Alumni Experience Testimonials

John MacCarthy

Landowner Technical Lead, Ervia

The book circle was infinitely better than and different to what I thought it would be. It was something that was life changing. I thought I was going to be doing something I wouldn’t enjoy and that it was going to socialise my mind back to how the captains of the industry think but it did exactly the opposite.

The most interesting aspect of the Book Circle was the incredibly well structured selection of books that I would not have thought I’d come across otherwise, but besides that, the crucial part of the books was the group sessions and discussions. Hearing everyone’s interpretation of the books and having a shared experience of interpreting the books, that combined effort of distilling messages from the books was crucial. How do you separate the dancer from the dance? There was the group sessions and the books, and they were both critical.

The Book Circle is for people who enjoy thinking and questioning. Especially for people of a certain age where they have had certain life experiences built up, so that they can have enough experience that they can question with this new search light tool of the book club, and also enough challenges confronting them in the future, to equally utilise the tool.

My truthful answer would be everyone though.

Tallyne Vasconcelos

Junior Automation Engineer, Horizon Control Group

I had just moved to Ireland so I wanted to connect with people outside of work and I liked reading, so I saw it as an opportunity to engage with reading in a different way. Doing the Book Circle, I really liked the discussions, especially how they surprised me, the approach of the discussions.

The book circle definitely changed the way that I read, not just my approach and the reading but the way that I interpret things and how I try to understand what the author is trying to tell me, including questioning things a lot more. I would recommend this book club to any kind of person who is trying to grow, personally or professionally and in that way trying to become a better person or trying to understand the world a little bit better.

Helen Murphy

Corporate Planning Director, Statsols

I really liked the choice of books, they were difficult but ones I had never read before, or picked up off the shelf. I also loved the social side, listening to other peoples’ takes on what we read and the buddy system we set up. It’s one of the best things I ever did.

It was a way to do continuous education without being tied down too much, something that would stretch my mind without being overly demanding in relation to class or homework time. It also thought me to be disciplined about my reading and to set time to do that. I am now less quick to jump to conclusions, I would be more cautious about making snap decisions, but also more confident in making judgements about situations and other people’s involvement in those situations. I would recommend it to someone who is mature and able to see the world from different perspectives, not someone looking for a quick fix. Someone looking for personal development, looking for your own answers.

Freda Mills

Principal, Kilcolman NS

A lot of professional and personal development courses are about questions and answers. This was nothing like that, it was about open ended questions and discussions, which threw me off at first, but it makes you think on a deeper level.

I liked Connell’s phrase: “don’t listen to have an answer ready, listen to understand”. It’s more than getting an answer from a book and putting it on paper. I would definitely recommend the book club to open minded people who are willing to develop themselves FOR themselves, not so much for those who want to get a piece of paper at the end of it. It was unique, challenging, foreword thinking and creative.

Brian Twohig

Operations Manager, Dell

We were never told what to think about a particular book, it was more about what we thought ourselves. At first, it was challenging to open up to a new group of people and to actually come out with “this is what I actually think”. That was interesting.

And the challenging of how we think and how we formulate our thoughts, I thought that was really good as well. Trying to go behind the veneer and your initial reactions to get to something deeper underneath. It’s not every day you have conversations like that. Ordinarily you wouldn’t be exposed to those conversations or those books either. One of the take-aways that I got from it was the whole idea that if you have different perspective to somebody else, quite often it’s not that you are in conflict with that person, your ideas are in conflict. Try to see from their perspective and more importantly, or as importantly, think about your own perspective. I think about that more regularly. Why do I have a particular perspective? Do you hold your perspective or does your perspective hold you?—that stuck with me.

I would recommend the book club to people with a curiosity. If you are looking for answers, you will be in trouble, but if you are looking for a method or an approach, that’s key. There might be an answer today, and that won’t fit the question tomorrow. But if you have a well-rounded approach you can adapt. Challenging, enjoyable, insightful, genuinely good fun, I used to really look forward to the sessions. A great experience, would love to do another one.

Maureen Synnott

Solicitor, Dublin City Council

Finding the Keynes Centre Book Circle was perfect timing. I was ready to learn more but I didn’t want to go back to formal exam-based learning. The Keynes Centre offered a syllabus in the form of a reading list which acted as a roadmap for learning.

