Fill the glasses of others

Jun 01, 2018
Microsoft Ireland’s Katharine Mulcahy ACA talks about finding your purpose.

I am fortunate to work for Microsoft where global diversity and inclusion is part of our strategy to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. I am a Diversity Ally at Microsoft and I wear my Ally pin with pride. I have a keen interest in activities, initiatives or groups which support diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity in our society, as well as in our workplaces. As a mother to two young children, a boy and a girl, I want them to grow up in an equal society with equal opportunities, whatever path they choose in life. We have come a long way, but there is still a lot more impetus and urgency needed. Each one of us can take inclusive actions each day by challenging stereotypes and bias, and forging positive visibility of diversity in our communities.   

Cultivating interests is a fantastic way to foster your network and find your purpose. It keeps you grounded, connected and it helps create a healthy and broadened perspective on your life. Peer-to-peer networks are a valuable way to build a sense of community and provide support. I had an enriching experience participating in a Lean In Circle ( set-up by Dina Talotta, an inspiring diversity coach. Members of circles meet in small groups once a month to support each other and learn new skills. I have now set up my own Lean In Circle so that others can benefit in the way I have done and build a network. 

As a young teenager, I spent a year overseas in a German boarding school while knowing little German. Many of the boarders at the school were away from their families for prolonged periods of time. We really needed to be there for one another. The experience taught me about being brave and how empathy and kindness can transcend any barrier. I returned home with a keener appreciation for the circumstances and perspectives of others, and that’s reflected in my leadership style. I ground my working style in the concept of servant leadership, which is the belief that every person has value and deserves civility, trust and respect, and that people can accomplish much when inspired by a purpose beyond themselves. 

I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship by the 30% Club to attend the Rising Women Leaders Programme at Cambridge Judge Business School earlier this year. One of the sessions presented by Cath Bishop, Team GB silver medallist in rowing, was about finding your purpose. The question was put to us, ‘What gets you out of bed in the morning?’ and the answer could not be your family or the alarm clock. It inspired us to think about what that motivation is for each of us. If you can figure out that motivation for yourself, you can find your purpose and be fulfilled. 

Microsoft offers a great deal of flexibility and I am fortunate to be able to balance my professional and personal commitments. I try to focus on being present in whatever I am doing. I lean on my support system of amazing friends, family and colleagues. I have learned to prioritise self-care. Sheila O’Malley runs a parenting course in Microsoft and she teaches that unless your own glass is full, you cannot fill up the glasses of others. I’ve found that to be absolutely true in all aspects of my life.


A Good Time to be a Girl by Dame Helena Morrissey 
Dame Morrissey is the founder of the 30% Club campaign, CEO and mother of nine. Making a compelling case for diversity, she provides an uplifting account of how we can change the system for the better.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
Growth mindset is founded on the belief that potential is nurtured and not predetermined. We all have elements of a fixed mindset and this book provides insight on how we can challenge those belief systems.  

Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella
This book provides a powerful account into Nadella’s life story, his management style and discusses the future of technology in terms of artificial intelligence, mixed reality and quantum computing.