‘Businesses are realising they need to prioritise digital transformation’

8 Sep 2020

Una Keeshan. Image: SoftwareOne

SoftwareOne’s Una Keeshan discusses helping customers adapt during Covid-19, the importance of continuous learning in tech, and why delegation and tennis are crucial for her work-life balance.

Una Keeshan has worked in the technology industry for more than 20 years, starting her career at Irish software licensing consultancy Micromail.

In 2012, she was approached by global tech services company SoftwareOne to set up an Irish division. Since then, SoftwareOne Ireland has become one of the largest Microsoft partners in the country, with offices in Dublin and Cork.

‘Continuous learning is important in any role, but with the technology industry evolving so quickly, it’s essential’

Describe your role and what you do. 

I’m the general manager for SoftwareOne Ireland, where I lead the team in delivering the company’s global strategy on a local scale. SoftwareOne is a global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions, meaning we help companies design and implement tech strategies, buy the right software and cloud solutions at the right price, and manage and optimise software estates.

My role is twofold; continuously grow the business whilst maintaining strong and positive customer relationships. My passion is helping business to find the right solution to overcome business challenges and drive success.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

Accurate, day-to-day prioritisation of my work is really important to me. Each day, I list my tasks and identify which are urgent and need immediate attention, and which may still be important but can be delegated. It helps me to stay on top of things and focus throughout the day.

Customer calls are naturally an absolute priority, but as a leader, staying in touch with the team is also essential – particularly with remote working. I make sure to be available for them when they need me and check in regularly to ensure everyone has the right support.

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

For most businesses, Covid-19 is one of the greatest challenges ever faced. SoftwareOne Ireland is also trying to adapt to the new norm, which requires ensuring the team is safe and working well together remotely but also has implications for our role as a technology partner.

Listening to our customers’ challenges and supporting them as they adapt is more vital than ever, and we even offered six months free for certain solutions to help businesses alleviate financial strain and cash flow pressures. I feel really privileged to work for a business so dedicated to finding ways to support our customers through these difficult times.

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

It goes without saying that digitalisation is driving unprecedented change and disrupting business models. Businesses are realising they need to prioritise digital transformation, and SoftwareOne Ireland is able to support the building and execution of those strategies and help companies stay ahead of the competition.

From facilitating productivity gains, cost efficiencies, digital customer experiences, shorter time to market or enhanced communications, we can help businesses propel themselves forward into the digital future.

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

I studied accountancy in university, and then a large part of my career was as a senior licensing consultant. I worked with customers to help them understand the many complexities of licensing contracts, supporting them through commercial negotiations with vendors. I enjoyed building relationships and always valued the appreciation shown when we did a good job.

SoftwareOne approached me eight years ago to set up the Irish business and the rest is history! Over the years, we have successfully built the Irish wing of the business to be one of the largest Microsoft technology partners in Ireland. 

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

My biggest mistake was not learning to be better at delegating sooner. There have been times in the past when I’ve been happy to take extra workload consistently, but it was affecting my work-life balance. Through building and empowering my team with the right knowledge and skills, I’ve been able to use my own time more productively to focus on higher-value activities.

How do you get the best out of your team? 

We don’t practise hierarchy at SoftwareOne Ireland. We all work together as a team, which helps us to be performance-driven and empowered to deliver results for our customers. I’ve relished creating a culture that is very much about the people, positive interactions and workplace respect, which has fostered better communication and collaboration amongst the team.

Respect is really important to me. To sustain an environment where we all flourish, we must respect one another and always treat others how we’d like them to treat us. I always listen carefully to my team and think it’s crucial to give effective praise and recognition to help them grow in confidence.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?  

The tide is slowly turning, with many employers now addressing the diversity issues in our sector. At SoftwareOne, for example, we have a huge internal drive around accessibility and being inclusive of everyone.

Leaders must set the right example, so supporting diversity and discouraging any behaviour that threatens that is key. We all have a part to play in ensuring we are suitable role models in social settings, at work and at home.

As a female leader, I understand and empathise with the challenges working women face. As a result, I’m a champion of working conditions that allow for flexibility and provide the right work-life balance.

Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?

I have had a number of mentors who have provided support, mentorship and encouragement along my career journey. I am fortunate to have strong champions alongside me in my daily life – inside and outside of work – that support my career, provide opportunities and the positive reassurance and guidance we all need from time to time. I’ve also been lucky enough to develop my skills through the entrepreneurial culture that SoftwareOne promotes.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I’d recommend ‘The Art of Possibility – Transforming Professional and Personal Life’ by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. It’s an excellent read, with the mix of Benjamin’s experience as conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and Rosamund’s psychotherapist genius particularly affecting me. The book gave me practices to apply to my personal and working life and encouraged me to open up my thinking to the world of infinite possibility. 

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

Continuous learning is important in any role, but with the technology industry evolving so quickly, it’s essential I keep up to date with emerging trends in the market. I also recently started to use the focus plan in MyAnalytics in Office 365, which has enabled me to set aside regular focus time for my top-priority work.

Otherwise, I just picked tennis back up as a hobby and it was the best thing I’ve done. The tennis is not only great exercise, but also helps me clear my head from work or the stresses of the day – my only focus is on getting the next winning shot! Spending time with friends and family and sharing laughter is also crucial to getting me through the working week.

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