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Anne O'Reilly interview

Anne O'Reilly

In a recent Interview for the Business Insight section of the Irish News, one of CO3's Board Members, Anne O'Reilly, answered questions on her career to date:

What was your first job?

My first job after I left university was as a care worker in a residential home.

What qualifications do you have?

I’m a trained teacher and social worker. I also have an MSC in Leadership and Management. It’s so far back I can hardly remember!

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?

Undoubtedly it has been the creation of the new organisation Age NI through the amalgamation of Age Concern NI and Help the Aged. It really was a career highlight after more than 20 years working in the age sector.

What do you attribute your success to?

I try to abide by the three p’s – passion, principle and pragmatism. I call on them at different times and these have certainly helped to shape my success to date. I also think no matter what job you are in holding your nerve and believing in yourself is key, particularly when the going gets tough.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

I feel very strongly that the social economy should have more recognition from government – the sector needs to be seen as an equal partner. Government view’s us differently but we need the same value and respect that is given to the private sector. There also needs to be a different discourse regarding the provision of public services and support to deliver principles of participation, engagement and citizenship.

I see the sector as providing the Heineken effect, touching the part others cannot reach but more support is needed. No lasting change has been successful without large numbers of people acting consciously and collectively around human values of solidarity and social justice, not market values.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I suppose people would say I’m single minded and determined. I’m also impatient for change but through experience I’ve learned that change can take time. I’d say my greatest learning is patience.

Who do you look up to in business?

I admire people at the top who are willing to listen and change their minds. Leading an organisation isn’t about you making decisions it’s about team decisions and that is the sort of leadership I admire. I see this as a strength not a weakness.

Through CO3 the representative body for Northern Ireland’s third sector leaders I work closely with many very talented chief officers working within our social economy and I greatly admire the work they are doing to support the most vulnerable in society.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

It can be a mix of things dependent on the circumstances but most often I have found at its heart is having a relationship that is honest and straightforward. Getting the best out of people can sometimes mean saying or hearing some tough things as well as the positive. However, if the relationship is strong and real enough both people learn and grow and everyone wins.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

Apart from running, I just really try to enjoy every single day and I get great pleasure from spending time with family and friends.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their career?

Develop self esteem and self belief. I’ve seen some great people knocked so easily, we all need to learn to take the knocks and move on. Mistakes should be seen as gaining experience as opposed to being a failing – it is like that saying, mistakes are for correction not self punishment.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’ve run three marathons in New York – in one I had an injury and it took me 6 hours but I was determined to finish it.

Have you any unfulfilled ambitions?

I’d like to inspire more people to support the voluntary sector. Also I’d really like to spend some time with Obama, a perfect example of an inspirational figure.

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