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    I love that rainbow flag momma!

    Sharon Walsh, Enterprise Account Manager

    “I love that rainbow flag Momma” came the chirpy little voice of my 5-year-old son from behind me in his car seat on our morning drive to playschool. Head tilted, admiring the flag in front of the secondary school on our route. “Me too Ben” I reply. Then the question “What’s it for? Which country?, “Oh, it’s not for any country Ben” I reply ”Its, eh…it stands for equality…you know, that everybody is equal and we all deserve to be treated fairly”. “Haha that’s funny Momma, I just like the colours anyway”, His bemused little face quickly moving on to the next pressing topic of the day, why his bagel got more toasted on one side than the other!

    Long after he had run off happily with his friends however his question was still swirling around my head, something about my answer really niggling and irritating me a few hours into my work day. He asked me a direct question, why did I not give him a direct answer? My internal chatter was now on overdrive, with the volume up. I didn’t lie, the flag does represent equality but it was not the answer to the question. The answer was ‘It’s the Gay Pride flag’. I’m a gay woman, married to another woman and since our two boys were babies we’ve told them the story of how they came to be, we’ve explained about all of the different family dynamics that exist and the fact that they have two Mums doesn’t cost them a thought. They are blissfully and beautifully unaware that our family dynamic might be considered unusual or different to others. So again, I wonder, why I answered him in a roundabout way earlier that morning. Like a politician swerving the actual question. Giving a bland and ‘safe’ answer. And I realised eventually that it’s a habit that I’ve become so adept at over the years that I don’t even realise I’m doing it at times- circling around an answer, being vague, not correcting someone on their presumption- not lying but not always telling the truth.

    I have not experienced a lot of homophobia in my life, at least not the aggressive sort. The odd leery comment in a bar or a jeer walking down the street if holding hands with someone. Nothing that has kept me awake at night luckily. I know not all gay people in this country are so fortunate and that horrendous abuse and hate crimes still go on sadly. Overall, though, Ireland has come a long way in the last 20 years, the vast majority of gay people can live their lives openly and freely without fear or prejudice, and I’m so grateful to those who have gone before me and paved the way. I am grateful to work for an organisation where diversity is valued and people are absolutely treated fairly and with respect. However, I do think, at least for me, that sometimes from a place of fear and self-preservation that you might not even be aware of, comes a mental toll you pay. That is in the unsaid. The younger me who didn’t exactly lie to my parents but didn’t tell the truth either. The me who didn’t correct the person who presumed I had a husband and not a wife. The me who swerved the work event where significant others were invited… I’m laughing internally at the level introspection that one little question this morning has caused for me! For me though, that moment of clarity…probably combined with that thing that happens as you get older where you don’t care as much about what anybody thinks has made me more conscious of the importance of being honest with yourself, of answering the question you’re asked. By not doing so, in ways that may even seem irrelevant, you are denying part of you and over a long period of time that causes wounds. Not lying is not the same as telling the truth.

    So if you’ve managed to read this far without dying of boredom, well done and a reminder for all, not least myself this Pride month –

    Be Proud. Be honest. Speak your truth. Be you!


    I still get nervous when I interview

    Verona Daly, People & Talent Partner

    I still get nervous when I interview.

    I thought that when I was the one doing the interviewing, I wouldn’t be nervous anymore, that for some magical unknown reason, I’d suddenly be super cool and confident. I guess I assumed that once I had done it enough, it wouldn’t make me nervous anymore.

    I do have a couple of theories as to why I felt this way. Maybe it was the theatre kid in me – once I was off book, had my scripted memorised and I stepped on stage, I wasn’t nervous. Maybe mistakenly, I thought that recruitment would be similar to that. I suppose in some ways it is, recruitment is a performance. It’s not quite the same as playing a fictional character, but it’s a performance nonetheless and a performance I’m still nervous for.

