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Spotlight Series: Gillian Whelan, Managing Director & Country Manager, emagine Ireland

Gillian Whelan

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Meet Gillian Whelan, Managing Director and Country Manager at emagine Ireland! Gillian sits down with us to chat about her career journey into tech, walk us through an average day at work and shares her career advice for other women in tech.

Gillian Whelan is the Managing Director and Country Manager of emagine Ireland.

Since joining in 2017, Gillian has significantly impacted the business, from heading up the popular Project Management Training Practice to overseeing the expansion of emagine’s service offering to clients. With extensive experience in the tech sector over the last 15 years, Gillian has been a key driving force to the firm’s success.

Gillian Whelan

How did you land your current role? Was it planned? 

I took a summer job in financial services whilst waiting for exam results, and I loved it. I enjoyed working in a fast-paced environment so much that, when I was offered a place at my first-choice college, I instead chose to join the bank full-time. Doing so without completing my academic qualifications was a risk but one that paid off, given the invaluable experience that I gained.

My career path wasn’t planned but I’m glad I pursued the avenue I enjoyed rather than taking the traditional route. I’m pleased that my career path has been diverse, from working as a Customer Service Representative to Project Manager to vice president in a large global financial services institution, to Project Management Trainer and Consultant. I then progressed to Head of Training, Head of Account Management, Chief Commercial Officer and now Managing Director and Country Manager.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

After working for emagine for five years, in different project management and training roles, I was proud to be promoted to the position of Managing Director and Ireland Country Manager last year. My current role has given me the opportunity to further innovate and streamline emagine’s technology-based services and solutions, so that we can further assist our client’s needs.

What does an average work day look like for you? 

No two days are the same but my days typically involve checking in with my team, operational oversight and business development activities. I try to find time every day to focus on strategy and innovation. The most important part of my day is communicating and meeting with clients, so I prioritise this above everything else. 

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field? 

In the tech industry, companies often look for a blend of technical skills and soft skills when searching for candidates. Some of the technical skills frequently sought after include proficiency in programming languages relevant to the role and familiarity with various software development methodologies.

Soft skills are highly valued in order to meet tight project deadlines and work effectively in a team. At emagine, we look for enthusiasm to learn and problem-solve and the ability to bring innovative ideas to the table. Companies look for candidates that bring value to their overall goals and culture.

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive? 

In my early career, my mentor encouraged me to close the academic gap. I knew I needed to bite the bullet and gain my MSc Financial Services qualification to reach the next step, and I was always encouraged and supported to invest in my personal development.  

Juggling a university degree whilst working full time and looking after a small child was a challenge, but it was the best thing that happened to me. It taught me a lot about time management which I still use today, but also the importance of gaining new knowledge and always pushing forward.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

There have been times that I have been the only women in the room and that has sometimes been intimidating. Lack of self-belief can be crippling professionally but is all too common, particularly for women. I have overcome workplace insecurities by focusing on the value I bring to the company. This is easier said than done but when I’m struggling with confidence, I try to think about my career journey and how I have progressed to the position I am in today.

What advice would you give to tech leaders to encourage women into the sector?

For many women in tech, they need a different approach to career development and mentorship to help them thrive. It is down to tech leaders and managers to identify where this is happening and find ways to build that confidence, because ultimately the business will benefit. Where there is confidence there is creativity and motivation.

As well as confidence, I think it’s important for all industries to encourage a certain fearlessness in female tech employees. Whilst this is of course a gender generalisation, in my experience, women tend to fear failure more than men and it can hold them back. We all need to fail sometimes and it’s ok to fail, so long as you learn from it. 

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology? 

I suggest embracing your uniqueness and recognising the value you bring to your role. Always remember your capabilities while maintaining an ambition to learn, as learning new skills helps us adapt to the everchanging tech landscape and enhances personal growth as aspiring tech professionals.

Something we should all remember is that it’s important to fail. We need to embrace failure and use it as an opportunity to grow. A piece of advice I try to live by is “pursue a career you love, and work becomes a passion”. Challenges are inevitable in any job but finding one that you look forward to daily is the ultimate goal to strive for.

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