My Career: I jumped headfirst... and never looked back

Director, Summit DNA Ireland, Jennifer F Walsh features in our My Career in WoW! this week
My Career: I jumped headfirst... and never looked back

Jennifer F.Walsh Director Summit DNA Ireland.

Name: Jennifer F. Walsh

Age: 34

Lives: Co. Cork

Job title: Director/CEO, Summit DNA Ireland

Salary bracket: Director/CEO Average

Education background: I completed my Leaving Certificate in Bruce College, Cork city, I then went on to study Business and receive a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management from University College Cork.

Hobbies: Hiking, tennis and weekly exercise sessions.

Describe your job in five words: Not for the easily discouraged.

Describe yourself in five words: 1. Hardworking 2. Ambitious 3. Resilient 4. Positive Thinker 5. Enthusiastic.

Personality needed for this kind of work: Strong-willed, without that you will find it very difficult in this type of industry, particularly as a start-up.

Having empathy is also a must, you come across different people every day in this line of work and each has their own story, ensuring you’re there to listen, guide and help in any way that you can.

Being approachable is another important character trait for this type of work, it’s important that people feel they can approach you and discuss their case with you and ask as many questions as they need to.

How long are you doing this job? Summit DNA Ireland launched in 2022.

How did you get this job? After getting my Bachelor’s Degree in HR, I worked in multiple different jobs in a HR capacity, but I always knew business was my interest and working for myself, I hadn’t found my passion yet, so I never gave it much more thought then that.

It wasn’t until after taking a three-year career break to be at home with my sons when I then decided to go back to work, this is when everything changed for me.

I started working with a Biotechnology company in Cork, and DNA testing was one small area they worked in. After learning and researching more into DNA and genetics, I was hooked, as if overnight everything changed, I had found something that I genuinely loved, and was so passionate and invested in. I knew straight away that this is what I was meant to do.

I noticed a gap in the market for a biotech company that specialised solely in DNA, Drug & Alcohol testing, particularly one that was 100% Irish owned. I jumped headfirst and never looked back.

I set up Summit DNA Ireland on the back of my own experience and hard work and launched the company last year. It’s been the most amazing journey so far. I have learned so much in the last two years in terms of business, start-ups, and everything in between. That saying “you learn by doing” really comes to mind.

Do you need particular qualifications or experience? This would depend on what side of the business you’re working, if it’s the science and genetics side, then yes, you would need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in one of the sciences such as Biology or Biochemistry. The work I do on a daily basis has directly benefited from my degree in HR and previous experience in the biotechindustry, without that first hand knowledge I don’t think I would have been able to get to this point in time.

Get experience if you have the opportunity to, it will always come in useful.

How many hours do you work a week? 30 - 40 hours.

Is your industry male or female dominated? I came from a lab that was entirely female-led so I think the scales are even in this industry.

Does this affect you in any particular way? No, I don’t think so.

Describe a day at work: My day usually starts with childcare and school run, I start work at 9am but always like to be a few minutes early to get organised.

From 9-10am, I spend on emails and getting back to people, following up on cases and any other business. I have a mix of in-person meetings and zoom meetings, I typically schedule these for 10am so we’re never in a rush to finish for lunchtime as monthly catch-up meetings and marketing meetings can take a while. 

Once all meetings are finished, I spend my time on the most immediate work that needs my attention, this could be marketing/testing or a specific case.

I take lunch at 1pm and then do school pick up at 2.30pm. Again, depending on the week and workload, I may work remotely for the rest of the day or I will go back into the office and finish up around 5pm.

Some nights, if there’s extra work I have not gotten to that day, I’ll go on my laptop after my kids are in bed for another hour or so.

Is your job stressful? How? Rate it on a scale of 1-10: I would give it a 7, although I work best under pressure, but yes definitely stressful at times, I don’t think its industry dependent I think any start-up where you find yourself juggling multiple hats on any single day, it is going to be stressful, it’s giving up the 9-5 for the 24/7 essentially.

When you start your own company, you never really ‘switch off’ completely, your mind is always going, thinking of ideas, or ways to change things or add things, constantly tweaking things to make them the best they can be, delivering a great service to your customers.

Do you work with others or on your own? Apart from myself in the office, I work with GPs, Nurses, Lab Technicians, IT assistants and Administrators.

When do you plan to retire or give up working? Never, I enjoy it too much.

Best Bits: Working for myself, being present to see all your hard work and ideas turn into a business, being in a position to help people has been amazing, ensuring I’m there for people if they need extra support and staying with them through the entire testing process if they wish.

The only reason I’m in a position to offer that extra help and care is because it’s my own company and the tiny details are as important as the big.

Worst bits: In this line of work of DNA, Drug & Alcohol testing there are some cases that we work with that are not the happiest of stories and that can be tough sometimes.

There’s also a huge responsibility on you as well when it’s your own company, if anything goes wrong it’s up to you to fix it and if you don’t know how, you need to find a way.

Advice to those who want your job? JUMP! Go for it, if it’s something you’re truly passionate about, you will never regret taking the chance.

Be resilient, you may have to deal with setbacks, so you’ll spend most of your time trying to find another way to make things work.

Any other comments? Network, it’s important for start-ups. You meet some incredible people in the business, they know exactly what you’re going through and they’re the best for advice when you need it most.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, it is not a sign of failure, it’s a sign of strength. Be smart enough to know what you can and can’t do.


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