Marina Morrissey: Be Fearless

Aniram NEW

Meet Marina Morrissey, our second Young Woman to Watch in Ireland. Marina is a professional recruiter and the Operations Manager of Sigmar Managed Services at Sigmar Recruitment, one of Ireland’s leading recruitment agencies. 

Marina has hosted two incredible tailored events for Leadarise Dublin on how the women of Dublin can up their career game and get the job they deserve. 

This month will see Marina speaking at the Talent Summit in Dublin along with other emerging professionals during  the Irish National Employment Week.

Marina, how did you end up doing what you’re doing at Sigmar?

I’d like to say I planned my career but it was all by chance. My career over the last few years in recruitment has largely been based around working alongside companies in setting up their businesses in Ireland. This includes staffing, resource planning, hiring and more. I joined Sigmar and immediately began working with businesses in Ireland who were looking to take on huge numbers of staff from all over the world; we developed a great set of service offerings and my team grew rapidly. From there I got more involved in events like the Talent Summit and working more closely with clients to identify their staffing needs, building plans and then carrying them through to completion. My role is very much an operational one and backed by a great senior leadership team in Sigmar, have no doubt we will continue to grow both locally and internationally.



What are the challenges you face in this business?

I have to say that compared to a few years ago, when the Celtic Tiger disappeared, that was a time which put us all through our worst and most pressured experiences. I know a lot of people in my industry that lost their jobs and I had to fight for mine at the time but if anything it really gives you some great skills and I’ve learnt so much as a result of that process. My big fear now is that companies could make the same mistake again that lead to the crash in the first place. I’d like to say we all learnt but human nature often presides over our decisions. I do feel however that as a society we are so much more engaged in our workforce. Companies spend a lot more on staff incentives and support, from identifying stress to advice on healthy lunches, free yoga classes, bike to work schemes and so on. I think if you have a happy workforce, you will have a more focused and productive one. It may not mean we’ll avoid making those same mistakes however it does mean a more open and cooperative company culture.



What are your greatest triumphs?

don’t have many as, like many people I’m sure, I don’t place emphasis on achievements unless they’re based on personal targets I have set myself. I came to Ireland in 2006 with very little idea of what I wanted to do and although I had a background in recruitment, it was not my intention to begin my career immediately. Ireland had a great reputation and this was the first time I had lived in Dublin so I planned to travel around and make up my mind where to work. But, within 2 days of arriving I had secured my first job, in a well-known international recruitment firm and within a 1 year had become one of the youngest managers in the business. It was tough and I was proud, but it’s important to note I decided within 6 months of starting the new job this was what I wanted as I enjoyed it. I think the key is to enjoy what you’re doing, it makes getting there so much more fun. I have a fantastic team who work for me and I often wonder why they don’t shoot me given the work that sometimes goes in to what we do, but I rely on them so heavily I do whatever I can to ensure they are happy and kept busy. I wouldn’t call it an achievement but I would say that I am proud to have such a wonderful company in Sigmar and indeed a brilliant team around me. Not everyone has that luxury. 


How do you ensure work/life balance?

Can I be honest and say I haven’t quite mastered that art yet? I have days and weeks where I get my “Zen” or whatever the buzz word is, right; others where I want to up sticks and move to Alaska. No phones, no laptops and for the hell of it the entire twilight saga. What I do think is key is eating well and sleeping well. You are the only person who knows their trigger points so keep an eye out and when you see steam, take a step back and deal with it. Burnout is not fun and it happens to everyone at some point, you just need to accept it and move on. I would also suggest seeing your friends regularly, avoid big nights out and get plenty of fresh air. I’m a fan of crazy winter walks on mountains, annoys the hell out of people on a Sunday morning when you post a super fresh selfie as well! Finally, talk to people and let people know how you are. I read a recent study that indicates constantly checking your phone and emails is a sign that you need more people engagement. So put the phone away, call you mom (landline maybe?!) or get out with partners or friends.

Marina at 2014's National Employment Week with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny
Marina Morrissey promoting National Employment Week with the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny T.D.

