Over the coming weeks, PlayBoard Northern Ireland will be introducing you to some members of the team. This week, we begin with ‘The Boss’ Jacqueline O’Loughlin, PlayBoard NI’s Chief Executive Officer.
“I have been PlayBoard’s Chief Executive Officer for 13 years – wow is it that long?” said Jacqueline.
“I love my job and am very proud of the role I play (excuse the pun) in the organisation. What is my role? Hmmm… my gut response is Jack of all trades as my job covers everything from the bazaar to the mundane but there are four key areas I have responsibility for; liaison and establishing a good relationship with my Board of Directors and my staff; stakeholder relations and being an ambassador for PlayBoard and for Play, and of course like every other organisational leader – I have to make decisions. Some of those decisions are easy but there are some hard ones too. Fundamentally though, I lead this organisation by delivering on our strategic plan.”
Jacqueline said the chance to work with PlayBoard excited her to the point of distraction.
“When I first found out there was an organisation in Northern Ireland, solely focused on Play I was excited and intrigued in equal measures. Having worked with children for many years I was becoming a bit frustrated with childcare practice. For me something was missing, I knew how to provide for a child’s physical caring needs, but I wanted to know more about child psychology and development. The more I read on the subject matter of Play the more I was convinced that Play was the key driver in unlocking holistic development.”
“I remember vividly the particular Friday night back in September 1999 when I saw a PlayBoard post being advertised in the Belfast Telegraph. We were on our way to Donegal for a few days when I read the paper. I became really animated and I told my husband – that’s my dream job! Fair to say he thought I had lost the plot. All weekend I mused about the post. And yes I did apply and yes got that job – you can only imagine my excitement when I took up the post as PlayBoard training officer on the 19th October, 1999.”
“There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.” explains Jacqueline.
“I left that training officer post in august 2002 when the funding period ended, and after a short period with NICMA I re-joined PlayBoard in June 2003 as Regional Co-ordinator for School Age Childcare, and in June 2005 applied for the CEO role. I often jest with staff that you can take the staff out of PlayBoard, but you can’t take Play out of our staff. It is like the veil has been lifted, once you know the truth you can’t un-know it. I remain as excited about my role today as I did back in October 1999.”
As PlayBoard CEO, Jacqueline says it’s tough but rewarding being in her position.
“I take the responsibility of my role very seriously. On any given day I can have massive highs and also massive lows depending on the circumstances, for example trying to secure funding to maintain a critical service or staff member. You need to be resilient and roll with the punches. It’s not a 9-5 job, making decisions, and sometimes hard decisions about staff, about projects, about finance, can take its toll.”
“On reflection, something that I have learnt over the years is that making a wrong decision can sometimes be better than making no decision at all. The absence of positive forward movement is bad for the whole organisation and can have a negative effect on staff. Taking a decision, even if it is the wrong one allows movement and in reality most decisions can be reversed before they are made a reality.”
Jacqueline says she insists on thinking things through thoroughly to ensure a logical conclusion can be reached.
“I’m a reflective practitioner; I often have an internal dialogue which goes something like… how will this impact if I get it wrong? What are the pros and cons in regard to organisational growth if I don’t move on this? Over the years I have finely honed a sixth sense coming from gut instinct. This fine tuning in my professional environment has certainly been developed by experience. I had to learn to jump at the right time, while making sure there was a fair wind at my back and the correct amount of speed to react to what is going on around me.”
Jacqueline O’Loughlin was speaking to PlayBoard NI Communications officer Jon O’Rourke