Alumni Profile: Sinead Sharkey-Steenson
I grew up with the great ambition of my dad guiding my path. Having been a square peg in a round hole in his career as an accountant, and having lived through many redundancies in the 1980’s he wanted more for me. This to him was a career in law, international law to be precise. I remember thinking it sounded glamorous and exciting, and happily went along with his plans.
When I was 15 he died, and the plans to study law went with him. It was a challenging time but it forced me to think about what I cared about, what really interested me. Not long later my cousins came to live with us for a few months, with their 2 year old and 6 month old girls. I became fascinated watching them interact and started to ponder nature vs nurture, my interest in psychology was sparked from there.
Even though I entered into the spirit of student life a little too enthusiastically, studying psychology really fuelled the passion. I loved everything about Queen’s and the subject, it was easily one of the happiest times of my life. I was blown away by the breadth of the subject and all of the areas to study, I certainly hadn’t expected to study animal behaviour before I started! I studied before we’d made the exciting advances we have today with the assistance of technology and in positive psychology.
The stand out areas for me were neuroscience and sports psychology. Neuroscience is something I still love and enjoy the advances that are made almost daily! Sports psychology took me by surprise. I could see then that this was where psychology would really develop. I was fascinated by the study of excellence and improvement, when at that time much of the discipline was focused on mental illness. Little did I know these sparks of interest would become a significant part of my future career.
When I graduated, sadly there wasn’t a career path that excited me or felt accessible. I thought that would be the end of the road for me and psychology. Off I went to study management, work in HR, go back and study a masters in IT and I went off to work in tech. That didn’t really sit right with me. I found myself very unhappy in a career, repeating history as a square peg in a round hole.
After feeling stuck for many years I began to think back on what I loved, and psychology came to the fore again. Now I got to thinking about how I could bring that love into my career, when at the time, the global business I was in had a major challenge with employee engagement. There came my lightbulb moment - what if I combined my skills at understanding how people tick with my knowledge of business improvement to focus on cultural transformation. And that’s what I did. A new career was born where I became really successful at helping people love what they do which helped the business be more successful. Learning as much as I could about culture, engagement, and leadership became a huge focus for me and opened up a new path...coaching.
Now I have a successful business, Generation Women, coaching and developing women to design the right career for them. I’m in the fortunate position of getting to use my passions and strengths every day, and whilst not a ‘traditional’ career in psychology I’m grateful for the opportunity to be using and building on the skills I learned at Queen’s Psychology to help me be the best career and leadership coach I can be.