Business Wisdom

From the Desk of …
Christine Heffernan, Director of Corporate Affairs, Tesco Ireland

THE CV
Christine Heffernan: Studied History and Politics at Trinity College before working at the European Parliament and then as a policy adviser for the British Treasury in London. She joined Vodafone Ireland as Corporate Communications Manager and later become Head of Corporate Affairs. She took an Executive MBA at Michael Smurfit Graduate School of Business and subsequently joined Bord Gais where she spent two years as Head of PR before joining Tesco Ireland eleven months ago.

Describe your role:
I’m one of seven executive directors at Tesco Ireland. As Director of Corporate Affairs, I’m responsible for media, communications, corporate responsibility and internal communications for our 15,000 colleagues. We have a strong community agenda – I lead Tesco’s involvement in community-based initiatives, such as Food Cloud (a service which distributes food to the those in need in the community) and have initiated a two-year fundraising partnership with Temple Street Children’s Hospital.

How do you build a team?
I lead a team of eleven. Seven members are new. Adding new members to a team always creates energy and drive. As a team leader it’s important to create space and opportunities for your team to grow and develop. 

An accomplishment you are most proud of?
Honestly, getting my dream job last year. I love retail and enjoy how diverse and dynamic Tesco is. Every day is different and combines the things that interest me – retail, media, people.

What keeps you awake at night?
I manage stress very well, mostly through preparation – I make lists and always know what the next steps are and what to prioritise. I credit the MBA with teaching me how to focus and prioritise, which in turn helps me remain strategic. In fact, If anything made me restless in the last few months, it was the renovations on the very old house I bought last year.

How do you handle difficult situations?
In a corporate affairs role, challenging situations, even crises, do arise but the most important thing is to remain calm and think of the longer-term objective. I seek out expertise, choosing ability over seniority, and I also try to understand the motivations of others and the pressure on them. Compromise is often the way forward and the best route to a constructive outcome.

Which is the most useful way to engage clients or suppliers? A business breakfast or lunch or other?
I like short, effective meetings with a clear agenda. When it comes to meeting people outside the business, I’m so conscious of how time-pressed everyone is. I’ll suggest a snappy breakfast or lunch meeting or a meeting in one of the stores. We can chat as we walk the aisles.

How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
About 40 minutes. I’m usually at my desk by 7.45am, picking up breakfast en route.

Describe your style?
I do like to dress up for work – it makes me feel confident and professional. I favour dresses over suits: Karen Millen, Florence & Fred, Reiss. For an extra-important meeting I might wear DVF or Bastyan. I do have my hair blow-dried occasionally but am basically low-maintenance!

Pastimes outside the office?
I cycle a lot. I did the Ring of Kerry last year 188k and plan to do others. I took up paddle-boarding last summer and I’m taking up running this year. My birthday is in March and I plan to run a 10k then. I find exercise, along with eating well, keeps me sharp and constructive, better able to make decisions. When you work long hours, it’s important to pace yourself, to factor in holidays, to enjoy life and be good to yourself.

My Working Life:
The Way I Do Business

1. LOOKING THE BUSINESS A good dress and a pair of heels is important but not as important as being prepared and well-informed. 2. PLANNING THE FUTURE I think security and peace of mind are very important. I do exercise financial sense and I believe in getting good advice in relation to your pension and how you might save. Solid advice is always beneficial. 3. USING TECHNOLOGY Online grocery shopping (Tesco of course!) allows me plan a week of eating well. The corporate affairs role requires being plugged in to news and social media. Digital editions mean I can conveniently read several weekend newspapers. And I like apps that make my life easier – like Hailo. 4. STAYING CONNECTED I’m still close to my university a MBA friends and to former colleagues. 

This story appears in the January issue of The Gloss. Find more features like this in next issue, out Thursday Feb 5