Kara Kelly is a Business and Law (BBL) graduate from the Sutherland School of Law and the Lochlann Quinn School of Business. She has spent over 8 years working in television production and currently works as a Freelance Assistant Producer & Reporter with RTÉ Sport, Ireland’s national broadcaster.
1. What is your fondest memory from your time at UCD?
When I came to UCD to study I had actually never been to the Belfield campus. I had skipped transition year so most of my friends were only going into 6th year, and of the year I had graduated with, there were only three or four of us going to UCD, so to say I was out of my depth was an understatement. I had no idea how it would all turn out, but my 4 years in UCD were fantastic. My fondest memories are the amazing friends I made, in fact my friends from UCD are still some of my closest friends now. I also had great experiences getting involved with different societies. I was class rep for a year which I really enjoyed. I’ve always been fond of school and learning, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting the opportunity to study both Business and Law, two subjects I did and still do have such a passion for.
2. How did studying Business and Law at UCD prepare you for the working world?
Studying Business and Law gave me a really good knowledge base for the working world. I work for myself now as a sole trader and having the experience of studying something like contract law was invaluable for me. When you are freelance there are a lot of contracts to sign, so even knowing the basics was so helpful. As I work in media, areas of law such as intellectual property, defamation and media law in general are quite useful. I might not have to use case law, or know legislation off the top of my head but understanding the principles and being disciplined with your time management is important, as often it’s up to yourself to extend your study and research in your own time. Working for myself in an industry that does not follow the typical 9-5 working day, being good with my time and being efficient with my time and energy is key.
3. Would you recommend Business and Law to prospective students, if so why?
I would definitely recommend as an excellent combination, even if a career as a solicitor or barrister aren’t on your radar, it has a lot to bring to a wide variety of careers.
4. After your Business and Law degree you did an MA in Broadcast Production, what brought about this change in career path – or was this always the plan?
When I came to UCD to study Business and Law, I recall being more focused on Business, as I loved it as a subject in school. However, once I began studying Law I developed quite a strong interest in it. The idea of qualifying as a solicitor was definitely something that appealed to me. I had always known I didn’t want the typical 9-5 office job, and so I wasn’t fully set on a direction at that stage. I was lucky to get a job in RTÉ as a runner in my first year in UCD. It was just making teas/coffees and running errands but I quickly fell in love with the work environment, the variety, the not-so-typical working hours and the different people I met everyday. It became apparent I had caught the media bug. I did, however, also pick up another part-time job as a legal secretary in a small solicitor’s office, which I also enjoyed, but there was something about television work that I kept gravitating back to. I knew with hard work I could make my way up the ranks in TV – so I kept that job all the way through college.
After I graduated, I decided to try to branch into PR, as I felt this could offer a good mix of Business and Media. I did a six-month internship, while still working as a runner. After the six months, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in television production. That’s when I made the decision to do the masters programme. It’s not a necessity to a career in media, but I wanted to get some more academic experience to add to my CV and I felt it would be helpful in supporting my transition from runner into a production or editorial role. It was a road filled with twists and turns, but I think it’s just as helpful to know what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want to do. Trying out different things can be the best way of figuring out what route you want to take in your career.
5. You started out freelancing for various TV stations in Ireland before joining RTÉ as a sports reporter, how was this experience?
There’s no doubt working for yourself and freelancing in media can be difficult, as there’s no job security, with none of the benefits like health insurance or holidays, also when you’re not working, you’re not getting paid. In saying that though, freelancing has been brilliant, I’ve gained so much experience working with different people and in a variety of roles. Every place you work has different systems and different dynamics and it also gave me the chance to work on a variety of sports. While one broadcaster might have rights to broadcast rugby, another broadcaster might have GAA or soccer. I’m now able to confidently work across sports, in different roles and have a good understanding of what other people do in their roles which helps us all work better together. In the last 6 months I’ve begun sports reporting, as well as being an assistant producer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in working for myself, especially after a very difficult 2020 with so little sport on and very little freelance work, you have to take any opportunities that come your way and make the most of them.
6. Have you always been passionate about sports?
Yes, I’ve always had an interest in sport, and I think it’s something I’ve only become more passionate about as I have got older. My sister and I grew up in a house with three brothers all playing different sports and my dad is a huge GAA fan. While I never really played sports myself, I always loved the big moments that brought everyone together – an All-Ireland Final, a World Cup or the Olympics. I loved the idea of being involved in bringing those moments to people. Even during the pandemic, it’s been incredible to see the positive effect sport can have on people and just how important it is on television, radio, in the papers or online. I think sport is such a crucial part of communities and I love the way it brings people together whether you live in a big city or a small rural village, like I do.
