Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Harmony Murphy: A platform to give a voice to women and inspiring female leaders, sitting down with Caitlin McBride

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Harmony Murphy is Retail Head, Advertising UKI at Google and NDA’s monthly columnist.

On my leadership quest to interview and find out more about inspirational women from around the world, over the last few months I have had the pleasure to work with Caitlin McBride. However as well as working for Google Caitlin is an entrepreneur, journalist, explorer and author to name a few of her amazing attributes!

Our story in particular around her book “The Day That Changed My Life” – occurred due to my team and I in Google starting a book-shelf; with books from charity stores across the local area to support the community but also our development and growth by ingesting literature from different authors from philanthropists to philosophers and non-fiction after a day at work.

One book caught my eye in particular, it was Caitlin’s I knew I had to read it, from the synopsis on the back I was engrossed. I wanted to sit down over a coffee with Caitlin and know more about the book she has written, the collection of stories from amazing women and more about Caitlin herself and what inspired her to write this to empower the women who are part of it and female leaders / entrepreneurs all around Ireland and the UK too. 

Caitlin your books is captivating a whole range of emotions flow through me, as I am sure many other readers as they enjoy it – from joy, empathy, and inspiration to a real humbling experience understanding challenges and adversity. So what was going through your mind when you thought of the concept of the book – what inspired you to write ‘The Day That Changed My Life?

I was inspired to write this book due to a lack of inspiration in my own life! I was working as a journalist at the time and had spent many years building up both my personal contacts and writing ability and I wanted to put both of those to use in something that would make me proud, and hopefully bring some lesser told stories to the fore.

The book is anchored in my belief that everyone has a story to tell, some of us just use our voices in different ways. 

It started with a seed of an idea: I read a magazine article in 2017 and someone used the phrase ‘the day that changed my life’ when referring to a major life event of theirs. I can’t remember the person or their story, but the concept stayed with me. I began to scratch my head to think of my own life-changing days: could I narrow it down to just one? It became a bit of an obsession. Two years, the fruits of that obsession were published on the pages of my book.

You clearly have met so many phenomenal and strong women throughout writing this book. Tell us about some of these women in more depth, any learnings / commonalities and themes?

The most common theme of the book is courage.

Every woman has challenges: it might be finding the strength to leave an abusive marriage, the fortitude to fight cancer another day, the endurance of grief in cruel and unusual ways. Equally, it’s discovering the resilience to chase your dreams. That might look like winning your first World Championship, becoming a mother for the first time or allowing yourself to fall in love.

What is the day that changed your life? Can you pinpoint it down to a day? An hour? A minute? A second?

Áine Kerr, one of the most influential entrepreneurs in Ireland, spoke about her decision to leave the confines of a safe and prestigious corporate career at Facebook, which eventually led to her co-founding Kinzen (recently sold to Spotify) to disseminate news misinformation. Orla Barry, a double above the knee amputee Paralympic multi-medallist, said one of the most powerful phrases I’ve ever heard: “Just get on with it.”

My philosophy is that none of us can be put into a box, no matter how much anyone else tries to. 

We all have days like light bulb moments, an epiphany, an idea or a moment of realisation   whether that is moving forward with something, coming to a decision or a new way of thinking. So Caitlin  what has been a pivotal moment “Day that changed your life?

I’ve had an incalculable amount of life-changing days. But, undoubtedly my most recent one was, rather appropriately, writing this book. I didn’t realise it at the time, but four years after publication, I can see the profound impact it had on me.

Speaking to these women who had done it all and spoke to me with the candour I can only hope to one day possess, gave me the courage to be brave in my own life. At the time, I was desperately unhappy in my work, feeling unfulfilled and frustrated with a lack of opportunity for progression. I felt that all my future career decisions were being made for me rather than a path that I owned. 

And so, at 33, I packed in a 10-year career, a staff job as a journalist with a national newspaper in Ireland and headed back to college to get my MBA, all in the uncertain early days of the Covid-19 pandemic of May 2020.

I would not have had the courage to do that without speaking to dozens of extraordinary women who have been far braver in their day to day lives. Never in a million years could I have foreseen the impact this book would have on me.

At the time, I wrote it because I was feeling defeated with the lack of nuance when it came to women’s stories. Writing the book started out as a passion project, it turned into a dream come true, and then years later, it turned into my very own ‘Aha!’ moment which, ironically, changed my life and put me on the course I’m on today. 

Having spoken with many inspirational women and also being one yourself, what is one piece of life advice you would give to women around the world to inspire and lift them? Whether that be in life, at home or in the workplace?

The biggest piece of advice I can give any woman is to back yourself. Whether that applies to you personally or professionally, there is a great power that comes with self belief – something I need to practise as much as I preach, every day.

Anything I’ve achieved in my life is because I made the choice to back myself; at times when it may have seemed crazy or unpopular to do so. And most often, my biggest regrets can be traced back to when I didn’t believe in myself or wasn’t true to myself.

No one knows you better than you. No one has your interests at heart more than you. And no one understands you the way you do. Challenge people, make noise, take up space. 

With such an amazing milestone being an author, getting your book published, creating a platform, collective and space for women to feel inspired, acknowledge and informed (to name a few elements! So Caitlin what is next for you?

What’s next? That’s the million dollar question! After the pandemic and a big career change, all I craved was some peace and stability. But, you know what they say about the best laid plans!

Personally, I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary to a wonderful (and very supportive!) husband! Professionally, I am mostly driven by two things: am I learning and am I making an impact? You’d be surprised at how applicable those two requirements can be when it comes to professional development. It has led to me a rewarding and fascinating career in retail marketing strategy at Google, and who knows where it will go from here!

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