Chief Encounters: Mark O’Donnell on the highs and lows of his career so far

Interview crop-2

Mark O'Donnell is excited about his new job at Royal Blind but don't replace his phone with a dashchund

19th September 2017 by TFN 0 Comments

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Often a pre-work gym visit but always the sense of privilege and responsibility at having the opportunity at work to enhance people’s lives in ways that are meaningful to them.

The unmistakable skill and passion that I’m seeing every day across our 600-strong staff group and knowing the difference that makes to those we help.

What turns you into the office Victor Meldrew?

When someone secretly replaces my telephone with a daschund. (Look up the clip if you’ve never seen One Foot in the Grave!

Mark O'Donnell

Mark O'Donnell

What do you procrastinate over?

Deciding what I’m going to procrastinate over next.

When was the last time you socialised with colleagues?

On my predecessor’s last day a few months ago (as we had a week’s overlap).

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

An accident much earlier in my career but definitely more of a calling now.

What one thing would make life easier for blind Scots?

That’s very hard because everyone with a visual impairment is different with different needs and aspirations, but ultimately much fairer access to the opportunities within social and economic life that most of us take for granted, would make the biggest difference.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

15 months of repeatedly copying and editing down text from printed brochures into a pre-internet (yes, I am old enough for that) public access database. And really that was the extent of the job without any variation – very mind-numbing. My colleagues were lovely which was a big compensation.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

I’m very lucky with the way things have worked out professionally so my advice would be more about the creative side of life. I write poetry but I haven’t taken that as far as I would like, so I’d tell the 18-year-old me not to lose sight of that.

Is this a rung on the ladder to success or your final destination?

If I can help to make this great organisation even stronger and better over the years ahead on behalf of people with visual impairment who need our support, then that would count for me as the ultimate professional success regardless of whether or not I have another job in me in the future!

What is your proudest work achievement?

There are a few contenders, but whilst I was a deputy director at Scottish Government, I chaired the process leading to the establishment of a new national specialist surgical intervention. It was relatively complex and sensitive situation due to NHS politics, scarce resources and clinical evidence but I was pleased with the outcome.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened this year?

I feel very fortunate because there is nothing I would complain about personally, and too many tragic things are happening in the world to be able to rank them, but on one level it’s probably the clash of egos between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un that’s casting the darkest shadow.

What is your favourite album?

That changes regularly, but right now it’s Lana Del Rey’s Lust for Life. I agree with one review which said she’s in a luxurious league of her own.

If you were your boss would you like you?

I hope I’d respect me at very least. Whether I’d like me is a whole other question.

Which Brian Cox?

Probably the Mr Universe one, but the actor’s amazing pre-Anthony Hopkins performance as Hannibal Lecter makes that a difficult choice.

Mark O’Donnell is chief executive of Royal Blind and Scottish War Blinded