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A Day in the Life of... Sheelagh Hawkins, Head of Client Solutions at Dataconversion

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 17 April 2019
Updated: Tuesday 16 April 2019

Sheelagh Hawkins

What does a Head of Client Solutions at Dataconversion do?

Dataconversion has been architecting and building complex data & software solutions for clients across both the private and public sectors for over two decades. We are passionate about all aspects of the customer journey and believe that brands should not only seek to meet but exceed customer expectations. I’m essentially a solution specialist who works with the client to ensure their needs and requirements are championed within Dataconversion. As a result, it’s a very dynamic role that sees me interacting with all teams across the business, as well as our clients. This is great for getting a feel for how all parts of a company run. I am an enthusiastic solution-driver who puts our customers at the core of everything we do.


What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked in some amazing organisations, specifically in the IT Software and analytics sector. The complexity of some of the projects I’ve worked on has enabled me to bring that experience into my current role. I started my journey in sales in the UK over 18 years ago and I embraced technology very quickly. I got to work with smart people from diverse industries and backgrounds. I’ve worked with both enterprise CEOs and entrepreneurs in Fintech start-ups. I decided I wanted to work for a solutions company given the endless amount of innovation that happens within the digital spectrum. Dataconversion was the perfect fit as it allowed me to apply the skills I’ve acquired from my previous experience. Similarly, it offered me the tools to work on projects that have an influence on clients and businesses.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Client acquisition is always a challenge. We live in rapidly changing times, especially for businesses. As technologies change practically at the speed of light, it’s vital for companies to innovate or be left behind. I need to articulate how we offer value. Providing information about price and features won’t cut it. I need a deep understanding of the client’s needs and pain points. I must ask probing questions and listen carefully in order to get to the underlying motivations for purchasing. This is the only way that enables me to adequately provide value and win new customers. Fortunately, we are in a position of high customer retention and with over 45 years in business we have evolved with the constantly changing technological landscape and the ways in which data has transformed business. This unique expertise coupled with the smart integration of data, technology and communications has enabled us to gain the trust of great clients, including BOI, KBC, SKY and AA Ireland.


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

As Head of Client Solutions for Dataconversion, having strong interpersonal and client-facing skills are essential. I’m responsible for understanding client needs, serving as a subject matter expert on Dataconversion’s product offerings, and leading successful client engagements. I work directly with the Sales, Marketing, Technology, and Operations teams to ensure flawless execution and superior customer service. I love technology and keeping myself up to date with the current trends in the technology space.


Describe a typical working day.

There’s no such thing as a typical day when it comes to client relationship management - every day is different. I usually take the DART into the office in the morning, giving me time to catch up on emails and plan for the day. As team communication is key, our morning meetings guarantee that we’re all following the same road-map. This establishes where we stand, and it allows us to plan our next steps. If I have client meetings, I always prepare in advance so that I understand their business needs, enabling us to offer a solution that provides them with the best value. I move from meetings into client calls where we catch-up and engage on new initiatives to help solve their various pain points. I am constantly challenged here at Dataconversion, but that is part of the fun.


What do you love most about your role?

I love seeing clients reaching their goals and being part of that story. I love that my job involves understanding how various businesses operate, how they’re struggling and then problem solving. The culture in Dataconversion is motivating in itself. The CEO constantly encourages me to balance my strengths to have the most impact, resulting in finding solutions for the business needs of my clients. I still view sales as the top priority of any company. I get high on the thrill of the deal and I thrive on the puzzle-like challenge of discovering my customers' needs. I live for the buzz at the close of a successful sale. We have recently been shortlisted for an AIM award that we are very proud of and I’m sure there are many more to come.


Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

I am always looking to upskill and learn new things. In Dataconversion we are encouraged to progress within the business. There are endless opportunities. Although I hold a senior position within the organisation there is always room to grow and that was one of the main reasons that brought me to Dataconversion. We have a high retention of loyal skilled staff that continue to grow and further their careers within the organisation.