    Now obviously, I’m not nervous for myself these days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember how those nerves felt. I’m a big believer that nerves are good, and we should appreciate them for what they are. Nerves are not a sign of weakness or insecurity; nerves are a sign of passion. Of genuine interest, of a desire to have something go well. It all depends on what you do with those nerves that make or break you.

    In order to not break with the nerves, I dance. I’d really like to stress here that I am in no way coordinated, rhythmic or a talented dancer, nor am I claiming to be. What I mean when I say ‘I dance’ is that I dance it out. If you’ve ever seen Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Meredith and Christina – when things get tough – they dance it out. I have to say, it works. It works spectacularly well, because for however long you’re dancing it out, your mind is not thinking about what’s to come.

    I’m not talking about a perfectly choreographed dance either, I really mean just mean shaking it off, being messy and just moving your body to get that blood flowing, and it’s something you can do anywhere. For my final interview for this very role, I was in work. I couldn’t get the time off, couldn’t book a private room anywhere, so I ended up doing my final interview with my now manager, surrounded by shoe boxes in the corner of a stockroom. I still danced it out, even in that tiny space, sitting in an office chair I’d taken with me. Our Stockroom Manager saw me dance for 4 minutes and 21 seconds to ‘August’ by Taylor Swift, just before I hopped onto a final round interview for a job I really wanted.

    Even now, six months into my job, I still dance it out when I get nervous. If I have a candidate moving to a final round interview, if I have a screening call with someone that I’ve been trying to get, I’ll still shake it off, because I still get nervous in these situations. If you thought I was nervous when I was interviewing for my own job, you should’ve seen my first ever screening call. I could feel the nerves in my stomach waiting for the moment I could call my candidate. What did I do? I set aside a few minutes, and I danced around my room. Similarly, to when I was on the other end of the phone, it worked; I was less nervous and felt I gave my candidate a better screening call because of it.

    I would really like to stress, my dear reader, that I’m not saying that I got a job because I danced to Taylor Swift just before a final round interview (although, I have managed to work her in to every project I’ve done since). I’m not even attempting to say that I got this job because I was relaxed in the interview and not stressed. It’s not a fool proof method, I’ve used it many times and didn’t get the job I wanted, but I’ve always felt that I’ve given a better interview after it, and felt like a better interviewer because of it.

    Being honest, it very well could be a placebo effect of sorts. In my mind though, I was much more relaxed while doing my interview, I was much less nervous than I would have been, and I was able to concentrate more on being in the moment instead of fretting over what I had just said and immediately wishing I could swallow my own words.

    No one is confident and cool all of the time. No one is above nerves. No one has the right to take your nerves are use them against you. You should be in control of your own nerves, and embrace them. Use them as motivation, as a lesson, or break them. Maybe for you, it won’t be dancing, it could be meditating, it could be deep breathing exercises, it could be going for a walk. It could be anything in the world that isn’t just sitting still, 5 minutes before an interview, letting your mind wander into what if’s and overly rehearsed answers.

    So, to circle back to my original point, I still get nervous when I interview and that’s okay! That’s what separates me from a robot; it’s me, a real person, sitting behind the screen. It makes me flawed and human, it makes me invested into my candidates. I want the candidate I’m talking with to do well. I want them to succeed, I want them to have the perfect interview experience / candidate journey (whether or not that exists is a topic for a different blog) and want them to walk away from our interview thinking that they could be happy here. That they can tell the kind of people we are and the kind of environment we work in, and it’s one they want to join.

    The best thing about these nerves? I have the ability to feel this way at Ward, to be emotional, to be nervous, to advocate for my candidates, ask ridiculous questions (like how to pronounce SIEM!) and dance it out, and never once feel judged or look down upon. It’s scary to do an interview, from both sides of the interview table, so do what you need to make it more comfortable for you.


