Lisa Holt, 45: ‘I liked making money. I became very successful, and now I’m an MD’
Photograph: Eric Luke
Lisa Holt lives in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
I had a desire to earn money very early on. My pocket money was 50p when I was about six, and it was never enough.
I started having little sales at the end of our driveway, in Stepaside. I’d set up a table and sell old toys and things from the house I’m sure I wasn’t meant to be selling.
I’d go around the local houses; I’d wash a car for £1, cut grass for £1. I swiped cigarettes from home and sold them, and that got me into trouble.
Babysitting was a big thing around us, but I realised very fast that for quite a lot of work you earned very little. I realised early on that to be good at what I was doing I had to enjoy it.
I was easily distracted at school, and didn’t get the qualifications I wanted, so I did a secretarial course. I got a job working as a receptionist at Usit. They sent me to the States, to San Francisco. I got homesick and came home after three weeks. I was supposed to be there 18 months. They weren’t very pleased with me, but I never regretted coming home. There are very few decisions I regret in my life, and that’s not one of them. I’m a home bird.
Then I worked as a legal secretary for three years. That was the turning point for me. I was typing up legal reports, and I was so frustrated that I wasn’t the one down in the courts. After a while I realised that the man on the white horse with lots of money wasn’t coming to rescue me. I realised that if I wanted something in life I had to go out and get it myself.
I decided to go and work for a software company as a recruitment administrator. I loved that job. After three years I came to CPL, which is the biggest recruitment agency in Ireland, looking for career advice. The next day I got a phone call from them, offering me a job.
I had a very empowering, motivated female boss who understood me. She suggested I turn my desk to the wall, so I wouldn’t be distracted. I put my head down, I started delivering and I started making money. I liked making money. I became a very successful recruiter, and now I’m MD of five divisions within the group.
I was living the high life in my early 30s. I had my soft-top car, my house, I was partying hard and had lots of different romances. Then I came to a decision: time was passing me by. I always wanted a family, not necessarily a large one. At 38 I got married.
We tried to have a baby. I had some fertility treatment, but it didn’t work. Then I went on a diet and got pregnant naturally. Our son is four now – and the best thing that will ever happen to either of us. Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing working, but then I think I’m a better mum because I’m happy. But I couldn’t work full time without the support of my husband, Fintan.
What tends to suffer is my wider life, my social circle of friends and my parents. I don’t see my friends as much as I’d like to. I haven’t seen one of my best friends for six months.
There were three of us: I had a younger brother, Johnny, and an older sister, André. André died last March of a massive heart attack. She was 46, and she left four young children. We hadn’t spoken for a while before she died, so it’s hard to know she died without us talking.
I’m very close to my parents, and watching them grieve has to be one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through.
I found a counsellor six months after André died. Death brings up all sorts of things, all sorts of sadnesses from the past.
I grew up Church of Ireland, but André’s death changed my faith. I’m not sure if I believe in heaven any more. Religion is like any relationship; it’s like a friend. If you work at the relationship it comes back. I need to start going to church more often, but it’s hard with a child who doesn’t sit still. André is also buried in the graveyard of the church I go to, so that’s very painful.
In my 40s I’ve learned that life can be very, very tough, and you need to make the most of the good times, because when the bad times come it’s like a hurricane.
André’s death has made me appreciate life even more, and think about the future. I’m not going to be working till 10 or 11 at night any more.