TA leader leaves Ireland for a challenge, returns for family

10 Dec 2015

Colette Feeney, a talent acquisition leader with Groupon, left Ireland for the challenge of working in different cultures. But when her children reached school age, she wanted to put down roots somewhere. Where better than Ireland, close to family, friends and a thread of humour and fun.

Can you tell us about your background?

I’ve always worked in talent acquisition (TA) – agency side, initially, and then in-house with companies like Dell, Novartis, Pfizer, Digicel and LinkedIn.

When did you decide to emigrate and why?

I moved into an EMEA TA role, and realised how little I actually knew about many of my markets. Also, travelling to several locations across the region inspired me to challenge myself to live in a very different culture.

Where did you emigrate to and for how long were you gone?

I moved first to Basel in Switzerland and stayed there for almost three years, including for the birth of my son. I then moved to London for a while – where I had my daughter – taking up a really enjoyable role with Pfizer UK. An amazing opportunity came up unexpectedly to relocate to Kingston, Jamaica, leading TA across 32 global markets for an Irish telecoms company, and also working again with a previous manager from Dell. I stayed in Jamaica for five years.

What made you want to/decide to come back?

After five years in Jamaica, my children were at an age (six and eight) where I needed to start thinking about putting down roots. I’d been away from Ireland for over 10 years and, even though Ireland was deep in recession then (2011), the pull to give my children the cultural upbringing and education that I had, surrounded by family, cousins, etc, was strong.

How did your current role come about?

I’m a sucker for chaos and challenge. I love building things and fixing things. Groupon was starting to centralise their TA function across 20-plus markets in the region, and I learned about the opportunity through my network.

What work do you do?

Groupon needed a strong leader to build branding, metrics, training, tools, processes, etc, to deliver around 2,000 hires each year to a growing and demanding business. I’ve spent the last year building and developing a 25-plus strong TA team to deliver across sales, corporate, engineering, campus and other functions, with an opportunity to get involved at EMEA and global level on some innovative and exciting projects.

What do you like most about your job?

I love that my role is a great mix of strategy and delivery. I am passionate about building great TA teams and world-class TA functions, so I get a big kick from seeing my team members developing and growing. I also enjoy exceeding expectations from my business stakeholders and always challenging people to raise the bar in every stage of the hiring experience.

How did this company make it easier for you to move back?

I actually moved back with LinkedIn in an EMEA TA leader role. I think moving home was an easier move in many ways than some of the previous international moves – I spoke the language, I already had a bank account, tax number, etc. What I did appreciate was how accommodating LinkedIn was in giving me some initial time to sort accommodation, get the kids settled into school and all the general housekeeping stuff that is so necessary to building a new life.

How did your time working abroad make you better suited for your job, if at all?

I think moving abroad – three separate relocations in my case – builds a lot of confidence, first of all.

Working across so many cultures certainly helped me to understand how adapting my approach can build towards success (for example, consensus driven cultures vs directive). There are often several ways to accomplish something – the skill of deciding which one is best suited to which team, company or culture is not one that can be learned from a textbook.

I was also privileged to spend a lot of time in developing markets, which raised my social conscience significantly and inspired me to use my TA role where possible to encourage and drive opportunities for people who, through no fault of their own, can struggle to access good career opportunities.

What is the best thing about being back in Ireland?

Overall, the best thing is reconnecting with friends and colleagues, as well as closer proximity to family. Seeing my kids adapt so quickly to Irish life – it was hilarious, initially, to listen to them learning Irish with Jamaican accents!

And I love the Irish approach to work. I believe there is a very strong work ethic here – people have high standards and expectations, but a thread of humour and fun underlies this at all times.

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