To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

I recently finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming”. Obama has also been honest about finding her own path in life, which is what has fuelled much of her success along the way. I also love Richard Branson as he’s a leader who puts his employees' interest first. As a team in Dataconversion we are lucky to have a CEO who gives us the autonomy to do our jobs. We are trusted and not micromanaged which is key for staff morale and continued success. She also happens to be one of the growing number of female tech CEOs in Ireland. 

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A Day in the Life of... Pat Stephenson, Founder and Head of Account Management at Boys + Girls

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Wednesday 10 April 2019
Updated: Tuesday 9 April 2019

pat stephenson boys + girls

What does a Founder and Head of Account Management at Boys + Girls do?

Working with the team in here to establish and maintain great relationships with clients so that nothing gets in the way of us making great, business building, effective work for them.


What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

Leaving my job in McConnell’s to set up Boys + Girls with a group of 5 like minded naive optimists back in 2009. Taking a leap we believed would pay off centred around a desire to just make better work. It helped I found out my missus was pregnant with twins a couple of weeks into starting up. There’s nothing quite like having to make it work, to make it work.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Trying to utilise my time in a way that is most effective for the business. An agency of 60 people (as we are now) is very different to the agency of 6 we were when we started. It’s easy to be busy. Using my time effectively and on the right projects is the key.


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

You need an avid interest in life, business, society, culture and people. You need to simultaneously be able to understand a client’s business context and problems, alongside their business culture and ways of working. You also need to have a feeling for what is going on right now and just around the corner in society. Finally pulling that all together you need to be able to create the right environment of encouragement and constraint that produces the best creative work that answers the clients problem.


Describe a typical working day.

A typical day for me is hard to pin down. What my day is planned to look like and what it ends up being are never the same. I try and use the morning for thinking projects but inevitably I come into something that needs attention.

Part of my job is a manager. We’ve a really great team in account management and i want to create an environment where they can be involved in the best work of their career. Part of it is judging when to step in and help and when to let go.

Although I don’t really work on day to day client business there are still accounts that I keep an active role in  - and I still love working with clients. I also am responsible for managing the marketing and PR functions in the agency, alongside new business - but I’ve a great team leading that in here. So my day is usually juggling all those different hats.


What do you love most about your role?

The very best part of my job is being trusted to look 'under the bonnet' of a client’s business. Getting a full and frank understanding of how their business operates. Working out how marketing communications can best help them achieve their business goals. Then working with the client and the team in here to try and deliver something exceptional. It demands the best of your management, strategic, creative and organisational skills. Best job in the world.


Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

I want to continue to help build Boys + Girls into one of the leading creative agencies not just in Ireland but in the world, building on the amazing journey over the past 10 years. We have big ambitions and the talent and people to match so i just want to ensure we continue to make the agency the best it can be for us and our clients.


To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

John Fanning. I had the pleasure of working with John for 7 years and I was never short of inspired by the latitude, depth and creative agility of both his thinking and his cultural understanding. The real founder of planning in Ireland - but to call him a planner does not cover his range of abilities - it was a privilege to work with him. 

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Reviewing Your Strategy? Focus on These B2B Marketing Channels in 2019

Posted By Ian Blake, Squaredot, Wednesday 3 April 2019
Updated: Tuesday 2 April 2019

B2B marketing channels 2019

How have you been reaching out to your prospects and customers?

You can do so with several distribution channels, but this doesn’t mean everything is for the taking. Trying it all out will only stretch your strategy thin.

The key is finding the right mix of channels to master. Focus on a few, relevant channels that connect with your audience best and that fit your brand’s strengths.

Now, digital media is ever-changing.

In the last 12 months, Facebook overhauled its News Feed to accommodate fewer publishers, Netflix spent $6B more on content than last year, and 65% of people with voice assistants claimed not to go back to life without it.


B2B media and distribution channels to leverage in 2019

Anticipate more shake-ups in the year ahead. Here’s a rundown of media and distribution channels to potentially include in your mix:


Email continues to thrive and is here to stay.

It will persist to be a leading platform despite industry newcomers ushered in by newer tech. Facebook Messenger didn’t kill email. Neither did Slack.

