Insight: Ronan Devins

Ronan Devins studied computer engineering at the University of Limerick and started his career in software development with two Irish companies, S3 Group and Cúram Software. After Cúram he was acquired by IBM to work on the technology in the company’s client centres. In 2015 Ronan joined St. Patrick’s Mental Health Services. This was when the organisation began engaging in a programme of digital transformation, including the launch of a full electronic health record.

Why are you supporting The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition?

My background is in technology and I have worked in some Irish tech startups so I’m very interested in the idea of enabling and supporting entrepreneurs who have a solution to everyday problems. St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is progressive in its use of technology, for example, making the digital transformation from paper records to an Electronic Health Record (EHR) back in 2017, and more recently, introducing video-enabled therapy sessions. This competition is a great opportunity for St Patrick’s to collaborate with The Ireland Funds to support those attempting to improve the delivery of mental health services through the innovative use of technology.

What are three books that have greatly influenced your life?

The three books that have greatly influenced my life include;

  • The Ross O’Carroll Kelly books by Paul Howard. For the last several Christmases, I’ve given my wife the latest edition: we’ve reached the stage where she’s usually with me when I’m buying it.
  • Tony 10 by Tony O’Reilly, which was the last book I read, while on a recent holiday, and really enjoyed. It’s a fascinating insight into the holds that addiction can have on a person.
  • Robin Sharma’s Who Will Cry When You Die. This is a book that inspired me when I read it several years ago – I still return to this book and dip in and out of it on occasion.

What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?

I’m going to cheat by picking two items - both purchased in the last six months, but neither under $100 (although I did get bargains in both cases)!

  • A pair of Meindl hiking boots, because I’ve joined a hillwalking group. It’s great to get out into the Wicklow mountains at the weekend and we’re lucky to have an area of such natural beauty so close to Dublin. Since purchasing these boots, I’ve discovered it’s far more enjoyable to do a walk with dry feet, rather than wet feet, which was a regular experience with the old boots I had!
  • After 10 years of keeping away from tech wearables, I finally caved and got an Apple Watch. It’s great for tracking exercise, and it means I can leave my phone down away from me at home or at work rather than having it in my pocket constantly, so it means less screen time on the phone.

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

You never know where your career will take you. I was made redundant by my first employer (along with a quarter of their workforce), which might be viewed by some as a failure, but it paved the path to subsequent roles and to where I’ve ended up in my career now. I never would have thought I’d have gone from software development to mental healthcare, but as they say, when one door closes…

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.

It would be visible from anywhere on the planet in any language. And it would read: ‘Fellow human beings, please try to live sustainably and stop buying disposable rubbish. You’re destroying the planet’.

What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?

I met my wife in October 1999 and proposed to her about a month later, and I think it’s fair to say her engagement ring is the best investment I’ve ever made.

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

I have an annoyingly addictive word game on my phone – see earlier point about getting an Apple Watch to reduce screen time!

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

Now that my kids are a little older and more independent, it has given me time back to myself, so I’ve joined a gym, started hillwalking and restarted annual ski holidays. Physically I feel better and I think we’re all aware of the mental health benefits of maintaining physical health.

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

Best advice: It pays to ensure you’re working with smart, dedicated people who can work together to achieve desired outcomes.

Advice to ignore: Take a job based on money alone. There are so many other considerations such as organisational culture, work/life balance, career opportunities and experience to be gained.

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

Over the years I’ve heard some great quotes from other people including: “There’s no need to take a backup, we won’t need it”; “we’ll just restart this server now, no-one will notice”; “don’t worry about business continuity, only IT have to worry about that”. Some of the individuals to whom I can attribute those quotes may not have survived for too long in their respective roles!

In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to?

When it comes to saying no, I’ve gotten better at either delegating, because I’ve been lucky to hire a good team of people that I can trust, or diverting the requestor elsewhere as appropriate, rather than feeling I have to do something just because someone else has asked. Also, I’m getting better at refusing meeting requests without a defined agenda, as these can lead to wasting the time of everyone in the room. Probably the realisation that’s helped is that my time is mine and it’s finite, so it’s not to be wasted on something that won’t help to achieve my goals.