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Career Lessons: Powerscourt Hotel Director of Sales and Marketing Deirdre O’Brien

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The Powerscourt Hotel in County Wicklow is the jewel in Ireland’s hospitality crown, with the luxury resort hotel earning accolades year on year for its innate beauty and top tier service. Lying along Ireland’s most scenic valley, guests can explore the nearby historic Powerscourt Estate and its grounds – which includes a stunning manicured garden and waterfall – or relax in the 33,000-square foot ESPA spa. There’s also an option of golfing on two courses with a signature hotel to inspire you to work up an appetite.

We caught up with Director of Sales & Marketing, one accomplished Deirdre O’Brien, to talk about her career journey and the lessons she’s taken to heart throughout her working life.

My first job…

Delivering leaflets every Wednesday and Saturday after school. This gave me a healthy respect for every breed of dog and taught me how to run that little bit faster when required. To be honest it was also my first introduction into the workings of sales and marketing and suited my very curious nature.

The moment I grew up…

My friends and family might say that I never have, but I believe the moment I grew up and started to take my career seriously was when I became pregnant with my eldest son, Conor. We were living in London for seven years and needed to take stock of where we were and where we wanted to go. Within 11 months of Conor’s birth we were back home in Ireland and I had started on my journey within sales and marketing. The first stop was Hilton Hotels.

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Everything changed…

In September 2008, the recession really shook the hospitality industry and corporate and leisure business suddenly fell off a cliff. As Director of Sales & Marketing at the time, I had to review team structures, sales and marketing strategies. Yet this was also an exciting time. We had to re-invest in our brand to ensure we stood out from the crowd and had the largest share of voice. Only the strongest brands with the best customer service would survive and this was not the time to reduce budgets, but instead to be brave.

The scariest moment…

Jumping from a 30ft telegraph pole and catching a flying trapeze in the name of work! No, I hadn’t run off to join a circus – I was hosting a UK corporate event and had to push myself out of my comfort zone as heights are not really my thing. At times we all lack the self-belief in our ability to get the job done, but with the help and encouragement of the team on the day, I did it. Wobbly legs and all. That’s why for me the best results and sense of achievement have always come from working with great teams.

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The most influential person in my life and career…

After 22 years in the industry it’s hard to pick just one person, I’m really lucky to have had amazing mentors. Paul Carty was the first General Manager I worked with in London and then later as Managing Director of the Guinness Storehouse, when I worked as Business Development Manager. He taught me the value of true hospitality and cultivating strong customer relationships. He has always been there when I needed advice on taking the next steps in my career. David Webster, General Manager of Powerscourt Hotel, has also been a major influence on my career. I have worked with him for over 10 years and learnt the value of developing and managing great teams, taking chances and pushing the boundaries when it comes to creating a strong brand and loyal customers. And finally, I’m a huge film buff and fan of Star Wars, so listened closely when Yoda said, “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try!”

I love my job when…
Everyone works together as a team and success follows.

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My favourite part of the day…
It has to be opening the front door of my home after a busy day in work. Most people will attest to the fact that I’m not a great morning person. But after a hectic fun packed day of sales and revenue meetings, appointments with clients and the team, I like to get back to the tranquillity of home. Dinner with the family, walk the crazy dog to clear my mind and then down to planning for the days ahead and reviewing the day just gone and of course a little bit of Twitter, my new addiction.

My best failure…
Hands down it has to be failing my driving test in London. I really wanted to return to Ireland and had just been successfully recruited as Sales Manager for the Hilton Dublin. The catch, I needed a have a full driver’s license to start the job. So I improvised and told them a little white lie. This gave me two whole months to pass a driving test. No pressure as I had never sat behind the wheel of a car. I love a challenge. I aced my theory and then came the big day. It’s still indelibly etched into my mind. Taking the test in Ealing Broadway, driving around roundabouts and into people’s driveways, reversing around corners onto the other side of the road. When the driving instructor begged for mercy and asked me to stop I was presented with my certificate of incompetence and off I went back to Ireland and my new job. My employers were quite forgiving and allowed me start the job but for the first three months I had to do all my sales calls by foot. I went on to try and obtain my driver’s license and on attempt number three, received my certificate of COMPETENCE. Still to this day not 100% sure why people are afraid to get in the car with me.

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What makes me excited…
I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna but every aspect of my role excites me. I love that feeling of landing on the ground in Dublin after returning from an overseas sales trip with several bits of new business confirmed. Or seeing the reaction to a new marketing initiative we have launched, or sitting with the team and brainstorming sales strategies and implementing them to help grow our business and our brand. I’m lucky to be in a role that I love, with a team that are probably the best in the business and make me look good every day.

How I want to be remembered…

As a good driver! I would hope my friends, family and colleagues would remember me as a loyal friend, supportive and loving, but also good fun and good-humored. I hope that my colleagues remember me as a real team player, as I love my work and want to inspire them to do the same.

Visit the Powerscourt Hotel’s website for more information.

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