High Flyers: Quirky Ally never stops sharpening the sword

Ally O’Neill from Ardmore. 

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Ally O’Neill, newly-promoted media director and head of brand and culture at Ardmore.

What was your first job?

My first job was in my uncle’s sports shop in Omagh. I had to become a jack of all trades very quickly when it came to sports equipment. It may have been humble beginnings, but it taught me a fundamental lesson about sales and business which I still use to this day – people buy from people they like.

What qualifications do you have?

I’ve always believed that you should ‘never stop sharpening the sword’ - you can never stop learning in my experience. My colleagues at Ardmore joke name me the “Conference King” for the number of webinars and training events I attend.

My university years were spent at University of Strathclyde in the lovely Glasgow where I gained a first class honors degree in marketing.

What do you attribute your success to?

Empathy. You never really know a person until you climb into their skin and walk around in it. I always try to see the bigger picture and really understand where other people are coming from. I’m also annoyingly optimistic which has always served me well.

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


Who do you look up to in business?

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first women’s Olympic Games marathon winner. Although not strictly a business example in the commercial sense, her unrelenting ambition and passion is something I aspire to bring into my work each and every day and try to inspire in my team.

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

In my role as head of brand and culture at Ardmore, I specifically work on staff wellbeing initiatives to ensure we are creating an environment where our people feel supported and empowered to be at their best.

This means focusing on leadership and not management. I make it a priority to treat people how I would like to be treated and empower them to make decisions and take responsibility for their work.

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

I think we can be too down on ourselves in Northern Ireland, and we should tone down that self-deprecation. We are small physically, but our passion and work ethic is titanic. In my current role, I have the opportunity to work with a wide range of overseas clients and they consistently remark on the genuine passion and high quality of work that emanates from Northern Ireland.

What website or app could you not do without?

Nike Run Club. The guided runs have changed my entire opinion on running.

What was the last book you read?

“A Good Man in Africa” by William Boyd. If you are having a bad day, you can bet Morgan Leafy’s day is worse.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I love scuba diving. In fact, I once actually packed my bags and moved to Mexico to pursue my love for it. The town I moved to had 300 people, no shops and no wifi. It was certainly an interesting period in my life.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

The sea. I love to swim or be anywhere near the water really. Dunfanaghy in Co. Donegal is probably my favourite place to jump in the water.

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