Written by Fernando Sanchez - on the co-founder of this site and repeated to celebrate International Women's Day
As with the butterfly, adversity is necessary to build character in people – Joseph Wirthlin
Nature has a way of turning out beautiful things from grim or seemingly hopeless places.
A chrysalis shelters a creature inside as it changes. As the metamorphosis takes place, the caterpillar becomes something else in a miracle of life and creation. Then, the butterfly struggles to get out of the chrysalis. It is not easy to find freedom but it is how nature dictates it to be. There is a purpose to the constraint and difficulty. The butterfly’s body and wings must become strong so that the beautiful creature can face the big bad world when it finally breaks free.
Jillian Godsil knows of adversity. She has been there when times were tough when bankruptcy and a marital breakdown turned her life into a grim and seemingly hopeless place where money was tight and sleep came hard.
But adversity is a necessary thing to instil the strength and will to overcome life’s hurdles and regain freedom. And, just like a butterfly, Jillian emerged from a cocoon of debt and despair to become the success story she is today.
Jillian the fighter: on bankruptcy, Government-sponsored austerity, and finding one’s inner strength
It’s the last night of September 2008. Government Buildings play silent witness to the unravelling of Irish history. The drama unfolds as the citizenry prepares for bed. The main players in this tragedy scuttle about shrouded by darkening skies as if the absence of light somehow justifies their impending act of financial treason.
It’s a cold night as Autumn weather begins to bite. A perfect environment for cold hearts to go about their business.
Yet, nature holds no grudges against the country’s population, nor does it have any hidden agenda, unlike the characters who, acting purely upon their own selfish instincts of self-preservation, are about to demolish the hopes of an entire nation and lay waste a generation of Irish men, women, and children.
The Bank Guarantee became a night of infamy in Irish history. Never did so few willfully cause so much hardship to so many. And Jillian Godsil stood at the frontline, taking a hit from the Government’s barrage. She accepted the dubious honour of becoming the first woman to declare bankruptcy under the new Government’s regulations.
“This was the moment I started fighting back and winning – until then I seemed to lose at every turn. Now I was taking control of my life again and it was powerful.”
That moment set off a chain of events that would throw Jillian’s life into a cauldron of legal and life struggles. Fundamental issues like accommodation and putting food on the table weighed heavily on a mind able to do so much more than merely surviving.
Still, Jillian’s determination meant that she found vindication when her personal fight forced the Government to amend a law that prevented those who have declared bankruptcy from running for public office. Jillian would run a candidacy to stand for what she believed was right, against those who stomped on both her and Irish society at large without a second look. Though unsuccessful in her political gamble, the seeds for Jillian’s ultimate resurgence were sown.
“I became an accidental activist – sometimes little people get pushed too far and then they begin to push back. That was me.”
“She remembered who she was, and the game changed”
There comes a time in everyone’s life when one must take a hard look at oneself and consider who they are, and who they want to be. This is usually spurred by a dramatic event of some kind.
In Jillian’s life, this moment came circa 2016, when she was able to extricate herself from bankruptcy proceedings. Standing at the cusp of your own destiny when you’ve no stable abode is a peculiar thing. You have become part of the middle-class homeless, those with resourceful and able minds who have become almost destitute through no fault of their own.
“It is easy to subjugate people when they fear for their homes, for food, for income. The sheer struggle for everyday necessities allows tyrants to rule unopposed. When debt is all that is in your head there is no room for rebellion – no room even to question the rights of your situation.”
But the Dubliner carried a bright light inside. As writer Lalah Deliah said, ‘She remembered who she was, and the game changed.’
And so Jillian embraced a new metamorphosis, much like that chrysalis becoming a lithe being that flutters with new life. She entered the next phase of her natural evolution.
On technology and future: reinventing herself into the poster female for Blockchain women in Ireland
The fabric of blockchain technology has become the pattern for the development of new networks, apps, and services aimed at the improvement of a wide array of industrial sectors.
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At its core, blockchain is a decentralized digital ledger that maintains records of all transactions taking place across a given network. These records are final and immutable.
