Leaders’ Insights: Nicola Mortimer, Three Ireland

21 Jul 2016

Nicola Mortimer, head of business products, marketing and operations at Three Ireland

Nicola Mortimer is head of business products, marketing and operations at Three Ireland.

Nicola Mortimer has more than 15 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry, having worked with Verizon, Magnet Networks and BT.

She joined O2 Ireland – which has since been acquired by Three Ireland – in 2011, and took up her current role in July 2014.

Describe your role and what you do.

Future Human

My role involves developing and managing our business-to-business propositions and product portfolio across the areas of mobility, machine-to-machine (M2M), connectivity, communications and collaboration. I lead the brand and lead generation activity above and below the line, working towards continually improving our brand health scores and creating great leads for our sales team. I’m also responsible for our Salesforce.com environment and business online tools, which we use for operational efficiency from marketing through to sales, and service.

I love how diverse my role is. There is never a dull moment and no two days are the same. Having worked in telecommunications for 25 years, I can honestly say the industry has never stood still. The boundaries are constantly being pushed by both technology advancements and customer expectations.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I couldn’t survive without my Outlook calendar and Microsoft OneNote. Like a true advocate of Mobility technology, I have access to both no matter what device I’m on or where I am. I use OneNote for good, old fashioned to-do lists, which keep me focused on the important items and not just the latest email that comes into my inbox. I tend to spend a good chunk of my day in meetings and leave emails to either first thing in the morning or last thing in the evening.

I’m not a big TV watcher, so while the family are catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, I’m often going through my emails. Although, from what I hear of the season six grand finale, I think I may have been missing out!

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

We need to consistently maintain relevance with our customers, capitalising on technology advancements to deliver real benefits to our customers while remaining competitive. We operate in a space where customers have an insatiable demand for data. In fact, Three today carries more data on its network than all other operators combined. We are investing €300m in our network and designing services so that we can continue to deliver for our customers now and in the future.

Both customer and partner relationships are critical to facing these challenges. We work very closely with our technology partners to continue to meet the ever-changing expectations of our customers in this digital economy.

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

Right now, our M2M business is experiencing exponential growth across many sectors from agriculture to insurance. I see the evolution of M2M into the internet of things (IoT) as a major opportunity for telcos, and one Three will be right at the forefront of.

We have also begun to see benefits from our digital marketing activity, which is an area I see all industries embracing. If you are in the business of acquiring new customers, digital marketing can be a key activity to help drive leads and sales. As part of our digital marketing initiatives, we have increased focus on our blog, redesigned our website to increase engagement, and focused more on our search engine optimisation and digital advertising. Lead generation has increased significantly as a result of this programme.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

My first job after college has, without a doubt, been the most influential factor on my career. Back in 1991, in the depths of recession, I was lucky enough to be hired for a graduate engineering programme in what was then Telecom Eireann, now Eir. I remember there was just one guy in the office who had a Motorola mobile phone, and it was charged by a unit that looked like a car battery! Apart from phone envy, I was convinced that telecommunications technology would change our lives forever, and I wanted to part of the industry leading this change.

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

I often wonder if there are ever any real mistakes. For me, it’s all about learning and the decisions we make help us learn through experience. One of my best learning experiences came from leaving a large multinational to join a much smaller Irish business, right as the Celtic Tiger bubble burst. While this decision was probably not one of my best and had me looking for a new role at the worst time in our economic history, it did lead to my being hired to develop the business product portfolio in O2 from mobile-only to total ICT provider. As a result, here I am today in Three in a job I love.

‘I often wonder if there are ever any real mistakes. For me, it’s all about learning and the decisions we make help us learn through experience’

How do you get the best out of your team?

Embedded as part of our company culture at Three, we have five key values and behaviours that we all commit to. These values of focusing on the customer, going beyond the expected, working as one team, always taking responsibility, and appreciating each other, are intrinsic to how all teams at Three perform their best.

Along with these values, I try to ensure we all work in a fun and positive environment, where we’re always learning and every member of the team feels empowered to make decisions. I encourage my teams to explore new opportunities and I genuinely believe a can-do attitude can overcome most obstacles and naysayers along the way.

This culture of positivity, learning and autonomy helps me in my role, and I believe it helps the team work more successfully too.

Who is your business hero and why?

I really admire Michael O’Leary. I love his directness and no-nonsense approach. I can’t imagine you would ever leave the room after a conversation with Michael without knowing exactly what his views are and what is expected. He has overseen phenomenal growth for Ryanair over a sustained period and remains focused on continuous growth. But, despite the success of the ‘no frills’ formula, when the decision was needed to do things differently, he wasn’t afraid to take it.

In September 2013, he shocked many people by admitting at the Ryanair AGM that the airline had an image problem and that they were considering changing its approach to become more customer-friendly. Almost three years on, this move has not only benefited the company’s public image, but also the old-fashioned bottom line of profits and passenger numbers.

Ryanair is now Europe’s second-largest airline by passengers flown – after Lufthansa – and, as Michael would say, “all done by a bunch of Paddies based out in Swords”.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

In my house the release of the latest David Walliams book is a big event. My 10- and 12-year-old daughters are massive fans. As soon as a book is out, we read it independently and then have a chat about what we liked and who was our favourite character. His books are always funny and quirky. My personal favourite is the Billionaire Boy, a story about a boy whose dad is a billionaire from creating a famous toilet tissue called “Bum Fresh”. If only it was that easy!

My kids and I have great fun reading Walliams’ books and luckily he releases one at least every year.

For a more grown-up audience, I would recommend A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler. Tyler is an American author who is an observer of human frailties and idiosyncrasies, and perfectly describes imperfect things. She has written many books, and I enjoy her slow-paced delivery and revealing of the lives of regular people. It’s a good switch off from the fast pace of work and raises plenty of wry smiles when reading her descriptions of people, parts of whom I can relate to all too well.

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

My bike, which gets me to and from work; my Samsung S7, which keeps me connected no matter where I am; Microsoft Outlook and OneNote, which keep me informed and organised; and, last but not least, coffee!

Updated, Thursday 21 July at 3.46pm: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that O2 Ireland merged with Three Ireland, when it was Three’s acquisition of O2 Ireland that brought the two companies together. Siliconrepublic.com regrets this error.