    Challenge Your Mindset

    Ciara Fitzgerald – Head of Legal, Ward Solutions

    When I was in primary and secondary school, I struggled with maths. I was told consistently by grown-ups in my family that this was to be expected; my whole family struggled with maths. I listened, believed this and always saw spending time on anything mathematical as a waste of energy. I steered clear of any optional subjects that involved figures while in education. I figured I just did not have the aptitude for it. It was genetic. How could I possibly fight genetics?! So I became a barrister and did my absolute best to avoid anything that required “an ability” for maths in my professional life.

    In 2019/2020, I undertook a business and innovation course (a new departure for me!) and as part of the reading, we were advised to read Mindset: The Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol S. Dweck. I had never heard of the book or of the author but I am not exaggerating when I say the content of that book entirely changed my perception of my own ability and capacity and that of everyone around me. For those who have not read this book, very briefly, Dweck argues that people have, broadly, one of two mindsets – a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset believe that your traits and abilities are fixed and you are either born smart or talented (generally or in relation to a specific area) or not. People have no capacity to change their abilities. Those with a growth mindset, however, believe that ability is not static and can be improved with effort, through failure and learning.

    Dweck suggested that fixed and growth mindsets spanned a spectrum and most people would not fall entirely within either camp across every facet of his/her life. As I listened to this book however, I realised that with respect to my professional abilities and educational abilities, I very much had a fixed mindset. I believed I was good at certain things but would not and could not succeed at other things. Again, how could I fight genetics?! When I scratched the surface of that persistent truth however, I realised I had not even thought to generate a counter argument – something lawyers should be able to do in their sleep! Fair enough, I did not like maths, but that was not the same as having no ability. In addition, when I looked at my siblings I realised that two of them run successful businesses (something that indicates to me they must be good with figures) and another is actually studying for a financial qualification. Really interestingly, Dweck suggested that failure is something that those with a fixed mindset fear and I have always hated to fail – so much so that I would just not take on challenges that I did not think I could succeed in (Ward’s Head of People and Talent wrote a fantastic piece about learning to fail through Olympic weightlifting earlier in this series!). This was certainly more pronounced during my adolescence and early twenties but I won’t deny it, I still hate to fail at something!

    Since finishing the book and in both my personal and professional life, I have consciously made an effort to challenge my inclination towards a fixed mindset. I have two young daughters, one of whom recently started school, and I find myself trying to ensure that I never tell her she is has no talent (or conversely, she has bundles of talent) for any of her subjects. Rather, I try and encourage her for just trying, for failing and trying again and for putting effort in.

    This is more difficult to do for myself and at work! I am the sole legal counsel in an information and cyber security company and therefore, I can be a bit a sea sometimes when some of my more technical colleagues start talking! Instead of passively listening now however and assuming that I cannot and will not ever understand what they are talking about because “I’m just not technical”, I ask them to explain or I take notes and later look up terms that were used during meetings and conversations. As a result, I have learned a huge amount (relatively speaking) about the technical sides of this business that do not necessarily impact on my specific legal function. In an earlier blog by my colleague, Alicja Quinn, she advocated for people to embrace change and become a “change champion” and I suppose, this is my quiet way of doing just that.

    So what is my point? First of all, if you haven’t come across Dr. Dweck’s book, I would highly recommend it! If nothing else, it is a really interesting read. Secondly, as my growth-minded colleagues suggest, embrace failure and change in both your personal and professional life. Easier said than done perhaps, but try small changes at first. Finally, allow yourself to believe that you can be something different than what you are today or have been in the past with a little bit of effort, hard work and trial and error.


    There is nothing permanent except change


    Alicja Quinn – NOC Manager, Ward Solutions

    Changes are happening every day, improvements are the reason for change. External and internal factors force us to make changes, for example famous C****-19 (the thing we dare not speak about!), has changed the way a lot of companies do business, how a lot of teams work, how you interact with your clients, how shops, schools and hospitals operate on day to day basis.

