An interview with Emma Mulcahy

Interview transcript

Em was interviewed by Mercy via Zoom, you will find the transcript of the interview below, scroll down a bit for beautiful dog pictures.


Mercy Morris: Welcome back to the PlantNetwork podcast. This time, we’re going to be interviewing Emma Mulcahy who started with us as Administrator in May this year. It seems like, Em’s has been with us for a much longer time, she fitted in perfectly on day one. So Em tell us where are you and your very lovely accent from?

Emma Mulcahy: Well, my accent and myself are from a beautiful place called Fountainstown Beach, which is in County Cork in Ireland. So I was very, very lucky. I literally grew up 30 seconds away from the sea which is odd because you’d think I would be a natural in the water, but I actually have a massive fear of anything underneath the ocean. So I like to look at it from a close distance of my family home. And I will go for a paddle, but yeah, that’s, that’s as far as I’ll go.

But at the moment I’m based in Manchester. But I [00:01:00] think the Cork accent in itself is something that never leaves you has proven by my auntie who has been living in Australia now for over 30 years, and every time she comes home, it’s a running joke that her Cork accent has actually gotten stronger. So it’s definitely something that stays with you.

Mercy Morris: It’s a brilliant accent. It really is. So when you’re not working for PlantNetwork, you’re a VA, tell us what that involves and how you got to be a VA.

Emma Mulcahy: Yeah, so a VA is short for a virtual assistant and that essentially just means what it is really. You just do remote administration work.

I got into it because I’ve been in admin pretty much since I left school. I did a lot of traveling when I left school and I found admin was kind of the easiest career path to fall into because it allowed me to travel. And you, you always pick up skills in admin that you can carry across to most businesses and industries, if not [00:02:00] all actually

And then when Covid hit, I decided to either do one of the most clever things I’ve ever done, or the stupidest, and that was start my own business during Covid. And luckily it went really well. So I essentially became a freelance administrator working with small businesses to just help them with their back office support.

And then I did that for two years, and then I just missed having someone close to work with you know, on a regular basis. Which is why I came back into the world of employment. But I am very lucky that I can still do a little bit of VA work on the side of my part-time role at PlantNetwork. So I have the best of both worlds now. I have a lovely colleague and manager ie you, that I get to check in with every day and work alongside. And then it also allows me the flexibility to carry on with my freelance work as well.

Mercy Morris: Brilliant. That sounds like a really good balance you’ve got there. So the question for me, and for anybody listening who’s [00:03:00] got too much to do or a ton in their inbox: what is your favorite organizing tool and why?

Emma Mulcahy: I want to be really fancy and say, you know, list out all of these digital tools that you can use. But I think before you even get to that, The most important tool is kind of working with your brain, as cringy as that sounds. I never, ever, ever use a to-do list, so for me, a to-do list, you can’t quantify anything on that list.

You’re just looking at a list of things and how are you meant to know what to do first? You can’t really work your way through one list, when everything on that list will take you such a different amount of time.

So instead, the organization tool I use is a to-do table and I, literally every morning, draw a little table and I split it into three columns, and that’s quick tasks, longer tasks and then project work. And the idea is that anything that’s deemed a quick task will take you less [00:04:00] than kind of 15, 20 minutes and you can just fly through, tick them off your list. Your longer tasks, or anything that will take you kind of over half an hour. () And again, this is just my general approach, you don’t have to stick to it.), but anything that will kind of take you up to an hour or thereabouts. And then the project work is kind of longer term project work where, if you’re having a quieter day on the task front, you can then move on to the project work and make tasks from that. So you’re constantly working towards something, but you’re just doing it in a way that’s quantifiable.

So , for me it just makes sense to do the quick things first and then spend the rest of my time doing that. And then if I was to get into kind of the digital aspect; for me, you can’t really beat Google Calendar and a bit of time blocking, , And then Asana to manage our project work, especially. I’m gonna be really boring and just say pen and paper, because I like physically ticking things off.

