‘The mobile business is moving at lightning speed’

30 Aug 2018

Ciaran Cleary. Image: Sony Mobile Ireland

This week on Leaders’ Insights, Sony’s Ciaran Cleary fills us in on the biggest challenges facing the mobile manufacturing industry today.

Ciaran Cleary is the head of Sony Mobile Ireland, bringing 20 years of telecommunications expertise to the Irish market.

Cleary’s passion for business and technology was sparked at Dublin Business School, where he studied selling and sales management. He went on to work in telecoms with Meteor (now Eir) for a decade.

He joined Sony in 2012, starting in sales and marketing before taking up a new leadership position in 2016.

Cleary’s current role incorporates includes marketing, PR, commercial planning and the strategic positioning of Sony’s range in the Irish market.

‘In the past few years, I have learned that one person can be effective but if you have a team of people that feel empowered and involved, you can develop a sense of openness and inclusion’

Describe your role and what you do.

My role at Sony Mobile in Ireland is to manage our Irish operations to ensure that we achieve our objectives to contribute to the overall success of Sony Mobile.

This includes a wide range of responsibilities, but the most important of these is to manage the P&L for Ireland and build a strategy that delivers our numbers year on year. This is a balancing act at times to ensure that our mix of investment in our devices to achieve competitive positions within the market is matched by an effective communication plan with consumers to build awareness of our Sony Xperia brand.

Our PR activity has stepped up in recent years and we have great relationships with tech media – this is vitally important to us to ensure that our consumers get an understanding of the unique technologies that Sony Xperia is bringing to the market.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that this can be a challenge. My working life can be a hectic race between sales, commercial strategy, marketing, PR and HR responsibilities. To be honest, finding a work-life balance was something I struggled with in the past, as I wanted to make sure I was involved in all areas of the business all the time, which just isn’t sustainable in the long run.

The key priority for me is to ensure I have a solid understanding of what is happening across the business, but also have the best team in place that can own specific areas within the business to deliver better overall results.

I have just completed a programme in Stockholm School of Economics with a key focus on organisational leadership. This has reaffirmed my view that a successful business will need an effective team of people working towards the same goal. I believe that a diverse team bringing varying skillsets, personalities and points of view will help any business grow. This approach has helped me manage my working life more effectively and has led to a better work-life balance.

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

The mobile business in Ireland and around the world is moving at lightning speed, and the biggest challenges facing the mobile manufacturing sector are the explosion of new brands available in the market, combined with the continued consumer demand for innovation and tech advancements.

5G is just around the corner. This will revolutionise the way that mobile technology interacts with the world, and Sony Xperia is working on a range of products and devices that will ensure we continue to grow as 5G is introduced into markets.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

The current focus for our business is on the consumer space but we have also been working on a range of solutions for SME/enterprise customers. We have a rich base of Sony Xperia users in Ireland at the moment, and we are also working to deliver unique value to our wider Sony users.

Xperia in Business is a key growth area for us. We work closely with Google and are delighted that our key products are Android Enterprise Recommended.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

When I finished school, I actually decided that I wanted to work in the hospitality industry as I had worked as a chef for a period of time, and attended DIT to study hotel management.

However, I was offered a job in an IT company, which I took up. From there, I quickly found my love for business and technology, and worked in various telco and IT companies ahead of taking a role in Meteor (now Eir). I worked there for about 10 years and developed through multiple roles before heading up its indirect sales function, which meant I managed various key customers from Carphone Warehouse to Xtra-vision. This role gave me a greater exposure to the industry as a whole and developed my commercial and marketing experience greatly.

I was then contacted by Sony regarding a national sales and marketing role. I was delighted to accept and to be given the opportunity to work with one of the world’s biggest tech brands.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

In the past, I would have feared these types of questions, and I suppose some of the greatest mistakes that I have made have come from trying to be involved in every tiny detail of the business. In the past few years, I have learned that one person can be effective but if you have a team of people that feel empowered and involved, you can develop a sense of openness and inclusion. Success is then more likely, and the team members will feel like they are part of the success.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I try to understand the profile of each team member to ensure that I lead them appropriately, and I continue to try and build an environment of openness and inclusion where we can work more effectively towards shared goals. 

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity and other demographics. Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to be more inclusive?

I’m a huge advocate for diversity within teams. It is widely accepted and proven that a more diverse team will be more effective and successful in any organisation.

Personally, I have four daughters at home ranging from two to 14 years old, and I hope that gender diversity continues to grow at the rate we have seen in the last few years.

I will continue to champion diversity in the workplace and I think we can be very proud of the changes we have seen in the telecoms sector in Ireland. We have watched women take over key CEO roles in major operators and I continue to see diversity grow in our industry across Ireland. We all have a responsibility to create change and promote a diverse workforce that is both right for our society and for the success of our businesses.

Who is your role model and why?

This is a tough one. I have generally tried to take elements of people I feel have been key influences of me over the years and blend them to develop aspects of each. My parents were both teachers and taught me the importance of education. I look at some of the great sporting moments and teams that work together to deliver success that is greater than the sum of their parts. In my home life, my partner, Susan, and I have a collaborative approach. We manage a busy home with both of us working, and I try and to bring this same approach to my dealings with our business partners.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I have just finished reading a lot of William Schutz, who developed a theory of interpersonal relations called FIRO, which was part of my learning with Stockholm School of Economics. I found this massively useful to examine my own personality and how I apply that in my work and personal life.

I also recently read a book by Rasmus Ankersen called The Gold Mine Effect. Rasmus was an ex-pro footballer who quit his job and spent six months visiting ‘gold mines’ of talented, world-class athletes around the world to adapt his finding of building world-class teams in a business context.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

I typically try and structure my week, so I have time set aside for specific activities. This allows me to keep on top of each area of the business.

It kicks off every Monday with a weekly commercial review and planning session, followed by marketing updates and feedback from the sales team. These sessions can highlight any immediate actions that may need to be implemented, and longer-term planning and strategy can evolve from here.

I typically travel to our London office on a fortnightly basis to hold face-to-face sessions with various departments, and use resources such as Webex on a daily basis to keep in touch with the global organisation.

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