2015 Blog Entries


August 2015

This time one year ago I had just finished my masters in Occupational Psychology at Goldsmiths University College London (UCL), and was keen to embark on a new journey – the US-NI Mentorship Program. 8 months down and only four to go, I seriously can’t believe how quick the year has gone!

Once accepted onto the US-NI Mentorship Program, I secured a position working in Strategy for Teneo Holdings in New York City. My placement so far has not been what I expected- it has surpassed my expectations in every single way. I remember waking up on my first day of work and panicking what to wear, what the people in the office would be like, and what working life in the US would be like? All I can say is be prepared for snow, a friendly collaborative working environment and a corporate buzz – which I have never experienced anywhere else in the world! … as well as an AMAZING view!


(Some of the Teneo Team at our Global Summit)


(The view from my desk)

Teneo is focused on working exclusively with the CEOs and leaders of the world’s largest and most complex companies and organizations, and thus has provided me with exceptional insight working in a fast-paced, self-directed, entrepreneurial environment. This role has a great amount of visibility, places emphasis on drive, and allows me to interface with colleagues from a range of different divisions, including; Strategy, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion.

The US-NI Mentorship Program also opens up the door to a number of business networks and philanthropy events in the city. Since arriving in New York City I have volunteered and attended a variety of Irish business community networking events. Some of these have included the American Ireland Fund, NI Bureau, Irish International Business Network (IIBN) and talks given at the Irish-American Consulate by a host of guest business speakers. In March I attended the fifth annual Ireland Day at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday March 13th 2015, along with Declan Cole (another US-NI Mentee). This half-day international business summit, dubbed by many as the ‘Irish Davos’, offered an unrivalled platform for economic engagement and thought leadership exchanges. With over 700 US companies investing over $200bn in Ireland, through direct emolument and Irish companies employing north of 125,000 people in North America, it was very exciting to hear that the value of Ireland’s economic relationship with the US has never been stronger! Eimear Glass and I (another US-NI Mentee) also had the opportunity to meet Liam Neeson at a private cocktail event in Manhattan, to celebrate the closing of another great season at the Irish Arts Center.


(Eimear Glass and I with… Liam Neeson)

So what is it like living in NYC?
Before moving to NYC I have lived in a number of different cities including Belfast, London and Perth, Australia. Although I thoroughly enjoyed living in these cities they do not compare to life in NYC!

I don’t think I have ever used the phrase ‘I am bored’ since moving here, while I may have overused the phrase ‘I need some sleep’! From charity runs, to skydives, to Saturday brunches in the city there is plenty to do! Victoria McCollum and I (another US-NI Mentee) also attended the launch of Hilary Clinton’s campaign on Roosevelt Island- which was an amazing and unique experience!


(The launch of Hillary Clinton’s Campaign)


(Sunday walks in Central Park)


(US-NI Participants taking part in Concern Charity Run in Central Park)

To sum up my experience on the US-NI Mentorship Program, working for Teneo and living in NYC- all I can say is; “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not sure you can do it, say yes- then learn how to do it later.” (Richard Branson) – Trust me you won’t regret it!


June 2015

After graduating from my Masters in Finance from Queen’s University Belfast, a friend and I embarked on a 6 month trip to explore North and South America. The first stop, New York, a city I had been fascinated with my whole life, and to be honest, the setting of my favorite TV show growing up – Friends! After arriving in NYC and spending all of 1 hour there, I had made up my mind, I wanted to live and work here, the financial capital of the world, and one of the most exciting cities I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

The US-NI program provided the perfect opportunity to move to New York, get fantastic work experience, meet loads of new people and try something different and exciting every week, not a bad opportunity if you ask me.

I arrived in NYC in January, and after a winter I only ever knew of through TV – heavy snow fall, subzero temperatures (-16 degrees!!), the summer was here and the real fun was about to start!

June started off like every other month, with something new and exciting to do. With so much happening in New York and with the sun high in the sky, the opportunities were endless. It was going to be a busy summer packed with new and exciting adventures. A couple of friends and I started the month by heading to one of Manhattans biggest music festivals, Governors Ball, a three day music festival on Randall’s Island with some of the world’s top music acts playing. An unforgettable way to kick off the summer, and who knew what would be next on the list… a silent disco along Brooklyn Bridge? A yacht party around the Statue of Liberty?

gov 2gov

June also saw the kickoff of some major golf tournaments and being a huge golf fan, I was keen to try and play some of the courses New York had to offer. It was just my luck that two of the courses I got to play in June were U.S. Open courses and two of the best New York had to offer! This caused for some practice, as I knew I would be slightly rusty, but after a few visits to Chelsea Piers (NYC’s local driving range), I was ready to go! Now, for the next challenge… do I let my boss (an Executive Director at CIBC) win? Everyone always says to let your boss win, but I wasn’t too keen on that rule, especially when the loser buys lunch and the post-game beers. It was game on!



