Love Your Work: Dominique McMullan - 'I'm still trying to find that elusive work-life balance'

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 '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.

Dominique McMullan joined IMAGE as Digital Editor in March this year, but she's already made a big impact. Passionate about communication in all its guises, Dominique started her career in advertising but quickly realised that it was in newspapers and magazines that her passion lay. While she loves spending a Sunday morning with the printed edition, she is most excited by communication online. She loves using different platforms to highlight issues that are important to her and her team and thinks that energy, playfulness and a fascination with the world around you are the most important traits in an Editor today.
  • What was your favourite subject in school?

I was a bit of an attention seeker in school so I loved drama, art and English. I enjoyed anything that allowed me to be creative and express myself. I was the lead part in most of the school plays, despite questionable abilities. I hated PE and maths and I was pretty naughty in school, although I managed to still do reasonably well in exams.

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

My very first job was as an au pair. I’ve always loved kids and wanted to be a teacher at one point in my life. Since then there have been many bars and waitressing jobs, which I always enjoyed. I’d often get orders wrong but had great banter with customers and usually ended up as a sort of agony aunt. I also make a mean Irish coffee if you catch me in the right mood. Professionally I’ve worked as an art director in advertising agency, a copywriter, a journalist and an editor. Communication has been the driver throughout my career. I love words, images and connecting with people in a tangible way.

  • What does your daily routine look like?

I’m a pretty early riser - a hangover from my days on the Irish Times news desk. I get up at 6am and try to practice a little bit of meditation or yoga in my room. I find starting the day on this calm note really helpful (when I manage to squeeze it in).

Next I’ll grab a coffee and hop in the car where I listen to an audiobook or catch up on the latest news, making it easy to hit the ground running when I arrive at my desk for 7am. The first part of the morning is usually spent catching up with my team and planning content for the day. We are all constantly scouring news websites, social platforms, What’s App groups and conversations with friends, keeping an ear to the ground for good stories and interesting titbits.

Before lunch I try and clear my inbox (I am one of those 0 unread messages people). The afternoons can vary massively. I could be editing, interviewing, chatting with contributors, writing, or heading into town for a shoot or a launch or for meetings. In the evenings I might attend an event but if my calendar is free or if I feel I need some down time I will try to squeeze in a yoga class. In reality I will probably be found on the couch with my husband, catching up on the day over Netflix and tea. I am still working on finding that elusive work-life balance, so by the end of the day I am usually pretty tired. I’ll often be in bed by 9pm, trying to keep my eyes open with a book.

  • What’s your favourite part of the job?
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My favourite part of the job is bringing stories to people and feeling like we, as a team, are really making an impact, highlighting issues that matter to us. I love nothing more than when someone outside work tells me they were moved by a piece they read on image.ie. That’s what it is all about for me.

I also love the ‘flow’ that comes out of working with so many creative people. On Monday mornings my team meets and talks about what we want to cover that week. We laugh, get angry and tell stories about our lives that translate to brilliant pieces of writing and journalism. It’s really rewarding to see that process.

  • What’s your least favourite part?

I’m not great at managing a budget (maybe I should have paid more attention in maths class after all). Luckily I have a patient and kind accounts team here at IMAGE who keep an eye out and help me when I need it!

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

Confidence and curiosity. You need to believe in yourself and your ideas, especially as a woman. You need to be able to convince people that you have something valuable to say, and not be intimidated about asking to be heard. You need to be a natural communicator, and love talking to people and learning about things. You need tons of energy and a playfulness and fascination when it comes to the world around you. You need to always be asking why and wondering how.

  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned for success in your career?
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 Don’t be scared about admitting when you have made a mistake, or if you don’t know something. “To err is human” but it takes a certain type of person to admit when they are wrong. People will respect you so much more in the long run. Also, it’s an obvious one, but work hard and be nice to people. Don’t be a push over, but don’t be an a**hole. Everyone is fighting his or her own fight.

  • Any regrets?

I stayed a little too long in some jobs that I grew tired of, or that I had simply grown out of. But that provided a lesson too - I learnt to further my career outside of my workplace while remaining in my nine-to-five job.

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

You are better than you know you are.

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

Be brave. Work hard. Read everything and follow your interests. I don’t think it is necessary to have a journalism degree to have a career as a journalist or an editor. The best journalists I know are people who are passionate and informed. Go and learn about things that interest you, and then write about them. The rest will follow.

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Photo: Ailbhe O'Donnell

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