Mercy Morris: Your table is a brilliant idea. Because so many times I’ve started at the top [00:05:00] of a to-do list and the second thing on my to-do list is a three month long project . And so you get distracted and go and do something else. So it is a really clever idea. And I think it would work for most people in most jobs as well.

Emma Mulcahy: I think so. I can’t take credit for it. It’s an idea that I found in a book that I read, the name of which has completely left my brain now. I just thought it was such a good idea to quantify those tasks because without that, like you said, you get, you’re getting to the second task of the day and it’s like a massive project that you don’t even know where to start from. It’s all about breaking things down really.

 I’m not saying I do that every single day ’cause you know, I’m human and sometimes my brain doesn’t want to work as well as it does other days, but generally that’s the method I stick to.

Mercy Morris: So you’ve been with us for a few months. Are you able to picture what you’d like to achieve at Plant Network?

Emma Mulcahy: So first and foremost, my main kind of everyday goal is to just make sure that our members are happy. Whether that’s answering queries that they have [00:06:00] coming through. I think I’m achieving that so far. I’ve built up some really good relationships with members and newer members as well.

Obviously supporting you every day is a big part of that as well, so making sure that I’m on hand to help you, especially with event planning and the bigger projects. Professional, like personal development wise. Obviously I would like to start my horticultural education as well because that’s one thing that I have no experience in.

So, although I’m coming with all of this organizational and admin experience, the horticulture side is where I don’t wanna say lacking, but you know, there’s work to be done. So starting an education within that, would be very good as well. And just getting the word out there about PlantNetwork a bit more, starting conversations with people, making people more aware of it and the good work that we do.

As somebody who’s at the complete beginning of my own journey with horticulture, it would be nice to welcome [00:07:00] people in who are also at the beginning of theirs and know which resources to direct them to, and just be like a relatable contact of someone who started from scratch, a bit later in life. Making sure that Plant Network is a very accessible membership for anyone of any stage of their horticultural career to be a part of.

Yeah, there’s a lot that I’d like to achieve.

Dylan at NT Dunham Massey

Mercy Morris: I know we’re just scratching the surface here because we’ve had a lot of conversations about all the stuff that we’re going to do.

Emma Mulcahy: Exactly, exactly. I think first and foremost you know, I feel settled in the role now but I do think there is a lot more work that I want to do. I think the more work I do and the more involved within horticulture I, I become, the more I’ll be able to really get into the nooks and crannies of what I want to achieve.

Mercy Morris: Absolutely. So I know in real life you are a keen walker. Where is your favorite place to walk or your best specific route and why?

Emma Mulcahy: Again, I want to say [00:08:00] this big, adventurous route. And I do, I do love getting out for those bigger adventures as well, especially to the Peak District. But the reality is I work quite long hours and sometimes I don’t have all of the energy in the world to do that.

 I also have a chronic illness, which I need to be mindful of. So for me, I’m actually trying to make my local area my favorite walk because I know that even if I’m having a really low energy day, I’ll pretty much at the very least be able to step outside my front door and go for a quick route. And I’m so lucky that where I live is a little bit outside of Manchester City Center, but we actually have a building in the of the woods almost. So there’s a walkway right outside my front door. And even if I can get up and down that a couple of times a day, that that’s enough for me.

But on the days when I do get out and I go further afield, it’s pretty much anywhere in the Peak District. I didn’t think places in [00:09:00] England like that existed. Growing up in Ireland, I had, you know, my green tinted glasses on in Ireland, thinking that you couldn’t beat the nature there. And it is stunning still don’t get me wrong, but I was very pleasantly surprised when I moved to the UK and I saw places like the Lake District and the Peak District and Wales.

Yeah, there’s, there’s so much to do here. So I don’t wanna say I have a favorite route as such, because I’m still discovering.

Mercy Morris: And you are very well situated near Manchester, I think to get to places quite easily.

Emma Mulcahy: Exactly, yeah. Even if I don’t have access to a care for whatever reason on a weekend, there’s always a train to jump on that will at least get me to the Peak District.

Mercy Morris: Now, do you have an unusual talent or is there something unexpected about you that would surprise people?

