“It’s OK to take a bit of time to focus on other priorities and hit the pause button for a while. Pause does not mean rewind” — 60 Seconds with Avril McArdle of Sage

60 Seconds With, Interviews | Tue 7 Jun | Author – Business & Finance
Pictured: Avril McArdle, Marketing Director, Sage

Avril McArdle is the Marketing Director for UK & Ireland at Sage, a multinational software company that specialises in cloud business management solutions supporting millions of small and medium size businesses globally.

What was your first job? 

My first ever marketing job was in TUSA, the in-store consumer bank that was developed as a partnership between PTSB and Superquinn. It was a concept that was taken from the United States and it was a great first step on the marketing ladder. I worked with fantastic people and learned so much. Unfortunately, the concept was not to be for the Irish market and my first job also became my first experience of redundancy. 

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

I was in sixth year in secondary school when a friend asked me to attend a focus group for the launch of the new Time Out bar (this was a long time ago!) I don’t think anyone else got a word in during the session, I just loved talking about the packaging and the adverts. I had a chat with the moderator afterwards who told me I should think about doing marketing. I put it as my first choice on my CAO form and the rest is history. I love marketing, regardless of the tactics used. I find it is about people; connecting with your customers and the psychology of what drives behaviours. I find it fascinating and it is an ever-evolving and fast-moving discipline thanks to technology. 

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

I made the very tough decision to take some time out of the workplace for family reasons a few years ago and I really struggled with that decision, as someone who was naturally very focused on my career. I took a year out and am proud to say that I actually went back to the workforce with a new job, at a different organization and in a more senior role.  My advice to anyone considering a break is that your career trajectory does not have to be linear, always progressing upwards. It’s OK to take a bit of time to focus on other priorities and hit the pause button for a while. Pause does not mean rewind. 

Career wise, would you do anything differently? 

I think I come across as naturally assertive and confident but I definitely know there have been times in my career, particularly in the early years, where I let people low ball me or not value my contribution. In hindsight, I definitely would have spoken up more, stood up for myself and known my worth. 

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Success is almost positioned as a short term, fleeting thing. Winning, hitting targets, getting awards, being the best. But for me, long term success is about happiness. If you have good health, enjoy what you do, have great relationships and a bit of fun along the way, then that sounds like success to me. 

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

“You miss 100% of all the shots you never take” 

Basketball was my sport of choice so this has always resonated with me. You will never know if you don’t try. You have to put yourself out there for opportunities, put your hand up, say yes to things. You just never know where it may lead you. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I am quite self-motivated. Working in a fast-paced software business means that there are always clear goals and timelines to work to, which gives a real focus. I like to think that as a leader, I naturally bring people with me as I am full of energy and enthusiasm to deliver results in the best way possible so that we can be proud of the work we do. 

How do you handle adversity? 

As I have become older and wiser, in life as well as in my career, I believe that I have learned perspective along the way. And with perspective comes resilience. In business, there is always a solution, a compromise or a workaround. There is no place for conflict and adversity within teams, we need to save our energy for the external forces that are outside of our control.

How do you relax?

I am not someone who can switch off easily and I actually thrive on being always busy and on the go. The best way to get me to properly relax in a “sit down, feet up” kind of way is with a good book. I am an avid reader and always have a book on the go. I jump between my kindle and paper-based books as I love both for different reasons. 

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

I am very lucky in that I work for an organisation that I am really proud to be a part of. We have a great culture and amazing people. Sage is really evolving as an organisation at the moment, as we accelerate our cloud solutions and launch a new global brand so I am very excited for the future. In Ireland, I would like us to remain as market leader, supporting the thousands of SMEs who are the backbone of the economy, as well as the next generation of entrepreneurs and start-ups who are the future of the Irish economy.

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