THIS week’s High Flyer is Ciara McGonnell-Cushnahan, financial director at Bloc Blinds
What was your first job?
My first ever job was as a waitress at Quinn’s Corner in Killeeshil – it was great craic, but I did it long enough to know my skills did not lie in waitressing – not the ideal job for someone like me who is a little clumsy! My first job after completing my University education was as a trainee accountant in a practice in Belfast, called Wilkinson Hegarty, which then rebranded to Hill Vellacott.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BSc Hons in Business Studies with Accounting from Ulster University. I am a qualified Chartered Accountant, and a fellow of Chartered Accountants Ireland.
What do you attribute your success to?
Sheer determination, never giving up, a positive attitude, embracing the skills of the teams around me, and of course hard work.
I couldn’t do what I do and wouldn’t have achieved what I have without my husband who has been through it all with me from university and accountancy exams, to having our kids, renovating our home and job moves. He is always there when I need him and supports me all the way. And my parents, they instilled me with the values I live by today and afforded me the best upbringing.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Determined, positive, loyal and considerate. My sisters say I’m ambitious, but I truly believe that anything is possible – if you want something and work hard enough it will happen, if it does not happen exactly as you want it, I try be to content in the knowledge that the outcome happens for a reason.
Who do you look up to in business?
There are many people I have met personally who have inspired me – and they are the people I look up to.
I look up to not only people within the business sphere to inspire me, but also people in education or at home. A great example is my little brother. He left a great job to go back to full time study at 29 and completed an MBA at Harvard Business School. That took guts and I admire him massively for taking that leap and working so hard to achieve it.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
There are five main things I try and live by:
– Listen to them
– Respect them
– Value their contribution
– Tell them when they’ve done a good job, and address it when they haven’t
– And always remember that we can’t do it without them.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
I have two. There would be more inspirational forward-thinking (and female) leaders, and there would be no Brexit.
What website or app could you not do without?
Outlook for my work emails – it helps me keep on top of things when not in the office. The Kindle & Playbooks apps. I also love Instagram at the moment.
What was the last book you read?
It was by the author Lee Childs – one of the Jack Reacher books.
What car do you drive?
An Audi Q5
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I used to be in an all-girl 90s grunge rock band. I am sure I thought it was pretty cool at the time…good memories.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
My home inside and out is definitely my passion, after my kids and hubby of course. We bought our home three years ago, gutted it and made it our own. We bought it in December 2015, fully renovated it and moved in with two young kids within five months. I love interiors, and developing a real interest in the garden too, only on sunny days though.