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Gemma Teeling, Management Professional of the Year: ‘Prove you’re making a difference’


By Jillian Bolger
06th Dec 2018
Gemma Teeling, Management Professional of the Year: ‘Prove you’re making a difference’

Gemma Teeling, deputy managing director at PHD Ireland, was named Management Professional of the Year at the IMAGE Businesswoman of the Year Awards 2018. Speaking to Jillian Bolger after her win, Gemma opened up about how she manages her team; as well as the importance of believing in yourself. 


Having received a first-class honours degree in economics from one of the UK’s top universities, Gemma Teeling entered the fast-paced world of advertising 14 years ago.

She has led a number of top agency teams and global brands; soaring in an industry for which she has consistently shown exemplary professional acumen.

Related: Nora Twomey, Businesswoman of the Year:
‘If you feel you’ve stopped learning, it’s time to move on’

Working in both the UK and Ireland, her career has massively developed with each agency, starting off as a press buyer in London and moving into planning before her “biggest and scariest move” – to Ireland. “This industry is all about networking. Moving here, I was losing all my UK industry contacts and having to start again.”

Her experience has seen her deliver exceptional business performance while working across a broad portfolio of industries. She joined Mindshare in Dublin, staying for four years before a move to PHD, a global communications planning and media buying agency.

Gemma Teeling accepting her award; pictured with Dearbhail McDonald, Lisa Morris and Melanie Morris. Photo by Kieran Harnett

Starting as an account director in 2014, she quickly rose to head of client services before her promotion last year to deputy managing director. “At PHD, they have a very specific way of doing things. They work in a very innovative and challenging way, and I guess I found my fit. This is where my career has really taken off.”

Related: Fiona Heaney, Creative Businesswoman of the Year:
‘Okay, I’m stuck here, let’s embrace it’

In this role, Gemma, alongside PHD’s managing director, is responsible for the output and career development of 50 staff. “It’s very diverse, and that’s what I love about it. I’m working on projects across lots of different client sectors, then I’m involved with managing the team. It’s different every day.”

This year, she was also voted onto the Omnicom Media board of directors – its youngest member. “This is really interesting, because I’m using every part of my brain; I’m doing strategy for Volkswagen, or working with FBD or VHI, and then the next moment we’re crunching numbers and seeing how we can make the business more profitable. It’s a very exciting industry to be in.”

“The biggest challenge is trying to find the time to bring people on and develop their skill set…”

Her success represents her contribution to the PHD business and potential to further impact the Omnicom group as a whole; all the while being fully invested in helping her colleagues develop and shine.

“The biggest challenge of trying to manage people when you’re so busy is trying to ensure you find the time to bring those people on and develop their skill set. I’m learning more and more how to do that every single day, and trying to inspire people.”

Related: Sonia Deasy, Entrepreneur of the Year: 
‘If you don’t learn from mistakes, you’ll never progress’

She’s keen to keep PHD’s amazing culture created by managing director, Jason Nebenzahl, and people that have gone before her. “That’s really important, as it helps us to get fantastic staff and do the great work that we’ve done over the years.”

Genuinely shocked to win this award, Gemma admits that she was on a shortlist with people she considers a lot more senior than her. “I feel fantastic and delighted, and it shows that people should enter these competitions. You don’t have to be a CEO. You don’t have to be the most experienced person. You just need to prove that you’re making a difference and that you love your job.”

Top photo: Gemma Teeling by Anthony Woods