Blockchain has become the focal point for a lot of research and development projects, both in Ireland and across the world.
Jillian Godsil has emerged as a leading figure within the blockchain ecosystem in Ireland, fronting the subset of Women in Blockchain here on the Emerald Isle.
She has recently been appointed CEO of Blocknubie, an organization created to act as a bridge between the blockchain ecosystem and established companies and startups. Blocknubie provides a platform and marketplace enabling interaction between all these players.
In her own words: “Joining Blocknubie is a great opportunity for me to implement change, combining, as it does, blockchain and startups. This is a very exciting time to be in this sector and I look forward to growing Blocknubie and startups globally and enhancing the blockchain ecosystem, here and in other jurisdictions.”
On the issue of female presence in blockchain, Jillian advocates a larger adoption of the technology among Irish female entrepreneurs.
“On this, I have never been more passionate. For the first time in my career, my age and my gender are positive in blockchain. I want all women – of all ages – to get involved so we make this world, the next world, a better place.”
While blockchain itself is hardly new in 2018, it is still very much in its infancy here in Ireland. The country notoriously lags behind most of the civilized world in terms of broadband quality and reach, for starters, largely due to government apathy and chronic under-investment.
Nevertheless, Blocknubie provides a solid platform for engineers, developers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals involved in blockchain development and Jillian Godsil stands at the helm of one such organisation.
On the future of blockchain in Ireland and the role of women in technology
Having survived a recession made worse by failed (or artificially engineered to maintain the status quo) government policies, bankruptcy, marriage breakdown, and the loss of the sanctity of her family home, Jillian Godsil knows all about looking at the darker underbelly of Irish life, and once you have seen the rot that lies beneath the glossy illusion masked as recovery, you cannot ignore it.
Yet, determination, an ironclad work ethic, and a sense of savoir-faire have helped her emerge from the murky depths of desperate frustration into a much brighter surface where blockchain looms over the horizon of success.
Jillian, now also a visible member of the Irish Blockchain Expert Group (IBEG) and one of the globally named 50 women in blockchain, is pushing for this knowledge and technology to be adopted by more women across Ireland. Long gone are the days of Irish women playing a secondary role to men, both in public positions and the private market. The so-called ‘Irish mammy’ is an outdated anachronism.
“I am a very passionate Irishwoman. I believe we have that creative, maverick spirit that is so important in many areas – literature, drama, entrepreneurship, inventing, science and now blockchain. I was going to add we are also very good at golf but that seems to be the exception that proves the rule.” And here she laughs.
There is still fear and reluctance out there to accept blockchain technology, however. Not just among women, of course, but perhaps the issue is more prevalent among females due to the newness and sometimes inscrutable workings of blockchain. Cryptocurrencies as a whole do have a bad name, due to their erstwhile association with criminal activities, scams, and a number of other unsavoury activities.
But the issue is not the blockchain itself, according to Jillian. The problem is the relegation of women to non-entrepreneurial roles, sometimes by design, and the curtailment of females from thriving in public roles.
Ireland is still a land where injustice, abuse, rampant nepotism, and artificially engineered inequality at government and institutional level are commonplace. Jillian has seen some of these issues face to face.
Blockchain is a field in expansion and, though it is slow to catch on, there are promising signs.
“We need more women to join the blockchain sector,” Jillian says. “The possibilities and opportunities are endless. I’m not anti-man by any means but I am very pro-women – pro women getting involved in equal measures to men. As in all things balance is king.”
On the present and the future: the road ahead
One of the 50 global women on the blockchain; writer; public speaker; entrepreneur; CEO; choir singer; co-founder of Blockleaders and so much more. If nothing else, Jillian Godsill is living proof that courage and determination can help anyone overcome the direst of situations. From losing her home, seeing her marriage shatter, and having her assets seized by bailiffs, Jillian has worked her way back to the top through innate talent and sheer tenacity.
It is no coincidence that Jillian is where she is now. She has fought hard for it, and her hard struggle has paid off.
And, just like a butterfly, she changes and evolves, always ready for the next stage in her life.