Email remains to be the universal key. Didn’t you create your Facebook account with email? How do you recover your password for e-commerce or SaaS user accounts?

As more players enter the B2B field, audiences want brands they can trust. Email’s ability to feel like a personal letter gives you the opportunity to send powerful, authentic messages through this channel.

Longer form content is on the rise amid studies on consumers’ shorter attention spans. Readers tend to ascribe greater value with longer content.

Newsflash: People are still reading—as long as you invest in producing quality content.

How to leverage

Add a personal touch to your sales emails.

Pinpoint who exactly you want to target and identify their pain points. Personalisation doesn’t just mean addressing recipients by name.

It takes a deep dive into who your prospects are: what their problems are, what’s on their mind, who they are speaking to. Use these bits of information to write your emails with empathy and allow automation technologies to create variations for different subscriber segments.



How many hours of video do you watch in a day?

Survey says an average consumer spends 1.5 hours on videos every day.

Watching videos is how people like to learn. When it comes to digesting product information, 72% of customers would rather watch a video about it. The more lifelike a medium is, the more powerful it is.

We’re watching more videos than ever thanks to faster and more reliable data connections everywhere. Now, we can stream hour-long content while on-the-go without worrying we’d blow up the bill.

More marketers are communicating via video. In 2018, video helped 97% of marketers increase user understanding of their product or service, and 76% said video also drove their traffic and sales.

Video marketing trends to watch in 2019:

  • Social media stories (e.g. Facebook, Instagram)
  • Vertical videos (e.g. IGTV)
  • Live streams
  • Influencer videos
  • Explainer videos
  • Subtitles and closed captioning

How to leverage

Squeeze more mileage out of your existing content by turning them into videos. You can keep it as simple as this:


Explore easy-to-use tools like Rocketium, Showbox, and Lumen5 to create engaging videos that are optimised for social media.



Podcast production and listenership grew exponentially in the past year thanks to lower production costs, better technologies, and greater buy-in towards long-form content.

Compared to other media, podcasts are easier to consume while in transit or in the middle of a mindless task. Try listening while doing the dishes or laundry. It’ll do wonders.

Up to 124 million people (that’s 12 million more than in 2017!) tuned into podcasts in 2018.

This made marketers look and see the value of ads embedded into podcasts. Though longer than traditional ads, consumers are less likely to skip them because they’re weaved into the script and voiced by podcasters themselves.

How to leverage

Start your own B2B podcast and use it as a content marketing vehicle.

There are several distribution channels at your disposal: RSS, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and niche channels like

Tell interesting, value-adding stories that don’t sell products but make audiences want to buy from you.

For inspiration, hear how Neil Patel and Eric Sui balance educational and promotional content on the Marketing School podcast.



We hear LinkedIn is cool now—for B2B, at least.

As of December 2018, LinkedIn has amassed over half a billion users. That’s more than enough number of prospects looking to network and grow their business, like you.

With Facebook and Twitter’s algorithm changes, LinkedIn is finding its way to being marketers’ go-to social platform.

LinkedIn has been focused on making its website optimal for marketers. Over the last 12 months, the platform improved its search filtering and made its video ad format more powerful than ever.

This is largely why this medium now drives more than half of social traffic for B2B brands. Not only is it a platform for thought leadership content, but it’s also very much a well-oiled lead generator.

As the winner here, 93% of marketers now consider LinkedIn to be the most effective website when it comes to generating leads.

How to leverage

Set up your company page on LinkedIn.

Make the most out of the platform by creating a content roadmap that details what and when to post. Your content can be in the form of text ads, sponsored InMail, and video ads.

The best time to post is at 12 pm, and the best days to do so are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.



From a paltry 2% in 2017, use of chatbot technology in customer service is expected to land at 25% by 2020.

Chatbots have the advantage of instant messaging with your customers in real-time, day or night, 24/7.

It can carry out several tasks: message back and forth with customers, help them find products and order items, and suggest other products to purchase.  

Up to 1.4 billion people are now using or interacting with chatbots. Many customers prefer chatbots because they reply fast, don’t lose patience, and can give answers based on your entire buying history. 

