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Celebration of Service

Kicking around some great ideas for volunteering

IBM employee Deirdre Dowling helps girls get active

In her 27 years with IBM, Deirdre Dowling has held many different positions. She has worked as a resource manager and a Y2K specialist, then she moved on to become a Euro specialist, a project manager, certified coach and finally a learning consultant with

As interesting as that list is, Deirdre’s list of volunteer positions is even more fascinating (and impressive). She organizes an annual fund raising campaign for Temple Street Children’s University Hospital, mentors young girls by helping them develop their resumes and interview skills, founded a ladies Gaelic football club (similar to soccer, but you can use your hands, as well), developed a physical activity program which targets parents of school-age children for the Meath Local Sports Partnership (where she also serves as Vice-Chairperson and drives the organization’s business strategy), and participates in the IBM MentorPlace and EXITE programs which help provide academic and career counseling to school children.

“I love seeing people develop – both in my role at IBM and in my volunteering capacity. I’ve been lucky in my life, working with IBM for 27 years and holding many positions over those years. I am able to bring the skills I’ve learned and experience to the groups I work with.”

Deirdre has two daughters and a son. Her son Patrick is now 14, “But when I had my son, I was nearly forty and I realized that he’d only be 20 when I was 60. I needed to get fit to make sure I was around for him,” she laughs.

So Deirdre started running and has now completed 5 half marathons and plans more for the future. She and her husband Kevin also founded the Moynalevy Ladies Gaelic Football Club to provide sports opportunity for her two daughters Eilis and Ciara, and other girls in their rural community west of Dublin, Ireland. “We started ten years ago with a handful of girls and today we have more than 70 members. When we began there was nothing in our area that was specifically for women and young girls. It’s important for girls to have an outside activity,” Deirdre continues. “It helps them in their social interactions with people, and will help them later in their work life.”

In fact, Deirdre’s eldest daughter recently left home and is living in Australia. “She’s joined a ladies Gaelic football club over there and it’s been great to see that she can link up on another continent using skills and activities that she brought from home.”

It was Deirdre’s work with the football club that led to an even bigger volunteer challenge with the Meath Local Sports Partnership (MLSP). The MLSP was established to help coordinate and increase participation in sports throughout County Meath, and Deirdre serves as the Vice Chairperson.

“I use a lot of my IBM skills here,” Deirdre says. “The organization needs to promote the idea of sports to the local community and so presentation skills are important, and media skills, as well, as we are quite often interviewed about events that are occurring. So I really also serve as development manager because of all the skills I’ve gained through IBM as a Learning Consultant evaluating needs and recommending courses for the employees ”

Deirdre is very pleased with the “Meet ‘n’ Train” program, one of the MLSP activities that she helped create and kick off in her local community The program is aimed at recreational walkers, joggers and runners, many of whom are not members of a sports club but can now enjoy all the benefits of training in a social, safe and organized environment and also receive tips and advice along the way from coaches.

Many of the participants – primarily women – are young parents. “Often they can only get out once a week. So this gives them some physical activity, but it also builds community. They’re talking to each other. It’s not so easy to make friends when you’re working fulltime and it can be difficult to get to know your community and get active. But each Monday night, people are now out walking and talking, and most say they wouldn’t miss it.”

Deirdre is running right along with them, making time for physical fitness along with her job duties, volunteer activities, and family responsibilities. “It sounds cliché,” she says, “but I just love it. I love that I can give back.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.