THIS week’s High Flyer is Áine Brolly, founder and director of executive recruitment firm Ardlinn and CEO of CPL in Northern Ireland.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a musician and performer in my early teens when my sister and I played and sang at concerts and weddings and I also taught the piano to a few local children but my first salaried job was when I had finished my degree in Queen’s, moved to Dublin and got a job in a recruitment firm.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a law degree from QUB and a Masters in Opera from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
What do you attribute your success to?
I suppose I have always been passionate about what I do. I’m a people person, and I really love challenging work. I have enjoyed being given the opportunity to establish brands, build companies, and drive change and I’ve been privileged to be able to work in different countries and sectors which always enhances understanding, learning and experience.
How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?
Well I hope that people who know me would describe me as energetic, compassionate, fun and as someone with integrity.
Who do you look up to in business?
It’s interesting having worked with so many executives over the years that some of the most impressive people I’ve met are probably not that well known. The type of leaders I look up to more generally are people who are passionate, have integrity, and really value their employees. I have great admiration for my boss, Anne Heraty. She’s a phenomenal woman. Locally, I have huge respect for Feargal McCormack from PKF – FPM. He’s been a great friend and mentor to me.
How do you get the best out of people who work for you?
I really get to know my people, understand their personal situation, backgrounds and aspirations. I encourage my team to aim high and hopefully give them the confidence and support to achieve what they want to achieve. I rarely make decisions unilaterally; I prefer consulting with the team and reaching consensus when possible. I try to foster a culture of honesty and respect where everyone feels they have a unique part to play in the company’s success.
If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?
I’m passionate about economic development and the future of work. There has been so much disruption with technology, millennial’s attitudes to work and so on that I think we need a really broad reaching strategy which helps companies here future-proof their business while at the same time, equipping our young people with the skills that they will need. Technology is progressing so quickly that is hard to envisage the workplace in ten years’ time, but we know that a lot of the jobs that exist now, will not then. For example, stock handling is already being carried out by robots and AI platforms can mine documents for evidence that might otherwise take lawyers weeks or months. It’s a new world order.
What website or app could you not do without?
What was the last book you read?
‘The Abolition of Woman: How Radical Feminism is Betraying Women’ by the wonderful Fiorella Nash
What car do you drive?
A battered old Audi A4
Tell us something interesting about yourself?
I was coached by the great opera singer, Kiri Te Kanawa, while studying opera at the Solti Academy in Tuscany, Italy.
What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?
I love music and still sing and perform now and again. I am passionate about and work with a number of community organizations that do really challenging but valuable work.