Marcus Ó Buachalla
Senior Communications and Media Manager at Leinster Rugby
Senior Communications and Media Manager at Leinster Rugby and part of the organisation’s senior management team. Marcus completed his Diploma in Advanced Management Performance at UCD Smurfit School in September 2020.
Tell us a bit about your career path
After graduating from business and legal studies in UCD in 2003 I started an apprenticeship with William Fry and qualified as a solicitor in or around the time of the crash. I’d chosen to qualify into projects and construction at a time when no one was doing any projecting or constructing so it was bad timing!
I was unemployed for a year but was kept busy with voluntary work and sub teaching. I was planning to go back to college to study to become a teacher but ended up securing a six-month contract in Pembroke Communications’ sports and sponsorship division. That turned into five years and I finished up as an account director. Then an opportunity came up with Leinster Rugby and here I am seven years later.
I’m now senior communications and media manager, working primarily with the commercial team but also with the professional rugby team and the domestic rugby branch.
Why did you decide to do the Diploma in Advanced Management Performance?
It’s always been niggling away at the back of my mind that my formal training was in the legal sphere. While that gives a great grounding and foundation for any amount of disciplines, you need to seek out opportunities to develop your management skills.
As I went through the ranks in Pembroke and getting more senior roles I suddenly had a team around me and started building up my management experience. I manage a team of three within Leinster Rugby and work very closely with other colleagues.
While I felt I had management experience, I did want to upskill in terms of getting a broader appreciation and understanding of management and the concepts, but also what goes on in other industries. I also want to contribute more now that I am part of the senior management team at Leinster Rugby.
Obviously the Smurfit Business School is renowned and the Diploma in Advanced Management Performance appealed to me.
Tell us about your experience of doing the diploma
I started in October 2019 and was due to finish last May, with six two or three-day blocks of modules scheduled over the nine months. Because of lockdown we ended up doing one of the modules online while the final module was postponed so we could attend in-person on campus in September 2020.
From the very first day I loved it and it was a great experience.
While the faculty and lecturers are all brilliant, one of the biggest benefits was working with and sharing experiences with my fellow students. There were 30 in my class – two or three in communications-type roles with the rest from a range of disciplines and sectors. They all had their own case studies and take on what was being discussed. This was so different from an undergraduate degree where you’re so reliant on the lecturer and just a very different way of learning. I loved the fact that regardless of who we had in front of us – from Stephen Boyle to Dr Brian McGrath – they encouraged us to talk and to bring the best out of each other.
I have to also say that in a year of tremendous uncertainty and upheaval the faculty and programme management team were brilliant. In particular, Siobhán Lane Walsh, our dedicated Programme Manager who guided us through the course and appreciated the additional strain that was placed on us all by the pandemic.
What module did you most enjoy or get most benefit from?
I’d be reluctant to pick one over the other. The one I thought I would have least amount of interest in was the financial module but I got so much from it. It was made very clear on the first evening that it wasn’t going to suddenly turn you into an accountant. What it has given me is a really good grounding and understanding when our head of finance is presenting at meetings.
And that’s what I took from all the modules over the course of the year. We got an insight into and understanding of what other people in our organisations are facing on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. And it gave you more confidence around the language they use. When it comes to the financials, for example, I can now follow the conversations in a much more informed manner. And I feel I can now contribute in a more meaningful manner in terms of our senior management meetings.
How has it helped you develop as a leader?
Leinster Rugby is a very progressive organisation, very focused on staff and employee advancement and with a growth mindset, so the concepts around leadership weren’t alien to me but the programme did give me a deeper understanding of a lot of the theories.
I think I got a better appreciation of how I want to manage my team and how to deal better with conflict. I’m more aware of various techniques – for example, in particularly difficult situations to maybe look at ways of using the resources around you to tease things out among the group rather than feeling everything’s always on you.
The last module we did was around personal impact and presence. Part of that involved mindfulness and taking time to look after yourself. I’d never really given much thought to the area of meditation, mindfulness and sleep. It’s something that surrounds me here at Leinster Rugby but I would always have thought of it in terms of the players needing to worry about their nutrition, sleep, mindfulness and visualisations. I never thought of it in the context of me as a manager and looking after my team.
How else has the programme had an impact on you personally or professionally?
My main reason for doing the programme was to grow as a manager and improve my impact on Leinster Rugby. But from a personal point of view I found that final module 'Personal Impact & Presence with Stephen Boyle' really interesting. It definitely gave food for thought in terms of things like sleep and nutrition but also work-life balance.
I loved the way we managed to tease that out in class and I could then bring it home to my personal life. My wife and I are both busy working professionals with three kids under 10 so life is very busy.
I’ve definitely analysed where I put my own priorities in terms of work and questioned if there’s a better way of working where I find more of a balance. And I’ve made improvements in that area over the last few months.
And I wouldn’t have given too much thought to mindfulness before but I am now trying to look after myself better so I can be a better employee but also a better father and husband.
What’s your advice for future participants?
Go in with an open mind. I would have had certain preconceived notions about some of the modules and what I was going to take out of them. If you go in with an open mind, have your homework done – it’s important that you’re going in prepped – and are willing to share your own experience you can only benefit and so will everyone else.
So, open mind, have your reading done and enjoy it!