With over 20 years’ experience in global talent development, alumna Bridget McCarthy (MSc in International Human Resource Management 2016) is always keen to make a difference. Here she shares her story and tells us how her studies at the Business School led to a pivotal epiphany.

Bridget McCarthy by David P Scott
Photography by David P. Scott

In 1995 I was assigned by the US Peace Corps to a small village in the Himalayan foothills with no running water, no electricity and no phones. As a volunteer, I taught English to village children and trained teachers to follow in my footsteps. I wasn’t there to hike or go trekking as many of my peers were doing at that time, I was there to make a difference.

This is how I have approached my career ever since. Undeterred by scarcity and cultural, political, or economic barriers, I strive for impact both on a global and an individual level.

Since those early days, I have worked in more than eight countries and on four continents. No matter where I have been or for whom I have been working—the United Nations, the State Department, or Fortune 100 multinationals—I have focused my career in talent development, bringing out the best in people and training them to perform effectively and successfully individually, in teams and as leaders.

To me, adaptability and being prepared for the unexpected has been key, yet at the same time, maintaining that laser focus on the talent. Both have served me well, and my employers and teams can attest to that.

This has not come without having prepared myself, with regular certifications and continued education in learning and organisational development.

If my travels and diverse experiences give me breadth, it is this continuing education that delivers the depth of my expertise.

Already equipped with an MBA in International Management, I chose to return to study in 2015 as I was eager to explore the theoretical underpinnings to my practitioner experience. The MSc in International Human Resource Management at the Business School proved to be the perfect programme for me.

If my travels and diverse experiences give me breadth, it is this continuing education that delivers the depth of my expertise.

During my MSc studies, I expanded upon my self-development journey by participating in the University’s Edinburgh Award programme which helped me to identify specific competencies to improve accompanied by a certified coach from the School’s student development team. It was also on an Edinburgh Award career trek to Dublin that I had a pivotal epiphany.

It was the first time I had heard Sheryl Sandberg’s quote from her book Lean In: ‘If someone offers you a seat on their rocket ship, don’t ask which seat—just get on’. For me, my seat has always been clear—the one of a talent development leader. What isn’t clear though is who or where is my rocket ship. This search for my proverbial rocket ship has been guiding my career ever since. I want to ‘get on’ a rocket ship with a global mission and value-based purpose.

What else has been the driving force behind my career choices? Taking risks and an unquenched curiosity about new cultures, new organisations and new places.

On that note, my next stop will be serving as a senior organisational development consultant for a regional development bank in the Middle East and I can’t wait!