A BELGOOLY woman has combined her love of people and all things beauty, to land a top job with Charlotte Tilbury in New York.
Eilish Maguire’s impressive title is ‘Head of People North America’ for the global beauty brand, where she is responsible for hiring and for developing the beauty brand’s 117 North American employees.
It’s a million miles away from the dairy farm near Kinsale she grew up on, and her former role in HR with medical device company Stryker in Carrigtwohill.
Her route to where she is now — in an office in the glamorous Soho district — was a little roundabout, but there was one common theme throughout and that was her interest in ‘people’ and a commitment to treating people fairly.
After school (the former convent in Kinsale) she studied Travel & Tourism in Skerry’s Business College on Patrick’s Hill, then did a two-year stint in a call centre in the city centre before working in customer service in Blarney Woollen Mills.
“I got the job at Stryker through a recruitment agency; at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do so I just thought ‘why not?’ It was a very new company at the time — I was the 45th employee,” she recalls.
“I started in HR as an administrator and was doing a bit of everything. I was only around 22 and of course I wanted to be a HR generalist — even if I had no idea what that was!”
Eilish credits her manager, Mary McAdams, originally from Clonakailty, as being instrumental in nudging her in the right direction, which saw her study HR by night at CIT for three years.
Eilish remembers her as being a fantastic leader and a great example of how to lead people.
That was a big commitment — living in Belgooly, working in Carrigtwohill, and studying in CIT — but Eilish said it was worth it as she loved it.
“School wasn’t my favourite thing for no particular reason except maybe a lack of confidence. I didn’t even know what HR was to start with, but, you know, I flourished in CIT — it can just take a while to know what makes you happy, and it’s about focusing on your strengths.”
Her time in Stryker (15 years in all) saw her move from Cork to Memphis, Tennessee, and then to New York, where in 2015 she decided it was time for a complete change.
She’s a self-confessed beauty junkie and remembers as a child coming down the stairs in her mum’s high heels and lipstick, so she pushed herself completely out of her comfort zone and joined the Laura Mercier brand before landing her dream job with a brand she was fascinated with, Charlotte Tilbury, almost two years ago.
The 41-year-old says the company’s ethos was easy to buy into, as Charlotte has such “great contagious energy and is so passionate”.
“Whatever she puts her mind to, she makes it happen, she dreams big and is very ambitious. And, of course, the products are so beautiful, it’s such a glamorous brand.”
In New York for 12 years now, it’s where she met her Donegal husband — in an Irish bar of course. The couple will be married five years in December and bought a house two years ago in the very Irish district Yonkers, so it’s now very much home.
Her work life is busy and sees her rise at 5.30am, with over an hour commute door to door and she’s usually at her desk for around 7.45am.
“That’s handy when jumping on calls/emails from our London office,” she said.
Basically, her job could see any number of people-related topics land on her desk — but it centres around hiring, developing, and empowering their 117 staff, and getting them to the next level.
“I love dealing with people. I see people at their best and not so good so it’s about putting yourself in their shoes and being fair.
“Things I like to do with my team and advice I give to anyone managing people include giving feedback and always in a timely manner — there’s no point bringing up an issue six months later; treating people how you like to be treated and recognising great work.
“I always think of Mary McAdams from Stryker when I’m managing my own team.”
Eilish is just generous with her time and advice and regularly meets young graduates who move to New York to ‘live the dream’, or connects with them in advance of the move.
“People are so excited to move here but it can be hard to build a career as some companies are not in a position to sponsor visas. My advice is to network as much as possible, go to business networking events, join Irish networks abroad, reach out to people, everyone knows someone who can help.
“It’s also important to have realistic expectations — you mightn’t get your dream job at first, but it will get your foot in the door.”
The pace, she admits, in New York is faster and people do have a certain ‘swagger’, she finds.
“People here are very confident, but that’s not a bad thing; a certain swagger is needed!
“As Irish people we are very humble – I think it’s the way we were brought up and of course it makes us very likeable, but I think we can be too humble sometimes.”
With a strong network of friends, many of them Irish, she says that New York is a great city as there’s always something on.
Hobbies, outside of beauty and self-care, include yoga, listening to podcasts and eating out.
She usually gets back to Belgooly at least a few times in the year to visit mum and dad Pat and Sheila. She has one sister Mary, who is 12 years older than her and who she jokes is like a second mother to her.
“She has always been my biggest supporter and I couldn’t do what I do without her. She took over the family farm and herself and husband George and their family live next door to my parents.”
And, of course, we must ask — what’s her favourite Charlotte Tilbury product?
“There are so many it’s hard to pick but outside of the iconic new Hot Lips 2 collection, it would have to be the Hollywood Flawless filter and of course Charlotte’s Magic Cream,” she says in an accent that’s as Cork as ever.