Meet Ailbhe McDarby, Head of Unified Communications & Contact Centre Propositions at BT Ireland. We sat down with Ailbhe to get an insight into her role, from the day to day, her product portfolio and how she got to the role she’s in today.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your career to date, where you started and how you got to the role of Head of UC & CC Propositions?
After graduating from the ITT, Dublin with a BA (Hons) in Business Studies and Marketing management, like many young Irish people I went travelling where I spent 12 months exploring the world. I returned to Ireland during an economic downturn and realised that higher education was going to be a key step to achieving my career goals. I was accepted into the Michael Smurfit School of Business where I earned a Master’s Degree in Marketing Practice. As part of the program, I had the opportunity to provide marketing services to companies throughout Ireland which really cemented my passion for this field. Upon completion I was awarded a graduate role in Vodafone Ireland. While there, I completed a number of rotations including a position within the product team, where I supported them in bringing new products to market. On completion of the graduate program, I moved into a permanent role as a Product Manager. During my time in Vodafone I was responsible for launching several cloud based products and propositions, this is where I gained my knowledge and passion for all things cloud.
After some time, I left Vodafone for a role in Microsoft. Microsoft is a huge global company with over 80,000 employees and so process is paramount, it was here I enhanced my process implementation and process improvement skills which are essential when managing a successful product portfolio. During my time at Microsoft I was approached to lead an exciting digital transformation project at Dublin Bus, this was an area I was extremely passionate about so without much hesitation I accepted. In parallel I also believed it would be a good time to formalise my project management skills so I attained my Diploma in Project Management with TU Dublin and became a member of the Institute of Project Management Ireland.
When the opportunity at BT presented itself, I was excited for the opportunity to return to the telecommunications industry. It is an industry I had come to love and I had really missed it. Not only was the role a perfect match for my background and skillset, I had worked with many BT employees during my career and it is a company I have admired and respected.
2. What does your job entail?
I am responsible for the unified communications and contact centre portfolio of products for BT Ireland. It is my job to ensure that this portfolio of products are fit for purpose and serve the needs of our customers. If there are gaps in the portfolio it is my job to identify and address these. I see communication as an essential part of my role also. It is my responsibility to represent the voice of the customer, harness the views and insights from the sales channel, act as a representative of the product team and be the internal and external spokesperson for my portfolio.
3. Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you?
As I am relatively new to the role, I have been engaging in a strategic review into my area. This involves gaining an intimate understanding of the various products and processes surrounding the sale and provisioning of the products in my portfolio to establish what is working well and what could be improved upon. More tactically however I provide support to the sales teams to ensure they have everything they require to establish what our customers’ needs are and address these by delivering the best solution we can. This can include training, marketing material creation, addressing resource and skill gaps, improving processes or addressing system requirements.
4. What do you like about working for BT?
First and foremost, I really can’t say enough about the people and culture. Everyone is extremely knowledgeable and amenable which has made the transition to the role very easy. I appreciate how I have been entrusted with the autonomy to make decisions and determine the best approach to the work, while also receiving tremendous support from all levels of the organisation. In terms of my working environment, the work space is bright, spacious and informal which helps promote collaboration and creativity. As a working mother, the flexibility they offer at BT gives me a great work life balance, this is really important to me.
5. Can you tell us a bit about the portfolio that you manage?
I manage two families of products. Firstly I manage our cloud based unified communications product portfolio. These products are collaboration products which we layer on top of our world class global network. This set of products allow our customers to integrate multiple communication methods such as telephony, presence, IM and video into a single user interface. It allows employees to be widely contactable through whatever medium they chose. The fact that it is all hosted in the cloud means that employees can work from anywhere, well once they are connected to the internet. You can see during these times just how essential this technology has been to business continuity, although it is important for companies to recognise the benefits don’t stop there. Moving to the cloud and unifying your communications estate allows companies reduce their capex, implement flexible working, address skill shortages and reduce their carbon footprint to name but a few.
The other family of products I manage are our cloud based contact centre products. We have an array of products here to meet our customer’s needs. Our virtual contact centres give our customers the centralised control they need to administer and monitor their customer service or sales environments. They support multichannel communications so our customers can chose how to speak with their customers and their customers can chose how to speak with them. As they are cloud based they can scale up demand so you only pay for what you need when you need it. Once again this service is powered by BT network meaning we can offer a 24/7 service model and ensure quality of service to our customers at all times.
6. Leading the UC & CC portfolio and the current environment we’re in, how important is remote working?
I have been working with cloud services products for a number of years. Nobody ever wishes for a situation that forces the entire global workforce to stay at home, but it happened. Previously, explaining the concept of cloud-based systems was a challenge, but now everybody is aware of how essential this technology is to keeping the world running. The fact that it could be deployed so rapidly has literally saved lives and kept the economy moving. Many benefits of remote working are now being experienced. According to recent research released by NUI Galway, 83% of employees do not want a full return to their workplaces because home offers freedom from the daily commute, money saving on travel costs and greater flexibility. It will be interesting to see the long-term impact as things get back to normal – my guess is that UC and collaboration tools will be a fixture of most people’s working day from here on in.
7. What advice would you give to companies who are implementing remote working / struggling to
Technology only enables remote working. To make remote working effective you need to devise an internal strategy and policy around it. Put in some time with your management team to review your business strategy and see what you need to do to continue to deliver on this. Ask yourself the following questions?
- Have your employees adopted the new tools and if not why?
- Has your leadership team adopted the new tools and if not, why would the rest of the organisation?
- Are your employees clear about what their deliverables are now they are working from home?
- How are we monitoring productivity?
- How are we promoting our culture?
- Have we addressed the health, safety and security concerns of working from home?
- Do we need third party advice on any of the above?
I believe once a company has a clear vision for its future and consulted the relevant experts it should be able to communicate this vision and there is no reason it can’t be achieved remotely.