Now, it’s not all music festivals, relaxing at the beach or playing U.S. Open golf courses. Work is a huge part of life here, and for me it is a very interesting and immensely rewarding part of life. The hours are longer than I was used to in Belfast, but you don’t notice it when you are surrounded by extremely motivated people with a work ethos second to none. “It can’t be done” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” is not part of the everyday vocabulary in the office. Working for CIBC in Real Estate Finance is not your average job, a lot of trust, responsibility and reliance is put on you from the beginning. As an analyst, I have great exposure to everyone in the office, including the managing directors – which motivates you to go the extra mile and ensure your work is flawless. If it’s not, it won’t be long until someone points it out! On the other hand, good work does not go unnoticed, when your Director tells you that the good work you did that day makes his job a lot easier, or when he calls you into his office because he wants your opinion on a deal, it is very rewarding. With every deal being different from the last, it is safe to say that it would take a few pages to sum up my day-to-day activities!

Six months in, I can firmly say that Manhattan feels like a home away from home. I feel I have learnt more in the last six months than I have learnt my entire life. I am looking forward to what the future holds and to making a difference in Northern Ireland down the line.

I have surprised myself with what is achievable, and if I can do it, you can do it too!


May 2015

One Saturday morning, when I was sixteen and living in Belfast, my brother came into my bedroom and said “Kyle, I’m going to go and read the Financial Times in Starbucks if you want to come.” Uninterested in anything related to business, finance or just about anything else at that age, I accepted the offer purely as a means to get out of the house. Little did I know that that was the beginning of something I would do almost every Saturday morning for the next six years; something that would spark my interest, and ultimately my career, in the field of finance. It would lead me to London, Dublin and, now, New York City. And so, still fresh with a feeling of wonder and amazement, armed with a Cafe Latte (“the usual” to the baristas in my quaint, local cafe overlooking the Museum of Natural History), this is my update: May in Manhattan.

I work at UBS Wealth Management Americas, and at the start of the May I transitioned from the Client Advisory Group to the Securities Backed Lending Group. It meant a step out of the comfort zone (not so fun), demonstrating talent (quite fun) and meeting new people (lots of fun).


A typical day is rather atypical in my role, but if you were a fly on the wall you’d probably see me doing one of three things: 1) on the phone with Financial Advisors and their Associates, acting as their subject matter expert on the product; 2) working in an analytical capacity to deliver data-driven analysis; 3) sitting in a meeting where I could be expected to present findings to colleagues and management. (You’d also be pleasantly cool, because the air conditioning in my Manhattan-view office is cranked up to combat the ever-increasing May heat).

Graduates are given great exposure at UBS, and given a chance to shine when you put in the work. I recall one meeting in particular, where I presented new analysis to a working group that consisted of Managing Directors, Executive Directors, Associate Directors – and me. Almost all of the hour-long discussion was focused on my findings and, in one regard, this meeting is symbolic of the entire US-NI Mentorship experience: if you put in the work, you’ll more often than not see the results.

One thing that is very noticeable in Manhattan is the drive of the city. It isn’t uncommon to meet full time professionals who are also studying for their MBA, play sports at a highly competitive level or volunteer throughout the city. This month, I have enjoyed growing friendships from a diverse range of people: from Iraq veterans to professional journalists. It’s all in a day’s work here in the city, and it fills me with excitement about what Northern Ireland could become in our generation.11050721_10153172765550490_3216820818391929557_n

Although the working hours are much longer than those of Belfast, it isn’t all work here! On Tuesday or Thursday evenings I play competitive football through the Manhattan Urban Soccer League, including games on rooftops overlooking the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building – One World Trade Center. On Wednesdays I meet up with a group of friends from my local church. And in between there’s always something to do, like taking a train up to Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees or NYCFC, or someone to see, whether it be a fellow US-NI participant or a new American acquaintance. And, of course, I still try to fit in the Financial Times on a Saturday morning.

Within the program, this month US-NI participants based in New York started the Memorial Day Weekend by kayaking on the Hudson River and discussing their excitement/fear of skydiving in July to raise funds for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (your donations would be much appreciated:http://www.gofundme.com/US-NIMentees). We also took our first outing, forty five minutes south of Manhattan, to Coney Island Beach; and enjoyed free access to the observatory of the iconic Empire State Building.

All in, it’s been a whirlwind, marvellous May here in Manhattan, and although I still find myself watching things that remind me of home – like The Fall or the North West 200 – it feels pretty amazing to feel at home in Manhattan.

