‘I do dream of owning a coffee shop in Cape Town’
Q&A: Mairead Meyer
Q: What’s the best piece of business (or life) advice you’ve ever been given?
A: My boss told me once when I was feeling overwhelmed in work that if you take a step back from the detail, it all boils down to three key priorities — your people, your customers and your costs. When I’m having a busy day or there is a lot going on, I always remind myself to pare it back to these three priorities.
Q: What piece of advice would you pass on to someone starting out in business?
A: Respect everyone and treat them well. You will work with lots of different people and each will add their own value and give a different perspective. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. By asking questions and spending time with people who actually do the jobs, you learn a lot, but you need to listen — really listen to what people are saying at all levels of the organisation.
Q: What was your best business decision?
A: Joining BT. Championing fibre investment in Northern Ireland is something I’m very proud of. I think it is great for Northern Ireland and allows us to compete economically in the UK or globally.
Q: If you weren’t doing this job, what would be your other career?
A: I’ve always thought about teaching, so I would probably be a maths teacher. However, when I’m having a bad day I dream about owning a coffee shop in Cape Town.
Q: What was your last holiday? Where are you going next?
A: I absolutely love to travel and my husband is from Cape Town, so we spend a lot of our holidays in South Africa. We also lived there for two years.We are going to Cape Town for a couple of weeks in March but it will be a challenge travelling this time with our new son on a 12 hour flight.
Q: What are your hobbies/interests?
A: Because of our 11-month-old son Eoin, I don’t have as much free time as I used to have, but I do love reading, watching sports and I really enjoy nice food and wine. I love travelling and experiencing different cultures — I’ve travelled a lot over the last 15 years, but I still have a bucket list of places I want to visit.
Q: What is your favourite sport and team?
A: My house is sports mad. My 11-month-old doesn’t know about CBeebies, as he thinks television is just for rugby, cricket and football. I am from Slaughtneil and we are doing really well in the GAA club competitions this year, so I’m enjoying watching that. I also follow Ireland and South Africa in the rugby and it can get quite tense in our house when the two teams are playing each other. Of course, I also love getting to the Kingspan Stadium to watch an Ulster game.
Q: And have you ever played any sports?
A: I played camogie at underage level for my club — I tried hard but can admit I wasn’t the most gifted player. I definitely wouldn’t make the team nowadays.
Q: If you enjoy reading, can you recommend a book?
A: I love reading and can’t go to sleep at night without reading a few pages of a good book. I can spend hours in a book shop just pottering about and reading the sleeves.
Q: How would you describe your early life?
A: I had a great childhood. I’m the eldest of a family of five and we are all very close. My parents were great fun but also quite strict about working hard at school and making sure we got a good education. My father is a farmer and my mum is a teacher and we lived in quite a small rural community, which I loved.
Q: Have you any economic predictions?
A: I hope to see an operational government in Stormont this year, with strong budgetary investments to uplift infrastructure and grow the economy in Northern Ireland.
Q: How would you assess your time in business with BT?
A: I’ve had a fantastic 12 years with BT — they are an amazing company to be a part of and I’ve had great opportunities to work all over the business.