We think you should meet: Ruth McCullagh
Any team is the sum of its parts and we’re proud of each member of our ASG & Partners team for so many reasons. From creativity to tenacity, compassion to drive, each one of our crew brings something unique and important to the work that we do and the office we choose to spend time in. Today we’re chatting to Ruth McCullagh, Account Manager with our PR team, bringing us endless enthusiasm as well as a stellar career of press and marketing experience.
A bit like J Lo and Ben Affleck, we hear you have reignited a 20 year flame with ASG?
Yes, almost exactly the same! But it is true that I did my placement here at ASG in 2003 during my Ulster University Degree at Jordanstown and here I am, nearly 20 years later, back again and delighted to be!
From my first day with ASG I knew that I loved the Public Relations component of Communications. It was a no-brainer for me and always what I saw myself doing. When I left Uni I started with a small PR agency in Belfast and experienced the fast-paced, multi client environment which gave me a real sense of what PR was going to be like. After experience in another firm, I spotted a job in the Grand Opera House as a Marketing Officer. I stayed with the GOH for 10 years, moving through the ranks and gaining a lot of experience. It was there I found I particularly loved the press side of marketing.
You took some time out of the workplace before we won you back though?
Yes. In 2017 my son Harry was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. It was early onset and very aggressive and I quickly recognised that I’d need a lot of flexibility to be able to deal with his condition as best I could. I continued to work on a little in a part time role but had to reevaluate after Harry’s stoma surgery in 2018. I became more familiar with the day-to-day help he needed and I decided to take a step back from work. It was the right thing for my family at the time.
Since then, Harry has come on so much. He’s adjusted to his condition and has more freedom and independence which is lovely to see. A coffee with Sasha started me thinking about the possibility that I could get back into the work place. I finally took the plunge in March of this year.
How have you found being back in PR after a few years away?
Being back has been such a positive decision for me. I feel that I have a sense of independence again. A sense of self that only work gives me. I’ve always enjoyed the buzz of being in an office and working at pace with clients and colleagues. Being back has just reminded me of how motivating I find that. There have been some complicated moments, juggling my family commitments, but working with Sasha and the team has made all the difference. They’ve shown me flexibility and compassion in a way that allows me to do my job to the best of my abilities as well as be the parent my son needs. If I’ve had to take time to be with Harry, my team know I’ll catch up or make up wherever I need to. Finding that understanding and acceptance has just motivated me to work harder and be more committed to the team in any way I can.
Do you feel there are barriers to a translation back to work?
Without a doubt and particularly for women who are juggling home commitments, families, or caring for parents. It’s frustrating to know that there are so many people who have a huge amount of expertise, experience and vision who are ultimately sidelined because so many work places don’t offer any flexibility. The reality for most people is that life exists within and outside of work so pretending that it doesn’t and not recognising the support that could prove life-changing to employees is very short sighted. I have several friends who are incredibly impressive professionally but due to family requirements cannot find a way to balance traditional working conditions with their home commitments.
For me, education and work are so important. As my grandad always told us, ‘Work’s hard but no work’s harder’ and I think of that all the time. Finding ways to ensure potential is realised in all members of the workforce seems like a smart way to optimise teams, to give people a sense of value and purpose and to improve the services we’re offering our clients.
What advice would you give someone who is unsure about taking the step back into work?
Make the right decision for yourself. Don’t jump into anything. Make an informed choice. Do so with a company and with a team you trust and who are fully aware of your situation and your needs. Pressures, particularly on women can be immense. To juggle everything, families, work, earning, and to make it all look easy, it can be too much to ask. For me, making clear my situation and what I can offer was a good place to start.
Post pandemic I think there is a glimpse of flexibility that many of us haven’t seen before. It’s a great time to build on that. We now know that working from home is possible. That flexible hours, or flexible days in the office or at home, can function really well. I hope that’s a discussion many more companies are having now. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found that flexibility here at ASG and genuinely I’m thrilled to be back doing what I love.