‘There are increasing opportunities for digital innovation in the public sector’

17 Dec 2019

Ken McGrath. Image: Three Ireland.

Ken McGrath discusses his new role at Three Ireland, opportunities for communications tech in the public sector, and what he learned trying to run the New York marathon.

Ken McGrath is a senior sales leader with 25 years’ experience, selling ICT solutions across a range of customer markets, with previous roles in Nortel and Eir.

He is now head of public sector sales with Three Ireland, where he is working on creating a connected digital future that delivers simplicity and ease in how people interact with public services.

‘The biggest challenge is keeping pace with the expectations of citizens on how they access and consume public services’

Describe your role and what you do.

In my role, I manage a team of sales professionals whose ambitions are to exceed customer expectations by delivering connectivity services in a way that makes their customer’s lives easier.

Three has made significant network investment in Ireland to deliver the best possible experience for our customers. The team and I manage our customer relationships effectively, showing how they can leverage the very best of what Three has to offer.

By understanding our customers’ objectives and strategic directions, we ensure they have the best possible connected experience, so they can focus on what they need to do to be successful.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I love this question, and it reminds me of a Dale Carnegie quote I heard years ago with regards to giving presentations: “There is the presentation you practise, the presentation you give and the one you wish you gave.” Prioritising and organising my working life is a little similar, in that there are the activities I plan to do, the activities I get to do, and then the activities I wish I had done.

I have always enjoyed sales and to be any good at it you need to have a clear view of your objectives and the critical activities needed to deliver on those objectives. I do believe having consistency and a structured approach is the only way to organise your working life.

Having recently joined the team in Three, I have been on a learning curve, getting to understand how customer focused the company is, appreciating the culture of the organisation, and how it empowers its employees to be successful.

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

Personally, since joining Three, all I can see are exciting opportunities as we focus on developing our public sector proposition. There are increasing opportunities for digital innovation across every segment of the public sector.

The biggest challenge is keeping pace with the expectations of citizens on how they access and consume public services. Public sector agencies need to keep pace with these demands while not losing sight of citizens, who prefer to access services in the way they always have – by interacting with people face to face, over the phone or online.

The role of Three is to help provide a seamless user experience, facilitating the connectivity needed to enable people to interact with our services in a way that best meets their needs. Our recent project on Arranmore is a perfect case study of a location experiencing a declining population, which is being rejuvenated by simply enabling connectivity and digital services that best meets their needs.

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

That is top secret! Three utilises our network investments to deliver the best user experience possible, supported with the best customer service.

The public sector is very well organised around how they procure communication services and there are many opportunities across every part of the sector, with customers looking for a reliable connectivity partner. Three has enjoyed significant success recently and we aim to build on this by making our new and existing customers our best advocates for agencies considering Three in the future.

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

After an opportunity to spend some time working abroad in Moscow, Russia, I returned at a time when there was great excitement in Ireland around the technology sector.

I was fortunate enough to get a graduate inside sales role working in 3Com, followed by an excellent experience of working with Nortel, which gave me the opportunity to work with many of the top private and public sector agencies in Ireland, building the best customer relationships that have stuck with me today.

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

Trying to run the New York marathon in under three and a half hours, competing against a friend who was a full-time fitness instructor. I was sure that I was fit enough and could just rock up and do it, no problem, with little or no preparation – I managed it in four hours.

I learned a couple of things along the way: enjoy the journey; the only person you are competing with is yourself; and if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Do I get a prize for the most clichés?

How do you get the best out of your team?

Lead by example, have clear objectives on what you are trying to achieve, ensure everyone has a voice, and support them to be the most successful they can be by focusing and prioritising the right activities. Having structure and a clear operating rhythm with clear expectations on what is needed has worked well so far. 

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

Looking back 20 years, maybe, but I don’t believe this is still an issue in our industry or sector today. In the past year I have been lucky enough to tour the west of Ireland with Connecting Women in Technology, talking in girls’ schools about the opportunities available in the technology sector based on STEM education.

A lot has been done with regards to diversity in the past 10 years and this is evident by the many strong leaders, independent of gender, succeeding across the Irish ICT ecosystem. It is a highly competitive market and, while the perception of a diversity problem may exist, the person who is best suited and best qualified, irrespective of gender, should get the role in order for an organisation to succeed and maintain some competitive edge.

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

I have had a number of people, both customers and employers, that have been very supportive and guided me through my career. I have never made a career move without consulting with them and they have guided me well so far.

I joined Three because of the culture of the organisation and when I looked across the leadership team, the opportunity and experience to work with them made me excited about the direction of my future career.

What books have you read that you would recommend?
  • For anyone changing jobs: The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins
  • For personal development: Mindset Changing The Way You Think To Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

As a recent convert to Samsung technology, my essential tool kit is my Samsung Note 10, Samsung Tab S6 and my Spotify subscription, peppered with a little bit of social media on LinkedIn and Twitter. I also keep in touch with what’s happening on The Currency when I’m not reading Silicon Republic!

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