Mr Madrid - Conor McDonnell

Conor is a TCD graduate and is currently in his second year of the programme in Madrid, having spent his first year in Amsterdam. Spain is a growing market for Jameson, so we caught up with him to see what BA life in beautiful Espagne was really like!

Tell me about yourself.

I´m from Dublin, studied TSM French & Spanish in TCD, graduating in 2016, and I´m my second year of the Jameson Graduate Programme.

When did you decide that you wanted to take part in the Jameson Graduate Programme?

I remember getting an email from the languages department in TCD, advertising the programme as a great opportunity for final year students with a second language. I looked into it and instantly knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.

What market were/are you in?

I spent my first year in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and currently I´m based in Madrid – Not too shabby!

Was there ever a language barrier while on the programme?

Amsterdam is an English-speaking market, so while most the office was Dutch, day to day business was always in English. I studied Spanish in university and lived in Madrid while doing an internship here a few years ago, so I had a good grasp of the language before I came, and am improving every day.

What was/is the most rewarding thing about the Jameson Graduate Programme?

Cliché - but without a doubt the people I´ve met! Graduates who started at the same time as me and with whom I trained are now some of my best mates, and we´re in every corner of the globe! It´s like having a family worldwide. I´ve met amazing people in the offices in both Amsterdam and Madrid, and of course back in Dublin, this is something I really value.

As well as that, the experience gained both personally and professionally is extremely rewarding. From someone with no background in business or marketing, it´s amazing to look back at what I´ve learned and the experience I continue to gain from what I now envision as a long-term career.

How did the Jameson Graduate Programme help you in developing your own personal brand?

While I would have always considered myself quite outgoing and sociable, the Graduate Programme has brought this to the next level. I´m constantly meeting new people, through the job and living abroad – It´s just impossible to be shy or stand-offish. This means that I´ve a network of friends and colleagues around the world.

As well as that, it´s given me an insight into brand development on an international level – not to mention experience in sales, marketing, digital media and working with creative agencies this is something that I can take with me whatever I choose do in the future.

What was your most difficult obstacle to resolve while on the Jameson Graduate Programme?

Coming to terms with the fact that I´m directly contributing to the success of a world renowned Irish whiskey was a bit overwhelming at first, it´s crazy to go straight from four years of university to a role where there is a lot of expected of you, and you can leave such a lasting mark. However I also feel that this is one of the most rewarding aspects of the role as well!

How have you developed through the Jameson Graduate Programme?

I´ve gained amazing experience in international workplaces, working in a variety of disciplines; sales, marketing, both experiential and strategic, digital, improved my language skills, and I´ve grown as a person. Living abroad and building a social life for yourself in a city where you don´t know anyone can be quite daunting but is without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

What weaknesses did you improve on?

Professionally, I suppose a lack of understanding of strategic marketing, brand development and on a personal level, fear of missing out! I´ve moved countries twice in the last year and a bit – sometimes it´s tough, you miss your mates, you miss home but the opportunity to live abroad, experience new cultures and meet different people from all walks of life, while gaining amazing experience and kick-starting a career that provides plenty of opportunities to grow makes it a no-brainer.

What skills learned from Jameson have been transferable to your current position?

¨Make a friend everyday¨ - This is something of a mantra within Pernod Ricard and a skill that resonates with me both within the role and my personal life. The whiskey knowledge is definitely a plus, we receive intense training at our Irish Whiskey Academy before heading out to market which enables us to educate consumers, colleagues and everyone in between when out in market on the history, heritage and production process of the world´s number one Irish Whiskey. Insights into our target demographic and consumers as well as global brand strategy formed a really comprehensive base to work off and adapt to local markets.

What is your favourite memory from your time on the programme?

Barrelmens Homecoming 2017 is up there. Each year Brand Ambassadors in all markets run a local cocktail competition, the winners of which we accompany to Ireland for a 3 day immersive experience on all things Jameson, split between Dublin and Cork. It´s amazing to see BAs from all parts of the world back on home soil, and great craic catching up with old friends and making new ones.

Any tips for anyone applying or future brand ambassadors?

Build up a portfolio of experience and skills through gaining relevant work experience tailored to the area you are interested in. You will get plenty of opportunities to develop in the areas that interest you the most throughout your three years on the programme. For anyone applying that really feels this is the role for them, don´t be disheartened if you don´t get it the first time around, build on the feedback given and use the year between applications to improve and develop skills that will make you a prime candidate for the role.