Vicky Brown

Vicky Brown

Head of CoolPlanet Academy at CoolPlanet

Tell us a bit about yourself?

After college I moved to New York and lived there for 5 years. The move was spontaneous, I went to validate my Morrison visa and fell in love with the city. In NYC, I worked in bars, then advertising. It was the opportunity to work on a campaign for ‘March of Dimes’ that I felt a different type of motivation behind the type of work that I wanted to do. In hindsight, I guess I would call that ‘purpose’ now. When I returned to Ireland, I had a brief stint at a bank before moving to Barnardos as their Fundraising Manager.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to move to The One Foundation, which solidified my love of working on trying to solve big social problems. Over the 10 years of the fund, we invested close to €100 million into sectors such as education, mental health, youth, migrant rights and social entrepreneurship.

Post One, I did some consultancy similar to my role at One, working with companies like Vodafone, SMBC Aviation, BelongTo and NTR Foundation. It was through my relationship with Rosh McGuckian at NTR that I met CoolPlanet’s founder Norman Crowley, and I’ve been working with him for the past 8 years.

What is your favourite part of your job?

Variety, purpose and people in no particular order. I love the variety of my job, both in terms of what I am doing, but also learning and understanding. I must have a role that has purpose - the work I am doing must have meaning and matter.

I have worked in roles where that was absent, and that is why I chose to leave. And finally people. It is all about the people you work with and for - we have great mutual respect but also lots of laughs, sometimes tears but through it all we have each other's backs.

What keeps you motivated and driven on a daily basis?

Different things on different days. The team I work with are great motivators, their passion and belief in what we are doing motivates me. Our organisation is a fast moving one, with a brilliant culture of support, fun and drive - all with the pinpoint precision of impacting climate change and reducing carbon. That’s motivating in itself.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I had many career aspirations as a kid…it all depends on what age I was. I had aspirations to be in the fire brigade or the army - I was a tomboy and my best friend Henry and I used to play in his dad's old army truck (yes it was an army green land rover with a canvas back) and we used to build assault courses up and down the laneway where we lived. After that, having gone on a trip to Africa, I decided that I wanted to travel the world, so becoming an air hostess or pilot was considered.

As a teenager, I briefly thought of architecture but it was the 80s, Ireland was in a deep recession, and all architects, builders and engineers were abroad in places like Saudi so I was advised to think differently. In the end, I fell into studying psychology at UCD. In hindsight, a degree that probably was not that suited to me. I think something more practical, hands on would have been more interesting.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

An interesting question given that one of my children has just started college and another is doing her leaving certificate so I’ve been surrounded by CAO forms, college courses for the past two years. On reflection, when I was younger, I remember several suggestions of what I should not do. And the career guidance at school was ‘just do arts’ if you were unsure.

So my advice to my kids is what do you like now, what interests you - study that for now, but be aware you’ve lots of options and you can change should you want to - all of that is entirely possible.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love sport. I love the feeling of exertion, competition - this has only come to me more recently and it is one regret that I didn’t feel this way when I was younger. I play tennis 3-4 times per week, and I love the competition of league matches. I set myself a goal about 14 months ago of running 100km per month which I’m now on a streak for, so bar injury I’ll keep that up. When the sea warms up a bit, I plan to get back into sea swimming and have a goal to swim around Dalkey Island at some point (though it will have to be perfect conditions!!).

Which women most inspire you and why?

My mother. She was ahead of her time in many ways. She was a single mum in 70’s Ireland, she worked full time for a semi-state organisation where she had to ‘hide’ her pregnancy and then made her way up to a managerial position. She left that organisation, and developed a new career for herself in a totally different field. Not many women at that time did that. Career, single and raised a family. I should admire her more.

Other women I would include are women that you will never read about in the media. It’s the woman down the road who organises dinners nightly for another family whose mother is ill in hospital. It's the friend who always listens even though she has way more ‘shit’ on her plate, but you’d never know it. They are the women I admire. There are courageous, strong, warm women everywhere, all around us.

How can we encourage more women to pursue senior leadership roles?

It has to be company culture. I was fortunate to be in workplaces that supported me having a family and a career role at the same time. I did have to make sacrifices for both at times, but for the most part they enabled me to be a parent and a colleague at the same time. It has to come from the leadership, and they need to really be vocal on it. But it's also about trust too and I think that one of the fortunate aspects of covid is that blended workplaces can work - but you need trust on both sides.

Tell us three interesting facts about you.

I’m not sure I have any…

1) I’ve gone deaf in one ear and they don’t know why so if you’re an ENT specialist give me a buzz.

2) I have a secret fetish for Love Hearts and Refreshers…cheap sweets.

3) I can’t sing - I can’t hold a note or remember the lyrics so tend to make them up.