High Flyers: Michael's journey from lifeguard to leisure transformation

Michael Kearney, GLL project manager in Belfast.
Michael Kearney, GLL project manager in Belfast.

In the high Flyers spotlight this week is Michael Kearney, GLL project manager with responsibility for the leisure transformation programme in Belfast.

What was your first job?

A lifeguard at the Falls Leisure Centre. I absolutely loved it. It helped fund my university studies and was a great starting point for my career in leisure.

What qualifications do you have?

I have an undergraduate degree in politics and sociology, an advanced diploma in social enterprise and a prince 2 qualification in project management. I’ve always had an ambition to complete a masters, so that is the next on the list.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work and determination. Working with great people and mentors has been the main contributing factor to allow me to develop and progress personally and professionally.

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

Quietly determined.

Who do you look up to in business?

I find people who have the determination to develop products or services from concept, even when the odds seem to be stacked against them, very inspiring. I am lucky to work in an organisation that has inspiring industry leaders who I look up to.

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

I have found that building relationships through treating people with respect, having clear communication and creating an inclusive environment often gets the best out of people. Seeing others develop is the most exciting part of leadership.

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

There is still a lack of understanding of social enterprise. Working for a social enterprise which reinvests in local people and communities, I feel there is much more to be done to enhance knowledge and awareness around it.

What website or app could you not do without?

Professionally, Smartsheet is an excellent project management tool. Personally, JustPark is a great app that I use often. Any app that removes the need for cash is very useful.

What was the last book you read?

Shoe Dog - the autobiography of Nike founder Phil Knight. It is a fascinating read about how he founded one of the most iconic brands in history.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I often struggle with this question – the most interesting time in my life was working and travelling across Asia for three years. I would advise anyone to take the time to travel as you find out a lot about yourself and experience new cultures. Travel also helps you realise that your potential and opportunities are endless, which can really help in business and your career.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

My greatest passion outside work and family is definitely food, which goes hand in hand with my other passion, travel. My travel plans are often structured around finding new food experiences. Belfast is also fast becoming a great foodie city, so I look forward to continuing to explore it.