Let’s talk Transformation

Digital Transformation is a term we hear a lot, as Aspira works with organisations so they can take advantage of technology to find faster/leaner ways to serve their customers better.

But what does it take to transform? The dictionary tells us that ‘transformation’ is defined as a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Transformation will not come about by accident – it will require dedication, planning, creation of a support structure and the willingness to take risks and cope with setbacks. It revolves around creating a sense of urgency by setting realistic goals with some achievable short-term wins that can then be built upon to achieve the longer term vision.

Rob Cullen from Dublin Chamber and his wife Yvonne have been on such a journey of transformation, losing 13 stone between them over the past couple of years. Listen to Rob share his story and learn the steps involved in successfully completing a journey of personal transformation. It’s amazing how the steps involved in personal transformation mirror the steps required for an organization to transform – come along to this talk in Aspira’s Lunch & learn series to learn the recipe for transformation.

Please join us on June 27 at 12.30pm at the Trinity City Hotel, Pearse Street, Dublin.

To register email:  philip.mcgillycuddy@aspira.ie

Aspira celebrates twelve years of operations

The world has changed a lot over the past twelve years. In 2007, the Motorola Razr was the world’s coolest phone – until Apple released the first iPhone that year. It was the year that saw Netflix start its digital streaming service, worrying that their customers would be willing to instantly access movies online rather than receiving DVDs in the post. Amazon released the first Kindle, encouraging us to ditch our paperbacks for an electronic library instead. It was also the first year that slim and lightweight LCD TVs outsold the old style cathode ray TV sets – the type you now only see abandoned at recycling centres.

It was 2007 that also saw the formation of Aspira, an Irish-owned technology and project management company. The company founders Pat Lucey and Colum Horgan (pictured above in 2007) were joined by four of their former software development colleagues from Motorola following its closure. The company was initially focussed on designing and developing software development products, and supplemented this activity by delivering some project consulting services, primarily to the energy sector.

In 2008, Aspira added project management training as a service offering, and doubled the team size. The following year saw the worst of the recession in Ireland, and saw many companies run aground. Luckily, being a small and agile company gave Aspira a competitive advantage and by 2010 it had beaten some prestigious competitors to deliver project management, business analysis, training and software development services.

2013 saw a change in focus – instead of being a product company, Aspira decided to switch focus to services. It retained all its staff but now focussed on delivering technology services to clients rather than developing new products. This change proved instrumental to accelerating growth in the company, with a second office opening in the Dublin Docklands region.

2015 saw the acquisition of an IT services company, expanding the range of services on offer and 2016 saw the grand opening of Aspira House – a new 10,000 sq foot headquarters in Cork. Growth continued and we were recognised by the Financial Times in 2017 and 2018 as one of “Europe’s Fastest Thousand Growing Companies”. 2018 brought the deployment of an IT technology team to the UAE. In 2019 a new mainland Europe office was opened in Amsterdam.

Having been through such a journey of change over the past twelve years, it is fitting that a lot of Aspira’s clients now rely on their expertise to delivery transformative projects, whether that is digital transformation or moving to Agile.

There are two groups of people that have been critical to the company’s success: The first is its staff. Aspira staff have proven to be loyal, hardworking, smart, innovative, flexible and reliable. They have taken on some huge challenges and have delivered every time. The second is their customers. Sometimes it takes courage for a customer to choose a smaller company to deliver its services. Aspira recognises that courage and seek to combine the maturity and reliability of the enterprise company, along with the energy and drive of an ambitious, growing company. It is a powerful combination.

In May 2019, we took some well-deserved time out to celebrate with staff and partners in recognition of the twelve years of successful operation. The company remains passionate about delivering change through technology, and on helping customers to manage their projects better.

Here’s to the next 12 years!

 

 

Three Tips To Influencing Without Authority

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

PMI EMEA Congress 2019

 

The 2019 PMI EMEA Congress kicks off in Dublin next week, where I will deliver an interactive session on the crucial project management skill of influencing without authority, alongside my colleague and Aspira CEO, Pat Lucey.

Getting things done on time, on budget and not leaving a trail of dead bodies while doing so is always a bonus!

The old style of command and control hierarchy is gone and project managers have to manage by influence, especially in a matrix environment. Often as a project manager you are managing people who don’t typically report to you and may have never worked with you, who are in separate locations and are likely to be at least working on more than one project.