How to leverage

Build your chatbot around your customers’ FAQs.

Use chatbots to immediately resolve easy, recurring pain points. Answering questions at once also means being able to fix issues quickly.

Channels available: Facebook Messenger, other instant messaging apps, and on-site chatbots such as Drift’s.


Over to You

Half the battle is identifying the right channel that’s perfect for your content and audience.

You can have the best content, but putting it on the wrong platform can mean letting it fall on deaf ears. Deciding your content formats and distribution channels will influence the trajectory of your marketing investments.

As you review your 2019 strategy, consider the evolving trends in your market’s user behaviour.

Also, leverage your organisation’s strengths. For instance, do you have the capabilities to produce quality podcasts or videos? Your inclinations and existing abilities increase your odds of winning at a channel.

After identifying your top marketing channels, invest and iterate. As you discover repeatable patterns, publish consistently.

Keep showing up, and you’ll win them over.

About Squaredot

Squaredot is a creative B2B digital marketing agency based in Dublin, Ireland. We generate demand by connecting brands with the modern B2B buyer. Squaredot uses research and data to create targeted marketing collateral, combined with award winning creative, design and copywriting to craft engaging content that converts attention into nurtured leads. Squaredot’s services include research, strategy, persona development, SEO, content production, design and promotion.

Tags:  B2B  channels 

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In-house of pain? The conundrum of media buying

Posted By John Dunne, Founder of Ignite Digital, Wednesday 20 March 2019
Updated: Tuesday 19 March 2019

media buying

Technology is tempting some big names to do media buying themselves and cut out agencies, but as John Dunne argues, it’s not a binary decision.

As international ad industry headlines highlight brands bringing media buying in-house, speculation is that agencies are doomed, sure to be victims of self-service advertising solutions. When Google and Facebook can offer direct-to-consumer relationships, it’s tempting for brands to think about getting rid of the middleman. From an Irish perspective, the reports of these deaths may be greatly exaggerated. The rush of advertisers trying to do media themselves is as much an opportunity to agencies and ad platforms as it is a threat.


Fit for purpose

What’s clear is, brands and agencies believe the current setup isn’t fit for purpose: that’s what research by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and management consultancy The Observatory International found. Almost half of agencies feel clients don’t provide them with clear briefs. Is it any wonder agencies miss the target when the goalposts keep moving?

A brand’s decision to take its media in-house poses a variation on the classic business question: should you focus on your core expertise and outsource the rest, or do it yourself?

The most recent development relates to biddable media, where the advent of companies such as Google and Facebook have enabled advertisers to deal directly with media owners with little friction. The growth of online biddable media – paid search, programmatic and paid social (any media that can be purchased via live auctions) – and a general loss of trust in agencies have resulted in increasing noise about advertisers moving towards in-housing.


Greener grass in-house?

There are two kinds of company in the digital economy: those that have first-party data and those that don’t. The companies that own a lot of first-party data and have direct-to-consumer (D2C) relationships are winning (think Amazon, Google, Netflix and Uber).

There’s a perceived wisdom that in-housing can help cut costs by taking a layer out of the system, while ensuring marketers have a better understanding and more control of their buying processes. In-housing seems very practical – until you realise the ‘unseen’ human resource that goes into programmatic buying. An IAB paper on programmatic in-housing estimates that it takes at least a year to set up an in-house programmatic capability.

This need for more control, speed and scale, rather than a lack of trust in agencies, is the primary reason that a growing number of brands have set up their own data-management platforms and are looking to bring more of their advertising and marketing services in-house and on-site in the client’s office. Such an undertaking in the Irish market will remain a huge challenge. For most brands, it’s simply not a sustainable option. In Ireland, too many companies lack first-party data and urgently need to find ways to become more like D2C businesses or risk falling behind.  

Brands want greater transparency and better control over their data, supply chain costs and execution. But we’re still at the experimentation stage with in-housing: for every success story, there’s a cautionary tale. Vodafone in the UK is reportedly backtracking on its plan to take programmatic ad buying in-house. Internal tensions over whether the marketing or digital team would own and therefore fund the programmatic setup stalled its progress. Other reported stumbling blocks were the spiralling costs of ad tech, talent and publisher relationships.

