I went along this morning to the Dublin Chamber’s Technology Forum series, today featuring Sinéad McSweeney, VP Public Policy and Communications EMEA and MD of Twitter Ireland. As a Headhunter I always find career paths fascinating, particularly when they perhaps do not follow a traditional linear path, and Sinead’s is no exception.
Having trained as a barrister, Sinead went on to become Special Adviser to the Office of the Attorney General in Ireland. Interestingly one of her subsequent career moves was prompted by her viewing an Irish TV drama which featured as a character a civilian Head of Communications for the Irish police force and she remembers commenting “I would love that job” – even though such an opportunity at that time was reserved exclusively for members of the force. 24 hours later her husband pointed out a newspaper advertisement for the same role, but in Northern Ireland. Although she doubted her qualifications – she says in typical female fashion - she was successful in her application and became Director of Media and Public Relations with the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Following that she landed the role in the republic as Director of Communications with An Garda Siochana (the Irish police force).
An early adopter of Twitter as a communications tool in the irish police force, Sinead became then an advocate and educator on the benefits of using Twitter in government departments to communicate with the public. This was a seismic shift in the sector. When she first suggested using a Twitter element in a communications campaign her then boss, Fachtna Murphy said something along the lines of - A Police Commissioner does not say the word “Twitter”.
Sinead described her frustration in dealing with crime journalists in particular as a key catalyst for her to seek out something different which prompted her to join Twitter as Senior Director, Public Policy EMEA in 2012. Now, alongside her role as VP, Public Policy and Communications, EMEA with Twitter Sinead also runs the Irish Twitter operation as Managing Director.
Sinead’s number one tip to businesses using Twitter is to engage with their audience - information “out” is no longer enough.
From her fascinating career story what struck me was Sinead’s singleness of purpose and this is something I come across time and again with the most successful executives. The most successful people I have met to date in my career in Executive Search know what they want – even if at the outset their wish or vision for their career remains in the realm of the intangible to begin with, through their persistence and discipline, they get to a very close version of that ambition along the way.
So, in the words of Bill Clinton: “Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t turn back”.