#IMAGEinspires: Irish Businesswomen Abroad Share Their Unexpected Career Lessons

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Getting to the top of one’s industry isn’t necessarily a straight ladder. #CareerGoals can take years. People in charge tend to have amassed a crazy amount of life lessons, and all this experience has made them better businesspeople and leaders. We asked some of Ireland’s leading businesswomen abroad about their most unexpected career lessons. 

You might not realise it, but every job feeds into the next

When I worked as a presenter on television I learned all about deadlines and how important it was not to miss them. When I was studying for my PhD I learned about research and detail, and how critical it is to be rigorous in both. When I ran our country guesthouse in Portrush I learned how difficult it was to please people, but how important it was to try, because a happy person might talk to 2 or 3, but an unhappy person will talk to 10. When I worked in politics, for a short time, I learned all about negotiation. But most importantly when I started the business I learned what it was I would not accept. And that, surprisingly, was negativity. I realised that I just could not, would not, accept negative, moaning, behaviour. This was probably one of the best lessons that I could have learned early on, because it has informed the way that we choose to do business. We are make-it-happeners. We say yes much more often than no. We use everything I learnt over the years to approach what we do with drive, focus, determination, but most of all fun.
Alyson Hogg, founder and CEO, Vita Liberata Ltd

Sometimes bad experiences help

I was bullied for three years between the ages of nine and 12. I had been sent to boarding school at a very young age to get away from the troubles. That experience has left me with a horror of the way that some people get a kick from being cruel to others.
In the early days of the business I had one particular employee who was very, very clever and highly productive. However she was also extremely negative about almost everything, and bullied not just her colleagues but also me! So the net affect was that she pulled the overall productivity and mood through the floor. It took me a while, but at last I recognised the behaviour. And I knew that it was the kind of behaviour I did not want in my business. So not only did I let the most productive person in the office go, but I also vowed that in future the one thing I would positively discriminate for was positive, happy people. Our productivity went through the roof after she left, and this has been my abiding rule ever since. It has changed and formed the way that we do business and the culture of our company. Its a happy place to work, which is good, because we all work very hard indeed.
Alyson Hogg, founder and CEO, Vita Liberata Ltd

I had a job interview in my twenties. I didn’t get the job but was advised that I could ask for feedback – I did. I was told that I had great enthusiasm but had been vague in response to the dreaded questions about where I wanted to be in five years time. I explained that the reason I was vague was that I wanted to be in the interviewer’s position but I had feared that answer might go against me. I was told that had I given that answer, I would have been given the job. You should never assume that the person you’re speaking to wants to remain in the same position – other people can be as ambitious as you are.

If you fail, be in job interviews or sales; never be afraid to ask for feedback. Hearing something that could be negative may hurt at the time, but what you learn from it is invaluable. I always make a point of asking for feedback – positive and negative. That is the best way to grow, innovate and learn.
Anne Butterly, CEO and founder, Easydry

Acclimatise yourself to new environs

My more usual Ice Breakers when meeting people in Europe generally revolve around, “the weather”, the recent match/game be it soccer, rugby or GAA and the topics of the day on Morning Ireland/NewsTalk. I can tell you, these did not work in California. The weather is the same every day! I have no clue about the 49ers or the Giants. And politics is better left alone….

Denise Tormey, president and co-founder, PlanNet21 Communications

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