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Career Stories: Janet Smullen, Head of Project, Consultancy & Change for Cpl

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Janet heads up Cpl Technology’s projects team. The team is made up of 8 Consultants, who along with Janet, recruit contract, temporary, fixed-term and permanent candidates across the full projects space.

Aside from day to day recruitment and managing a team, Janet is also responsible for managing some of Cpl Technology’s strategic clients.

With Cpl for over 15 years, during this time she has built long-lasting relationships and navigated being a working parent while growing her career. We recently spoke to Janet about her career to date and her advice to other working parents.

How did you enter the technology recruitment field? What is your background?

I joined Cpl in 2004 fresh out of college with a degree in HR. I thought I would walk into a HR Manager role but as anyone who has recently graduated will know, that’s not the case.

I did a couple of interviews for entry-level HR roles but knew they wouldn’t really be for me. Then I saw a role in recruitment. I thought this could be my way into HR and interviewed with Cpl that May. I’ve now been with the company for 15 years.

How did your journey start in Cpl?

I started out as a trainee recruiter working on the projects desk. I joined to support this function while at the same time building out a SAP desk. At the time there was just one person running the project desk, now we are at a team of 8.

What have been some of your biggest successes and challenges to date?

I joined Cpl at a time of rapid growth, and I was very lucky to learn a lot very quickly. One memory that stands out is staffing up a global SAP Project Team for a pharma company. It was my first introduction to hiring experienced technical contractors at a senior level, deployed across Ireland and Europe.

It was a huge success and at that point, I knew I’d made the right decision to work in recruitment. The exposure I got on a global scale instantly improved my confidence and communication skills. The responsibility and the autonomy of running this recruitment project were fantastic.

Another memory was when I account managed one of our clients in the telecoms sector. Within 2 years we went from 10 people onsite to 200. It was a steep learning curve and I learned so much in those 2 years!

Overall working with my clients and candidates across the market, with stakeholders at all levels of the business, is a part of my job that I love and get great satisfaction from.

On the other hand, the most challenging time by far was the recession in 2008. Although as tough as it was, I learned a lot from those years too – the importance of really listening to my candidates and clients and working together was key in driving our business forward.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself along the journey?

I’ve been out of my depth on a few occasions and the most important thing I’ve learned is don’t be afraid to ask questions.

No one has all the answers, but when you have a team and work with great people you can synergise and get the best from everyone. Teamwork is essential to be successful and you need to ensure you involve the right people to get things done.

Aside from my career progressing over the past 15 years, life outside of work moved forward too. I’ve got married and had 2 kids. My husband was in the Air Corps for a lot of the time where he was required to travel extensively for long periods.

Our kids were small and with a long daily commute, it was tough. Having an excellent support system in place at home and an understanding manager is vital for your wellbeing and to sustain your career.

What advice would you give to other working parents?

The constant challenge of juggling work and personal commitments affects us all. While my husband retired from the Air Corps, he now works 12-hour shifts in the pharma sector which brings its own challenges.

Have open and honest conversations with your manager and ask for support and flexibility. Once you have this, you will be happier, less stressed and more productive.

There is huge pressure on working moms for perfection. We don’t need to be perfect every day, ok is fine too. We need to stop being so hard on ourselves!

Aside from a good support system at home, working for an understanding company, and with a great team is so important.

Cpl have been hugely flexible with me over the years. Only for this, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As times goes by and life changes, your needs at work change too and you need to manage this to keep stress levels at bay and to keep your career plans on track.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt?

Find a job that you love to do. The variety, people, autonomy, learning opportunities and every day challenges Cpl offers me has sustained my career for the last 15 years and makes coming into work a joy rather than a struggle.

Speak up and ask for what you need. Whether it’s a 4-day week or flexible hours, have the conversation. You have to do what’s right for you, your career and your personal life. Don’t wait until you are burned out.

Company cultures have changed hugely over the years and there is a great focus now on work-life balance and wellbeing at work. Self-care will help shape your success at work and will provide you with the stability and energy you need to juggle your job and family.

Plenty of sleep, exercise and meditation, if you can do any one of these regularly or a combination of them, the benefits cannot be underestimated. You need to take responsibility for this too, no one else will!

Janet manages a team of 8 specialist PMO Consultants. If you’re interested in learning more about contract, temporary, fixed-term or permanent PMO roles in Ireland get in touch with Janet, or if you’d like to learn more about working with Cpl contact our dedicated talent acquisition specialists Carol or Jennifer.