Tuesday 20 August 2019

This working life: 'You have to accept events will happen outside of your control'

This working life: Liz Cunningham, EMEA Finance Director at Google Ireland in conversation with Mary McCarthy

Liz Cunningham. Photo: Alan Rowlette
Liz Cunningham. Photo: Alan Rowlette

Work-life balance

Never look at how others balance family and work and think they have it nailed.

Their solution might not work for you.

I regularly sit down with my husband to make tweaks to our routine, to ensure it fits with family needs.

Don't schedule so tightly. Leave space, as something will go wrong, usually when you least need it to.

Welcome advice

A tip that I got from someone I admired was to have a ground rule of when you arrive into and leave the office.

There is always work that demands immediate attention and you will deplete your resources if you have no chance to rest.

Stress relief

My way to manage stress is to exercise before work a few times a week, and I find when I let that go, life gets harder.

You should not be too busy to prioritise your own mental health.

Mindfulness also works for me. I'll get the train into work and do 10 minutes on the Headspace app.

Working 24/7?

I would ruthlessly prioritise my family at certain times of the day, as it's important my team get the message it's OK to have a life outside work, whether you have a family or perhaps other things going on.

Everyone knows I leave the office at 6pm so I am back for homework and to spend time with my nine-year-old twins, Hugh and Petra, and my 11-year-old daughter, Claudia.

I'll read on the train, which helps me transition into mum mode. The next day, I'll get into work for 9am after breakfast with the family.

Working for a US company, it's inevitable that I log in later in the evening and work when the kids are in bed.

That period is when important things happen and I need to be available.

Management style

I trust people to manage their own working day.

The type of people we hire at Google want to succeed and will get the work done on their own timetable.

Women in tech

I used to work in accounting, and any barriers in technology that women may come up against are the same across all industries at certain levels.

I sponsor the Women@ group, which is a Google network that offers mentoring.

It's important to share experiences so you can see how others overcame hurdles.

And it's key to talk to people who are in the jobs you would like to do, so that you can see what is involved and what skills are needed to get there.

This is one of the reasons why a group of Google women came together to found the Compass Leadership Summit, to ensure current and future female leaders, from all corners of Irish society, can connect with inspirational women.

The theme for this year is 'connection'.

There is a lot of truth in the saying you can't be what you can't see, but there have already been incremental changes in attracting women into technology.

Historically, it's been a pipeline issue, where women will transfer out of techie roles into more business ones.

The industry is working hard to correct this, and initiatives such as Coder Dojo, coding at primary school, and computer science at leaving cert make a big difference. For the next generation, working life will be more equal.

Girls and Stem subjects

I went to boarding school in the 1980s, where I could study physics. It was only later I realised how progressive it was.

It is important all schools offer physics, as this will feed into more young women studying it at secondary level.

A job for life?

Always retain career optionality and ensure you have a plan B. Career plans often don't work out, and that can be devastating.

Keep your optionality open by remaining flexible about where your own path may go.

I have put all my eggs in one basket in the past and I can see now where I went wrong.

Fear of failure?

Life often gets in the way and you have to accept that events will happen outside of your control.

This can set you back, but if you have the right mindset, you will have the resilience to pick yourself up. It is not what happens to you, but how you deal with it afterwards.

Work priorities

Google is getting bigger every day. We need to be vigilant we don't become complacent. Nothing is ever really finished.

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