2016 Blog Entries

May 2016

Kieran McNicholl

The great thing about this program is the variety of people that it provides opportunities for, including both recent graduates and young professionals. This time last year I was not graduating but rather working in a Belfast advertising agency, specifically within the media planning and buying department. This is a job I had held for over 4 years prior to applying for the US-NI Mentorship program and one which I thoroughly enjoyed throughout that time. Therefore, some people asked why I chose to leave and apply for this opportunity and indeed some of you who read this may even be currently in a job and debating on whether you should apply. If this is the case hopefully you will find this blog entry helpful.

Deciding to apply was the easy part as I had always aspired to work in America for a big company and to gain international experience. The hard part came when I was offered a position on the program and then again when I was offered a position with Coke. When I say it was a hard decision I simply refer to the dilemma that everyone faces when they have to make a big (potentially life altering) decision. However, I just had to remember that this was a once and lifetime opportunity and it was something I had always hoped for – it suddenly became easy. And that’s what I would say to you (if you’re lucky enough to secure a position for next year and currently have a job) remember this is a once and lifetime opportunity with fantastic experiences and benefits. Don’t let the fear of the unknown put you off and certainly don’t choose something because it’s safe.


So what’s it like to live in Atlanta?

Well unlike a lot of the other participants I had never visited America for any extended period of time and I had never lived outside Northern Ireland (so again don’t think you need to have lived abroad to be a successful candidate). Living in America is surreal as you see so much of it on TV shows and movies that you recognize places you have never been to before. Each state has its own identity and Atlanta is no exception. With a welcoming southern attitude, the majority of people you meet are really nice and happy to help. It’s not as compact as New York but the Greater Atlanta area is home to an estimated 5.5 million citizens. Things are also a little more chilled down here in comparison to New York with swimming pools and gyms in every apartment block, golf courses in every direction and heat that sees even the native Atlantans run for the shade.

There is also no shortage of things to do with theme parks, water parks, concerts, sports games, clubs, historical locations (I still have to visit Martin Luther King’s house) and of course ‘The World of Coca-Cola Museum.’ Another advantage of living in Atlanta is the travel opportunities, within a few hours drive you can be in Florida, South Carolina, Nashville or New Orleans. Equally, Atlanta is home to one of the world’s biggest airports which means flights are usually pretty reasonable and readily available (I am marking off my 5th state next week). There is also a strong / growing Irish community which welcomes all who are interested in joining, just last week I played in a golf tournament with them – it’s a great way to meet people from home and those who are interested in home. Atlanta truly is a beautiful city with endless possibilities and a uniqueness which I am yet to find anywhere else.



And what is it like to work for Coke?

Working for Coca-Cola is a dream come true for anyone interested in advertising & marketing….and I am no exception. However, even if you set aside the fact that you are inside and working for one of the biggest brands in the world, it is a fantastic company. Ever since I started I have been treated with nothing but respect, welcoming handshakes and trust. The people that work for Coke take pride in everything they do, they believe in the brand that is ‘Coca-Cola’ and all the brands and products which come under it. I can only guess that this comes from the environment and work culture that Coca-Cola as a company provide for its employees. The building itself is set up to offer everything you could imagine from a doctor’s clinic to a pharmacy and bank.

There are also over 9 dedicated catering areas all with different cuisine offerings from around the world, a massive two story gym, an internal ticket desk with discounted rates for concerts, hotels, flights, events etc… and just when you thought they had it all they just opened the new ‘huddle’ areas with sofas, game consoles, TVs and pool tables. Beyond all these great things the work culture is also fantastic as it offers its employees a flexible style to the normal working hours and responsibility to handle their own work, without micro management. The bottom line is as long as you work hard and get the work done they will offer you the freedom and trust to do it your way…. or at least that’s my experience. Also let’s not forget all the free Coca-Cola I get to enjoy every day.



My role in Coca-Cola

My role is set within the Bottling Investments Group (BIG) in Coca-Cola – division which focuses on ensuring bottlers acquired by Coke are returned to their maximum potential. The role itself has involved a lot of variety and opportunity to expand my marketing experience from a client side point of view. At present my biggest project has been the project management of a new internal marketing app. This involves dealing with a multitude of international markets as it is being rolled out. I am also responsible for training new users across the world and overseeing the creation of new content via the correct suppliers.