Especially whenever they give you the latte for free.


Kyle R. T. Flanigan

April 2015

danielle blog

So what exactly is it like working at the global headquarters of one of most recognized, valuable and admired brands, not to mention the echelon of marketing companies in the entire world?

As cliché as it sounds- absolutely indescribable!

Hence the difficulty in trying to present a snapshot ‘month in the life of…’ blogpost capturing my experience as a Commercial Analyst at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia. Nonetheless here it goes…

One may be led to believe that working at the HQ of Coca-Cola merely consists of consuming copious amounts of free Coca-Cola beverages and watching the latest media campaigns before they roll onto the TV screens- whilst both are fairly accurate my day-to-day workflow also consists of a considerable amount more.

Take today for example my day consisted of the glorious 4.30am alarm awakening. By 5am I was on a call with Coca-Cola Amatil- our Australian bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises- our business unit in Uxbridge London and Coca-Cola Femsa our Brazilian bottler. By 8am I survived the brutal rush-hour traffic that characterizes Atlanta in every way, shape and form and made it to the downtown company headquarters. 9.30am I’m on a live webcast with Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chairman and Chief Executive Officer who is delivering the company’s first quarter 2015 earnings. Before lunch I’ve back to back meetings with the global brand team, digital marketing leads and Coca-Cola’s knowledge and Insights function. My lunch meeting is the next port-of-call whereby I meet with two directors involved in Coca-Cola Women’s LINC- a leadership conference team for women empowerment. Post lunch I’m back to my office zone and until 4pm the steam is pouring out of my laptop keyboard. By 4.30pm I’ve moved offices to our marketing agency in the city center for my last meeting of the day finished just in time to attend The World Affairs Council of Atlanta Young Leaders’ briefing back in the HQ- good job I’ve a company car to transport me! 8pm sees my final call of the day- a voice conference to Hyderabad, India for a catch-up with my mentor and discussions of my project.

So what exactly is it that I do?

I work for the Bottling Investments Group (BIG) – an Operating Group within Coca-Cola that consists of bottling organizations around the world specifically Europe, Africa, Americas and Asia. Within BIG my role as a Commercial Analyst has led me to project lead the new innovative initiative of ‘Coca-Cola Selling Stories’ which involves the compilation and programing of an iOS, Android and Windows APP- a tool in which once completed will be utilized by over 25,000 Coca-Cola Sales Developers reaching markets across 16 countries. A pretty hefty but exciting and massively fulfilling project to be leading straight out of university!

The position itself has afforded me mass amounts of scope in exploring all facets of the business and accelerated networking opportunities both personally inside and outside of work. The project alone has afforded me opportunities to network and make connections globally through interfacing with different commercial directors and leads in countries across the world. As my project is heavily marketing driven I’ve been able to network with the genius marketers that drive The Coca-Cola Company right up to senior executive level. Just yesterday I had a lunch meeting with the President of Sparkling Brands and Strategic Marketing. Moreover last week I was invited to attend a Coca-Cola retirement function which not only gave me exposure but allowed me to literally have sit down conversations with Irial Finan the Executive Vice President and President of BIG, Sunil Ghatnekar the Chief Financial Officer of BIG and Kathy Waller the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of The Coca-Cola Company- a woman who I have admired utmost since I commenced studying business and who’s leadership mantra I have long aspired to emulate. Prime networking opportunities like such stand completely unparalleled and that’s what this program and this company hand-in-hand have delivered me.

danielle blog 3

It’s not all work, work, work- rest assured I have my own time also. So what do I do with it?

April has been a month whereby I’ve been massively proactive in achieving everything I strategically set out for myself prior to leaving Northern Ireland. Philanthropy is in my blood and what better philanthropic company to be in than Coca-Cola. This month as part of the Coca-Cola Young Professionals networking group in which I’m a member of, I joined the Mary Hall Freedom House Academy (MHFH) as a Coca-Cola employee volunteer. The program is part of the company’s global 5by20 strategy to enable the empowerment of women which aforementioned is something I am absolutely passionate about. In this case the academy revolves around empowering women to break the cycle of addiction, poverty, homelessness and overcoming a lack of business skills and training. Thus far in April as a volunteer I’ve led and presented seminars and interactive workshops on business etiquette, financial literacy, how to dress for success and interview skills all of which have been a truly phenomenal experience afforded to me by the company.