Therefore, to deliver your project successfully, you need to manage by influence.

Make a good first impression

From the start of your project, you need to assume everyone is a potential ally and that the uncooperative will cooperate. You must suspend judgement and be curious about their world.

This is also your time to establish yourself as a credible leader by speaking about your experience of leading similar projects and highlighting your skills.

Your ability to influence is at its highest point at the start of the project, so this is a crucial time to impress your stakeholders.

Communicate the right messages

Begin by communicating what you are trying to achieve and help each person understand the vision and mission of the project and how they are connected to it.

Each person whether down the corridor or across the ocean needs to know, believe in and feel connected to the project story.

Understand your stakeholders

It is important to schedule time with each of your stakeholders to understand their priorities, concerns and objectives.

This will allow you to see the project through their eyes. You will learn how they are rewarded and measured, what is important to them, what keeps them awake at night and what they are passionate about. It will also give you insights into their preferred working styles and methods of communication.

This information will allow you to build rapport and communicate in a way that resonates with them, mapping project benefits to their needs.

If you would like to learn more about how you can influence without authority, click here for an insight to our dedicated training course.

 

Author: Norma Lynch, Head of Training, Aspira

 


 

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

PMI EMEA Congress comes to Dublin

This month will see the biggest international event in the project management (PM) world come to Dublin. It will also be the largest PM event for the next ten years to come to Ireland and Aspira is delighted to participate in the event this year.

What is all the fuss about?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) is the biggest PM professional body in the world, and was founded 50 years ago in Philadelphia. There are two big events held every year; one in North America and one in the EMEA region. This year, the North American event will be back in Philadelphia to mark its 50th anniversary, while the EMEA event will be held in Dublin.

Because project managers are good at managing resources, the PMI actually roll up two events into one. On the Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they hold what is called the Leadership Institute Meeting (LIM for us lovers of three-letter acronyms). The LIM is an invitee-only event, and it is where the leaders of the PMI from all over the world come together to share ideas, initiatives, discuss new trends, and go networking.

Aspira at the Congress

As CEO of Aspira, along with my colleague Norma Lynch, who is Head of Training at Aspira, we will deliver a session on ‘Influencing Without Authority – An Essential Skill for Project Managers’.   In most organizations, project managers need to manage people by influence rather than by control, and this can be a hard thing to achieve if you don’t have authority in an organization.

Aspira offer a two-day training course on ‘Influence without Authority’ and the core concepts shared in that course have been distilled down into a 75 minute interactive session. There has been a huge amount of interest expressed by Congress attendees – so much so that we have been asked to deliver an encore presentation on the same topic on Tuesday. Special prize for anyone who attends our keynote on both days!

My involvement at the Congress as President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI

In my role as President of the Ireland Chapter of PMI, I am honoured to deliver the welcoming address as part of the opening keynote session to the LIM, where I will also introduce ‘The Sky at Night’ TV presenter Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock, who is a fascinating speaker. As part of the social setting we will introduce our PM Leadership colleagues from around the world to iconic Irish cultural activities, such as pouring a pint of Guinness and trying out for a Riverdance troupe. It will be interesting to see if project managers can bust a few Michael Flatley moves!

In my PMI role, I will deliver a talk on Sunday morning on the subject of Sponsorship and Project Management. This is a topic I am very keen on, as establishing and maintaining a good relationship with sponsors can deliver a real win/win for all concerned.

On Monday, the Congress commences. Attendance is not restricted to this – basically anybody interested in project management can participate. The Congress attracts a huge crowd from all over the world – it is the most geographically-diverse group in the PMI annual calendar. It runs from Monday, 13 May to Wednesday, 15 May and will include a number of site visits to real-life working projects in the Dublin area.

The Congress will wrap up with a TED session on Wednesday, exploring aspects of Project Management. I am a huge fan of the TED format so I have high hopes for the event to have a fantastic finish.

It is exciting to welcome so many people with a passion for project management to Dublin.  Ireland has deservedly established an international reputation as a centre of project management excellence and this event gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise and talent in project management.

 

Bottom-up Initiative Power

It is often acknowledged that innovation and initiative come from groundswell movements. It is important for society and organisations to leverage these opportunities. One particular example of a ground-up movement is the Irish “Blood Bike” organisation. This is a bottom-up initiative of motor-bike enthusiasts in Ireland, who assist the health services by providing timely courier services for blood and other patient care support.