For any brand that’s considering whether to do its own media buying, there’s a huge array of factors to consider. The media roulette wheel below offers an omnichannel perspective on media in-housing. It highlights the choices within each channel, e.g. TV, programmatic, press etc… open to buyers of media.

As the wheel shows, managing a media supply chain is more complex and challenging than ever before. there are so many variables, and internal and external challenges to bringing media in-house. It’s like playing Monopoly and trying to buy up every space on the board. Yes, it’s possible to do it but a better question to ask is, can you do it efficiently?


Not for the faint-hearted

In theory, it makes sense that high-spending brands want to seize more direct control of their ad spending. By bringing media buying in-house, they think they’ll gain a better insight into their effectiveness and cut costs. But the decision to do so isn’t always a binary one.

It can mean more cost, time and internal hassle than many advertisers realise. Just a basic tech stack can cost tens of thousands a month. That’s before you think about challenges like talent, resources, experience, and the necessary relationships across the media spectrum.  You can save money on agency commissions and have media staff focused solely on your company goals. But it can be hard to find the right people and have adequate clout with media vendors in negotiating rates and placements.

It’s logical to suggest procurement teams would be keen to in-house more media, but in my experience, practitioners who understand the complexities associated with media supply chain are more concerned about the impact this could have on the quality of work and level of talent working on it.

Brands still want a high-end strategic offer when they work with agencies, but they want to be able to pull that expertise as and when they need it rather than paying for a retainer with a traditional agency.


Who’s got talent?

Programmatic advertising is driven by technology, so you would think having the right software will automatically make your in-housing a success. What’s more important, though, is having talent with the digital know-how to operate the software.

With all the focus on the technology, very little emphasis has been placed on the talents a well-rounded media planner brings to the table. A media strategy isn’t confined to digital channels alone. A cursory look at the media roulette wheel above demonstrates the channel options available.  A good media planner understands the relationship between:

  • Marketing strategy and technological possibilities
  • Innovative ideas and enabling solutions
  • Effectiveness and economic value.


We must be cautious about our own perceptions

With an abundance of buyers and sellers in the marketplace, making the right choices has never been more challenging. What we think is effective and what is actually effective don’t always tally, as Radiocentre’s recent study, ‘Re-evaluating media’, reminds us. Another study from TAM Ireland, called AdLand v TVland, highlights a similar line of thinking from an Irish context when it comes specifically to TV advertising. Given all this choice, and the seismic changes the industry is currently undergoing, an experienced planner is invaluable when it comes to objectively mapping your media channel selection to a clearly defined media strategy.


What are your priorities?

Advertisers need to take the lead in developing a new kind of partnership if they truly want to achieve real business success from their media investments. That requires new skills but also involves working closely with their agencies, which often have huge knowledge and experience working with publishers, data and adtech providers across multiple brand categories.

In the topsy-turvy world of marketing, customers want frictionless experiences. Eliminating friction in the digital world is a huge opportunity for the media industry. Without first-party data this will never happen. Every choice involves trade-offs. Moving your programmatic advertising in-house is no exception. You’ll have to be comfortable with the fact that what you gain in control and transparency comes at (and with) costs. Like most things in life, this is a big call to make and the optimum solution when placing your bets on the media 


About the author

John Dunne is Founder of Ignite Digital, a company that offers unbiased advice to effective marketers in Ireland. John has more than 20 years’ experience in the media business and a strong pedigree in digital advertising, he has an intimate understanding of the media supply chain and how it supports broader marketing objectives in the context of driving business growth.

John is accredited by IAPI and the AAI as an independent media consultant.

ignite digital


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A Day in the Life of…. Caroline Leonard, Marketing Manager at Spearline

Posted By The Marketing Institute, Tuesday 12 March 2019

Caroline Leonard Spearline

What does a Marketing Manager at Spearline do?

