Opening Doors - brings Access Support Full Circle

Karena Flynn Thai graduated from DCU in 2009 and now works for as their Sales Account Director. In this piece, she talks about the company’s support for DCU and how this has helped to develop the company’s inclusive atmosphere. She aims to give support and to champion young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to become successful in their education, through to university and into the workplace.

Could you tell us a bit about your connection to DCU and how it helped you to get to where you are today?

Yes, I studied Multimedia in DCU and graduated in 2009. I was an Access student myself so I see huge merit in the Access Programme and I’m an example of how that extra support and backing can help students to fulfil their potential in whatever avenue they choose. I come from Coolock and at the time, there was a very low percentage of students continuing on to third level education from school. I was lucky enough to get familiar with DCU at a young age, through the Challenger Programme. Having the chance to experience the atmosphere on campus and to see the opportunities the university could provide, was really important for me. I always remember getting a chance to have computer classes and to see the library on Glasnevin campus. It was through this opportunity that I realised I wanted to go to DCU and give myself a good chance at the career I wanted to pursue.

I had a fantastic experience with the Access Programme once in DCU, they were always there to support me on a number of levels. Mostly, it showed me that others believed in me and gave me the confidence to really follow my dreams. Now I’m glad to be in a place where I can give back and work with DCU,both as part of the DCU Alumni Emerging Leaders Programme and through working with a company that supports the Access Programme.


Your belief in the DCU Access Programme and equal opportunities really shines through, is this something you bring to your role in

Oh hugely, it’s something I believe really adds to the inclusive culture here at I was always open about my background and where I came from. I am proud to have been an Access student. So when the opportunity arose to partner with DCU, it was an easy decision for myself and the team at We first got on board with supporting the Access Programme in 2018. We then heard about the launch of the DCU Access to the Workplace Programme in 2019. We have always believed in giving young people the chance to intern with us at Pigsback and we saw this as a great opportunity to both give back and gain access to a new talent pool.


You mentioned that has supported the Access to the Workplace Programme since its beginning in 2019 and continues to do so, taking on another Access student for placement this summer. What is it about the programme that you feel works well with

We first heard about the programme when Jason Sherlock (Director of Development with DCU Educational Trust) reached out to us to see if we would be interested in supporting it and taking on a student intern. Being able to give Access students this chance struck a chord with the company as well as with me personally. As a previous Access student, I knew how difficult it could be to secure professional work placement without family connections, which students from more affluent backgrounds would have.

Having supported the programme for a number of years now, I have found Access students to be some of the best interns we have ever had. They have a notable determination to do well and to give the placement all they can. They are eager for the opportunity to work hard and to learn. For me, it has come full circle and it’s a great chance to give back. I was once in their shoes and know how daunting adjusting to a workplace can be, when you have no previous experience of it or no one in your family has worked in a professional working environment. We have gotten great return from our student interns and it works both ways as we know we can trust them to work hard and contribute to the team. As well as this, they bring a different viewpoint and broaden our thinking here at Pigsback. Having interns and employees from different backgrounds and cultures has also helped us to understand our markets on a deeper level, and to consider what it is they want and need. The Access to the Workplace Programme has helped us to embrace diversity that bit more and we hope to continue to work with the DCU Access Programme going forward, for the benefit of everyone.