We had a space once a month to meet up and reflect on what we were taking in from the books. Through the expert facilitation at our sessions, we were guided to the road markings that had been set from the beginning of our journey ‘towards a well constructed mind’. I found reading books from personal development to spirituality really helped me find compassion for myself. Also, reading stories by different authors challenged my perspectives – challenged Myself.

It was a safe space, being run by Connell and his team who have a massive amount of experience and expertise in bringing people along without dictating – there were no right or wrong answers – this went with the spirit of what the whole process is about: transformational thinking and towards a well-constructed mind. Everybody is on their own journey. The Book Club participants didn’t know about each other – who you were, your job, where you came from. It was the freedom to go in without labels and sit with a diverse group of people and have a really informed team at the core who weren’t forceful or preachy.

The programme would suit anyone open to awareness and self-discovery journey. It’s not even self-awareness; it’s anyone who wants to raise their consciousness of the world around us and do it in a safe space. That’s what I liked about the Book Club.

John Ryan

Director of Customer Support, CoreHR

I joined the Book Club because I wanted to get a chance to be exposed to ideas and concepts that I wouldn’t come across otherwise.

I found the book club to be extraordinary value for money for a start. The guidance, assistance, books, venue, refreshments etc. were all excellent and more than I expected when signing up. I’ve taken away the importance of stopping to think before taking action, even when doing something that is a ‘no-brainer’. Sometimes the opportunity lies in challenging oneself to approach an issue as if for the first time to test what you think you know.

I now make more of an effort to understand the perspective of others. I have started to set 2-5 mins aside ahead of meetings with people to think about them; who they are, what their role is, what they want from the meeting, how they’ve engaged previously. It’s my attempt at putting myself in someone else’s standpoint in a practical way. It takes discipline, but I’ve found it helpful in reaching a consensus faster than I think I would have otherwise.

Mary O’Neill

Secondary School Teacher

I wanted to expand my mind through reading books that would be outside my normal reading zone. Since it was a UCC Book Club, I knew that the books would not be like an ‘Everyday Book Club – a glass of wine with your friends’. This Book Club was going to be something more challenging.

I hadn’t been in a stimulating environment like that for a while. It made me more assertive. I feel I don’t have to accept what someone tells me as much anymore. I question what people are telling me more by asking “where are they getting their information from?” I can come up with my own opinion about what things have been said.

It really stimulated me and I felt energised coming out of those sessions. Even after a full day’s work and racing up the road afterwards, it didn’t matter, it was worth it! I felt energised after it and I knew I would be, so that would drive me.

Liz Dunphy


I joined the Book Club to improve my professional performance and specifically to learn how to use my brain more efficiently and effectively. The course affected me on different levels.

As a journalist, it encouraged me to examine my subtle prejudices and to strip away and recognise the layers of information and influence which build up in my thought patterns over time. The course also taught me the importance of asking the right questions at the right time, and how very subtle differences in how you frame a question can hugely affect the answer. This is vital to get you to the truth of an issue, and it is a vital skill as a journalist. I found this questioning element a valuable life skill, particularly for media professionals.

The course also introduced me to some really great books that I may never have stumbled across in everyday life. The books were all different but our understanding and perceptions of one helped to shape our understandings of the next. I noted that the more homework I did myself in between classes the more I got from the course.

We had a number of facilitators who all brought different perspectives and their own valuable insights to the monthly sessions. I found Professor Connell Fanning’s insights into leadership thought provoking and empowering – they made me question how I was functioning in my everyday professional life and allowed me to see how I could improve my performance.

Michelle Jones Curran

Pharmacist, Axis Healthcare Consulting

I happened upon it on the back of the MBA programme. I had experience working with Connell before and I suppose he’d already selected books, authors that had previously inspired us. So I knew going into it, I wouldn’t be disappointed.

The programme was organised, well set-up. I thought the facilities were excellent. I liked the newsletter and really liked the extra reading material – especially the piece by Peter Drucker ‘Managing Oneself’, it was very interesting.

A good take home message for me was: ‘A good reader is a re-reader’, not necessarily someone who starts on page one and finishes the book. You don’t have to always finish it. The Book Club was fun and a good way to learn. What better way to learn than through the experiences of others? Dive in and see where it takes you!

Ian Dempsey

Principal, Prescience Management & Business Development

Congratulations to all the team for a challenging though illuminating initiative. I look forward to taking many of the ideas and tools introduced and applying them to my leadership and thought capabilities. I enjoyed it greatly and would recommend to others.