At 62, Tom Hickey left the world of journalism for a Dublin startup. It's been better than he ever

The ‘High Performance Blog’ recently won a Littlewoods Blog Ireland Award for Best Marketing & Communications. In this piece, originally posted in April, Tom Hickey describes the unexpected career move that led him to writing for the blog and the first three months of the experience. Six months later, Tom is still as excited about the role.

By now most of you know I work at I recently celebrated my third month there, and the experience has been terrific. Really.

I left the Irish Examiner because I wasn’t enjoying going to work every day. But there were other factors. One was because trekking in and out of work (I was doing shift work) had become a chore. I had to take two buses to work each day and usually another two to get home. By the time I did reach home, I was too tired to do anything.

I had also got to the point where working for the same employer had knocked the stuffing out of me. I was demotivated and unhappy. The company had introduced a new production system, and it was clear there was little future for me, especially as the new working hours would have made it impossible for me to get home at night unless I bought a car, which I wasn’t prepared to do.

So I weighed up the options and left. I did so – along with around 20 other colleagues – with a vague hope that something might come up. Maybe some freelance writing, a part-time job doing whatever. There was nothing guaranteed, of course, and in truth, I didn’t expect anything. So much confidence had been sucked out of me that I really thought I might be unemployable.

I busied myself with the blog, starting a book about my life, dealing with many radio interviews relating to facial disfigurement, but there were some obvious drawbacks. For a start, there was a lot of free time in my life. Of course, I travelled a bit – Lanzarote, Portugal, London, New York – but there was so much time to fill. I soon tired of TV, and while I rediscovered my love of books, but with Trish working during the day I floundered a bit.

I made the effort to meet some former colleagues, but not having my own car was a real drawback. All the while I wondered how – or if – I could find some work.

I wrote a few articles for which I got paid, but not enough. What to do?

Twelve months later I applied for a job as content marketer with with little expectation that I would get it. I met Peter Coppinger, the CEO and co-founder, and Evin O’Keeffe, head of content marketing, for an interview held in a cafe. Who holds interviews in Costa?

In my capacity as chief sub-editor and duty/production editor in our Supplements department in the Irish Examiner, I had sat on the interview panel many times, but the process was a lot more formal than this. So when, after about 30 minutes of chat, Peter asked when I could start I was very surprised. Welcome to the world of startups and instant decisions.

I’m going to be honest here and say I initially felt like a fish out of water. It was me rather than my new colleagues. I was 62, and the crew are very much younger. They were so welcoming. One of the guys even collected me every morning and drove me home in the evening. Thanks Randy.

The culture in is incredible and far removed from the Examiner. I was offered a PC or Mac to work with, and an extra screen to make it even easier. Evin and the marketing team took me out to lunch the first day, and I discovered some of the perks – like FREE snacks and drinks!! We even have a pizza or burritos on Friday, where everyone shares the free food. Yummy.

The biggest perk of all is the culture – a really friendly bunch of people, all committed to growing the company. There’s a very relaxed atmosphere even though we all have a job to do.

A few days into my new job, I had barely sat down at my desk when Trish rang with the shattering news that her sister Betsy had died suddenly. Betsy was close to Trish, and the third of her six sisters to die at a young age. I was still in shock when our acting marketing manager Leanne King dropped in and insisted on me going home. Not only that, she dropped me back to Ballincollig and told me not to come back to work until the funeral was over and Trish was ok. It was an incredible gesture and indicative of the way operates.

There’s a lot more to content marketing than writing, such as research, reading lots of articles, viewing talks relating to our content, and listening to podcasts. We’re a SaaP (service as a product) company, so we use our products, such as Teamwork Projects, Teamwork Desk and Teamwork Chat (for internal communications).

Those first couple of weeks I feared failure more than was good for me. I also discovered I love researching blogs, and the writing came easy enough. I got to know everyone from developers, the support team, sales, billings – all really fantastic people. But settling in left me little time for blogging, so earning two nominations recently from the Irish Bloggers Association came as a real surprise.

The next few weeks our content team grew when Louise Bunyan joined us, so I was no longer a newbie. In fact, so many new people arrived in those weeks I quickly felt like a veteran! I’m really grateful to Evin and Louise for all their help during the past few months.

Despite my initial concerns, I quickly found my feet, working on strategy with Evin and Louise and delighting in my first blogs being published. In the back of my mind, I did worry about what would happen when the three-month probationary period ended, but before that arrived the clutch in our car went. That made up our minds about several things. We bought a new car, replaced the clutch and now we both have our own transport.

The good news last week was a letter confirming that I passed my probationary period and am now a permanent member of The future is looking good.


This post appears courtesy of The Dublin Globe. For more stories, visit their website here