7. What interests you the most about your job?
I love the variety I get from my job, no two days are the same. It’s amazing that I’m able to have an impact on what people are watching and listening to, especially in the last year. It has been so rewarding bringing sport to people in their homes, especially when they can’t go to games.
I also love attending different sporting events, being at All-Ireland finals every year is something I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of! I would love the opportunity to travel abroad more and experience different events or tournaments, like the Olympic games.
8. What have been the most challenging aspects of your career to date?
I would be lying if I said, being a woman in a male-dominated industry wasn’t difficult. I relish a challenge and if I feel as though someone doesn’t think I’m capable of something or if I’m overlooked, it only makes me work even harder. As I’m growing older I’m becoming much better at standing up for myself and making sure I’m heard. This was something I was challenged by at the start of my career and it’s something I continue to work on. There’s a quote I read once ‘Whatever you’re thinking, think bigger’ and I love that because it reminds me not to settle for things as they are and to keep pushing to improve things or expand your horizons.
Another challenge for me has been being self-employed. While it has its benefits, it has its downsides too. 2020 was an extremely challenging year as I found myself without work for almost six months. Being financially secure can be difficult when you’re self employed so budgeting and saving are critical. This is so important to consider with the type of work I do.
9. What are you most proud of professionally?
Getting to where I am now makes me proud. I’m an Assistant Producer and Reporter which seemed so far away back when I was making the tea and coffee. Media is an incredibly competitive industry and it can take confidence and resilience to keep going throughout. There’s definitely been times when it might have been easier to change my career path but I’m really proud of myself that I kept going.
Getting to report live on the radio for the first time was a really proud moment also, as I was nervous and not sure how it would all go, but thankfully it went well and I was delighted with myself for stepping out of my comfort zone.
10. What do you think your career priorities will be in ten years’ time?
While I love freelancing and working for myself, I definitely think down the line I will seek out more job security. Jumping from place to place and job to job can definitely get tiring and I would love to have a more long-term position. Although I chose not to pursue a career in Business or Law, I would like to eventually move into a management/leadership role within a broadcaster and I can see this being a priority to me in ten years’ time, if not sooner.
11. Who are the most interesting or helpful mentors or advisors that you have had?
I’ve had so many people along the way that have been so supportive. My parents and siblings have been so helpful every step of the way. One of my siblings also works in media, so that has been invaluable to have first-hand experience to draw on. There are also two sports producers I work with who have been amazing for instilling confidence in me and giving me opportunities to gain experience and work on a variety of projects.
12. What advice would you give to someone who is just beginning their career?
Give everything a chance! You never know if you’ll like something without trying. Any opportunities that come your way, whether it’s a day of work experience, or being asked to do a job you haven’t done before, give it a shot, you never know where it might take you. In what sounds like a complete contradiction to that then, don’t be afraid to say no. I believe there are ways to give everything a try but don’t let anyone take advantage of you. Your time and experience is so valuable so don’t let anyone see it as anything less.
13. How has your career impacted the way in which you see the world?
In a world where ‘fake news’ and misinformation online can be very destructive to our society, I believe working in an industry responsible for delivering news to the public has impacted how I consume news. I’m very aware of the importance of reading the story, not just the headline. I feel the spreading of misinformation is a huge issue in our world today and I see the importance of strong journalism with integrity to continue to inform us of the issues in our societies. I’m heavily aware of the impact a journalist or media professional can have on people.
14. What is the most useful book you’ve read?
I recently read a book that one of my brothers suggested to me called ‘Creative Confidence’. It’s about how to bring an element of creativity to everything you do. It gives tools that can be used to think outside the box and using creativity to innovate new ways of doing things. So often you meet people who say they’re not “creative” but this book shows that everyone has it within them.
Another book that I loved is a sports book called ‘The Club’ by Christy O’Connor. It’s about a year in the life of a rural GAA club but there’s a passage at the end that I come back to all the time: “Ultimately, we failed to do what we’d hoped to achieve, yet did we really? We tried. We dreamed. We hoped. We fought. We healed. We tried again. We failed again… Sometimes we beat ourselves up too much. We see the final destination as all that matters, when the beauty is always in the journey… For now, the good days have gone. The bad ones may only be around the corner, but that doesn’t mean we turn our backs and walk away”.
15. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My parents always told me that whatever you do, give it your best, because once you do that, your best is always good enough. I love this because even if something doesn’t go completely to plan as you expected it, you can’t have any regrets if you gave it your all.