As director of weddings and events at Mountain View in Ballyhale, Co Killkenny, Sharon Doyle is responsible for helping couples pull their dream day together. A natural organiser by her own description, she has over two decades of experience in the hospitality industry and is a strong believer in taking ownership of your actions and commitments. Here she shares more about her day to day.
Did you always want to work in events?
In many ways, it’s been an organic process. I’m a natural organiser with a strong background in hospitality and I’ve always gravitated to roles where I was able to play to these strengths.
In college, I studied… early childhood education. Although I had grown up around the hospitality industry, which felt a very natural place for me to be, I wanted to explore a different career option outside of it. But the love of the industry drew me back in and I have been very lucky to have worked and gained experience in beautiful properties both here in Ireland and abroad.
My most formative work experience was… my time working at the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts. It’s here that I learned and witnessed first-hand the importance of consistently holding yourself to higher standards. When you see the results of this philosophy, it’s hard to let go and it’s something that I have taken with me throughout my career. Here in Mountain View we’ve all really embodied the mantra “you are what you repeatedly do” and again, when you witness the end results, it just reaffirms what I learned all those years ago.
My first real job was… working in my grandfather’s bar and restaurant. I think it’s here that I got my affinity for the hospitality and service industry. It has always felt like a very natural industry for me to be in and maybe nostalgia has something to do with it.
The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… ownership. When I talk about ownership, I’m not talking about possessions but rather taking responsibility for our own actions and commitments. We have a core team of people working in Mountain View who embody this idea and I can see it in their actions every day. I know that our chefs and colleagues in the kitchen own every plate of food that they serve up and I know that our colleagues on the floor own the experience that our guests receive when they visit us.
A common misconception about what I do is… that I am a wedding planner. It’s no secret that I really enjoy that aspect of the role but there’s a bit more to what I do. Mountain View as a place with its rural beauty and views has been around for centuries but Mountain View as a wedding venue is something that is relatively new. A large part of my role is contributing to developing the venue into what it is today and what it will be in the future. This is something that I find very exciting and I am privileged to be a small part of something so great.
Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
For most of my life, the idea of a mentor was never something that I ever actively pursued or even thought about. However, only recently in my life, I’ve realised how important it can be and the positive impact it can make. Bee O’Grady, the co-owner of Mountain View is someone I speak to every day and for good reason. Every day through her actions and her counsel, she exemplifies how it’s possible through hard work to build a successful business without having to sacrifice kindness or generosity.
The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… deciding to take a career break when my children were born. Aside from the immediate financial implications of the decision, I knew that there was a strong possibility that coming back into the workplace might be difficult. However, when the time was right to start looking at my career again, I was able to start off with just a small number of hours per week and gradually increase them over time as my family became older. I cannot overestimate the importance of having a workplace that recognises people’s life stages and provides flexibility to support them.
I wake at… 6am on a typical weekday morning. On weekends, I try my best to sleep in but I’m lucky if I get to around 8am.
The first thing I do every morning is… get the coffee flowing while I start working on my kids’ lunch boxes.
My morning routine is… coffee, lunch boxes, kids’ breakfast, shower, quick walk to get some fresh air and then at the desk with my herbal tea.
I can’t go to work without… a pen and notepad. I’ve always been a bit old-fashioned when it comes to this, but I find physically writing on paper helps me to organise my thoughts and list what needs to get done.
I travel to work by… my broadband connection. I’m very lucky to have a role that enables me to work remotely, especially within the hospitality industry. These days remote working has become the norm, however before there was ever a mention of Covid, Mountain View had great foresight to provide this as an option to all its non-operational staff.
On an average workday you will find me… at my desk checking in on emails and dealing with new business inquiries which can range from new wedding inquiries to large parties or corporate events. On the other side of that is liaising with the team at Mountain View on our scheduled events due on the calendar for the next couple of weeks. Amongst all that I am constantly in discussions with the owners on how best to move the business forward.
