Business Brain: eir’s director of small business segment Lily O’Donoghue on her career so far and championing women

Lily O’Donoghue and Susan Brady

This International Women’s Day, we chat to eir’s new director of Small Business segment Lily O’Donoghue about her career to date, championing women in business, and her achievements to date. 

1. Can you tell us a bit about your new role as director of SMB in eir? 

As Director of eir’s Small Business segment, my focus is working with the team, developing and executing strategies that drive sustainable growth while making meaningful contributions to our customers and communities. Approaching my sixth month in this role, I’ve gained a deep appreciation for the dynamic challenges we face and the exceptional talent of everyone on our team.

Collaborating closely with our sales teams and customer operations, we leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of new sales opportunities while striving to provide exceptional care for our existing customers. It’s a balancing act that requires strategic foresight and hands-on engagement, but the results are worth all the effort.

I’ve found leading eir’s Small Business division isn’t just about numbers and strategies; it’s about fostering relationships, listening to the experts, making a difference and embracing the journey every step of the way.

2. How did you get started in your career – give us a run down to date! 

I was lucky enough to complete my undergraduate studies in Business and German at the University of Limerick, where I majored in marketing and which was a home away from my home town of Bandon for four wonderful years. Filled with ambition, armed with my degree and determined to make a career for myself in the dynamic field of marketing, I moved to Dublin where I soon learned that there would be plenty of obstacles to overcome if I was to achieve my goals.

But where there’s a will there’s a way, and I landed my first job working in a call centre at permanent tsb – somewhere that I could indulge my love of the chat! I worked hard to build a network in the bank, which helped me to transition into a role within the marketing communications team. 

After several happy years working with a great team and prompted by my passion for children, I took up a role as sales and marketing manager for Park Academy Childcare, a chain of crèches based in south county Dublin. That role gave me brilliant experience in learning the strategies necessary to enhance brand presence in a niche market.

Thanks to the contacts that I’d made in permanent tsb, I joined eir in 2015 and plunged headfirst into the fast-paced world of Customer Value Management and telecommunications. I was tasked with developing a strategic plan for the fixed customer CSB base that reduced churn and drove profitability; a pretty fundamental shift in career focus that forced me to adapt quickly, learn new skills and get comfortable with the many, many acronyms that come with working in a telco! 

Over the last eight years, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating on diverse and fascinating projects with exceptional colleagues and leaders at eir. Their support has not only bolstered my confidence but also accelerated my professional growth. Whether I’ve been navigating through complex projects or solving tricky problems, their mentorship has been invaluable in helping me progress my career. 

3. Tell us something in your career you’re most proud of? 

The thing I’m most proud of in my career isn’t a single achievement or project, but the balance I’ve struck between pursuing a successful career and maintaining my busy family and social life. Juggling tight deadlines and leading projects at work, while also making time for family and friends, has been my biggest challenge.

Striking that balance has made me more creative at work and I’ve been able to become more involved in my local community while spending time with my daughter.

Photo: Brian McEvoy

4. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in your career?

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in my career has been adapting to rapid changes in technology while maintaining high performance in my role. The tech industry moves at an incredible pace, and staying ahead requires constant learning and flexibility. This has meant dedicating personal time to upskill, attending workshops, and embracing new tools and methodologies often outside my comfort zone.

Additionally, leading teams through these changes, ensuring they feel supported and confident in their abilities to adapt, has been equally challenging. This experience has taught me the value of resilience, the importance of fostering a culture of continuous learning within my team, and the need to lead by example when it comes to embracing change.

5. As title sponsor of the Power of Women awards, eir are big champions of women in business. How does this passion come into your own work? 

We take huge pride in our Power of Women sponsorship, because we truly believe the role of female-led businesses is pivotal in promoting economic growth and diversity in Ireland. They serve as the catalysts for combating gender inequality within the workplace, providing much-needed avenues for women to ascend to leadership positions. Each year the Power of Women awards celebrate and recognise the hard work of over 100 small Irish businesses, which hope will inspire the next generation of women to follow in their footsteps. 

Within eir, the senior management team has a 50:50 gender balance – which is fantastic representation and one that we’re constantly working towards strengthening throughout the organisation. Ensuring equal opportunities for women and other under-represented groups is integral to our business and societal advancement. 

6. March marks International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is ‘inspire inclusion.’ How important is a mantra like this? 

For me, International Women’s Day will always be deeply significant. It’s a time to reflect on the strides we’ve made in gender equality, and a reminder of the work that still lies ahead.

It’s a personal reminder of the importance of championing women’s rights and standing in solidarity with women worldwide, ensuring that every voice is heard and every opportunity is within reach. In eir we’ve a designated ‘WeLead’ team that was established in 2020, to be the driving force of female leadership, professional mentorship and employee inclusivity.

7. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? 

If I could do it all again, I would tell myself:

1.   Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all path to a dream career. So take on jobs that will teach you the skills you want to develop and pay attention to the things that give you joy — and look for roles that will let you do more and more of those things.

2.   Keep pushing yourself to learn and grow. Actively seek out chances to develop new skills and put them into practice. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback—it’s how you’ll keep improving and reaching new goals.

3.   Find a mentor. Look for guidance from those who’ve walked similar paths before you, understanding that learning is a lifelong journey. Whether it’s a formal mentorship or informal advice from colleagues, cherish the wisdom shared by mentors—they’ll play various roles in your career journey, each offering valuable insights along the way.

8. eir had an incredible 2023 – can you tell us a bit about what’s next for 2024? 

Thank you, we’re delighted with eir’s growth in 2023 and the evolution within the market – it’s gone from strength to strength. 

We’re eager to continue our Creator Series – which shines a light on real small businesses across the country. To date the series has showcased how our reliable connectivity facilitates 15 companies, who are at the forefront of society, across various industries in both rural and urban locations. Illustrating each unique story provides incredible exposure for their businesses and we’ve received really positive feedback on the back of each episode. 

Last but not least, the eir VIP Publishing Power of Women Awards is an integral sponsorship within our small to medium business portfolio. We are really excited to explore how we can scale it this year and have ambitious plans to host more networking events in 2024!

eir is Ireland’s No. 1 Business Broadband Provider with a purpose of connecting for a better Ireland! The company is proud to support 60 thousand small businesses nationwide and are committed to deliver the most reliable broadband speeds, and best 5G network availability, as verified by Ookla.For more, visit follow on Instagram @eir.ireland and Twitter @eir.

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