“Success is not final and failure is not fatal” — 60 Seconds with Paul McCormack of Belfast Metropolitan College

60 Seconds With, Interviews, Thought Leadership | Wed 6 Apr | Author – Business & Finance

Paul McCormack is Innovation Manager at Belfast Metropolitan College, the largest further and Higher Education College in Northern Ireland and one of the largest in the UK. As Innovation Manager Paul’s key role is to lead industry engagement, drive continuous change, ensure continual market relevance and maintain a focused competitive edge.

What was your first job? 

My first job was as a 10 year old many years ago working in a furniture shop in Newry, an education that has stayed with me all my life. My first real job after returning from the USA in 1988 was as a bus driver for Rathfriland Hill Special Care School in Newry working with children with additional needs. It is still the most rewarding job I have ever had and also possibly the worst paid job. As a qualified engineer, I made my way into engineering in 1990. 

What pushed you to pursue a career in this field?

Engineering was my passion and the catalyst for my career. “Pushed” may be too strong a word, ventured could be a better fit in this sentence. At 18, heading off to university, I was (and in some ways still am) finding my way, and as such was choosing a route based on advice, support and opportunity. I still volunteer and work with children and adults with additional needs, I have a great passion for this work. 

What would you regard as your greatest achievement to date?

My greatest achievement to date professionally is building a team that have delivered several international Green Hydrogen projects and helping transition our energy system onto a green pathway to net zero. Way back in the early noughties, I was a voice in the wilderness promoting Hydrogen as a key energy vector in helping the economy shed its addiction to fossil fuels. Over the last few years, this singular voice has been joined by others, magnified, and now it plays key roles in many national energy strategies. I am proud to say that my voice has helped this energy revolution. 

Career wise, would you do anything differently?

No not really, I love the diversity of experience my career pathway has brought me – it has provided balance and a broad vision. The journey has also given me the opportunity to meet some wonderful people en-route, to maintain these relationships and to enjoy the journey. 

In one sentence, how would you define success?

Success is working with friends on a common objective and sharing the journey. Ensuring you get the social, vocational and commercial balance so the journey is a pathway not an arduous climb. Success is not final and failure is not fatal. I have made many wrong turns on my journey but I have always had the resilience and determination to keep moving and trying. It is exactly the same for success, you can never afford to stand still, you will be overtaken. You must stay agile, responsive and optimistic.

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

I have been the recipient of some great advice all my life, many I have taken on board and to my regret, some I have not. The best advice was always from my parents – look forward with confidence, be aware and open to the possibilities that are out there waiting to be discovered and if anything is worth doing do it wholeheartedly with effort, interest, honesty and enthusiasm. Honesty is a wonderful attribute and I endeavour to place this at the centre of everything I do in life. 

How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

Motivation is a simple verb – it is not a noun, you lead and engage by example, enthusiasm and engagement. You are part of the team and in order to succeed, you need the team to operate in unison with you at the centre physically, mentally and emotionally. We share our successes and failures. I have seen many take individual credit for collective wins but these same people are never accountable for the failures. Motivation comes from the heart, it is visible and built on openness and trust.

How do you handle adversity? 

One thing we have all become masters at is managing adversity especially in these last 20 months of COVID induced challenges. Adversity is one face of the same coin as opportunity. All situations whether good or bad must be embraced and managed in order to get the result you have planned for. In cohesion with the team, I embrace adversity and manage the challenge, for in the outcome we will uncover many insights and pathways that we have and will use to our benefits and in the process reinforce the team bonds. As my mother used to say “never waste a good crisis”. 

How do you relax?

I am lucky in that I have several pathways that bring relaxation. These pathways have always run parallel to my working life and as such allow for ease of transfer between them and also the opportunity to interchange experiences, skills and opportunities  These include voluntary work within my parish, local Gaelic Club Naomh Eoin Bosco and working with young adults with additional needs. My life and work has provided me with wonderful opportunities and experiences and I always strive to put something back and ensure the cupboard is never bare for others.

What are your aspirations for the future of the business?

Aspirations are for a continued future based on green growth where we can achieve our commercial, economic, environmental and social goals in balance with nature and play our part in creating a sustainable future for all. My life’s wishes also include Armagh to win the All-Ireland (again), St John Bosco GAC to win the Championship, Leeds United to win the Premiership but these are beyond my control. Aspirations are more realistic than wishes and like the variables of business success can, to some degree be within my control so aspirations can be managed. The rest I leave to divine providence.