Gillian Harford is the Country Executive at the 30% Club Ireland. Prior to this she worked with AIB for 39 years, holding some key roles including Head of HR Strategy & Planning. Gillian tells us how she initially joined AIB for 10 months but walked out of the door just a couple of weeks shy of 40 years after that.
In this first three parts of this blog series Gillian told us a little bit about herself, the start of her career in financial services and her career, the importance of mentors in her career, and shared some risks and challenges she faced.
Here in part four, Gillian talks about what motivates her and shares her top three tips for someone starting a career in financial services.
FOS: Tell me about motivation. Throughout a career like yours you have to have self-motivation, what’s underneath that and what drives you?
It’s probably a combination of things, and I know it sounds a bit trite when people say it, but a lot of it comes from my parents who were two really intelligent, incredible people, who by virtue of circumstances, didn’t finish secondary school, because it wasn’t an option available to them but placed strong emphasis on personal development and education. I still remember as a child that my mum would go around the supermarket, and she would know to the penny when she got to the checkout, how much it cost because she calculated as the travelled – her numerical abilities were just incredible.
I was brought up in in a house where you worked hard and you took every opportunity to develop yourself. Both my parents worked so there was no such thing as daughters treated differently to sons in terms of opportunity.
I’m the eldest of four so I’ve always been driven by you need to do well, you need to do a good job, but it’s always been equally balanced by a strong sense of doing the right thing as well as doing things right.
I’ve always tried be to fair and genuine in whatever I do, and I’ve always tried to have a human perspective. They are the main things that drive me but these things start at home. And I was very lucky in terms of the home I started with.
FOS: If you were to give someone, who is starting a career in banking, three top tips what would they be?
- The first thing I would say is that as an industry, financial services will always be looking for an opportunity to invest in your development. So don’t waste it, take every opportunity that you’re given.
- The second is don’t think a career has to be linear. A career can have lots of different opportunities at the same level, so move around, because really, there are so many different jobs that can be done. Don’t limit yourself.
- The third thing that I would say is, whenever a project comes along go for it, particularly if you’re a slightly risk averse person. Projects are great and give you a fantastic opportunity to try something different and build a portfolio CV. Also, when the project is over somebody has to find a home for you, so it’s a great way to test your boundaries. And if it works, you go on to something else. If it doesn’t work, there’s a safety net, and you can go back into something that you’re more comfortable with.
Watch out for part 5 of this interview series coming soon…