A day in the life of Eimear Kiernan

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We spoke to Eimear Kiernan, a Business Manager at BT, and co-chair of BT Ireland’s Pride Network. Eimear brought us through her career to date and how she became a Business Manager, along with her responsibility as co-chair in the Pride Network.

As a Business manager of BT what would your job entail?

My days are very varied, and no two days are the same. I am the Business Manager on one of our key accounts that is extremely busy. I work closely with key customer stakeholders on a daily basis as well as internal stakeholders. Solving issues for our customer is always the most rewarding part of my job and to close out issues helps to foster a trusting relationship. Managing a P&L is an exciting challenge that requires working closely with a variety of internal teams such as finance and project management along with our suppliers and partners.

Where did you start your career and how did you end up working for BT?

I was a Civil Servant. While working in Department of Health, I was very fortunate to be chosen as one of the lucky 15 liaison officers for Ireland’s stint at hosting the EU Presidency in 2004. I was assigned to Denmark, the next six months my life involved all things Danish. My days and nights involved Ministers airport pick-ups, hotel check-ins, point of contact for meetings, Garda escorts, and entertaining partners - it was an unforgettable experience. In the courtyard of Áras an Uachtaráin on May 1st, I watched the flag raising ceremony as the EU welcomed 10 new member states.  It’s a moment that has shaped me in terms of the importance of inclusion and what we can do when old ideologies are laid to rest and we work together for the common good. After a year of working in Australia, I returned home and my best friend recommended applying to BT. I thought this might be a temporary position…. that was November 2006! I started in Customer Care in BT Consumer before making the move into Business Solutions, working on our flag ship customer account. As a decade flew by I held a range of positions such as PMO, Project Manager, and Change Manager before finally making the move into Business Management. Having worked in various roles on a major account, it often gives me a unique view of what is possible and how to make it happen.  BT Ireland values its talent and understands we don’t all travel the same life path in our careers.  Different routes help create a wide range of ideas and solutions - which is what we want.

You’re a co-chair of the BTQ+ network at BT Ireland. What’s the role of people networks in a company like BT?

Having People Networks at BT Ireland is one of the many ways we are able to make a difference in our local communities. This is something that’s very unique, people not just doing their day job, but working on their own time to carry out meaningful activities that enrich all our lives. It’s the thing that really sets us apart from other companies. The list of undertakings from our amazing People Networks is endless, a few to name are: Family & Carers; Pride Networks, BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition, Bring Your Kids To Work Day, Pink Tie Ball, Kids Christmas parties and of course, the wonderful donations employees give each month in our Give As Your Earn scheme. 

How important is inclusion to you?

It’s so important, the reason why inclusion goes with diversity is because diversity alone does not solve or mean there is a culture of inclusion. Inclusion is the HOW we do it, that’s why talking about Inclusion and having events is so important, it’s how we learn from each other about making the workplace comfortable for everyone. The ‘othering’ I’ve lived is not the same as someone else’s, when you have experienced it you can see it and feel it for others. A great quote from Verna Myers’ TedTalk really helps put it in simple terms, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

How can companies create safe and inclusive workplaces for employees?

A really good phrase I like and often hear in BT is ‘bringing your whole self to work’- something so simple can be something so scary for a lot of people. It’s not about bringing every piece of your personal life to work, it’s about bringing the essence of you, or who you are. For me, a safe space at work means I can answer my colleagues honestly when they ask what I did over the weekend or my partner’s name. I spent the best part of a decade in BT speaking in pronouns and giving vague answers, and this is stressful and exhausting! A safe space for is someone to sit at their desk and not have to check him/herself for how they sit or talk, being able to wear a RuPaul T-shirt on casual Friday or being allowed to share excitement for Pride and the Eurovision – and I fully expect to have Eurovision jokes. It’s part of the fun and chat that we want to be included in at work.

How important are allies in helping people feel supported and safe?

Allies are so important, they really make all the difference, they are the people who let us know that we are part of the gang, they like us for who we are as people, regardless of labels. I don’t think allies even know their own power in how a simple gesture like joining an event or signing an ally board means, when allies show up – we change the world. That’s why it’s important we pay it forward, that we listen and hear the dog whistles and we show up for our colleagues/friends/family who are being ‘othered’.

BT held a Together With Pride event last week with the CEO of BeLonG To Youth Services attending and some other great speakers. What was the outcome of this event?

I want to thank everyone who helped make this possible and everyone who joined and spoke at this event. BelonG To Youth Services work with LGBTQ+ youth aged 14-23 and it’s not an exaggeration to say they save lives – they do.  We heard how wonderfully they adapted to keeping their services going virtually during the Covid-19 pandemic and how much BT’s recent donation was appreciated. It was heart-breaking to hear the recent statistics of LGBTQ+ youth who are really struggling and for some, being confined to homes that are not safe environments. The outcome was twofold, the level of othering and bullying that still exists in 2020 is alarming and we as a society still have a long way to go, so LGBTQ+ Networks are still very much necessary.  The second outcome is around the importance of allies – and our BT Allies showed up in great numbers - it matters and really does make a difference, everyone who attended went back into the world a little more empathetic, I know I did.

BT Ireland