    It was hard for some of us parents to adjust to working remotely and home schooling but if you look at positives for me, and some of us
    I’ve learned a few Irish words (in case my name didn’t give it away I’m a native Polish speaker!), my daughters vocabulary has increased, and when I ask if we can do something her replies are:

    “I need to check my calendar”, “let’s compare calendars and let’s recheck when we are both free” or “I am busy! I am on the conference call”

    very useful I have to say for a 5 years old 🙂

    Her school takes the kids outside more often than before the pandemic struck and they are planning to introduce more outdoor classes which provides a lot of fresh air and alternative approach to conventional learning.

    What about the commuters who spend less hours on public transport or less hours being stuck in traffic? Remote working does have its challenges but there are some great benefits also.

    The new hybrid model of remote and on premises work will allow some of us to relocate or work from the areas in Ireland where companies would never traditionally look for talent. The location of the office HQ is not the key element anymore when looking for work.

    C***-19 also catapulted digital transformation for businesses to the top of their agenda.

    So let’s talk about why we’re so averse to change??

    When change is inevitable why are some so resistant?

    Evolution is fundamental to humans so why do we deny it sometimes?? We all know change won’t go away.

    You know the saying, “If you can’t beat them join them!”

    New year’s resolution: BECOME A CHANGE CHAMPION

    Let’s look at what your options are if you wish to become one

    • Embrace the change and be the change advocate
    • Work with the change driver on the solution that will work better for you, your team, and your clients. What I mean by this is: If you don’t agree with the change but you know it needs to happen try to work with all stakeholders on the solution which is the easiest to live with or to work with.
    • Carpe diem! Just try it! Seize the change and after a period of time you might see it was needed and worked, or after the change rollout if you still can’t cope with that change suggest future improvements and be the change driver thenJ .

    You can’t talk about change without Continuous Service Improvement (CSI).

    When you make changes you work on incremental improvements, you might end up back where you started…But what you learn on the way is priceless. It may seem like you are going backwards but you are definitely not. All the adjustments and lesson learned played a key and valid role in your progress and you will end up in a revitalised state.

    A key thing to remember is that changes can bring a lot of negativity but we need to be able to highlight the positives and the new opportunities that can arise as the result of it.

    Don’t forget ALWAYS to look at the bright side!

    At Ward we work with our clients to deliver what they need based on their current situation. We support our clients through the changes and adjustments on their side. We advise and suggest changes if there is a requirement for it. We learn from our past changes and make improvements. Every department in Ward either Finance, Sales, Operations and the Customer service team always look at how best to supply the client with the tools and services they need.

    For All Change Champions:
    You will never be able to win all the audience when making changes but if you get people engage, let them suggest adjustments, work with them to make it easier to live the change, help them to see the positives rather than the negatives and then your battle is won.



    Everything I know about failure…

    Janet Lavelle – Head of People and Talent

    Hi! My name is Janet and I’m a recovering perfectionist! I say recovering, because like some of my other afflictions (anxiety/ eating disorder) I feel that urge for perfection is something you live with always quietly in the background, waiting for the opportunity to pounce!

    The old version of me, which ironically is the young(er!) version of me was on a constant quest for perfection, It wasn’t until at the ripe old age of 32 that I began to learn the importance of failure. In an effort to replace unhealthy behaviours with healthy ones I was advised by my counsellor to take up a sport, this horrified me to be honest, like most girls I stopped doing PE in my early teens and I NEVER got into team sports so I had no basis to start from, sure I went to the gym occasionally I liked to walk, but those things weren’t going to cut it this time!
    We settled on olympic weightlifting, (solo sport, indoors and pretty clean) there’s numerous studies out there that link the act of becoming physically stronger with the ability to build mental resilience (I don’t have any links, this is not that kind of article) and so there my recovery from my perfectionist tendancies began!

