I loved the social aspect of school but not the academics and only started working in college. Later in my career, my love of learning really became apparent when I studied Human Resources and qualified as an Organizational Behaviorist.
I’ve always been good with people and my dream was to join Bord Fáilte, so after school I graduated from Dublin Business School with a degree in Economics and Tourism in 1994.
I started at Jury’s Christchurch college part-time and eventually worked my way up to Assistant Office Manager. There was a great work ethic and I loved the excitement. I moved to Jury’s Ballsbridge for my final two years where there was an excellent apprenticeship programme. Pat McCann was in the lead and it was a great place to work with a good vibe and work ethic.
When two of Jury Doyle’s executives, Seamus McGowan and Richard O’Sullivan, started the Travel Lodge group, I accompanied them and was Area Manager for the three hotels in Dublin for two years. I loved working in the hospitality industry, but I realized that if I continued, I would have no life left. I wanted children and more balance.
Social skills at CarTrawler
I knew a girl from the hotel who worked at Argus car rental owned by Greg and Niall Turley and I started in business development there and after a year in 2006 the brothers asked me to move to CarTrawler, their company , which has been operating for two years, in the same building in Terenure.
I knew I could talk to people but had never worked in auto tech before and googled search engine optimization (SEO) on my first day. I was General Manager and during the trip I was in charge of the business with personnel issues and prices.
After a few years I felt that if I didn’t specialize I would become a jack of all trades and a master at nothing, so I studied strategic HR and executive coaching at night and worked my way up to a Masters at the Irish Management Institute (IMI). . .
I could try what I learned. I could immediately see the impact on how to bring out the best in people, which led me to research more and study with the British Psychological Society.
I later became HR Director and Chief People Officer and had my three children during the 11 years I was with CarTrawler. I was full time, five days a week and it was tough towards the end.
When I was at CarTrawler, I had numerous coaches and mentors at different stages and that was very useful to me. The company was growing very quickly and I was trying to keep up with everything and thoroughly enjoyed the process but was also being pulled in two directions.
When I came back after having my third child, I had problems.
I was tempted to step down and be a good mom, but I also wanted to be a good team player at work.
I remember a girl coming up to me in the call center and saying what a brilliant role model I am with three kids and a full-time job, but I was like, ‘I don’t think I am’. I show that everything is fine, but it is not.
I was so conflicted and didn’t like it, so I took some time off. I firmly believe in listening to your intuition.
Friends with older children told me they’ll need you even more when they grow up when Cubic Telecom’s Barry (Napier) asked me to work for them as their Chief People Officer in January 2019, completing a four-day week , which ends at 4:30 p.m. , I accepted but warned that I would resign when my eldest entered secondary school.
Everything worked beautifully until the pandemic hit and then I found it harder to set boundaries.
This was not a reflection for the company, they have always been great, but the lockdown has been a very difficult time for HR people as there has been so much change all of a sudden.
I think it’s really important that organizations have patience with their employees right now. This transition back to relative normalcy is not something that can be expected to happen overnight.
Leadership should listen to their employees as each organization has a different facility that works for them. Employees should be involved in decision-making and there must be a give and take – that is the hallmark of any good relationship.
I stuck to my plan of staying with Cubic until Alex started high school and then I left in July 2020.
Not just a number
My goal today is to help people make their work life easier and I have teamed up with Workvivo because I believe in their product and their vision to help people with their employee communication platform.
They are headquartered in Cork and employ 100 people and while I work from my attic in Dublin I occasionally go to Cork as it’s important to meet people face to face.
I work two days a week to allow for a good work-life balance. I started last September and it’s working really well.
I occasionally call on my free days, but I now have plenty of time with the kids.
I also do some other work with executives that helps diagnose and improve company culture.
You can find out a culture by talking to employees and asking them what they think about the company. When I conduct anonymous surveys, I find that the staff are very accommodating.
I feel like the movement is now all about emotional connections, people wanting to feel cared for and connected to their peers and the broader purpose of the company. Many executives believe that offering flexible working hours will solve all of this, but it’s not just about ticking the box. It’s like myself, I have three kids at home and when I go somewhere to work my days I want to feel valued.
work and the pursuit of happiness
I get up at 7 a.m. I used to get up at 5:30 am and go to the office at 7 am when I worked in an office because the nature of the chief people officer’s job is that people come in all day with problems. But working from home is not necessary.
I prepare breakfast and lunch. My children are now five, ten and 13 years old. I accompany my daughter to school. This is a big deal for me as I haven’t done this in a long time and it’s something I won’t sacrifice now.
On Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings at 7 am I get my exercise in at the gym and do weights and cardio. Every Sunday I go for a 10 km walk with a neighbor.
After the check-in, I make my smoothie and head to my attic office at 9am, where I do an hour of research before starting my team calls. I’m on the phone with the marketing team about the content to discuss the next article I’m supposed to write and what topics and people I’m going to feature on my podcast.
I try to help leaders figure out the new things they need to focus on so they can connect emotionally with their employees.
It drives me insane when people refer to soft skills as “soft” – they are critical. The transactional approach with your employees is no longer enough.
I have a childminder in the sense that I am on top. My husband John’s two sisters work in a crèche so the children’s aunt looks after them – I am very fortunate to have this facility. I do great jobs in my attic, but then I go over to school and talk to the moms or go for walks with friends.
Coaching out of necessity
I also do coaching for executives and I like to meet in person.
I come out of these sessions energized despite listening carefully.
I’ve had some people who didn’t believe in it, but over the years the coaching has normalized. There are few disbelievers after going through the process. Having someone who listens to your problems, feeling like someone is close to you is very powerful.
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/this-working-life-after-my-third-child-i-was-struggling-i-found-a-real-pull-to-step-away-and-be-a-good-mother-but-i-also-wanted-to-be-a-good-team-player-41594718.html This working life – “After my third child I had problems. I found it very appealing to step down and be a good mother, but I also wanted to be a good team player.