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‘Embrace the challenges; they’ll be your biggest gifts’: Business owner and World Rugby Council member Su Carty on Love Your Work

by Erin Lindsay
13th Aug 2018

Women are making their mark in the world of business like never before. In every industry and at every level, we look to women who’ve made it their own as an example for us to do the same. For our series ‘Love Your Work‘, we ask women who have achieved stunning success in their field to tell us how they got there, and their advice on how we can join them.

Recently appointed World Rugby Council member, Su Carty is the first Irish female representative on World Rugby Council. She also has her own business, working with business owners who are struggling with stress or conflict in their teams, working towards a team who are united and produce outstanding results.

Su Carty set up her own business after 7 years as the first Women’s Development Manager for World Rugby, where she led the growth of the women’s game globally from 4% of the playing population to 25%. In this week’s Love Your Work, we talk about seizing opportunities, ignoring your first instinct and the kindness of strangers.


What was your favourite subject in school?

My favourite subject was maths, I loved it in school. It was sometimes the only homework I did, if I’m being honest! My mam actually reminded me the other day that I often used to help the neighbour’s kids and my own younger brothers and sisters with their maths homework as well.

What was your first job, and what other jobs have you had since?

I actually started out as a psychiatric nurse and decided to specialise in child and adolescent mental health. I worked my way up, doing a graduate diploma in child and adolescent mental health, working all around Dublin before moving on to Rathgar and then to Limerick as a clinical nurse specialist. While doing that, I was also doing a part-time masters in UCD in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. That was my career path that I was committed to, that I loved, and I really enjoyed working at. But as that was going on, a parallel career path was also taking shape.

Back when I was working in James’s hospital, on a coffee break, a woman I worked with asked if I’d be into playing rugby for fun. I told my roommate at the time, who got really excited too, so the two of us went training the following week. And that started a totally unexpected rugby journey, where I played for a few years until Michelle Banks, who was the women’s development officer for Leinster rugby at the time, said to me that they needed a Leinster women’s committee and that I should set it up and be president. I said “I can’t do that, I wouldn’t know what to do or where to start. I’m not a president type.” And she totally challenged me – she said: “Su, sort out your confidence issues.” So I obviously responded by trying to prove her wrong, went to the first meeting and that was it!

From there, I went on the Irish Women’s Rugby Union committee, first as vice president, then as president. During that three year period, we integrated into the IRFU, and dissolved the women’s union, so I was the last president. While I did all this, I was still working as a clinical nurse specialist in Limerick, until a job as a women’s development manager with World Rugby came up. I had been to conferences with World Rugby before, representing Ireland with the IRFU, and they needed to appoint someone specifically for women’s rugby. Someone asked had I thought about applying, and my first response was a flat no. My career was as a psychiatric nurse, I’d just done my masters, rugby couldn’t be a career. Until I stopped and looked at the opportunity and realised that it could be.

When I took the job, I expected it would just be for a year, where I would get this amazing experience until someone else took over the reigns. But it ended up being a seven year adventure; I traveled to 35 countries, developing women’s rugby in those places. When I started, women’s rugby made up 4% of the global playing population, and when I finished, we were at 25%.

That took me to 2 and a half years ago, until I was in a meeting one day and realised that “my work here is done”. I wasn’t sure what was next, but I knew it was the right time to go. It all brought me to the job I’m in today, where I work with business owners who are dealing with conflict and tension in their teams and workplaces, where they aren’t working together and achieving results, and I work with them to diffuse and dissolve those issues so that they’re left with a united team. And I absolutely love it.

What does your daily routine look like?

I have a few things that stay the same every day at work, and then everything else can be totally varied. I start and finish the day with 20 minutes meditation, and then it really depends on the day. If I’m working with a company, I head to them, sometimes for a half day session, sometimes for a full day. I put together a programme very personalised to what they’re looking to achieve and the outcomes they want, and it’s very much a workshop-based session. It’s interactive and most importantly, it’s a bit of craic.

Some of my work is one on one too, often with business owners to help them implement what has come out of the session. The other parts of my day consists of emails, phone calls, checking in with people and seeing how they’re getting on with their programmes, and then the stuff like admin and organisation.

What’s your favourite part of the job?

I love being with people and supporting them through a problem or rising above it. Just going through the whole process with them, from the start where they might be unsure or having trouble, to the end, where they’ve just lit up, are excited, giving great feedback and happy with how the results are. That feeling is just great.

What’s your least favourite part?

The part that I probably have the least energy about is the paperwork and admin. They’re the bits that I have to almost force myself to get out of the way.

What are the key skills you need to make it in your industry?

Confidence and leadership to get up and get out there. To discover what it is that you love and to be okay with the uncertainty of whether it will work out is the most important thing. You’re dealing with different people and different emotions all the time – you have to be comfortable with not knowing how it’s going to go or if it will work. You just need to go with the flow and work with the challenges.

Once you have that, then it’s really listening skills – listening to what people are dealing with, what they need and understanding them. And then translating that into a programme that you’re confident will make a difference for them.

Being able to keep people engaged and motivated and empowering them to get past issues are all so important. Your commitment is to those people, it’s not to yourself or to getting the job done or ticked off the list.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned for success in your career?

One is to be prepared to fail. Give it a go, discover, learn the lessons and don’t hang everything up on whether you’ll succeed or not.

One of the most brilliant discoveries I’ve had throughout my career is that people really do want you to win. Before all this, I was a bit of a cynic, expecting people to have other agendas. But the messages of support, of love, offering any help that I could need, all genuine stuff. People want you to win, and that’s been a highlight of the whole journey for me.

Embrace the challenges, embrace the hard moments; even though they’re hard, they will be your biggest gift. If you embrace them as an opportunity, as a chance to learn, it changes your whole experience of it.

Any regrets?

I have to say that this is where I am in absolute appreciation and gratitude and love that I got involved with rugby. I honestly think that if I never got involved in rugby, I would never have gained the confidence or the leadership to take things on. The rugby journey unlocked my confidence and courage to take on anything, and because of that, I have no regrets.

What do you wish you knew when you were starting your career?

One is that you don’t have to have it all figured out. A passion for something, a willingness to work hard and to take that next step is all you need.

The amount of advice and support out there for you is unbelievable. If I knew even two years ago what I know now, it would make it so much easier. What’s fabulous for anyone who wants to make a career jump or start their own business is that people are looking to give you advice and to make it easier for you. Tap into that. Nobody wants to see others struggle the same way they did, so put your head and hand up for it.

What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to young people starting out who want to follow in your footsteps?

The big piece of advice I’d give to any young person is that it doesn’t matter what you do; do anything, but whatever you do, give it everything and you will be surprised and delighted with what opens up in front of you.



The Get Up and Go ‘Inspiring Contribution’ Conference takes place on September 21st, 22nd in Sligo. Encouraging and motivating partipants to follow their own dreams in life  and to ’Think Outside The Box’, thought leading speakers like Su Carty will be presenting. For more info log onto www.getupandgoevents.com


Featured image courtesy of isaacperalphotography.com