There are seven Blood Bike groups organised in Ireland, based all around the country (East, Leinster, South, West, Mid-West, North West, and Cú Chulainn Blood Bikes). These regional groups are completely self-organised and driven by nothing more than the initiative and creativity of local Irish bikers.

I have ridden motorcycles ever since I could legally have a driving license, so luck struck when my hobby and interests crossed paths with the local Cork “Blood Bike South” group. That good fortune enabled me to find another outlet (or excuse!) for jumping on a motorbike, and it afforded the grounds-up initiative of Blood Bike South, to support more services for the Irish healthcare system.

The service is provided completely by volunteers, with this groundswell from Irish motorcycle riders having significantly contributed to courier cost savings for the health service. More importantly, the service has undoubtedly saved lives because of the timely door-to-door courier service, and is an example where a local idea and initiative can grow to become a country-wide valuable service.

In addition to the Blood Bike movement, Aspira and its staff regularly volunteer for a number of other organisations in various sectors and recognise the importance of giving back to the community.

Author: Jim Blair, Director of Software Services, Aspira

 

The four ways your leadership is killing your project, and how to change it.

Growing up, my favourite Star Trek Next Generation character was Commander Will Riker. And I’ll admit it, I may have modelled my own beard on Number One’s impressive facial hair. But apart from the trendy beard, here is why Commander Riker should make you rethink how your leadership style is affecting the projects you sponsor.

‘Command and Control’ style leadership is something many of us grew up watching on television and in movies, and it’s still the approach many of us encounter and expect today in our organisations. But in a modern dynamic digital world, ‘Command and Control’ leadership is killing projects.

Statistically 32% of projects fail to meet expectations, and the leaders sponsoring those projects are the number one issue. So here are the four ways your leadership is killing project success, and how you can change it:

First, you are only human and like all humans you have insecurities. So although being a project sponsor demands a different approach, it’s common to default to your ‘business as usual’ way of working because you are afraid to fail. But the leadership approach that works so well in your day job as Sales Director, Account Manager, CEO etc. doesn’t transpose to the project world. In that world as a project sponsor you must be the team’s champion, not their captain. It is your job to set out the vision, and get the team fired up about bringing it to life. Your biggest achievement is not getting started, it is binding together as a project team to work through issues together as they arise. Plan for some setbacks, accept the team’s support, and persevere for success.

Second, avoid the HIPPO effect. The Highest Paid Person in the Office is the one people usually defer to, rather than listening to the most capable person in the office. Your project team have special skills and responsibilities in their roles, different from their ‘business as usual’ functions. Just because you have more stripes on your shoulder doesn’t mean you have the right answers. Unnecessary hierarchy constrains innovation and project delivery success. So if you run into one of the project team in the corridor and are tempted to over-reach your sponsorship role by acting as the high commander, remember that dictatorial decision making is almost always counter productive.

Third, embrace the fact that projects can often be seen as a disruptive and loss making entity at the start. This can be very confronting and stressful for an executive leader used to running a profit making unit, especially when this costly project is changing core business. I have seen leaders lose sight of the overarching vision amidst all this change, and interfere with the project plan causing chaos. Stay focussed on the vision and benefits of the project, and facilitate the unlocking of your project team’s immense skills so they can deliver successfully.

Fourth, be willing to release control and take a ‘belly of the beast’ approach. Support self managing teams because they will be more innovative, more empowered and will deliver change faster. Traditional top down ‘command and control’ is disproportionate, time consuming and less effective. I have supported leaders to release control, and those project teams having failed to deliver their KPIs initially, went on to exceed them. There is no situation where control becomes irrelevant however. Instead it’s about the boundaries to that control and how those are interpreted. Good governance, agreed responsibilities, and inclusive ways of working are the key to productive dynamic project teams.

Follow my four recommendations to relinquish your ‘Command and Control’ leadership style, and make the move to a more people-centred project approach. You may not satisfy all of your requirements, but your organisation will evolve to become more nimble and more innovative, and better able to respond to rapid technological change.

For all your PM Consultancy needs,  please contact aspira.ie or aspira-europe.nl

Author:  Peter Ryan, Managing Director, Aspira-Europe

Making the dream of Aspira Europe a reality

 

 

When I flew into Amsterdam recently, I had plenty of time to think about what Aspira has achieved over the last number of months as a company.

