Jonathan puts Eastside into the picture

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Jonathan McAlpin, creator and chair of Eastside Awards, which recognise the best about east Belfast. The fourth annual awards ceremony takes place on Friday January 24. He is also chief executive of East Belfast Enterprise

What was your first job?

I worked at Belmont Photographic services, packaging the “free films” – in the days before digital cameras or camera phones were thought of – during my school and university holidays.

What qualifications do you have?

I studied at Queen's University where I obtained a BSc (Hons) in food technology and i have a masters in marketing from University of Strathclyde. I also studied the Certified Diploma in Accounting and Finance from the Association of Chartered Certified Accounts at Ulster University Jordanstown and I obtained a Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing at Castlereagh College.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work, perseverance and the support of others. My main support comes from my wife, family and certain mentors who have supported me throughout my business career.

How would you describe yourself to someone who'd never met you?

Loyal, hard-working, but there's always room for a laugh.

Who do you look up to in business?

In a very sad when last year we said a far too early goodbye to Richard O'Rawe, who I viewed as a mentor and friend and someone who taught me a lot about business. I first knew Ricky as my boss, when I worked for him at Venture International for two years, 1999 and 2000. I was based in the Belfast office in Elmwood Avenue and learnt a great deal from Ricky during those years. I later became his landlord when he rented an office at City East, which is one of the property sites under East Belfast Enterprise management. I regarded him as a friend and mentor for many years, from those first days in the late 1990s right through until his untimely passing last year.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I like to think I lead by example and show my colleagues that I trust them, I respect them and I try to give them the space to take responsibility and ownership for their ideas and their performance.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

Change the culture of the public sector to one that can take more risk and show greater trust in those of us working in the third sector. That starts from the top, with a functioning government.

What website or app could you not do without?

BBC for news and information and WhatsApp for the social/fun side of life.

What was the last book you read?

I rarely take time to read books these days but Evan Marshall's Spirit of '58 was one I read on my last holiday – for those that don't know, that's about when Northern Ireland should have won the World Cup!

What car do you drive?

An old, past its sell-by-date Vauxhall Insignia.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I've been very fortunate to have travelled extensively and had many great experiences. Probably the best experience was travelling the world for a year which included sky diving in New Zealand, scuba diving on the barrier reef and in the Galapagos Islands, skiing in Argentina and trekking in South East Asia and the outback of Australia – happy memories!

What's your greatest passion outside work and family?

I guess it has to be football, particularly the Shore Road Brazilians (or Crusaders to those less familiar with our style) and Northern Ireland.

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