In general, I am responsible for developing customer retention strategies and managing communication plans that are in line with Spearline’s corporate objectives.

Spearline is an award-winning technology company located in West Cork that provides software services to measure the quality of telecommunications audio and other customer experience elements for large contact centres, conferencing service providers, and telecom carriers.

The main focus of my role is to raise awareness of Spearline’s products and services with our customers as well as designing strategic communication plans for new product launches.

My work involves managing an annual programme of customer research with the goal of developing a deep understanding of our customers and their key drivers.


What were your key career moves to get to your current role?

I have always been interested in business, and in particular marketing. I have a Bachelor of Commerce with a marketing specialism and a Master’s in Business Studies in Marketing from NUI Galway. I am also an associate member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.

I am a commercially-driven marketer with over 16 years’ experience gained in the software, education and construction industries in Ireland and the UK.

Before  joining Spearline, I spent over 11 years working in London. The first two years were spent with a software company in the TV & film industry as their Marketing Services Executive.  

I then moved to Pearson, the world’s leading education company. I spent almost 10 years with Pearson in London working in various marketing roles. I was initially hired as a Senior Marketing Executive and worked my way up to Marketing Manager level and eventually to Head of Marketing for Pearson Work-based Learning, a strategic business unit part of Pearson UK.

It was during my time at Pearson that I developed my leadership and recruitment skills as I was responsible for leading high performing, results-orientated marketing teams across multiple sites in the UK.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Database maintenance! Sounds dull, but it’s something that is absolutely essential in my role. I am always trying to proactively maintain the data hygiene and integrity of our CRM data, including establishing rules and operational routines to regularly cleanse and strengthen our customer database.

I, along with the rest of the Spearline marketing team, am constantly brainstorming and thinking of new and innovative ways to connect with and engage with our customers. There is a great culture of sharing best practice in Spearline where we all learn from each other on what initiatives worked well and which ones didn’t.


What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?

Being a strategic thinker with an eye for the finer details is essential.

It is important to be commercially-minded with strong planning, organisational, time management, teamwork and communication skills.

Tracking and measuring marketing effectiveness are also crucial as a marketing manager needs to be aware of which campaigns are generating the desired results, which ones aren’t and where to change course.


Describe a typical working day.

As the majority of Spearline’s customers are located around the world, my day usually begins with a review of all ongoing campaigns to see what responses or requests for information have come in overnight and to action and prioritise as necessary.  After that, there’s really no such thing as a typical day!

I will catch up with the CMO and the CTO to give them an update on how current campaigns are performing and to review and strategise our customer communications and research plans for the month and year ahead.

 My day may also entail briefing a PR and communications agency in relation to organising publicity campaigns to raise awareness of the Spearline brand and to increase our profile in new and existing international markets.


What do you love most about your role?  

I am very fortunate to work with a company that is 100% focused on our customers.

Our customers know better than anyone else what it’s like to interact with Spearline. My role involves capturing this interaction in written case studies and testimonials to showcase the positive experiences our existing customers have with Spearline’s people, products and services.


Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?

We have a number of exciting new products and services that we will be releasing this year  and I’m looking forward to informing our customers about these to make their experience and interaction with us even better.

As Spearline continues to expand, I’m looking forward to the challenge of evolving our marketing strategies to reflect the changing needs of our current customer base as well as targeting new prospects.


To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?

I’m very lucky to be surrounded by so many successful business people both in my personal life and in my working life.

Growing up, my father ran a successful motor franchise dealership in West Cork. From him I learnt about the importance of listening to your customers, providing an excellent customer experience and adhering to the very high standards that come with the responsibility of looking after a global brand.

Marjorie Scardino, the former CEO of Pearson is someone I looked up to during my time there and still do. Marjorie was the first female CEO of a FTSE 100 company. She had a calm and natural leadership style who transformed Pearson in to one of the world’s most successful learning companies.

Spearline’s co-founders Kevin Buckley and Matthew Lawlor have been huge source of inspiration to me since joining the company. They’ve both demonstrated that through a winning combination of hard work, technical expertise and entrepreneurial spirit that anything is possible.

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