Our objective for the project was to launch Aspira Europe in 2019, something which even with my overly optimistic persona was finding hard to grasp at that time. The numerous legal, financial, tax, company formation and HR challenges aside, my own ongoing concern was how we would bring our unique mix of services to a new market. It was a great idea, but it had to be commercially viable, and we would need to be attractive to Dutch clients, in a tight and competitive marketplace. When we opened the office in Dublin, at least it was familiar territory. I had clients, consultants and the right language to make it all possible.

But then, Aspira is an expert in project management and delivery. As the plan started to unfold, with the local guidance of Enterprise Ireland (EI) in Amsterdam Zuid, we located an office space, legal advice, marketing assistance, HR assistance, formed a BV (a private limited company in the Netherlands), and eventually identified a candidate who would lead from the front on the ground. Peter Ryan, the Aspira BV MD, is a lifelong Programme Manager, of course. We never intended to stray away from what we do best!

The offerings development and market penetration plan was much easier once Peter joined the party. Based on his own experience and contacts, we were able to articulate what Aspira in the Netherlands is offering today in country. We also listened to the advice of EI clients who had been here before, hiring a local Business Manager, Nancy Nieuwenhuis, and taking an office in a central location near Amsterdam International Airport (Schiphol).

As I flew in today, I was incredibly proud to be able to walk into a busy office, and contribute to a number of meetings focussing on delivering various project management services, and some business analysis consultancy projects for our Dutch client base. The dream is actually reality.

Aspira in the Netherlands offer a range of PM services in consultancy, training, resourcing and all this delivered in classic (Waterfall) and Agile methods. Our leaders are senior contributors to the Project Management Institute with Pat Lucey (Group CEO Aspira) being President of the PMI in Ireland and Peter Ryan Director at the PMI in the Netherlands. Most critically, our clients testify to the value added services that we offer with so many joining us at our 14 February Netherlands launch. If you would like to hear more, please connect with me, Peter or Nancy. I am sure you will be just as excited as I have become with what Aspira and the Netherlands has to offer.

Author: Russell Moore, Head of Resourcing, Aspira.

From denial to acceptance: The five stages of navigating unexpected change

The Kübler-Ross model lists the five emotional stages that we go through when dealing with grief. These are first denial, then anger, moving into bargaining, then depression and finally acceptance.

Apart from serious and tragic events, we can also go through a milder version of these five stages when faced with unexpected events or change.

Last Sunday I needed to drive from Cork to Dublin – normally a 2.5 to 3 hour drive, depending on traffic. I decided to detour via Limerick to attend a funeral which would add another hour to my journey.

I checked the weather forecast which was not great – lots of rain, wind and with the possibility of snow on high ground. But it was only a yellow alert – which is far from the “stay at home” red alert status.

So off I went. Within 30 minutes, the snow was pelting down.

Denial. This can’t be right? I’m not on high ground. It will go away shortly. 60 minutes in, some cars are pulling over and giving up.

Anger. 2 hours in. For god’s sake! Are these weather forecasters just looking out their windows? The radio station is giving me no information. This is ridiculous. The car behind me is driving far too close. Why are there so many muppets on the road?!

Bargaining. Ok – I will not attend the funeral as that will delay me an hour and then it will be dark driving through the snow. Visibility won’t be too bad if I complete my journey in daylight hours. If I just keep going I should get there within 5.5 hours. It’s the best option. Staying somewhere overnight means I’ll be stranded as the roads will be frozen over in the morning.

Depression. OMG. 6 hours in and I’ve spent the last hour literally parked on the motorway. Nobody moving. No idea what’s happening. Why did I leave this afternoon? Why didn’t I stay overnight in Limerick? Why did I need to go to Dublin? What’s the point of it all anyway? Why am I not in front of a warm fire watching football on TV? Why? Why? Why?

Acceptance. 8 hours in. Traffic has started moving again. Roads look fine here on the outskirts of Dublin. It was interesting listening to that Talk Radio report from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona – I never knew there was a tech review radio show on Sunday nights – mental note for the future. The most important thing was to travel safely even though the journey took longer than it should. Feeling lucky that I had a full tank of fuel when I set off on my trip this afternoon.

