Businesswoman of the Month: Lorraine Walsh, Head of Marketing, Laya Healthcare
She started out as a customer service advisor in Cork, working her way up the ladder to forge a successful career in the competitive health insurance market. Today, Lorraine leads a passionate team who are responsible for advertising, sponsorship, PR, and internal communications, along with digital and social media. Here, she reveals why honesty really is the best policy at work, and how winning an All-Ireland Marketing Award has been the highlight of her Laya career to date
What was your first job and how much were you paid?
My family bought a bar when I was seven years old, which I worked in from that age – stocking shelves and fridges with bottles, polishing tables, cleaning the floor and pulling pints of Guinness. I don’t remember getting paid for it though! I worked in a hotel near home during the summer holidays when I was in secondary school and I got about £120 a week.
Did you have a mentor?
I’ve had a few over the years – formally and informally. A lot of people I work with and meet inspire me in different ways. I’d like to take different qualities from various people around me, pop them into a potion and drink it! But we all do the best we can and I know I’ll never finish learning from other people.
How did your career path lead you to Laya Healthcare?
After college, I started searching for a marketing role but, of course, a lot of the time you need experience, so I decided to search for a brand that I liked and then see if I could work my way in to their marketing department. In November 1999, I started as a customer service advisor in BUPA Ireland (now Laya Healthcare) in Fermoy, Co. Cork, and I spent six months in that role before being promoted to marketing executive. I still believe to this day that those six months as an advisor have stood to me in my current role.
Over the years, I went on to become Brand Manager, Marketing Manager and now I’m Head of Marketing for Laya Healthcare. The company has had some brand transitions in that time and I’m lucky to have been part of that.
What’s the most important lesson you have learnt over the course of your career?
A few things: you should always be honest and be yourself in whatever role you are in, most people respect honesty, but you need to be careful with how you deliver it. If you’re passionate about an idea or project, you are far more likely to want to make it work – the numbers/ROI (return on investment) has got to make sense too though!
In a competitive market, how does Laya Healthcare stand out?
The health insurance market is very competitive, but I believe we stand out because of the excellent people within the business and the service we deliver to our customers. There is a very strong culture in Laya Healthcare which positions the customer at the heart of every decision that we make. The people at all levels in the business try to give the best products, service and innovation to our customers. We firmly believe that what is good for the customer will ultimately be good for our business.
Does the glass ceiling exist for women?
I’m delighted to say that it hasn’t existed for me personally and it definitely doesn’t exist in Laya Healthcare – promotions are always based on merit in the business. We have a good mix of men and women on the senior management team and our board. Given the recent US election though, I do feel the glass ceiling still exists unfortunately.
What have been the highlights of your time at Laya Healthcare?
A highlight was when the company won an award for Corporate Social Responsibility at the All-Ireland Marketing (AIM) Awards from the Marketing Institute. The award was won for our Super Troopers programme – it’s a healthy homework programme designed to get children more active, eating healthier and looking after their general well-being and mental health.
What motivates you?
I enjoy trying to enhance what has been done before and making it better, keeping standards high and surprising yourselves and others.
Who are your business role models?
Rather than naming names, it’s qualities in people that are my role models. I admire people who are willing to put in the hard work themselves, who treat people fairly and those who are willing to push people to be the best that they can be – they see a vision and they find a way to ensure everyone around them are excited to follow that vision and genuinely believe in it.
Are you able to maintain a work/life balance?
It can be tricky at times, but I’m conscious of trying to maintain the balance – you need to stay healthy yourself in order to look after your family and your work.
If you weren’t in your current position, what career would you have liked to pursue?
I love dogs, so a dog walker and groomer would be a fabulous career!