‘Education has been my pathway’

Wild Geese Margaret Molloy, Siegel+Gale New York

Margaret Molloy is global chief marketing officer and head of Business Development at branding firm Siegel+Gale in New York. The eldest of six children from a farming family in Co Offaly, she lives in Manhattan with her husband and two boys.

Molloy has lived in New York since 1994. She graduated from the University of Ulster with a first-class honours degree in business and Spanish in 1993, going on to obtain an MBA from Harvard Business School in 2000.

Education has always been of the utmost importance to her and she cites the teachers of her formative years as some of the greatest role models and influencers in her life.

Molloy describes her parents as hardworking and driven individuals. “Growing up on a farm, hard work is standard, there is no alternative,” she says. “I grew up in an environment where I am not just a first-generation college graduate but a first-generation secondary school graduate. My parents didn’t have that opportunity, so for me to go on to graduate from Harvard Business School . . . education has been my pathway.”

Going to New York, initially to work with Enterprise Ireland, she began working with Eircom (Telecom Ireland) at a time in which they were heavily promoting Ireland as a call centre destination.

It hired Molloy to head up its marketing effort allowing her to stay in New York, a city she says inspired her with its dynamism and can-do attitude.

“It was a great fit for me – the concept of technology, the idea of bringing jobs back to Ireland and the notion that I could help others through my hard work was tremendously exciting.

“ I also felt a certain responsibility, almost an ambassadorial role and that gave me a lot of motivation. As an Irish person I was passionate about the reasons why people should set up business in Ireland.”

To this day Molloy is as passionate about her Irish roots and, although her role in Siegel+Gale doesn’t take her to Ireland, she returns twice a year or so, taking her sons back to the family farm to meet the family and “learn the importance of hard work”. She will return to Dublin in November to attend the Global Irish Economic Forum in November.

Molloy believes that in her role in marketing and business development, “picking up the phone with an Irish accent helps”.

“There’s a wonderful affinity to Irishness that you can tap into in the States. It is a great door-opener. You still have to follow through and all the other business requirements are still there, but you are starting from a place of positivity.”

Speaking at conferences and trade events, she says the gift of the gab is helpful, but she has a caution for the many Irish people who have the doors opened for them in the Big Apple – that there are “certain Irish qualities that need to be modified” to be successful in the States. “So many Irish people are great at making that first step but people don’t follow up.

“ I think it is partly about not having much respect for people’s time. Following through and doing your homework is where the work is. It’s not everyone, but I have had several experiences where Irish people are very charming but the actual follow-up is an opportunity to be mindful that that’s an important stage as well and can be an opportunity for improvement.”

A typical day for Molloy involves getting up early, taking her boys to school if she is not travelling, arriving to the office where she catches up on social media, meets clients, journalists and internal colleagues and well as communicating with her team in New York, London and Los Angeles. About three evenings a week, she attends networking events.

Siegel+Gale is a brand strategy firm which, Molloy says, helps clients to define the client experience for their customers – designing logos, helping clients tell their stories and designing the brand experience.

“My job, personally, is to introduce the right clients to the company and then my colleagues in other departments deliver the work to those clients. People come to me but more importantly I’m out there marketing to build awareness of Siegel+Gale.”

Molloy says that nowadays people want to cut through jargon and the clutter of bad design. She believes that people are willing to pay more for simpler experiences which come about through clear yet surprising brand experiences. The company’s clients include CVS Health, SAP and American Express .

Over the years she has come to realise that she is a role model for others. “I am conscious, especially as I have become more senior in roles and more advanced in years, that you are a role model whether you choose to be one or not, by the choices you make, the seniority of your role or, in my case, by being a working parent. You have to be mindful. That’s a responsibility, even if you don’t want it.”

Again the conversation comes round to the influence of education and those teachers of old.

“You have to be very curious in my role as much of your success comes down to asking the right questions, taking a leadership position and being able to make decisions. Another aspect is being able to guide people and impart knowledge. A lot of the qualities of a good teacher I try to bring to bear as a good marketer.” Margaret Molloy tweets at @MargaretMolloy