As I realise that I’ve reached a Zen-like state of Acceptance, I also realise that when I am dealing with people in work and trying to drive through a major change, I need to recognise that people may go through their own version of the Kübler-Ross model. So instead of rushing people along and telling them to ‘get with the program’, I need to recognise and respect people’s need to get through the cycle in order to become supportive of the change project. After all, we are all passengers on the same journey – let’s be courteous to our fellow travellers!

After 8 hrs 45 minutes. I arrived. New record. 3 hours spent stationary on the motorway. But feeling calm, I decide to go celebrate my arrival with a pint of beer in the Ferryman pub on Dublin’s Quays – a great pub.

But it’s Sunday, and I arrived after 11pm, so the pub has just stopped serving beer. I can feel it coming on again – denial – anger – etc. etc.

Here’s to acceptance!

For more information on how Aspira can help your organisation navigate times of change using our project management expertise, contact us here. https://aspira.ie/consulting/

Diploma in Project Management

 

In February, I was invited to give an address and hand out awards at the annual graduation ceremony for the Diploma in Project Management at Cork Institute of Technology.

It was a pleasure to do so, and get the opportunity to meet so many people who put in a huge effort to achieve their qualification. The CIT Diploma is not targeted at undergraduates – it is a part-time course (two days per month, over seven months) and the people on the course are typically working full-time jobs, who are seeking to build up their capabilities and career options, augmenting their existing qualifications with a respected qualification in Project Management.

It is no joke to take on an educational qualification while also holding down a demanding job and balancing domestic responsibilities. It forces people to be organised and efficient in their allocation of time. Maybe it’s why many of these people like to study Project Management – they are a natural fit!

As I looked around the room, it was great to see the level of pride expressed by the family members who accompanied the graduates to honour, recognise and celebrate their achievements. People brought along their children, their parents, their partners, etc.
I know that in order to take time to study over weekends, the daily family responsibilities did not magically disappear – other family members or friends stepped up and helped out. It was heartening to see the graduates give a loud round of applause to all those people in their lives who helped them to successfully complete the Diploma.

Additionally, what struck me was the old African proverb – ‘to go fast go alone, but to go far bring a team’. None of the graduates completed their achievement alone. Every single one of them had the support of their families, colleagues, friends and of one another.

In my role as President of the Ireland Chapter PMI, it is a proverb I need to remember. When working in a voluntary organisation, it can be tempting to do things yourself, in order to achieve the fastest results. However, in order to build up an organisation’s long-term capability, it is important to build a team. A good team will always be far more capable that any one individual — no matter how efficient that individual is.

A huge congratulations to everyone who received their Diploma!

For those who may be interested in this course, the next cohort of the CIT Diploma in Project Management, starting 22nd March 2019, is taking in applications now. For more information, or to apply for the course, visit the course page here: http://bit.ly/2SHJlW6

Author: Pat Lucey, CEO, Aspira

Irish Enterprise IT Company opens office in Amsterdam and announces 30 new jobs

Irish Enterprise IT Company opens office in Amsterdam and announces 30 new jobs

Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands officially opens Aspira’s new European office

14 February 2019: Aspira, the wholly Irish-owned consulting and IT project specialists, today announced the opening of their new mainland Europe Headquarters in Amsterdam and the creation of 30 new high-level jobs. The award-winning company experienced accelerated growth, more than doubling in sales over the past three years, driven by a number of new project wins.

The 30 new jobs, which will be based primarily at the new Amsterdam office with some in Aspira’s Irish offices in Dublin and Cork, will be rolled out over 18 months and will include project management, business analysis, data analysis and software development roles. This office opening is in response to the rapidly expanding client base in Europe and Middle East.

The Irish Ambassador to the Netherlands, His Excellency Kevin Kelly, will officially open Aspira’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Strawinskylaan, Amsterdam today.

Speaking about the jobs announcement, Aspira-Europe Managing Director Peter Ryan said, “The Netherlands is in the EU Top 3 for IT and project management and demand for these services is expected to grow significantly over the next four years. However, Dutch business leaders have identified that the shortage of good IT professionals represents a major challenge to that growth. Aspira bring deep bench-strength and experience in both IT and project management to the Netherlands and so this announcement of 30 new jobs is very welcome news.”

