Home Insights Half an hour with Dermot Kenny

Half an hour with Dermot Kenny

1. Which part of the company do you work for, what is your role and how long have you been with us?

I am CEO at STEM, part of the Ashfield Advisory division. I am a relative newbie having just joined STEM at the tail end of 2021.

2. Tell us a bit about your background.

Research scientist by training (microbiology), I spent the first 5 years of my career doing bench research with the UK Ministry of Defence; I wanted to be an academic scientist until I realised it was more about writing grant applications than doing cool research. I accidentally fell into clinical development in 2000 and spent the next 17 years working with ICON Clinical Research (one of Ireland’s best-kept corporate success secrets). I then joined Novartis in 2017 and spent the next 5 years getting some big pharma experience before jumping back into the service side of the industry last year.

3. What do you like most about your role?

Having worked in big pharma for 5 years, I love the pace and urgency of life in STEM / Ashfield. I love the fact that STEM is big enough to have a meaningful impact in the industry yet small enough that I can easily reach all the way through the organisation – every day is a learning experience for me with a new and different set of challenges; But we are enabled and empowered to move fast and make (hopefully) good, quick and effective decisions that will drive growth and impact patients.

4. What has been the biggest challenge in your role so far, or what do you anticipate to be a future challenge?

The biggest challenge for me is pivoting my own knowledge and expertise from clinical development to commercial. It’s a different world and every day I am learning on-the-job but I am surrounded by a team of experts in STEM and I trust in the transferability of my leadership skills and competencies.

5. What is your one piece of advice for your colleagues at Ashfield? 

Focus on our purpose. We are privileged to work in the healthcare industry at such an exciting and transformative time that is literally bending the curve of life every day for patients around the world. It is easy to get out of bed in the morning when your purpose is so powerful.

6. What is the last TV show or film you watched and how would you rate it out of ten?

‘The Dropout’ on Disney +, a fascinating look at the Elizabeth Holmes / Theranos story (8/10).

7. What was the first and last music gig you attended?

First Gig – Deacon Blue, Dublin 1989. I cannot remember the last gig I attended as it was pre-pandemic but I have tickets for Deacon Blue again on the 4th June in Dublin – this gig has been rescheduled twice already so I cannot wait.

8. What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m not working, I am usually either taxiing my kids (2 girls, 16 &18) or riding my horse, Millie. (See photo below.)

9. Where is the most interesting place you’ve travelled to?

In 2018 I had the opportunity to visit the Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. This hospital was set up in 1976 by Dr Govindappa Venkataswamy (Dr V) and has continued to operate on a not-for-profit basis since then. Their mission was to bring ophthalmology to the poor and needy. Their cataract surgeons are some of the best in the world, 60% of their patients pay nothing and are subsidised by the other 40% who pay ‘what they can afford’. In their history they have saved or restored the eyesight of millions of patients. Seeing first-hand the contrast between how they operate and how western ‘sophisticated’ healthcare systems operate was a real eye-opener for me (pun intended).

10. What is something you would tell your younger self?

Listen to your mum. She has more wisdom than you can ever hope to have and you will only realise it when it is too late.