When people think of Intel in Ireland, often what comes to mind is the scale of our operations and the complexity of our technology. What they perhaps do not think about, is the people who make all of this possible and the diversity of their stories.
With a population of employee’s equivalent to the town of Roscommon, Intel Ireland is home to a vibrant, diverse and dynamic collection of people.
Intel is a place that is full of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and neighbours and over the next number of weeks, we will share stories of these people as part of our latest series of the People of Intel.
Joshua Byrne, 29
Customer Operations Specialist, Intel Cork
I’m a really active person so lockdown took a bit of getting used to initially. Prior to COVID, most of my spare time was taken up with Tae Kwon-Do. I’ve been training and coaching for almost 16 years and in 2018 won a bronze medal in the World Championships in Argentina. Sadly, the championships which were due to take place in the home of Tae Kwon-Do – Korea – have been cancelled this year. Also, the World Championships that were due to take place in the Netherlands in 2021 are now postponed to 2022. These push outs can’t be helped obviously but are concerning as I’m aware of getting older. As an athlete you can have a lot of longevity in your sport and be competitive for many years, but being at the very top and performing at your best can be a limited window.
The upside is I do get to spend more time with my fiancée Santa. I remember looking at my calendar in March and realising that I would be away every weekend for the next two months, travelling to competitions and other commitments. That was all cancelled, so this is the most time we have spent together in ten years and it has been great.
I’m used to training twice a day, so I’ve been trying to keep that up, although it’s harder to stay motivated without the focus of competitions. It’s a contact sport so adhering to guidelines has meant we have to get creative. We’ve been organising outdoor training, weather permitting, and keeping everyone as fit as possible. I train with three clubs, coaching adults and children, and I’ve even brought a bit of the training to Intel during the Get Moving Challenge, setting up some morning exercises in the Cork office.
My mam made me try all kinds of sport when I was a kid but I didn’t really take to anything until I tried Tae Kwon-Do. Before I knew it, it had taken over my life! I love the discipline and the energy it brings. At a national level I represent my club, Blackrock Tae Kwon-Do in Cork, and am really proud to represent Ireland abroad.
I do really miss the social aspect of coaching and being with other competitors at tournaments across the country and the world. I miss the connections at work too. We have a small office in Cork and are like a close-knit community. I’ve always felt the best thing about my work is the people and while we are staying connected, I’ve realised talking online is not the same as face to face contact. I miss the things we used to take for granted, like going for walks and having lunch together. Who knows when we’ll be back in the office so we’re trying to be creative and find novel ways to keep in more contact.
As well as the competitions, I’m missing out on travelling to gigs. I love music and had planned to go to a number of concerts and festivals that have all been cancelled. I should be spending my 30th birthday next week in Berlin seeing one of my favourite bands – Rage Against the Machine – who haven’t played live since 2011 but that of course has been postponed. It’s hard not to feel a sense of loss not just for myself but for everyone for what we are missing.
That said, I know how lucky I am to have strong connections with family and friends around me. I’ve volunteered with the Samaritans for seven years and I’ve seen a real increase in the number of people contacting us feeling lonely and isolated. It was always one of the main issues people rang in with, but now it is far more pronounced. Often, I will speak to people who perhaps only saw one or two people a week in normal circumstances, and now even that has been taken from them. It has really enriched my experience of the last few months to be able to give something back. I studied psychology at college and am now training to become a psychotherapist. I’ve always been fascinated with people, so I’m a big reader of psychology and other social sciences, but nothing beats sitting with someone, hearing their story.
While I understand that physical health is the priority at the moment, I don’t think there is enough conversation around the mental health aspect of this pandemic and the long-term impact it will have on people. I hope that in the coming years I can help be part of the support system for people dealing with loss and loneliness.
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