Aspira Group CEO, Pat Lucey said: “The new roles we are announcing today will strengthen our delivery capability and our management team at a time when we are expanding rapidly to international markets. We forecast overall sales to double again over the next three years, with international sales growing at an even faster pace.”

Aspira was established in 2007 and currently employs over 100 people. Its accelerated growth has seen it named in the Financial Times Top One Thousand Growth Companies in Europe for the past two consecutive years.  Mr Lucey continued, “For twelve years we have consistently provided best-in-class enterprise solutions for our clients, ensuring their delivery on time and on budget. We will continue to offer a world-class service that will address our clients’ growing needs for deep technical knowledge, data analytics and an Agile approach to delivery.”

Aspira caters for a diverse, international client base, including leading players in the IT, financial services, pharma/med devices, healthcare and energy sectors.  Aspira is supported by Enterprise Ireland, the state agency for developing Irish business globally, which has provided the company with international market entry assistance and will work closely with the company to accelerate its position in global markets over the next phase of its growth.

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Peter Ryan or Pat Lucey please contact:

Clodagh Geary, Aspira Marketing Manager

Clodagh.geary@aspira.ie
087 232 7668, 021 235 2550

Benefit Resolutions and Getting Fit: How to apply project management principles to real life

It is now early February, so it’s time to start thinking about my New Year Resolutions. Yes, I know the convention is that January 1st is the day to kick off those positive intentions, but my experience is that, like the TV ads for DIY magazines and the surge in keep-fit classes, after three weeks of ‘being good’, the novelty wears off and old habits return.

I prefer to reserve my energies and attempt my resolutions towards the end of the month. Remember that while January 1st may be the first day of the year, the old maxim says that ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’, so there’s no need to procrastinate or put off trying to improve.

There are a couple of ideas from the world of project management that can help you stick to your resolutions.
The first is benefit realisation – the idea that you identify upfront what benefits your project will deliver and that you keep your eye on that prize rather than focussing on the activities to deliver the prize. If I resolve to run 5 miles each day, and focus on that activity as the goal, I am far more likely to give up. For example, if I were to miss a day or two and feel that I had broken my resolution, that would give me the excuse to give up. But if I identify the prize – that I will run my first ever Marathon in June, then an occasional blip won’t deter me – I can still keep going and achieve the benefit.

The second is the idea of opportunity cost vs sunk cost. In project management, opportunity cost is future-looking – what do I stand to lose if I don’t take action now. Sunk cost is backward-looking – what has already been spent. Emotionally, it is natural to obsess about sunk cost even though that ship has sailed and there is nothing more we can do about it. Instead, we should try to guide our decisions by considering opportunity cost. For example, if I resolve to reach a certain target weight, but yesterday I succumbed to temptation and had a burger and chips for dinner, today I shouldn’t use that as an excuse to give up on my diet. Instead, I should be forward looking and see what I can do today to help realise my goal and achieve my target benefit.

So – as we approach the end of January I am resolving to be more active and eat more healthily with the goal of losing eleven pounds. The benefit? Reducing cholesterol, improving BMI, and facilitating more acrobatic dance moves at the next wedding I attend!

 

 

Guest blog: A sneak peek into choosing an Independent Consultants Life

We invited Niamh Kelly to write this guest opinion piece about her personal experiences as an independent consultant.

A job for life… career stability… security… these mantras are often bandied about as the holy grail of #careergoals. I disagree with all of these largely because they don’t exist. Job security, predictable income, Ts & Cs and the ability to plan far into the future based on holding on to a job is a mirage which is long gone. Teachers, lawyers & the current nurses strike are hard proof examples.

I noticed the trend toward moving away from a Job for Life in the early noughties fresh out of university and jumped on board as an early adopter of skill survival but it has taken many years and a huge recession for the penny to drop for many others. Some unfortunately are still in denial.

The term job-hopping is used in a negative way to describe people who move from company to company. There is a huge problem with subscribing to this mind-set for you, the employee, as you will get stuck, you will operate from fear and you will make decisions based on external opinions instead of listening to your gut and trusting yourself. As an independent consultant, I job-hop for a living although I prefer the term client-hop and once you move past all of this external noise you will find that it is easier to design your life and carve out your career in a way that works for you. This is a day, a week, several months in my life.

