

When you were a child, what did you see yourself doing?
I loved creative writing and wanted to be a children’s author or a journalist; I studied English as part of my undergrad degree but ended up going down a different path. My big passion however was (is!) musicals and my dream was to be a Broadway star. However, I have no talent to back this up whatsoever. I lived in New York for a few years after college and loved going to Broadway shows all of the time…I even went to the Tony Awards, but on a ticket purchased through Ticketmaster rather than as a nominee!

How did you get into your role?
I have been indirectly working in sustainability roles for much of my career. I spent 15 years working as a fundraiser for Concern Worldwide (in both New York and Dublin), an international humanitarian organisation headquartered in Dublin. This ignited my passion for Sustainable Development, in particular the social side of sustainability, and introduced me to the Sustainable Development Goals, and their predecessors, the Millenium Development Goals. I spent much of my fundraising career working in corporate fundraising, partnering with companies as their CSR partner. This then led me to a CSR role in EirGrid, the company that manages the national electricity grid in Ireland. During the five years that I worked there my CSR role grew to incorporate sustainability and I realised that I loved the whole area of corporate sustainability. I also pursued a formal sustainability qualification (Postgrad Certificate in Sustainability Leadership). All of this, led me to Three where I joined in Jan 2022 as Sustainability Manager for UK and Ireland. I feel very lucky – I love my role, the people and the company.

If you had one photo to sum up how you’ve lived your best phone life, what would it be and why?
A photo of my 8-year old daughter Aoileann when we were glamping in Wicklow last weekend. Note the blue sky… this was a very unusual occurrence in Ireland this year! My phone is full of photos & videos of her – many of them taken by her in wannabe YouTuber style!

What has been a career highlight so far?
I mentioned that I worked for Concern Worldwide for 15 years. I loved my time there and the path it led me on towards sustainability and towards my role in Three (another career highlight obviously!). My time in Concern also heightened my awareness of the real-life impacts of climate-change on people living in low-income countries whilst Concern responded to an increasing number of droughts and food crises caused by changing weather patterns. A real highlight for me was when I spent a three-month stint working in Darfur in Sudan in 2005. People were being internally displaced as a result of violence, and the humanitarian needs were huge – unfortunately a similar story to today, where we are once again witnessing violence and huge humanitarian needs in Sudan. Despite a humanitarian crisis backdrop, I really enjoyed my time in Sudan and the friendliness of the Sudanese people. It was also where I witnessed climate change impacts for the first time when I saw multiple dried-up river beds that had previously been water sources. In fact, the Darfur conflict is seen as the first conflict that was driven by climate change, caused by tensions between farmers and herders over the decreasing pasture lands and evaporating water holes.

What do you like to do outside of #LifeAtThree?
I love to spend time with family and friends, go to the theatre (see Q 2 😊), catch up for dinner etc.

Have you made any changes in your daily life due to learning more about sustainability?
When studying sustainability I learned a lot about the wide-reaching negative social and environmental impacts of fashion choices. As a result, I try to take a sustainable approach to fashion…only buy what I need, avoid synthetic fabrics, avoid fast fashion if I can, donate/freecycle anything I no longer wear and anything my daughter has grown out of.
I also became vegan about 4 years ago after being vegetarian since I was a teenager.  There are definitely many more things I can do/improvements I can make…but I think being aware and starting to make a positive impact is a great starting point.

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