Maria Walsh is a businesswoman, broadcaster and was crowned the 2014 International Rose of Tralee. She graduated from Griffith College Dublin with a B.A. in Journalism and Visual Media in 2009. In 2010 Maria relocated to New York to work with AR New York, a leading creative agency led by Creative Director Raul Martinez. With a new found passion for supporting those who create, Maria moved to support and assist Wenzel & Co., a photography agency representing Swedish photographer Mikael Jansson. In 2012 Maria embarked an exciting role as Producer for BHLDN, a wedding brand under the URBN Inc. umbrella in Philadelphia. In 2013 to 2015, Maria added to her skillset – Studio Manager, for the lifestyle and fashion brand Anthropologie. She was responsible for all operational aspects of the Anthropologie E-Comm Photo Studio.
Maria was awarded VIP’s 2015 Most Stylish Newcomer, and was also acknowledged by University College Dublin in 2015 with the Foy & Zappone Award and the Tatler Women of the Year Award for her LGBT contributions to Irish society. Maria decided to return to Ireland full time in August 2015. She is currently freelancing for the media, building Juniper & Ruby; a creative production company for corporations and brands, and works as a Workbench Manager for Bank of Ireland, connecting opportunities for start-ups and the community in the Mid-West Region.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
Leadership, in my opinion, can be taught. There is an essence of ‘grit’ needed to be a leader and if you are fortunate to have this quality, the path of transitioning to leader is often more organic. But I truly believe surrounding yourself with people who possess positive energy, a work ethic, colourful vision, strategy, and drive, be that in one leader or more; you will learn to lead.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
If I had to leave my organisation for 1 year I would ask my team to constantly push the boundaries, seek challenges, don’t wait for the approval and most importantly trial and error. While failing can at times be hard on the ego, it’s often the greatest gift to you and your team. I wish companies would say that more. It would encourage such a trusting workplace. And then, creativity flows. Oh, and don’t forget to get the milk and instant coffee!
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
Currently I am trying to ensure I am relevant next year, never mind 10 years! As a start up and a woman in a ‘portfolio career’, it’s a constant struggle of mind games and business strategy to ensure you are ‘relevant’. But it excites me to be asked! I believe relevance comes from asking questions, seeking different advantage and disadvantage points. The trial and error philosophy I spoke about, using that. I once heard a chef share his vision for his restaurant and it stuck with me; ‘remember to be McDonalds. Consistent and Reliable”!
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
I admire Colm O’Brien of Carambola Kidz. He set up an amazing company in Limerick that feeds over 24,000 Irish children every day in school. Aside from this impressive brand, he is the most giving man of his time to better businesses and individuals. I also admire Caroline McEnery, HR Suite, who took the leap of faith in herself and skillset, and works so hard to ensure she connects with young women in business. Margot Slattery of Sodexo Ireland, who again is the top of her field but ever willing to share her personal life to better companies, seeking to ensure their customers and employees feel involved, and included. So many to mention. We are in a world where there is an abundance of people ready to help, inspire and showcase. We are fortunate.
If you could wind back the clock to when you were starting your career what advice would you give yourself?
Challenge your brain more. Read more. Look out the window more. Ask more. Stop saying sorry. Find balance. Less emphasis on ‘the purpose’ and more on seeking to ask yourself the tough questions. Be. Listen to that ‘gut thing’ they keep talking about. Always keep your expectations high, it will lead you…eventually (you hope!)
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
There is a trend of corporations, colleges, banking institutions, start up spaces offering free events; use them. Leaders across various of fields, share their insights, and what I have learned is, they love giving back. I have never come across 1 leader who didn’t want to offer 2-3 minutes of their time to support. They remember being in the space you are in. I do link with TEDX Talks when I drive. John O’Donohue when I need to find some grounding. I also YouTube keynote speeches to get my head ready for the day ahead. But a great deal of my resources come from talking to people, learning about their new business, and how they got there. That’s inspiring to me.