The Micro manager

Editor's Choice, View from the Boardroom | Fri 24 Feb | Author – Business & Finance Cathriona Hallahan
Cathriona Hallahan, managing director, Microsoft Ireland

Cathriona Hallahan tells Deanna O’Connor about enabling personal growth within the Microsoft organisation.

Microsoft is a one of Ireland’s most high profile FDI companies. The tech multinational founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1975 dominated the PC market in the mid-1980s, and has stood its ground against competition, with innovations in the gaming, tablet and smartphone spaces.

Microsoft first opened its doors in Ireland in 1985 with a small manufacturing facility employing just over 100 people. Since that time, the Irish business has grown to encompass four distinct operations at its campus in Sandyford in Dublin, employing over 1,200 full-time employees and 700 contract staff.

Their operations in Ireland include software development and testing, localisation, operations, finance, IT, HR and sales and marketing, both here in Ireland and across Europe, Middle East and Africa. Dublin was also the site of their first data centre outside the US.

FROM THE GROUND UP

Since she joined the company over 30 years ago as an accounting technician, managing director Cathriona Hallahan has seen the growth of the company and took over the top role in 2013. She has noted, “We are the only place outside the US – in fact, in the world – that has that unique footprint for Microsoft, with all the different pieces in the food chain connected together in one site.”

I don’t assume that I know the answer, but see my role as harnessing the skills of my wider team to arrive at the solution

That site will soon be a brand new technologically advanced campus in Leopardstown, which Hallahan says has been “purpose-built to foster innovation and productivity among our people”. She herself reportedly does not have the traditional executive office, and fluid workspaces and hot-desking are part of the company culture.

SHARING INSIGHTS

Hallahan says she is “collaborative by nature” and expounds, “I don’t assume that I know the answer, but see my role as harnessing the skills of my wider team to arrive at the solution. Working for a large multinational company like Microsoft, you quickly realise that our strength is our people. We are fortunate in Ireland to have teams based here who work across every area of our business. Bringing people with different expertise together and helping them to share their insights and learnings is something we are focused on as a company. We call this approach ‘One Microsoft’.”

DEVELOPING POTENTIAL

Hallahan’s climb up the corporate ladder was once stalled after she failed to obtain a role interviewed for; when Hallahan asked for feedback afterwards she learned that she hadn’t appeared to ‘want it enough’.

The Microsoft MD now takes care to foster an atmosphere conducive to progression within the organisation. “I aim to make it clear to all employees that if you have a professional goal, Microsoft has the scope to facilitate in making it a reality,” she explains. “You can start your career in one area of the business and end up working on something completely different. That’s very empowering.”

Her approach is positive. She says, “My leadership style is about enabling people to see their own potential and then putting the structure in place so they can realise it.”

SECRETS OF SUCCESS

Looking back over her years, Hallahan reflects that, “The more experience I’ve gained in industry, the more I realise that tenacity is crucial. There will inevitably be times when you come up against challenges, both professional and personal. It’s essential that you can pick yourself up after a fall and dust yourself off.”

You can start your career in one area of the business and end up working on something completely different. That’s very empowering

When it comes to advice, she is clear, “Working hard is a given – you won’t get anywhere without that.“ There is no one motto she lives by, but Hallahan avers that an ever-changing roster of mentors is key throughout the development of a career: “That’s something I recommend to people who are starting out in their careers: find someone a few steps ahead of you on the ladder that you admire and can look to for advice. You might have several mentors over the course of your career as your role evolves and you grow as a professional.”

Business & Finance, A View from the Boardroom

irish-life-health-vftbA View from the Boardroom, in association with Irish Life Health, features Ireland’s leading decision makers in business – those who provide effective leadership and are capable of understanding potential risks.