FTI Consulting’s Gráinne Bryan – Reflections on Career, WFH and Moving Forward
15th August 2021
As a long-term reader of Women Mean Business, the stories I’ve read here over the past 10+ years have been a constant source of inspiration for myself and many of my female colleagues across the legal and technology sectors.
I believe that the WMB Ambassadors for Gender Diversity are a shining example to us all of what’s possible when we refuse to settle. Not just for us, but for the young women today who can look ahead to brighter prospects than they might have had 20, 10 or indeed even 5 years ago.
I’ve been fortunate to work in incredible workplaces over the past two decades and with that have been supported by numerous inspirational individuals. I’ve seen first-hand the impact that great colleagues, supportive environments and fantastic managers can have. And I’ve also seen the challenges that arise when these supports aren’t in place.
Throughout my career, I’ve struggled to overcome certain personal barriers. Standing up for myself. Making sure my voice was heard. Calling out discrimination and bias in the workplace (which is often accompanied by a fear of retaliation).
Pushing past invisible barriers – not just glass ceilings, but the invisible chains of conduct that tell us who we should or shouldn’t be. Part of my journey has been learning to spot when one of the things I naturally struggle with is holding me back, then dealing with it and proceeding with confidence. Learning to recognise when this is happening has been key for me to keep moving forward. It has also been invaluable to my mentees.
In our current climate, no discussion of professional development is complete without acknowledgement of the impact the past 18 months has had on all of us, in our own unique ways.
As a leader, learning to properly manage myself and my team in this new environment has been eye-opening.
Learning to work well from home was a significant task for many. Whether looking after your children, working at home alongside a domestic partner or living through extreme isolation, everyone needed time to adapt to an unfamiliar way of doing things.
From talking to my mentees and other members of my team, I know that many people have been through significant hardship. I can relate – I’ve had many moments in which juggling it all – home life, children, schooling, my role and all its responsibilities, supporting my clients and trying to keep focused – felt like too much. While we’re now able to see a return to “normal” on the horizon, it’s our duty as leaders to remember these difficulties and respect the diverse set of challenges that will persist for many. Ultimately, these are valuable learning experiences for everyone involved, and while adjusting to new ways of doing things is uncomfortable, learning from successes and mistakes experienced through this period will make for stronger leaders and more resilient teams.
In that spirit of learning and always improving, I follow the mantra of,
“Everything is going my way, even when it’s not.”
This is easier said than done. However, taking whatever lessons we can from the challenge in front of us is critical to success.
One of the key lessons that I believe workplaces and leaders must take from the pandemic is greater empathy and support for working mothers.
As a mother who is career-focused, I’ve often felt the broader societal pressure and guilt many women experience, to step away from work and focus on caring for family.
Women should not be made to feel as if they have to choose between having a family and having a career.
When I look around me today and see the incredible strides forward we’ve made over the past 20 years, I’m encouraged that women have more opportunity than ever before, and we can have both a career and a family if that’s what we choose. Any woman who wants to raise her children full-time should feel empowered to do so. Any woman who wants to focus on her career should feel empowered to do that. Likewise, for the woman that wants to do both. As a leader, I work hard to support this reality for other mothers within my organisation and industry.
I believe our collective shift towards remote working, though challenging at times, will ultimately be a positive in this regard.
Companies that refuse to adapt to the new way of doing things (becoming more flexible around working hours or adopting a hybrid part-remote, part-local working environment) will likely lose talent to those that do.
But there’s more than profit at stake for companies and their employees. With this increased flexibility will come freedom. Freedom to build a life and career you love on your own terms. As someone who very rarely had breakfast or dinner with her family during the week before shifting to remote work, I now wouldn’t give this up for the world.
This move towards a more balanced, accessible workplace is good for everyone. It’s good for us individually, as we’ll each be empowered to craft a career that meets our needs vs. shaping our lives around the demands of employment. It’s good for organisations, as it broadens the pool of potential talent.
And it’s good for society, as more and more people will transition towards a new, more inclusive way of thinking and living.
Gráinne Bryan is a Managing Director in FTI Consulting’s Technology segment, helping to expand FTI Technology and lead operations at the Dublin office. Prior to her current position, she worked for almost two decades in a variety of legal industry roles and was instrumental in establishing some of Ireland’s primary and largest in-house eDiscovery project services and technology teams within top law firms.