Monthly career interview with professionals in the not-for-profit sector
What is your current role and how long have you been working in it?
I have been Chief Executive Officer with the Irish Men’s Sheds Association since May 2015.
How did you get to where you are today and what influenced your decision to work in your chosen field?
I’m fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to work in local development for a number of years, in addition to other business opportunities. I’ve always wanted to work with people, to help communities and make a difference. That’s the most rewarding thing, making a difference in communities, and that’s what attracts me to this sector.
What do you love/enjoy most about your job?
I really love to see and be able to measure the impact that my work and my colleagues’ work is having on individuals, families and communities. With men’s sheds, very often individual shed members will come up to you and tell you the difference the shed has made to them, and that always stops me in my tracks.
One of the best things about the job is the variety – no two days are ever the same. You could be dealing with HR issues, finance, planning, fundraising, sometimes in the same day. That allows you to develop a broad range of skill-sets.
And what are the most challenging parts of your job?
As above! The sheer variety and diversity of the role can leave you stretched a bit thin at times. We manage multiple programmes for almost 500 sheds, with small budgets and teams. Fortunately, I have a really good team around me, which is vital in this sector.
How do you relax?
I relax by coaching a field full of underage GAA players. Some might not find that particularly relaxing, but I do! It’s my men’s shed in a way, and it’s so completely different from the day job that it helps me switch off while still feeling I’m making a difference in my own community.
What skills and personality traits do you think are essential for a job like yours?
Interpersonal skills are absolutely vital. Beyond that, you need to be strategically innovative and creative, be a good line manager regardless of your job title, and you need a clear vision of where you want to go. Crucially, you need to be able to build relationships from government down.
What’s your advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in the same field?
First and foremost, you need passion for the work. It’s a bit different from the private sector in that you need to find the work rewarding and you need to believe in what you want to achieve.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Surround yourself with positive people who believe in what you’re trying to do.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
It’s impossible to separate a couple of things; seeing the number of sheds in Ireland double to the greatest concentration in the world is something I’m hugely proud of. Receiving the European Citizens’ Prize in Brussels was probably my proudest single moment. But really, the most meaningful sense of achievement is when a man in a shed comes up to you and tells you the shed has changed – or even saved – his life.
What are your career aspirations?
I want to keep helping men’s sheds make a difference in communities throughout Ireland, and get us closer to the type of country we all want to live in.