Ciara Bourke, Grant Thornton – A finalist in the WMB Businesswoman Award Category

28th March 2022

Over the coming weeks, we will be introducing you to our WMB Award Finalists.  Ultimately there will be one winner in each of our five Award categories, to be announced at our Conference & Awards on May 16th.  If you’d like to attend our Conference & Awards, you can book now>>

Here, we introduce you to Ciara Bourke of Grant Thornton, a finalist in the WMB Businesswoman Award category.

Title and Company Name

I am the Marketing Director with Grant Thornton Ireland.

Sector & size of operation

We are professional services firm with 8 offices across the Island of Ireland and Isle of Man. Our current people count is over 1900 and we are growing every week.

You originally hail from

I am a Dub through and through. I was brought up in Malahide, and never moved too far away. I am now back living a ‘stones throw’ away from my childhood home for the last few years.  I think growing up by the sea, it always draws you back.

Single or relationship

I am married with 3 step ‘children’ (all over 18 now, so technically not children!)

What is the best part of your job

The best parts of my job, would be my team and the variation of the role.

Both are great motivators, working with the Marketing team and the wider Grant Thornton team every day.  The Marketing team are so passionate, in all that they do, and it’s a privilege to work with them, coach them and be part of their career as they progress and grow. As it is said – ‘everyday is a learning day’ so I learn from them too and indeed the wider team of peers and partners in Grant Thornton each day.  There is nothing more energising than participating in a ‘brain storming’ session with the team.

The other great part of my job is the variation and the fact that no two days are ever the same.  From working on global brand, brand purpose and environmental branding projects and sponsorships, to client engagement and business development activities, managing and directing the marketing teams, PR and communications – this mix guarantees a different day every day.

And the most challenging

The ‘to do’ list – I think over time I’ve come to realise you never reach the end of it.  There are admittedly some days you barely get past the first 2 items on the list – I think it’s all about prioritising, and being flexible as ‘the list’ can change on an hourly basis – depending on the day!

Your definition of success

As Michelle Obama once said ‘Success is only meaningful and enjoyable if it feels like your own’.

So my ‘success’ is being happy and healthy, learning and growing each day in my role as a Marketing Director and also as a step-mum, wife, daughter, sister and friend.  Life’s success is built on successful and healthy relationships.

Best trait

I would say honesty, loyalty and willingness to help others

Worst trait

I have been told I’m too self-critical, I tend to over analysis situations or jobs I don’t feel were 100% successful.

Biggest ‘win’ to date

I think after the last two years the only answer to that is managing, directing and growing a team despite the COVID pandemicIf you said back in 2019 that the Marketing team would be working from 17 different locations (home) and all our ‘customers’ working from even more – I would have struggled to see how it could work, long-term.  However, despite this, the firm has grown, as too has the Marketing team, and our output and the quality of the work we produce.

I am proud to have led the team through the last two years and seeing what we are capable of in the face of unprecedented challenges.

Who inspires you most

I find trailblazers or people who speak out against injustice or who are ‘first to do’, extremely inspiring as they pave the way for change and the generations to come.

My great grandmother – who back in 1924 was one of the first qualified national teachers in Ireland (we recently discovered a letter she wrote to the headmaster of her local primary school, in the depths of the West of Ireland, to apply to teach not just the regular curriculum – but wanted to teach French too).

Mary Robinson, revitalising the office of the Irish Presidency in Ireland and Internationally.

Closer to ‘home’ and more recently would be Sinead Donovan – our current Chair in Grant Thornton, who was our first female partner whilst also participating in triathlons and ‘Iron-Man’ challenges!

Name two things on your ‘bucket list’

To go to a Glastonbury festival (ideally when it’s sunny!) and to travel and see all 7 wonders of the world (I’ve only managed one so far – the Colosseum in Rome)

What does it mean for you to be a woman in business today

Two words would come to mind, they would be hopeful and encouraged.  Over the last 20+ years working I have seen massive changes in the leadership demographic and the attitude towards women in business.  This is no small part due to the work done by the women who went before us and have ‘broken the male mould’ of what a successful leader should look like.  It is also testament to the great work done by employers in embracing a diverse workforce and leadership teams and realising the benefits of same.  However, we are by no means ‘done’

– the 2021 Grant Thornton Women in Business report showed the number of women holding senior leadership roles in Irish businesses grew to 33%, to continue to build on this success, it is vital for businesses to continue to take action to empower women to reach their ambitions, and ultimately reap the benefits of a truly gender balanced workforce.

Best advice to pass on

I think it’s an oldie but a goodie – and is now more true than ever –

‘It’s not how many times you get knocked down that counts, but how many times you get back up’.

Today more than ever, things are changing rapidly, innovations, ways to market etc – but we should never not try due to a fear of failure – as that would leave us standing still.  My pet peeve is hearing ‘but we’ve always done it that way’, I believe failure is an important part of everyone’s growth and development and vital to building resilience.