In your career to date, have there been any colleagues, superiors or mentors who stand out to you now as having given you particularly valuable advice?
I learn every day from those I currently work with at all levels and from those I have worked with previously. Early in my career, I worked in the hotel business. I learned a lot at that time about how you manage a business and a P&L account on a monthly basis. Those I worked with at that time had a significant influence. One hotelier, Charlie Sinnott, taught me a lot about how one manages a business. I think that experience has stood to me in all my subsequent roles and I have also worked with some great CEOs and chairpeople in the public sector.
From the point of view of the “learning curve”, what lessons have you learned over the years that have stood you in good stead?
I think I would say “be yourself, get stuck in and don’t ‘overthink it’.” Once one progresses in any business to management level and leadership positions, one learns very quickly that you can only get things done through others. Ensuring that you maximise the potential of the team you have working with you is hugely important.
Over the years, I have tried to make sure that as well as getting the day job done – making sure we achieve your targets, whether it be your P&L account, shareholder value or the work we do at IDA Ireland maximising inward investment and employment numbers – that you are also developing people as you go along and helping them with their career prospects. You get that investment in people back over time.
During your career, you have studied economics at Oxford University and innovation for economic development at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government – how important do you see CPD in your role and the world or work generally?
It is important for anybody that they keep current with what’s going on and continually upskill and challenge themselves. I think this will become increasingly important in the future. We know there is going to be more change in the workforce now. People will probably have multiple careers, rather than just one. To keep pace, you have to make sure that you’re up to speed with what’s going on.
There is an element of personal responsibility in this, whereby it’s up to individuals to ensure that they take care of their own development, but it is also down to the organisations they work for supporting them to do that.
We are aware that the very nature of work is changing, because business models are changing and technology is developing. We know that developments in areas like Artificial Intelligence and Robotics will impact on the future of work – in some cases, changing the very jobs that people do. It has never been more important that people look at what’s coming down the line and ensure that, in whatever area they are in, they are upskilling to make sure they are able to prosper in whatever the next wave is.
What are your hobbies outside work – do you have any tricks to switch off after a stressful day?
I try to get to the gym a couple of times a week. That is extraordinarily important and even more so in the sense that I travel a lot and I am out a lot in the evenings for work, so getting to the gym is a must. The fitness aspect is important, but it also helps me to relax.
What’s the last great book you read or film you watched?
The last great film I saw was “Hidden Figures”, which is about female mathematicians who helped to support the NASA launch. I am reading “Portrait of a Patriot” at the moment. I am very familiar with TK Whitaker and, without his policies, IDA Ireland probably wouldn’t exist in its current format.
What kind of music do you listen to?
My music taste is quite is quite eclectic. I like eighties music, which probably has a nostalgia value. In terms of current music, at the moment, it could be anything from Christine and the Queens to Villagers or Sigrid.
When you travel for pleasure, where do you go?
Despite the fact I travel so much, it hasn’t put me off travelling for pleasure. It is mixed and varied, but I’m from Abbeydorney originally and, if I really need downtime, I go home to Kerry.