Besides MHFH, this month I’ve also taken part in the Atlanta Community Food Bank whereby I helped prevent the hunger of almost 5000 people (4996 to be precise!). I took part in the ‘Girls on the Run 5K event’ which is a nonprofit organization inspiring young girls to be joyful, healthy and confident. I also joined the Coca-Cola Millennials Insights group, took part in ‘KO Runs Atlanta’- a 3 mile run on Georgia’s most famous street and volunteered at the Sheltering Arms- Georgia’s oldest nonprofit early childhood education program. Additionally as part of Coca-Cola’s corporate team I competed in the vertical race of climbing up Peachtree Tower- a 51-story downtown skyscraper of which all proceeds fundraised went to the American Lung Association. Why do I it? Because there’s nothing more fulfilling than giving something back to the community, being an ambassador for the US-NI Mentorship Program that afforded me this opportunity in the first instance, being an ambassador for my company Coca-Cola and just as importantly as the latter being an ambassador for Northern Ireland.

In between my day-to-day workflow, corporate representation and philanthropy efforts, every weekend this month I’ve managed to ‘play hard’ also. Having previously went to college in Florida I’ve been able to take two trips down this month to reunite with my fellow alums of Saint Leo University. I’ve also been able to experience Georgia’s beauty by hiking Stone Mountain, gondola riding down and visiting Atlanta Botanic Gardens. Similarly I’ve been able to experience Georgia’s culture and arts’ offering through attending Dogwood Festival in Piedmont Park (Atlanta’s Central Park) and going to ‘The Coca-Cola Bottle: An American Icon at 100’ art exhibition at High museum. In between I managed to squeeze in an Atlanta Hawks game, explorations of Buckhead nightlife offering and finally ended my April adventuring with an epic road trip to North Carolina then across to Tennessee, renting a log cabin in The Grand National Park of Smoky Mountain- truly spectacular.

Other highlights of April have included meeting Declan Kelly once again the US-NI Mentorship Program founder during his visit to Atlanta and of course taking part in the ongoing weekly celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of the Coca-Cola contour bottle.

That’s all for April in Atlanta- look forward to updating another ‘month in the life of…’ next quarter!


Danielle Ferguson

daniell blog 4

 March 2015


My name is Declan Cole and I am from a small place in Northern Ireland called Ballymartin close to the Mountains of Mourne. Prior to starting with PwC U.S. I attended Queens University Belfast and the University of Ulster Business School as well as studying abroad for a year at Westminster College on the Study USA scholarship.

I decided to apply to the US-NI Mentorship programme as I wanted to experience the U.S. corporate lifestyle and living and working in New York had always been a goal of mine. Having worked previously with corporate, government organisations in Ireland, Africa and China- my next ambition was to experience working in the United States.

I am currently working in the Banking and Capital Markets division for PwC and I have worked at some of the largest investment banks in the world just two months into my new post.

March has been one of the busiest months of my life and I have been extremely busy. I started off the month by attending a breakfast event with other members of the US-NI Mentorship programme at the Irish Consulate at one of their ‘First Friday’ events. Events like these are extremely informative-especially finding out what great events are happening in the month ahead and as well as the networking aspect. I finished the weekend by having my 24th birthday/housewarming party and it was great to bring people from the programme, work and university together.

March 12th saw the converging of all the participants of the US-NI programme to New York where we met with Teneo Holdings CEO Declan Kelly. It was great opportunity to not only meet Declan Kelly, but also the other US-NI participants and hear about everyone’s progress in the U.S. during their first couple of months. That evening saw the America Ireland Fund Young Leaders Society have their St. Patrick’s Day gala- this was a great time and we were fortunate to help out with the running of this extremely successful event.


Myself and Sarah Cassidy (another US-NI mentee) were invited to ‘Ireland Day’ at the New York Stock Exchange and it was a fantastic experience in which many C-level leaders of organisations spoke of their connection with Ireland and vice versa. The day finished with a tour of the trading floor- as someone who studied Finance at university this was an amazing experience.

The busy weekend finished off with a dinner with Lorraine Turner of the Northern Ireland Bureau (New York) and Dr Malcolm McKibben of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. The informal dinner was extremely enjoyable and a lot of issues were discussed in relation to the future of Northern Ireland.

My role with PwC has been extremely busy- especially at this time of the year as the clients I work for are submitting their financial reports to regulators. PwC offer a lot of volunteering which I have embarked on including teaching careers at a middle school in Brooklyn.

I was invited to my old college (Westminster College) to speak at an event ran by the Economics and Business department where I spoke on 3 panels during the day, including the Finance, Working/Studying abroad and Young Alumni Development panel. It was great getting out of New York for a weekend and seeing old friends who I hadn’t saw in years.

Extremely passionate about sports since a young age I have started playing soccer with the PwC team and Gaelic Football with Manhattan Gaels (who have planned a team bonding session in Atlantic City).

That’s all for now and I look forward to updating you soon.


Declan Cole