Emma Mulcahy: Hmm, something unexpected. I can muster cattle, which is a very useless talent to have.

Mercy Morris: Tell us how you developed this [00:10:00] skill of mustering cattle.

Emma Mulcahy: Well, I lived in the Outback in Australia for six months. As part of getting my second year visa, there was a time when you had to do three months of regional farming work. You hear horror stories of people who end up in awful situations just to get this visa, but I was very lucky to end up on a cattle ranch and I basically just had to learn how to use a quad bike and I think I had eight dogs that I was looking after. And part of their training, I suppose, was to, to muster these cattle with me. So I just used to go around on my quad bike with dogs in the, you know, in the distance arranging cattle.

Dylan, not arranging cattle.

Mercy Morris: I’m sure there are transferable aspects to that skill somewhere.

Emma Mulcahy: Somewhere. And then I suppose again, unfortunately, and very sadly, not the most useful of skills, but I am fluent in Irish because I was educated fully in Irish growing up. I still [00:11:00] have the capability to have a conversation. But as a whole, the Irish language has kind of disappeared over the years.

So I don’t use it as often though that I’m not in school. But there are friends where I have a WhatsApp group, and we only speak Irish in that WhatsApp group, just to try and keep the momentum of that going.

Mercy Morris: It’ll be, I think, challenging for anybody to beat those. So finding out more about you, what do you feel strongly about?

Emma Mulcahy: I think for me, a massive passion that I have had, especially when I went self-employed because I had the time to do it and based on lived experience that I have anything to do with wellbeing in the workplace . Long story short, I have a chronic illness, but for about 12 years that was undiagnosed, but I was also working full-time alongside this. There’s been a few jobs where I’ve had to explain symptoms of an illness that I didn’t know what it was really. And I thought that a lot of that could have been handled better in the workplaces that I was part of.[00:12:00]

 A big part of, work that I do now outside of PlantNetwork and being a VA is advocating for people who have different invisible illnesses and chronic illnesses in the workplace. And giving them a voice to be heard. So I mentor a few people who are going through similar experiences to what I had, not the same because it never is the same, but similar enough that I can offer them advice. Whether that’s having a conversation with their manager about reasonable adjustments or going through the process of explaining what they’re going through without actually having a solid answer.

And that’s something I’m really passionate about because I think a lot needs to be done in the world of work to battle that.

Mercy Morris: Absolutely. I think a lot of changes need to be made in the world of work. It’s a very interesting topic and I think it’s a topic that becomes more and more important every year.

Emma Mulcahy: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, we’ve been speaking a lot about it, haven’t we? So there’s definitely things that we’re gonna look at, at doing at just researching at the very least.

Mercy Morris: I think It’s a very [00:13:00] good opportunity to set things in process and change the way we look at things making it easier for everybody in the future.

 An abrupt change, what is your favorite plant, garden or outdoor space?

Emma Mulcahy: If I think of outdoor spaces back home, actually, because that’s not the garden. I was going say the beach back home. But in terms of being over here there is a place that we go to called Dunham Massey. It’s a National Trust site. And I absolutely love Dunham Massey. We take our dog, Dylan there. He’s an Irish red setter and he’s got the most beautiful autumnal color coating on him. So we often take him there to just kind of wander through the leaves as they start to fall and change colour.

Dylan’s insta profile pic

And I think, yeah, that’s a really nice place to go. As you know, I’ve, I’m now the proud parent of two house plants, which are thriving thanks to your advice. So I have a bird of paradise which is probably my favorite plant at the moment because[00:14:00] it’s just a joy to see it grow and quite rapidly as well. So I must be doing something right because it’s, yeah, it just looks really healthy. And it’s massive as well, which I love.

Mercy Morris: It’s a constant reward watching a plant grow in your home. It’s hard to describe why it’s so exciting that it just is.

Thank you to Em for being such a good subject for today’s podcast. She will be taking over the reins for the next one. So I just need to say thank you for listening to the PlantNetwork podcast. Bye!