For this week’s instalment in our series In Conversation With… we spoke to Jade O’Toole, Innovation Initiatives Manager at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and her thesis supervisor Donal O’Brien, TU Dublin Lecturer. Jade presented her research at the Irish Academy of Management Annual Conference, so we asked them about her findings, the importance of lifelong learning, and the MSc in Management and Marketing.

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MII: Hi Donal, and Jade, thank you both for taking part. Congratulations Jade, on your recent presentation of your research as part of the MSc in Management and Marketing at the Irish Academy of Management Annual Conference. How would you describe the whole experience?

Jade O’Toole : Thank you to the MII for inviting us to contribute to this piece and share our experiences of the MSc programme and the IAM Conference. When I finished my research this time last year, I never thought I would have to think about or talk about my Masters or my research again! But thankfully, Donal reached out and asked if I would consider submitting my research to the Conference. At first I was a bit confused and scared about this – I had heard enough about academic conferences to scare me off. However, the whole process of submitting my paper, receiving feedback, and presenting at the conference was a great experience and extremely pain free! The IAM is a very supportive group of academics and practitioners, and following my presentation, I received some great feedback and a lot of encouragement to continue my research. It was a great chance to actually do something with my research, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on it, and share it further, after it was submitted for the MSc. I would thoroughly recommend both submitting your research to the conference, but also attending the conference as a student or practitioner.

Dr. Dónal O’Brien : The Irish Academy of Management (IAM) is the leading professional association for management studies, research and education on the island of Ireland. The purpose of the Irish Academy of Management is to promote the advancement of research, knowledge and education in the field of organisation and management studies. The IAM annual conference is a crucial event for researchers to submit and present their work to an audience of experienced academics and practitioners. Having worked with Jade throughout the programme in TUDublin and as supervisor for her Master’s thesis, I had no doubt that her research would make a great contribution to the theme of the 2021 conference in Waterford Institute of Technology “Leading and Managing in Interesting Times: Learning for a Better Tomorrow”. Jade is extremely passionate about her own area of work and the conference was an excellent event to showcase her passion and the development of her thinking during her studies on the TUDublin MII programme. We are very proud of Jade’s achievements, her research was extremely well received by the Academy, and she has set a high bar for what can be achieved by graduates of the programme.

Why did you decide to complete the programme?

I work in the public service, and one day I was struggling to get people to attend a course we were offering. As I was researching online and talking to colleagues, it became clear to me that not only do we need the skills to create and share events, as public servants we also need the skills to market them. And thus began my interest in marketing, with a particular focus on marketing in the public sector, and an even more specific focus on creating and demonstrating the value of the services we offer to the public and society. The MSc in Marketing & Management seemed like the perfect course for me in terms of the location, timetable and modules offered. 

How did the programme impact your current role and career development?

I think the MSc opened up a lot of doors for me and really helped develop my confidence to perhaps open doors for myself that I previously wouldn’t have considered. Since attending the course, I was fortunate to be promoted and then fortunate enough again to change organisations. Because the course has a business and management focus, it definitely helped me develop the language required for the workplace, particularly when speaking to senior leaders and those with decision making responsibility. I think the course provided me with an awareness and understanding of how people in those roles operate, and gave me the tools (and confidence) to tailor my communication and interactions with them.

How important is lifelong learning to the marketing profession?

I think lifelong learning is extremely important for any profession or role, but particularly so for the marketing profession. The world changes and develops so quickly around us, and when you are a marketer, you should have an eye on these changes to make sure you are picking up on the ones that may affect you most. I find the best way to keep up to date is through professional self development, for a number of reasons. First and what I consider most important, the opportunity to meet and work with students from different industries and backgrounds is invaluable. Second, getting to connect with lecturers and other academic supports who are specialists in their field and who can offer real-life experience and examples is also a benefit of professional self development. Finally, I think that when you engage with further education and professional self development, you begin to notice things or take an interest in topics you may previously not have known about. For example, in one of our marketing projects we worked on a Virtual Reality product for an Irish business. Ever since then, I find myself following what’s going on in the world of VR, and even considering how and where we can use it in the public service!

What aspects of the programme did you enjoy most?

I really enjoyed meeting and working with my fellow classmates on the programme. I made some really good friends on the MSc and we had a great camaraderie and support network – particularly when we were writing our dissertations! I also enjoyed the diverse range of modules that were offered on the MSc. It was great to be able to work on projects and read further into areas of interest – the public service for example – while also being introduced to new theories and industries that I wouldn’t have discovered before. One exciting project that I got to work on was using ethnography to understand Dublin GAA fans and how they develop a culture and identity in an online setting. Getting to interact with real organisations and businesses and to support them with marketing plans was also a brilliant learning opportunity. The diversity in modules was definitely something that kept my interest throughout!

Would you recommend the programme and why?

Absolutely! My background is in Community Work so I started off on the programme doing the PgDip as a conversion course. This was a brilliant introduction to the world of business and marketing and absolutely set me up for success in the MSc. The programme is delivered on a part-time basis which is great if you’re working while studying. The lecturers are extremely helping, especially in the acknowledgement that most students are studying part-time while working full-time. As well as supporting students through this, the lecturers also want you to use bring the experience you have in your day job into the classroom. I shared a classroom with students with medical, sales, tech, and not-for-profit backgrounds, which definitely contributed to my learning experience. This is a great asset of the programme.

Is there anything else you would like to share about the role? 

I have just begun a new role that focuses on developing and embedding innovation within the Irish public service. I was thrilled to take on this role, and challenge, as this is an area I am really passionate about. I think innovation is still a word that is quite inaccessible and scares people, and it is still associated with technology and science. In addition, when you innovate, there is a lot of focus on testing and iterating, and taking risks. While we do these things day in day out in the public service, we don’t really tend to label them as such. I want to use my new role to change the narrative around innovation, and to support my public service colleagues to take risks and try new things, while also acknowledging failure, and the unintended consequences that may arise, as an important element of innovation. I also think there are parallels between marketing and innovation, which I’ve noticed in the role. Successful innovation comes from knowing who your customer is, understanding their needs, how they engage with a product or service, and then developing something for them that creates value – all key elements of marketing. I think completing the MSc in Marketing and Management will really contribute to my new role, and the journey I have ahead of me!  

If you are a member who would like to feature in the In Conversation with series please send an email to