High Flyers: Matthew is big on empathy and emotional intelligence

Matthew O’Connor from heads Synergy Learning.

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Matthew O’Connor, who heads up Synergy Learning’s marketing team. Before that he was head of marketing for the international Digital DNA brand

What was your first job?

I first worked in Scalini - the Belfast-Italian eatery - as a waiter for six years. I started the summer after I finished my A-Levels and continued through university.

What qualifications do you have?

I graduated from Queen’s University Belfast with a BA (hons) in criminology & social policy. It’s a bit of an unusual degree for a marketing professional I admit, but nonetheless one that I’m proud of. I’ve also followed that with a number of certificates from the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a Distinction in Entrepreneurial Studies.

What do you attribute your success to?

Working in a competitive, ever-changing industry without having a third-level qualification in a directly related field means a battle with imposter syndrome. What gets me through those doubting questions is knowledge and information. Always ask the question; always learn more.

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

Above all, I’m a talker. You can’t beat a good conversation, so be prepared to chat.

Who do you look up to in business?

I’ve always been impressed by Kelly Bennett’s work in Netflix during the company’s transitional period in the early 2010’s. His leadership of brand and advertising took them to what we know today.

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

I’m big on empathy and emotional intelligence. For me it’s beyond a task list or a performance review. I try to understand how they work; how they process successes and challenges and what their habits and comforts are.

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

I think ‘talking shop’ is very prevalent here. We gladly share our success but aren’t keen to talk about the many failures that happened before it. Share your failures as well as your successes!

What website or app could you not do without?

Apple Podcasts. Over the past few years, I’ve become quite fond of podcasts whilst driving or walking!

What was the last book you read?

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney in anticipation of the new TV series.

What car do you drive?

A 2002 Renault Clio called Phillipe – the radio only worked when there were blue skies and when it was raining outside, it was raining inside.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’m a classically trained flautist!

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

I’m a foodie at heart. Combine that with travelling (especially the history of Europe) and I’m very happy.

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