Who is your inspiration?

Am I allowed to say my mother? Regardless, I pick my mother. She was, like me, a very driven young woman who left Ireland to go travelling to Africa in the 70’s with friends and after she had seen all she could (Sahara included), hitchhiked 2’500 km to Cape Town, settled and went on to become a very successful business woman in her own right. Now that may not be that remarkable (she and her husband honeymooned in the middle of a war zone, my mother learnt how to shoot and she even got to go in a fighter jet-all things she banned me from doing of course); however she instilled a great sense of right and wrong and resilience. When you’re embarking on a career, you need to not only look after yourself and eat well, but pay bills, manage your money, avoid going out 6 nights a week AND hit every deadline set. It’s tough but I always felt that she had led such a dignified and successful business career, I wanted to make sure I had the same principles. We still compare notes by the way but I like to think if she were my boss, she’d promote me..!


What would be the most important work lessons you’d like to pass on to other young women?

My big concern at the moment is that there is just too much focus on inequality in the work place, particularly relating to gender pay and positions. I have no doubt that this does still go on but as I’ve said in (apologies Sandberg) we’ve leaned in but so what? I’m giving a talk later in the year and the focus will be on breaching this self-imposed glass ceiling and creating a new ideal on which we as women can work towards – to stop thinking we are persecuted or automatically passed over for promotion. My worry is that we are ourselves at times putting barriers in our way – the above can act as quite a negative driver in terms of our focus. If you think you’re in for a tough ride when seeking promotion, are you more inclined to be battle ready or open and frank? Will you be defensive and negative or positive and approachable? This is a real topic for me and while I do not want this to in any way deflect from the actual issues that face women in the work place, which I know are very real, we need to see how we can manage our own capabilities and stand up and be heard and progress with-out those perceptions – we can be just as loud as we want we just need to go for it. So yes-get me a room, a soapbox and I’ll be ready to preach!

What would you tell your 22 year old self?

I know what I’d like to ask my 40 year old self which is – have you retired yet?! In all honestly, I am very weary of regret and like to think that there are very few mistakes I’ve made in my life which, unbeknownst to me, could have altered where I am today. If I look at young career women starting out, as I did with very little knowledge but a lot of drive, I would advise them to never look back and be fearless. You need to push yourself and not be afraid to shout and be heard in the business world. And if you’re wrong, admit it and move on. I would also encourage people to travel but remember that if you want a career, to not be afraid to try a couple of things before you find your niche. I was a beauty therapist and worked for a charity before I realised I was set for the corporate world. And don’t worry too much about education – life prepares you for education I think so hold off on further education until you’ve been working for a good while. Business experience allows you such clear perspective and you’ll enjoy it more!


Would you do anything differently?

Absolutely not but as you get older you begin to really understand how your actions steer you in the direction you want to go and the longer you work the more astute and clever you’ll become in carving out a healthy and successful path. That’s not to say I don’t do things differently now – I’m more adept at thinking before I speak and certainly avoiding taking things personally; I very much took my own failures and criticisms to heart but there came a point when I realised that this was free advice and to buck up and listen and learn. Now I say that and I’m still no ice queen but for the sake of my team, I’m able to look at things from all perspectives and indeed give them advice and support when needed. However, if there is one thing I could have done differently, I’d have created the iPhone. With hindsight of course..!


What will the next 5 years look like?

I would like to think that I will continue to work in the area that I do; I am getting more involved in CSR initiatives and a big focus for me in 2015 is promoting our brand through seminars in Ireland and abroad. We also provide advice to companies on culture and strategy alignment so I am putting together a seminar to present later on in the year. As much as I joke I have no intention of retiring anytime soon and feel very passionately about the Irish economic market; the work we do as part of Sigmar National Employment Week has given me some exposure to initiatives such as Job Path and the Talent Summit. Ultimately I find people jobs, that’s what I’ve been trained to do however there is a lot more that we as influencers and employers can do to support the economy and I plan to really make this a focus over the coming months and years. I also hear the presidential elections are coming up soon!

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