Outside of this I have also been involved in media analysis for advertising spend in particular international markets (a dream come true for a media planner & buyer), the design of internal marketing material, data analysis on particular quarterly company insights, presenting to internal stakeholders and meetings with global brand directors on upcoming plans and campaigns – not bad for the first 5 months.

All in all its been an exceptional start to the year, one which has seen not only an expansion of my professional skill set but also of my personal experience and relationships. This is of course all thanks to the US-NI Mentorship program and Coca-Cola. Due to this opportunity I have done more, learnt more, traveled more, met more people, experienced more and of course drank more Coca-Cola in the last 5 months than I have in the last couple of years.

Good luck to anyone who is in this year’s application process and please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn with any questions you may have.

So long for now,



April 2016

Shaunagh Devlin

It was about this time last year I was on the concluding months of final year, dissertation hand in and final exams were just weeks away. I never would have imagined that exactly one year later I would be sitting in the New York headquarters of the globally renowned company, Moët Hennessy USA.

shanaugh moet


Leaving home and moving to the states was something I was not unfamiliar with having completed a Diploma in International Academic Studies at Neumann University, Pennsylvania in 2013/14. This without a doubt helped with my transition to life in New York, not to mention waking up to this view every morning for the first month.

NYC View


So what is it like to live in New York?

Living in New York was exactly what I had expected it to be; expensive, busy, exciting, entertaining and very surreal. Those moments when I would be either walking through the city and seeing the Empire State building from a distance or jumping into a yellow taxi and rhyming off addresses to the driver like I had lived here for years, those have so far been the moments when I would think to myself “Waow, am I actually living, working and going about my daily life in New York City?”

Yes, New York is one incredible and fascinating city, however when you have to experience New York rush hour on the subways to and from work, now that’s a different story altogether. But so far I have survived the subways and not to forget experiencing ‘Storm Jonas’, which ranks in history among some of the biggest storms on record. All vehicles, except emergency vehicles, were forbidden from the streets of New York City. So embracing my inner tourist, I said to myself, when will I ever get to experience Times Square without its famous pandemonium traffic and people…so I did just that…

shaunagh street

My role at Moët Hennessy

Since beginning my placement in January 2016, my role has consisted of being a part of the North East Regional marketing team and to date I have had great exposure to the marketing industry for luxury wines and spirits. Within weeks of starting my role at Moët Hennessy I was brought on board by the team for their annual roadshows where we travelled to locations in New York, Boston, Connecticut, New Jersey and Syracuse. Such roadshows involved Brand Development Managers informing distributors of upcoming activations, recapping previous annual performances and most importantly bringing to life any new campaigns/projects that each brand within our portfolio had to offer.


mh road show


Most recently I was invited along as part of the Grand Marnier team to their famous 3 day annual Grand Marnier Winter Bash event at Hunter Mountain ski resort. This fun filled weekend consisted of skiing, firework displays, bar tender mixologist competitions and tasting the amazing cocktails that Grand Marnier had to offer (hey, someone had to do it!).

mh gm

Outside of working hours, I have been so grateful for the many amazing events I have been invited too. One in particular was during New York fashion week where I attended the Diesel after party sponsored by Moët Hennessy brand, Belvedere. Not only did I get to experience how the fashion industry of New York like to party, I was also so excited to meet fellow Irish man himself, Graham Norton.

shaunagh graham

The USNI mentorship program has not only provided me with this amazing opportunity here with Moët Hennessy, it has also opened up many doors to attend a variety of Irish business community networking events. Some of which have included the American Ireland Fund, philanthropy talks given at the Irish-American Consulate and the official launch of the IIBN’s Leadership & Executive Acceleration Program (LEAP) who’s aim is to support female professionals, at various stages of their careers, interested in being part of the development of the next generation of Irish female business leaders. It has been a privilege to attend such events here in New York and during each I have had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with many prestigious Irish American ambassadors.

To date, I can honestly say that I have met some amazing people since arriving here in New York and having only been with Moët Hennessy for just 3 months, what I have seen, experienced and been a part of have been incredible. I never would have imagined that I would have a Moët & Chandon vending machine in my office that’s for sure!


That is all for now, I will however leave you with a line that was recently said to me by one of my co-workers that without a doubt summarizes this unquestionably fun experience to date;

“I am not giving anything away, all I can tell you is… there are 4 locations, 5 people and 6 bottles of Champagne”