Spotlight: Catching up with Carol Fitzsimons

Carol Fitzsimons is chief executive of Young Enterprise Northern Ireland, an organization that helps over 100,000 young people across Northern Ireland each year explore their entrepreneurial potential and prepare them for success in a growing economy. She participated as a mentee in the 2014 Global Ambassadors Program in Belfast, paired with mentor Katy Knox from Bank of America. It was a transformative experience.

“GAP helped me focus on strategic growth,” recalls Carol. “Katy was exact, focused and clear. She was exactly what I needed because my usual approach is very broad.”

By the end of the week together they mapped out a five-point strategic plan for Young Enterprise over the next three years. “Through the training workshops, conversations are shaped with mentors – you really see the strength of what can be achieved.”

Carol stayed in touch with Katy over time as she focused on key elements of the plan, including diversifying funding streams. She created a “Friends of YENI” 501c3 in the U.S. and seeks guidance from the Bank of America team when needed. 

Carol also become more involved in Vital Voices through VV100, a group of the most engaged and visionary leaders in the network, exploring ways to create economic opportunity for women and open up space to engage more fully in civil society. “We still have challenges in Northern Ireland,” she notes. “Women need to take their place in society and not be complacent.”

This commitment to her community has not gone unnoticed. In 2016, Carol was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for services to youth entrepreneurship and enterprise in Northern Ireland.

The honor, Carol says, is “lovely to have – but really it is recognition of Youth Enterprise’s work. We have an obligation to do much more if we focus the resources appropriately. Morally, we have to do it.”

As the Global Ambassadors Program heads to Dublin in October, Carol offers advice to a new cohort of mentees from around the world:

“Absorb the stories of the women around you, and their potential achievements. Understand professionally where you can use your voice and seek to do it. Come out with a plan for change.” 

Top: Carol Fitzsimons
Center: Carol Fitzsimons (left) and Katy Knox (right) during one-on-one mentoring at the Culloden Estate in Belfast.
Bottom: Katy Knox (left) and Carol Fitzsimons

Photography: David Hume Kennerly