    Weightlifting is an incredibly complex, and dynamic sport requiring full mind body commitment. If your body or your mind isn’t in it you won’t make the lift. There’s a moment of zen that you find in each lift, nothing else can or does exist, you do the moves in sequence and in those few minutes it’s just you and the bar, opening position, pull, clean, elbows up, short dip, long drive, hold and down.It’s in that zen that we learn to fail. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood on that platform and failed, hundreds, possibly thousands, it doesn’t matter really because you reset, pull, clean, elbows up, short dip, long drive and that’s it, that’s the metaphor really. I started this sport as a perfectionist, with some control issues, but in weightlifting not failing is not an option, and actually not failing means not progressing. If you don’t fail if you don’t learn how to move forward you don’t highlight the small imperfections in your own performance that unchecked could lead to bigger issues down the line, – “next time faster in the pull, slower in the drive”. “Ok! Lets go” Every little failure is another brick building you up to success.

    There’s no real room for ego when you learn weightlifting, you have to abandon your ego and your fear of failure at the door. When you start you’ll begin like everyone does with the training bar (5kg) and all the while you’ll be surrounded by seriously impressive athletes that are younger than you, faster than you and (much) stronger than you. It’s very tempting in those early days to look around the room and compare yourself, to think, well she’s my age, my height, has the same colour shoes as me, whatever, I should be as good as her! But what you don’t see is that she has failed too, she’s done this part of the journey already, she has already failed countless times to get this good. (and yeah sometimes she is just younger, faster, and stronger than you and that’s fine too!)

    This is a lovely story Jan but what’s the relevance?

    Well dear reader, I was just getting to that! I don’t know why it is, I suspect it’s because I’m female, but risk taking and failure aren’t behaviours that were encouraged in girls/women of my generation. We were good, and quiet and did what we were told while the boys were out making messes and jumping off walls, getting dirty, taking chances and risks.

    “Don’t do that you’ll mess up your hair” (it’s important that my hair isn’t messy)
    “Don’t do that you’ll ruin your dress” (it’s important that my dress is neat)
    “Don’t do that you get your face dirty” (it’s important that my face is pretty)

    The lesson – perfection is important!

    So as I grew up I never learned to try and fail. Which meant when I went to work, I didn’t know how important failure was for success. I would go round and round in circles trying to perfect everything, doing everything the way it has always been done for fear of it not being perfect. I became excellent at putting processes in place to manage day to day work operations (I’m still excellent at that) but I became a slave to the processes, unwilling to compromise and maybe a little unwilling to see that perhaps there was another better way. “This is the way that makes sense to me, so this is the right and only way!”Until slowly over time I learned through my sport what it is to fail, what it is to park your fear of failure, take the chance that’s been handed to you and throw it up in the air over your head with all the force you can muster.

    So now I take a different approach, I look at the problem I am facing get my head clear on what I’m looking at. Clarify the objectives, and take feedback from others on the team on what they want to see in a resolution, and work it through. If that doesn’t work or doesn’t go down well, I’ll reset, and try again, elbows up, short dip, long drive.

    When organisations allow perfection to become the goal, they’re making this same mistake. They mimic the voices of parents, discouraging the risk of trying new things for fear you get your Sunday best dirty. The conversation pivots from collaboration, and innovation to blame. Blame is toxic in an organisation because blame creates an environment where failure is not acceptable at any level, and that stifles creativity and innovation. Why would you put forth ideas about new initiatives, new products or services, new markets if you’ll shoulder all the blame if it doesn’t go well, so instead of a culture of innovation organisations establish a culture of fear, and well we all know that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and that ultimately leads us to the darkside. Organisations are re-creating that little voice telling their teams not to play outside, jump, or take risks and are thus stifling the creativity of their teams.

    The best thing I ever did for myself, as a woman, as a professional and as a leader is to let go of perfection and embrace the possibility that lies on the other side of failure.

    There is not room for ego or a fear of failure in weightlifting or in the boardroom. The only true failure is the failure to try.