Irish News In the Spotlight feature

30th April 2024

Irish News In the Spotlight feature


Siobhan Donaghy, CEO, Modern Democracy

What was your first job?

My very first job was working in my aunt’s restaurant in Ballymoney. I was there from age 11 to 18 and it is where I first really gained my work ethic as well as a taste for business as I watched how my aunt operated. 

What qualifications do you have?

People are very surprised to learn that I actually studied environmental science and food science at university, which couldn’t be further from my role running Modern Democracy, providing a digital check-in and election day management platform to local authorities as the market leading supplier of electronic poll books in the UK. However, since university, I’ve gone on to secure an MBA and I’m also currently working towards my IoD Certificate of Company Direction. Obviously, I haven’t followed the career path that was envisaged when I started university but my first job after graduating was in website development. I discovered I had a passion for tech and have never looked back.

What do you attribute your success to?

Any success that I have had, and certainly at Modern Democracy, is down to the incredible team that has built up around me. Over the past decade, we’ve assembled a group of elections experts, with many of us working in the sector for more than 20 years. It means we understand the needs of our customers implicitly and can develop robust solutions they can really trust. 

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

The one word that springs to mind is ‘dedicated’. I believe you are better being the best at the one thing you do rather than trying to master everything and come up short. It is something that has been instilled throughout Modern Democracy with our singular focus being on the digitalisation of the polling station.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I hope the team would say that I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. I am a hard worker and I think demonstrating that to those around you, that you are not afraid to get on with things, even if it is a small task, rubs off on them too. 

What website or app could you not do without?

The Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) website is quite simply a must in terms of keeping up to date with developments in the sector, especially as we continue to go through a period of change on the back of the Elections Act 2022. For example, the recently introduced requirement to check Voter ID was a major change in Great Britain and we had to ensure our platform was ready to allow polling clerks to handle it seamlessly.

What was the last book you read?

Staying healthy by eating right is incredibly important to me, so I have been reading Food For Life by Tim Spector. 

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I once travelled around New Zealand in a campervan with my three sisters – and what an experience. An incredible country, amazing people and culture, and the four of us got through it without falling out!

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

That really does have to be travel. I’ve been across the globe from China to Russia and everywhere in between. With two children, aged four and six, holidays tend to be closer to home these days, but the travel bug is still there and I’m always planning the next trip, even if it is just to Donegal or Scotland.