High Flyers: Julie's mantra is to deal with the ‘important’ rather than the ‘urgent’

Julie Shannon.
Julie Shannon. Julie Shannon.

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Julie Shannon, vice-president and deputy head of information services at Almac Group

What was your first job?

I was a graduate developer in Fujitsu in Belfast. I started in July 1998, weeks after graduation, and worked there for just over two years. I enjoyed this part of my career as I worked with a great group of people who helped develop my technical and non-technical skills.

What qualifications do you have?

I have a first-class BSc (Hons) in mathematics and computer sciences from Queen’s University.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work and determination. I have also worked with some very inspiring people and have been lucky to have good team members around me. I started working in Almac in 2001 at our Pennsylvania site and moved back to the headquarters in Craigavon in 2005. Working in our US and European facilities and understanding the culture in both locations has given me great insight into how change is received across the business which has helped when we have introduced global processes.

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

I would describe myself as hard-working, loyal and honest.

Who do you look up to in business?

It would have to be Almac’s late founder and chairman, Sir Allen McClay. He was a passionate, visionary and generous man who pursued his vision of making a substantial contribution to healthcare across the globe and began the journey of Almac. When he visited the Pennsylvania site, he would always do a walkaround the office greeting all members of staff. He knew most of them by name and was always very interested to stop and have a conversation. When I moved back to the Craigavon office, Sir Allen would be in the canteen, the Alcove, most days at lunchtime. He was always very approachable and made time to stop for a quick chat.

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

I treat others the way I would like to be treated. I also keep communication channels open, ensure that staff are informed and understand the context of all work they undertake. A manager who I really respect told me to always deal with the ‘important’ rather than the ‘urgent.’ This has stuck with me and it’s something that I try to instil in others.

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

I would like to see the continued development of close links between our business community and the colleges and universities. The talent pool in Northern Ireland is phenomenal and it is key that these niche IT skills are retained within the country. Almac has successfully recruited a number of apprentices and placement students over the past number of years. We have helped to develop university course content to ensure that the skills being taught is what is needed in the business world.

What website or app could you not do without?

I could not do without Google Maps. It is a life saver when I’m trying to get anywhere.

What was the last book you read?

My good school friend Angeline King is a brilliant author and I have read all her books, which are based on life in Northern Ireland including Snugville Street, Dusty Bluebells and A Belfast Tale. The characters are very complex, and I was completely consumed in the storylines - I didn’t want them to end! I have just started reading ‘All Her Fault’ by author Andrea Mara. I am only a few chapters in and am already hooked.

What car do you drive?

I drive a Cayenne Coupe.

Tell us something interesting about yourself.

Working for Almac has opened up so many opportunities for me to travel and I started my career in the US headquarters in Philadelphia. Both my children were born there, so they hold dual citizenship. This gives them so many opportunities to travel and work in the US in later life should they wish to.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

I enjoy watching sport, which is just as well because there is always a match of some sort on the TV. I especially enjoy watching rugby. My family are season ticket holders at Ulster Rugby, and we love nothing better than going to a Friday night game after a long week at work and study. This is my way of unwinding and getting ready for what the weekend will bring.