My story so far – Sunday Business Post 20/10/2019

Being aware of what you can handle is a part of ‘thinking big’ that should not be skipped over, says Wendy Hamilton, senior vice-president of global operations at Netwatch Group 

Wendy Hamilton

Picture Conor McCabe Photography

Wendy Hamilton is senior vice-president of global operations at Netwatch Group. The Carlow based remote monitoring company employs 500 people worldwide, including 200 in Ireland. Hamilton joined Netwatch in 2012 having worked at IMB, Lionbridge and Bowne Global Solutions.

Are you where you expected to be in your career?

I am beyond where I might ever have expected to be, and still with runway to spare. There was never a specific goal, rather a built-in enthusiasm for new experiences and understanding how things work – people and processes.

My work has brought me to almost every continent delivering on major technology projects and working with leaders in very diverse cultures. The Netwatch Group harnessed so much of that experience and brought it to a fabulously innovative team in Ireland with global ambitions.

What was the best career advice you got along the way?

My husband Declan and I often laugh about this one. I asked a senior HR consultant once about managing stress. In a very calm voice he said: “It’s very simple Wendy, know where your electric fences are. And don’t effing touch them!”

David Walsh, who co-founded Netwatch, often uses a more polite version: “Always work from where you are at, you go farther that way. Thinking Big is important but you must still start from where you are.”

Based on your own experience, what are your top career tips? 
  1. Know who you are, otherwise it is too easy to get lost. Staying true to your beliefs and values will ensure you make the right decisions and will not be easily influenced by others.
  2. As the Brexit negotiations have shown, hard lines are incredibly difficult to work with. So stay flexible and keep an open mind. Otherwise your options become very limited.
  3. Presume there will be difficulties ahead, and that you will deal with them as they occur. Courage is often the quiet voice saying: “I’ll try again tomorrow.”
  4. Be respectful of others. It costs nothing and leads to more harmonious, professional and personal relationships. During hard negotiations and difficult meetings, staying respectful always leads to better outcomes.
  5. The humble, curious mind grows. Ask questions, read books, listen to podcasts, explore the world around you. It may lead you down new and unexpected paths. In my own case, it led me out of  marketing and into business process delivery.
How would you define your work style, and how has this evolved over the years?

I am an awkward combination of Focus and Folly. My general position is Focus. I like to be structured, understanding the objectives to be achieved and to have a rough path to them. Occasionally a ‘folly’ comes my way, usually in the form of a goal that is well north of a stretch, and I have gone for those too over the years. Folly has never hurt me, but focus has certainly excluded me from opportunity.

In terms of managing teams and individuals, what are your insights?

People are entitled to be who they are, not who you want them to be. A good working relationship begins with being honest about that, and honest about what the business goals are.

A quick skill/will assessment is a great place to start with a team. Everyone appreciates having a framework, of knowing exactly what is expected of them and their role in contributing to the success of the business. Once everyone knows the endgame, they feel more empowered and become more effective, increasing the potential for business success.

It’s important to acknowledge people’s efforts. We all want to be recognized when we do a good job. Sometimes we forget to verbalize our appreciation and assume people know we are happy with their performance. Don’t ever underestimate the power of “thank you”.

Has networking played an important part in your career?

I have learned how to handle connections that are intended to be purposeful, rather than personal, but I do find it uncomfortable. A small and important circle has been critical in my career.

My college co-grads remain really important guides and bellwethers. I have added a small number of people from each of my key career phases who remain mentors and friends, and I value that network greatly.

If you had to choose another career tomorrow, what would it be and why?

I would work with an SME looking to switch it up a gear. An SME needs great courage and attitude. It is exhilarating being part of that challenge.