Every day's different for energetic Lisa

Lisa O'Kane

IN the My Kind of Job spotlight this week is Lisa O'Kane from the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA).

What's your job?

I am the programmes manager at NILGA. I am responsible for the development of policy initiatives across the organisation and I deal with a wide spectrum of economic issues including Brexit, city and growth deals, EU funding, broadband, international relations and north – south cooperation.

I also manage the work of the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership, which works to reflect the regionally specific needs of Northern Ireland in the development and implementation of UK immigration policy.

How did you get there?

After I completed my degree at the University of Ulster and Université de Liege in Belgium, I spent seven years in Brussels as an EU affairs consultant advising the financial services sector.

After moving back to Northern Ireland, I held a range of economic development, regeneration and tourism roles in three different Councils and I am currently on secondment to NILGA from Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council.

Do you have a typical working day?

As in local government, no day is ever typical. My job requires me to cover a wide range of issues, so no day is ever the same. As a member of the senior management team at NILGA, I advise members on economic issues, draft policy responses and briefings, plan and deliver cross-council and cross-party policy events for NILGA's economy and growth working group and set the strategic direction for NILGA for the issues within my fields of responsibility.

I am also in London frequently to work with my counterparts in the other three local government associations. This is certainly something that has become more regular due to Brexit.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a BA(Hons) in European Business Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Event Management.

What other skills do you need in your role?

My job definitely requires flexibility as you never know what issues will arise on a daily basis. Apart from that, you need to be a good communicator and listener. It is also important to possess the power of persuasion and lots of energy.

What's the best thing about your job?

The nature of my job and the varied policy issues and streams that I am in charge of means that I have the opportunity to make connections and meet people from a wide range of different public, private and third sector organisations right across the island, as well as further afield.

And the worst?

With the vast number of issues that I am responsible for, I often find that I would love to have more time to delve deeper into more detail on some specific issues. We are a small multi-disciplinary team in NILGA, and we have to cover a wide range of issues.

What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?

At the minute, the absence of a functioning Assembly and government here in Northern Ireland means that the development of local government is being hampered in some areas and preventing policy change across economic, social and environmental fields.

What did you want to be when you were at school?

A teacher or an actress.

What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?

Pick a policy area that interests you. If you are going to be working on that topic or subject every day, it needs to be something you enjoy. I would also say that it is important to understand the strategic economic and political influences in local government and the variety of different actors involved.

What's the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?

“What's going to happen with Brexit?”

How do you like to relax outside work?

I love travelling and learning foreign languages – I'm currently studying Italian. I also devote a lot of time as secretary of Cathal Brugha Water Polo Club and to watching my two children playing a variety of different sports.

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