“You need to have tough skin, take rejection and have a smile again the next day” – Broadcaster Mairéad Ronan on How She Got Her Job
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 latest series, entitled ‘How She Got Her Job‘, 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.
Mairéad Ronan has been one of Ireland’s best loved broadcasters for years, gracing us on Today FM to RTÉ’s Ireland’s Fittest Family and Getaways. Now, she’s dipping her toe into the world of business, as a co-owner of hairbrush brand FARO with Debbie Lawless. In this week’s How She Got Her Job, Mairéad discusses being a yes person, loving variety and how to juggle career with two kids (and one on the way).
What was your favourite subject in school?
It was probably English. I wasn’t necessarily the best at it in school, but I definitely enjoyed it the most. I was lucky to have a great teacher for a few years in secondary school for English and she was one of those people who could make you love a subject even if you weren’t top of the class.
What was your first job, and what other jobs have you had since?
Well my very first job was when I was 11 or 12, collecting milk money in Howth and Sutton! I got a fiver for working two days and a bag of chips on a Friday night coming home and I absolutely loved it – it meant I had my own money from a young age. It also made me get over my fear of dogs, since every single house seemed to have a gigantic dog in the garden. My first proper job was in Arnotts when I turned 16 and my mother sent me out to get a weekend job. I started on a four-hour trial, and ended up staying there all through secondary school and college – I was probably there for 6 years.
It was a great place for pushing people to do more. I was good at sales, so they suggested for me to go to DIT at night, which they’d pay for, and so I did Sales and Marketing two nights a week. It was great but I still knew it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. My mam ended up getting ill and it made me realise that life is short, so I had to try and do something that I really wanted to do. And that was radio. I massively love radio. So I went to Ballyfermot for 2 years. It was the best decision I ever made, even though I was going through a lot, because my mam passed away in the meantime/ It was a really bizarre, happy time when I was grieving too. It saved my sanity a little bit.
I went into Today FM on work experience. I found it really hard to get experience in Ireland because I didn’t know anyone in any radio station to give me a way in. Through some luck, I ended up going over to London for two weeks to do some work with MTV which was brilliant, and when I was home, I really just hounded Today FM. I annoyed them so much because I was such a fan. I really believe that you have to be such a yes person, especially starting out in media. I never saw anything as ‘beneath’ me in work. It helped, because then your name is always floating around and people remember you. Ray Darcy ended up looking for someone to host with, and I was the obvious choice because I was a hardworker. When I went back to college, they then asked me to come in for 6 weeks paid work. That turned into 15 years. I had a job in a radio station that I loved before I even finished college; I was very lucky.
What does your daily routine look like?
Well, I have two kids and one on the way, so I try most weeks not to work 5 days a week. That doesn’t always work, some weeks are busier than others, but I do try to keep to it. In the mornings, I set my alarm earlier so I can get up before the kids, get sorted and have breakfast with them before they go to school. I don’t leave the house until rush hour is over, at about half nine. I always try to bring lunch with me, so I don’t lose that hour in the middle of the day either. I then leave the house and go to work remotely in Iconic Offices in town. My day then could consist of anything, from working on FARO, checking orders, ringing distributors, then TV work, catching up with Supervalu, who I’m an ambassador with. I generally have one or two meetings a day, then sit with my laptop in the offices. I did try working from home which was great, until my daughter turned 1, and realised I was still in the house and she could come up and see me whenever she wanted. I got nothing done then
What’s your favourite part of the job?
The fact that no two days are the same. A few weeks ago, I worked over the weekend at Wellfest, MC’ing the SuperValu area and I got to work and meet with so many people I admire. I talked to the Body Coach, Roz Purcell, Plant Based Pixie, Happy Pear, it was fabulous. Then I went from that, to doing a load of washing and ironing all day Monday. And from there, I go and look after my own business with Faro. I just love the variety.
What’s your least favourite part?
Although working for yourself is also one of my favourite things about my job, I find that I’m never really ‘off’. There’s always phone calls, or social media to look after. I love having control of everything, but when I am off, I’m not really 100% off, I’m about 80% off. But I love it so much more than I’m against it.
What are the key skills you need to make it in your industry?
Well I work in two industries, one as a business owner, one in media. For media, you really need a thick skin. I always say to people that I’m a big girl who can take criticism and tough talk – I much prefer honesty, I hate people dancing around an issue. You need to have tough skin, to take rejection and have a smile again the next day because there’s always another gig, and you will find someone who likes you. That has stood to me in setting up FARO too. We went to meetings with buyers, and sometimes they’ve loved the product and sold it and sometimes, they don’t get it at all. Inside, it hurts but you have to be able to smile and shake hands.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned for success in your career?
Nothing is beneath you, so work with what people ask. Obviously within reason! Don’t do anything you’re really uncomfortable with, but for the most part, just be a yes person. I think in the beginning, you have to. Whatever team it is in the media world, they’re usually really tight. So to get in and be noticed and appreciated, you need to be easy to work with. I recently worked with a girl who was a runner on Ireland’s Fittest Family, and she reminded me of me! Before someone even asked her to do something, she’d have it done because she was just using her head. She wasn’t standing around waiting to be asked to do something, she had initiative. She was so good that I definitely don’t think she’s a runner anymore!
I suppose one would be that I didn’t leave Today FM sooner. It was a big safety net for me and I had an opportunity to leave in 2014 but didn’t take it, for a few reasons. At the time, it was the right decision, but I do wish I took the leap.
What do you wish you knew when you were starting your career?
Nothing really, because I ended up on radio and TV by accident, and everything worked out really well. I do wish I could tell myself “you’re not fat”! With career advice, I pretty lucky that a lot of it has been accidental. I got into where I wanted and everything else was just a bonus.
What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to young people starting out who want to follow in your footsteps?
Starting out, be the person that’s easy to work with. And really, it’s the same in business, because you never know when you’re going to need somebody for a favour. Starting up FARO with Debbie, I’ve been able to call in favours that I would never even have thought of. And all because I was able to help them out in the past too.