When the last recession hit in 2008, by 2009, I experienced my first redundancy, it was devastating but an extremely well disguised gift. There were some huge life lessons I learned quickly and brutally:

1. Life gets in the way and even if you do everything right, the worst can still happen. It’s not you it’s them.

2. Always be prepared financially for the rug to get pulled from under you.

3. Be prepared to mobilise quickly in all types of economies – hone your skills, diversify if necessary and be flexible to change. If you are not flexible you will break like a stubborn tree in a hurricane.

Another redundancy came a few years after that in my favourite company to date with our Dublin HQ closure and that was almost more brutal than the first as I was emotionally invested in the company and my team. The grief was different this time; I mourned what was lost but I was not afraid of surviving the future. I knew I had what it took, I‘d done it before and this time I had even more skills, more experience and higher resilience. I felt secure in knowing that I had cleverly branched out into the technology sector which was thriving and changing the working landscape. Instinctively, I did not put roots down in my next permanent position, I saw an opportunity to expand my skillset even further in Tech Project Management and start-up environments and sought out a way to step outside my comfort zone deliberately. I took on difficult tasks whether I liked them or not as a way to stretch my professional legs. I don’t like spreadsheets but I became highly Excel competent, not a fan of public speaking but workshopped more ideas, improvements and knowledge sharing than I can count and while I’m no Mathematician if you put a € in front of anything I can negotiate, manage and track it to the nearest cent even with a moderately bad hangover. I can plan, strategise and forecast with the best of them although I always liked doing that so it doesn’t count.

As I was outgrowing my last permanent job the feeling of being stuck was gnawing at me but I had now become a little too comfortable and wasn’t feeling under pressure to make any swift decisions. The universe had other plans, it threw up an opportunity for me to buy a very unique and special home which was meant for me, I already owned a property and initially I didn’t think it would be possible. I somehow made it happen within nine days and when I came up for air on day 10, incredulous that I pulled this off, I suddenly realised the scale of financial responsibility I now had to bear which hadn’t even entered my thoughts two weeks previously. This could have been overwhelming but I went along with it.

Several months later, I left the permanent job after being there for a few years, it was time, and I took the leap and branched out as an Independent Consultant and so far it has been a great move for me. I work when I decide or when the right contract lands and I take time to travel in between. I am also a landlord and while I employ a company to manage the property, I often find myself managing them. I am designing my life. In the last two years, I have visited eight countries on four different continents and have three more pencilled in later this year. Consulting gives me flexibility I would not get in a permanent role and I have upskilled with every contract and stretched myself professionally in a way that I was hindered from doing in permanent employment. Best of all, I have increased my income exponentially which allows me the freedom to travel, pick good contracts and live my best life. I rely heavily on my network to connect me with good clients and you have to be prepared to walk in somewhere on day one and instantly take the reins to keep the show on the road. You also need to have the ability to propose frameworks for improvements and change. I have recently coupled up with Aspira through an old network contact of mine who I worked with several years ago. I sent him a speculative email on a sunny afternoon last summer and we met for a coffee within days to chat and see if we could do some business together and now we are. While I remain independent, working with our latest client running a huge internal hardware and software migration for 700 users has been fantastic and I now have the support of the Aspira family behind me to help me with any challenges I may come up against. They are a valuable support system for me and also act as knowledge pool that I can tap into at any time to help me to help our client, it’s a win/win/win.

So what about company loyalty, I hear you wonder, she hasn’t mentioned that at all, isn’t that important? I know that loyalty and longevity are two completely different animals. I still have huge loyalty to the Senior Management teams and Founders of the two companies I mention above. I continue to be friends with and mentored by these individuals, many years on, and I believe that many of us will work together again in the future – lads if you’re reading this you know who you are. I have huge respect and admiration for these people and have learned so much from how they handled the challenges as well as the successes. I have remained longer in other companies where we didn’t quite fit but I had a purpose, I delivered it and moved on. Relationships and positive networking are hugely important if you are taking this path, as the old saying goes, it’s all about who you know – but then to stay doing this and make a good living from it you have to be good at what you do.

Will I remain independent forever? Who knows, but right now I am incrementally maximising my skills & income level and pushing myself to achieve what I envision for myself, in the shortest amount of time – patience has never been my virtue. If I create a good solid design now then I should be able to withstand whatever the economy throws up at me in the future and it’s exciting and comforting for me to know that Aspira are part of this journey.

Author: Niamh Kelly