Stephen Maguire, Senior Manager, Global Client Pursuits
I live in Belfast with my wife Katrijn, three-year-old son Ryan and two cats called Walt and Jessie. I’m originally from Co. Monaghan but studied at Coleraine then moved to Belfast to do a master’s degree and never left!
My role at Baker McKenzie focuses on client acquisition and business development but my day starts with tough negotiations before I’ve even had my breakfast. My son has some strong opinions on getting dressed and what he wants for breakfast!
Mornings are busy but we try to factor in some play time and interesting chats with Ryan before we start our days and it’s brilliant to have that extra time with him each day. Getting a little taster of his imagination just starts the day right.
Once everyone is ready, my wife usually leaves Ryan to nursery on her way to work and I head to the office or to my attic (where I have my home office!). I work on a hybrid-remote pattern of two days in-office, two days at home and one in either, depending on meetings or company events. I can choose which two days I work from home and this flexibility is very welcome when you are trying to balance family and work commitments.
My work is varied and dealing with colleagues all over the world means making meeting arrangements in multiple time zones. Taking today as an example - my first call was at 9am, to discuss how we would price a complex project that a client has asked us to pitch for – there were people on the call from multiple teams and locations - Singapore, Manila, London, Amsterdam and Belfast.
After that, I had a check in with a team member I manage, who is based in Johannesburg, and then I had some project work to do. Later today we have a team best practice call where we share knowledge and experience that helps us perform better as a team and then I have set aside some time to draft content for the pitch I’m currently working on.
I’m working from home today, so I’ll try to get out for a short run at lunchtime, which I really enjoy and is another welcome benefit of the hybrid working model.
I didn’t always work in professional services. My first ‘proper’ job was in the marketing department of a pub company that owned 14 pubs and nightclubs in and around Belfast. Basically, we spent the days dreaming up ways to spend the money that drinks companies would give us to promote their products and our nights attending the parties that we dreamed up.
I have many fond memories of that role but it was totally unsustainable! When I saw a marketing exec job at a local law firm advertised that matched my skill set, I thought that it would be an interesting jump and it just felt more grown up! That was around 11 years ago now – I was promoted to marketing manager at that firm, then moved to another, larger firm as Business Development and Marketing manager. I joined Baker McKenzie in 2018 as a Proposals Manager and was promoted to Senior Manager this year.
Even though I had been working in the local legal sector for a number of years, before applying I was only vaguely aware of Baker McKenzie and I didn’t know what the purpose of the Belfast Center was.
I think I just assumed it was a back office/admin team doing all the boring stuff. I couldn’t have been more wrong! As I started the interview process, I was given some insight into the actual types and level of work that was being done here and I was really surprised. What I quickly learned is that there are teams in Belfast doing interesting, complex and business-critical work for the Firm, including quite a large section of the global business development function.
When I joined Baker McKenzie, what I found really hard to grasp was the sheer size and complexity of the Firm. It felt a bit like going from primary school straight to University, but honestly, I loved it. I had such fantastic support from colleagues, both in Belfast and in other locations to help me get up to speed and I found it all very exciting.
Now I have been here for a few years I know my way around quite well, but I still learn something new about the business every day.
The best thing about working here is our team! Our job can be challenging at times, as the pitches we work on are high value, high profile and often complex. This means that we have to coordinate across multiple teams and locations to get the information we need to deliver compelling and innovative proposals and sometimes to really tight deadlines.
My team are all super supportive of each other, constantly sharing hints and tips and jumping in to lend a hand when needed.
Even though I’m the only proposals manager in Belfast and the rest of my team is spread across nine other countries, it feels like a community and we are in constant contact with each other. I don’t just see them as colleagues but as friends, which is really nice. As one of our newer joiners said recently – ‘I’ve never worked with such a nice team, honestly, it’s like a cult or something!’ I wouldn’t go that far, but it is great!
I think the other thing I like is that I am challenged every day. Our team and all the other teams at Baker McKenzie are super high performing and our leaders push us and encourage us to be our best. It’s a fantastic development opportunity and I can safely say that professionally, I am so far beyond where I was when I joined, it amazes me.
I think professionally I do get the odd bout of ‘imposter syndrome’ – for those who haven’t experienced it, it’s just a feeling of self-doubt, or worrying that somehow you are faking it or not good enough to do the job you are in. I’m sure I’m not alone here and it’s probably more prevalent than people think, but it can be tough.
Thankfully we are big on feedback in our team and I have had some great managers, who have encouraged and provided great feedback – I think we all need a bit of positive reinforcement at times and I’m happy to say Baker McKenzie is a place that makes that possible.