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Meet Deirdre McParland, Archivist

People of ESB is a 12-part series documenting the lives of ESB staff across our various business units. This month, we meet Deirdre McParland, a Senior Archivist with ESB. Deirdre’s specialised role allows her to move between the past, present and future of ESB. Here, she outlines what advice she’d give to a budding archivist and why she’s embracing working from home.  

What’s your role in ESB?  

My role as Senior Archivist is to ensure that the records of ESB with the most enduring historical and evidential value in all formats are preserved, so that we both as a company and society are informed by our past and use this information to inspire and shape our future.  

It’s also about communicating, sharing and making this historical content available for research to diverse global audiences and marketing our heritage in creative ways on digital channels, social media and exhibitions.  

How long have you worked in this role?  

I joined ESB five years ago. What is really exciting as a business archivist is how diverse my job is and how it has evolved depending on what projects I’m working on. My day can take me anywhere from speaking to our people on the heritage of ESB, delivering historical brand workshops to inspire future product and marketing innovations, to surveying records in a power station, researching enquiries or being interviewed for a documentary.  

What were our expectations when joining ESB?  

I knew ESB had a really strong reputation as a caring employer. I believe in a growth mindset and ESB has afforded me with new development opportunities. In the past year alone, I have completed ESB’s CIPD accredited diploma in HR for Line Managers. In the past six months I have been on a whole innovation journey with a team from different business units conceptualising a new commercially viable business opportunity for ESB.  

deirdre mcparland

What has surprised you most about working in ESB?

I am passionate about our company heritage. But I am far from being alone in this regard in ESB. So many of our people share the same sense of pride and a deep understanding that the history of ESB is so entwined with our national narrative and how we as a company have always strived in creating a brighter future for our customers.  

How has Covid-19 affected your day-to-day? 

I’m not travelling on the M50 everyday so that is always a bonus! We have been fortunate to have had the technology in place to continue to work seamlessly into remote working. Our key collections have been digitised so my team and I have been able to continue to provide our archive service to our customers. It has also been an opportunity to refocus our workflows on our digital archive collections, so we have years of work to keep us going. Although like so many of us, I do miss feeding off the energy in a room when delivering a talk, the virtual world hasn’t been able to recreate that 100% yet. 

Can you describe yourself in three words? 

Loyal, driven and resilient.  

What has the pandemic and working from home taught you?

Home schooling has taught me that I was right not to enter the teaching profession!  I am just grateful to be able to do my job remotely and that there have been no barriers to working on new innovations in the remote working world. 

More so now than ever it is a constant reminder that we as a company are living in historic times and the importance of archiving in real time cannot be underestimated. I am really aware of my role to capture this information and to ensure that future generations will be able to look back in years to come and understand the pivot role that ESB played in the pandemic as a critical part of the nation’s infrastructure. 

What are you most looking forward to this year and beyond? 

I am most looking forward to my parents being vaccinated and the peace of mind that will bring knowing they are safe. As a mum working full-time, I will be embracing a smart working future for sure and look forward to returning to our beautiful purpose-built archive a few days a week instead of the previous five. I also can’t wait to wear a pair of heels at work instead of slippers!  

What advice would you give a graduate starting their career in ESB?  

ESB have been running a very successful mentoring programme for decades now so that would be my number one piece of advice: get yourself a mentor. There is a wonderful sense of community in ESB and people are so supportive and generous in their time. There are inspirational role models throughout the company who began as a graduate and are now in senior management positions.  

Does your work as a Senior Archivist align with ESB’s purpose and values?  

Probably the most rewarding aspect of my job is that through researching the content in our archives, I unlock authentic stories and the evidence of our company values and show how for over 90 years we have been living our values of Caring, Courageous, Driven and Trust. I’ll always remember the first time I discovered one of our advertisements from 1928 on our foundation project The Shannon Scheme which stated ‘The Shannon is being harnessed to lighten human burdens, to brighten human lives’. I still get goosebumps when I read this and that purpose is still as relevant today as it was back in 1928.  

What do you wish you knew when you took on the role in ESB that you know now? 

Don’t be shy, embrace curiosity and ask questions!   

For people who want to join your field of work, what three pieces of advice would you share with them?  

The archivist profession is quite a specialised area, and business archivists particularly in Ireland even more so. You need a passion for information management, digital technologies and communications.  

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