I start my working day at… 8am each day. That first hour of the day tends to be my favourite part of the day when the house is quiet and the world is still.
The first thing I do at work is… run through my emails and prioritise the items on my to-do list for the day.
I break for lunch at… 12 noon. I’m generally not a breakfast person so my first meal of the day is usually an early lunch. If I’m honest, I have a bad habit of eating my lunch at my desk but it means I get to finish a little bit earlier in the evening.
The most useful business tool I use every day is… my online calendar. With a very full calendar of events each year, I rely heavily on my online calendar to keep track of what is booked in and what is pending in the diary.
I save time by… working from home. Not having a daily commute combined with not having the distraction of a busy office or workspace really saves me time and allows me to solely focus on the work at hand. When I’m onsite, it is always by appointment only and this allows me to give my full attention to the client or couples meeting with me that day.
I rarely get through my working day without… a catchup call with my team. This has almost become a morning ritual for me.
The best part of my day is… catching up with everyone over dinner. I love hearing all my kids’ stories from their day and funny banter across the kitchen table. I find that our dinner time helps me transition from work to home.
The most challenging part of my day is… scheduling onsite visits for prospective couples or event organisers. With the business of life and work, people are naturally limited in their availability. As Mountain View is a private venue that guarantees exclusivity, we are also limited in when we can show people around. This combination can, at times, make the task of finding an opening that suits everyone’s diaries a bit of a challenge.
I know it’s been a good day if… I know I have moved things forward for Mountain View. Some days this could be something as enjoyable as confirming a new booking and on other days it might be coming up with a creative solution to a problem. When planning and creating a wedding or event, sometimes you need to think on your feet and come up with creative solutions to help fulfil a client’s vision.
I usually end my day at… no one day is the same. In this industry, you need to be flexible with your time and hours.
I switch off from work by… being a mum. My kids are the biggest distraction from work because as soon as I’m available to them, they get my 100% attention.
Before I go to bed, I’ll… try to avoid the phone and laptop. My usual wind down is watching an episode of something on TV or enjoying a book on my kindle.
I often prepare for tomorrow by… planning out the day ahead. I use this practice for both my working and personal life. It helps ensure that I know what’s ahead of me for the coming day and that I’m on top of things.
After a long work week, I destress by… spending my free time with family and friends, going for a run or long walks and enjoying good food.
The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… helping to grow Mountain View to what it is today in such a relatively short time frame and in such difficult circumstances. To put this into more perspective, Mountain View as a venue was only open for about a year when lockdown hit Ireland and, like any startup this young, it was incredibly fragile. This accomplishment is not exclusively my own but it’s something I am proud to share with our core team here in Mountain View. I know it might sound very cliché, but I honestly feel that any setbacks we had, only galvanised the team and brought out our best. Of course, it was tough, but then aren’t all big endeavours and accomplishments?
If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is… not to rush it. Aim to build up a broad background in hospitality so you have a holistic view of how things work on the operations side. If you can, I’d always recommend getting experience in both small and large venues as they each have their own strengths. In smaller venues, you will most likely be involved in many areas and get greater exposure. In larger venues your role is much more defined, however, you’ll generally learn more about processes and procedures. Being able to marry (no pun intended) both experiences will make you a more rounded professional.
I’ve just finished working on… our new wedding packages for 2023/2024. With the launch of our new Cow Shed space for weddings, it is exciting to be able to offer a truly unique space for couples looking for that “something different” for their day. We are also increasing our accommodation onsite this year in our glamping village which opened in 2022 and we will now have increased the capacity for 2023 with a combination of luxury bell tents and Hilly Huts. My focus now will be on the events and corporate side of the business. It is great to see growth in this area again after Covid, and companies are once again starting to host team-building days for their employees and conferences to showcase their offerings. As well as our events side, the team is also continuing to develop and grow our weekly Sunday Market and busy Greenhouse restaurant.