Thursday, 25 June 2015

Interview with Harry McCann Part 2,

Yo. This is the second half of my interview with Harry McCann, founder of the Digital Youth Council. All views expressed are our own, and you can find the first half of the interview here.

What kind of challenges and difficulties have you had with the Digital Youth Council over the past year?

Time, it's a lot of time and effort and work, especially everyone who's played a really big part in [...] setting it up. It's a big thing to try and run an organisation completely youth-led - finding funding, finding partners, finding backers, finding advisory board members [ed note: just today, Harry announced that Margaret Burgraff, global Intel VP, will join the DYC advisory board for next year], spaces for meetings. Trust me, the list goes on. And it's - it's tough doing that sometimes, it's hard finding time [...] I was up 'til half one last night and I'm still doing stuff.

You could have a time of radio silence, like "don't contact me at this time"

No, I don't, and that's the funny thing - I'm very, very weird in a way that most people are 9 - 5, I am 8 o' clock or even sometimes 7 o' clock if I'm on a bus, to 9 or 10 o' clock or 11 o' clock at night, or even on a Saturday or Sunday. And I think it's because, I don't think students or young people have a time of day, I get emails from students [...] I was messaging people on Facebook last night at 12 o' clock [...] There's no time of day, there's no 9 to 5. Which is good in a way, because it allows you to get things done, but it's an awful lot of work as I said. You have to commit a lot of time. Travelling is huge as well ...

And what have been the highlights of the past year, do you think?

Highlights of the last year ... that's a tough one. Lord David Putnam was very cool to me. Met Lord David Putnam in the Shelbourne hotel which is obviously a very nice, nice hotel, pleasure meeting him and speaking to him, and pleasure meeting the Taoiseach, it was great [...] Going to Google, going to Twitter, going to Facebook. [From the] Digital Youth Council perspective, would have to be, this year in particular I'm very impressed - we said it earlier in the day, for InspireFest, and somebody we work closely with is Silicon Republic [...] The highlight would have to be that we did get a 50/50 gender ratio this year.

What was it last year?

It was 60/40 or 70/30 [...] It was a big achievement because there's such a big push for it, and the thing is we're very keen on equal opportunity. We're not for guys, we're not for girls, we're equal opportunity for everybody. Getting Twitter involved was a big thing as well, it was good to get one of the big tech companies behind us ... It was a very enjoyable experience getting to go to Twitter, getting to go to all these places. It was a very unforgettable experience. I guarantee if you ask anybody on the whole council, the best thing about it would have to be the places, the events and things like that. The Web Summit, the BT Young Scientist. It's not a celebrity lifestyle, but it's the closest thing that most of us will get to it. And then also watching Émer, Sophie and Ciara win every award, every award under the sun. Just sitting there like "Awh yeah, I know them." Or Sky News, "Ah yeah", CNN "Yep", we get the point, you won it. They win everything.

I know!

That is really good though in fairness, it's good to see the Council - and Ireland - being well-represented worldwide, not just in Ireland. But yeah, it was really good fun.

When you're in schools, does the Digital Youth Council see a difference between kid boys and girls in what they're interested in? Is it all the same, or is there a point where that starts changing?

Yeah, younger kids - I think a lot of people are reared in a way that the difference between a little boy and a girl, and I think it's probably a problem, is guys are Legos and army men and all that rubbish, and girls are Barbie dolls and all that rubbish. Boys pick blue and girls are pink and all that rubbish. But I think at primary school their interest in STEM, it's something everyone can share, I don't think it's a guy or girl thing, there's definitely opportunity for people to be involved, which is the great thing about STEM - even when you look at professional sports and such, football, if you look at men's soccer versus women's soccer --

It's kind of a disgrace how --

Yeah! It's underappreciated, they probably don't even earn half as much. Although in STEM they talk about the unequal opportunities, there still [are] enough equal opportunities out there that it has potential. It can change and one day it definitely has the ability to be equal opportunity. Unlike soccer, because soccer will take a long time or all these sports will. But they young people don't even see this problem, they don't even recognize that oh this girl can't do this or this guy can't do that or whatever. 

The older ages - as you go to secondary school, everyone's still equal. It is, I see it in STEM all the time, even the BT Young Scientist, you look at it - everyone's equal, everyone has an equal ability, they understand that there's obviously inequality in the area of STEM, but they completely ignore that so there's definitely - it's quite an equal gender ratio, everyone appreciates everyone ... I think it's a positive thing as well, especially compared to soccer. Women's sport doesn't get anywhere near as much publicity as men's does, even in Ireland or anywhere in the world. So it does have potential to be a really, really special thing, STEM does. 

[We chatted a bit here, I'll spare you.]

What exciting things does the Digital Youth Council have coming up in the next while?

That's still to be decided. TBC - to be confirmed. The case is we elected a new Council in, so in August the new Council will meet, and what'll happen is they'll decide what happens from there. It's not a person decision, it's a group decision. Personally, I'll be pushing for more opportunities for young people - things like internships, opportunities in STEM companies. Honestly the thing is, there are a lot of things that can be changed in STEM. I think the gender ratio was one we looked at this year, we done that --


Well not even done, there's still work on that but from our perspective we've done our part, and we'll still push for it to be done in other places. Young people giving young people a voice, we've done our Have Your Say app, our Have Your Say website where you can just log on and give your opinion on anything at all, that's something we tried to work on and we done. There's different things we achieved this year ... Nothing is impossible - we have the companies, we have the people, we have the advisors. That's from a business perspective. From the management end of the Digital Youth Council, there'll be some really cool new advisors coming in, like really, really cool. It'll be really good to see those people come in, and hopefully it'll make sure that the council does some really cool things. But you'll have to wait and see. 

OK, I'll wait. How does Ireland compare to other countries for STEM, teenagers especially?

So yeah, among young people especially it's by far the best - one of the best if not the best. Personally, I might have a slight bias - I run a digital youth council and I'm an Irish teenager. But yeah, I attended the BT Young Scientist, I attended the Eircom Junior Spider, I didn't go to the Coolest Projects this year but I went to every single possible event for young people in STEM and  there's definitely a lot of potential there... At the BT Young Scientist, every single idea there could've won it easily. I spoke to some people from BT and they said it was unpredictable who could've won it this year and a great project won it. We do have a really large pool of talent - you can see with the girls who've done really well not just in Ireland but on the international stage. They're not the only ones, there's loads of people. We win the EU Young Scientist year in, year out.

They must be sick of us.

Like, it's no longer the EU Young Scientist, it's basically just Ireland's Young Scientist -

- Again.

Yeah, whoever won the BT Young Scientist is pretty well in-there. But we do compare with - definitely, we're in the top two or three. I don't even know who could be against us, I'm just saying that in case I'm wrong. The States I'm sure would probably give us a run for our money, the UK don't, I can definitely say that. We definitely have more talent, I'd say that more than happily. But the US probably do, considering their size they're bound to have the same amount as us. 

Okay! Thank you very much.

Coolio boolio. 

There was definitely a lot of information in that interview! Make sure to check out Harry and I on Twitter @TheHarryMcC and @frizzyroselle respectively. Thanks again to Harry for doing the interview, and InspireFest 2015 for providing the swanky VIP venue.

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