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Meet the team: Frances Shanagher, Controller for Unilever Ireland

Meet Frances, our Controller for Unilever Ireland. Read on below to discover her career so far, how she relaxes her mind in her downtime, and her advice for women in business today.

Tell us about your background before joining McCurrach?

My background prior to McCurrach was very retail and people focused.

While at school and college I always worked in retail and for real market leaders like Tesco and Marks & Spencer, so I think it’s safe to say that’s where my FMCG appetite started to grow!

On finishing my degree in Human Resource Management, I tested the waters of full-time employment in mainly customer service roles before I found my way back to FMCG when I joined a company called Contract People (now PRL). I started there as an Account Executive and worked my way up to an Account Manager position where I managed a variety of accounts from grocery sales, tactical part time support, to door to door sales.

Then in August 2012, I joined McCurrach. I’ll be celebrating my 7th anniversary soon!

The common theme of FMCG and people have been evident throughout my entire career. At this stage, it’s in my blood.

What does your McCurrach career journey look like so far?

I was originally recruited to set up the Tactical Operation in Ireland.

Later, I twice covered maternity leave in Account Controller roles, and in 2016 was successful in gaining a permanent Account Controller working mainly with PepsiCo and Unilever in Ireland. Throughout this time and beyond, I was involved in a variety of different projects across the business which helped to build my understanding of the wider McCurrach business and build up my network.

What does your average day look like?

Well, it’s very cliché but no two days are the same!

I start most days by checking my emails for any immediate actions required. Generally, I set out what tasks need prioritised the night before so I can start working through these first thing in the morning. These tasks generally include reviewing performance across a range of areas such as people, retailer, my client’s performance or our business KPI’s.  I also try to prioritise social media in the morning and this includes LinkedIn, our company Yammer and SalesChatter for our field sales wins and insights. 

My role is centred around medium to long term strategy and reviewing ways in which we can help Unilever sell more.

I work with a really good team and I liaise with them throughout the day. I typically play a coaching role for my direct reports as they are all already very experienced int heir field, which is great.

Do you have any ambitions for career development or further progression?

My ambition is to continue to grow and develop as a person and a manager, to be the best I can be at whatever job I’m doing. I’m learning more and more every day.

How to you relax outside of work?

As my role moves at pace, it’s important for me to switch off in my free time. I do this by exercising both in the gym and going for walks regularly but I also do yoga a minimum of once of week. And of course, spending time with family and friends is really important to me.

As a woman in business, do you feel as though you’ve had to overcome any barriers to get to where you are now?

I think most women have had to overcome barriers at some point in their careers. FMCG is traditionally a male orientated industry but I’ve seen the gap starting to close in recent years, although there’s still a long way to go.

There have been times often it he past where I’ve sat in meetings and been the only female at the table. However, I do feel that in general my voice is heard during these discussions. For that to happen there a few things rely on – I always make sure I’m well prepared in advanced so that my knowledge and experience shines through and I can confidently hold my own in conversations.   

My advice to women in business? Make sure you’re prepared well in advance. It will make sure you’re experience and opinion matters, and you’re not drowned out in the crowd.