Speaker Insight Series - Helen Fullen

Helen Fullen, Pre-Accelerator Programme Leader

Helen interacts with innovative startups on a daily basis in her role with NDRC. You can read Helen's thoughts in the seventh post of our 2019 Speaker Insight Series. We’ve borrowed the format from Tim Ferriss’s book ‘Tribe of Mentors’. You can read about the book here and buy it directly here.

Throughout the book, Tim poses 11 questions to his interviewees with the request to respond to 3 to 5 questions.. or more, if the spirit moves them. See Helen's answers below:

What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

I constantly recommend The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Gilmore II & James H. Pine 1999 It was a game-changer for me and is a must read for anyone working in any service industry. Pine and Gilmore argue that businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers, and that memory itself becomes the product: the "experience". At ClubCorp, we were consumed by relationships and community and designing incredible experiences to delight and engage our customers. I have carried on this approach into my current role as I provide programmatic support to early-stage technology entrepreneurs at NDRC.

A friend gave me Marie Kondo's book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying (2014) as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. I was immediately hooked on this therapeutic, lifestyle choice and am now a devoted disciple of decluttering. The absolute best part of the process has been giving away an array of items to grateful friends and family. Furthermore, in the true spirit of recycling, the book has been passed around friends up and down the country.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.

An airline ticket to Nice, in France (Ryanair) to spend quality time with great friends – priceless!

How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

I’m a disrupter. Disruption creates chaos. Chaos provides opportunity for unintended consequences, upside surprises and things we never imagined. It keeps us lean and hungry but, from experience, it can be lonely and thankless at the time. However, from those experiences, I have a greater understanding of the potential and opportunity that can emerge. To be successful today, organisations must get comfortable with and embrace continuous disruption.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

Be yourself. There is something that you can do better than any other. Listen to that inward voice and bravely obey that (unknown).

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

An ongoing investment in my education. Most recently, I completed a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Ulster in Belfast. An amazing journey full of new learning, reflection and the opportunity to meet really interesting people.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Those that know me are aware of my dedication to all things disco. It is hard not to feel optimistic around that beat!

In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

Mindfulness. Have to admit that I was a complete skeptic and only did a weekend course at the outset as a dare. Humbled by the power and practice of purposely focusing on the present moment and accepting it without judgment.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?

Read more and widely, travel extensively, talk to interesting people, and reflect and learn from your experiences. Ignore the advice of naysayers. If you think you can or think you can’t, you will!

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Build it and they will come”. My first piece of advice to tech entrepreneurs is always: STOP BUILDING and to instead focus on speaking with as many potential customers as possible to understand: 1. Is this a problem worth solving? and 2. Are people willing to pay for a solution?

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips

I like to think of myself as a possibilitarian. These days I find myself limiting my time with, and saying no to, negative people, and instead choosing like-minded, “can-do” individuals. Life is simply too short.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

I write a list.

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