Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Kyra McDonald and I am the Junior Chief of Staff at Walr, a Market Research Technology company. I am based in London and have lived here for nearly 5 years now but am originally from the United States. My passions outside of work are sports and travel.
What does your job involve? Give us the typical outline of a day?
As the Junior Chief of Staff, I sit in the People Team and work on strategic initiatives in order to drive the business forward. A typical day involves working on many different cross-functional projects as well as managing our monthly all-hands meetings and ensuring communication across the business is efficient and effective.
What’s great about your job?
One thing that I love about my job is that I work with every single department from the Tech Team to the Commercial Team. This really allows me to gain an understanding of how each team operates. My work also involves communicating a lot with the Executive Leadership Team, which gives me insight to all the inner workings of the business. Sitting in the position I do, I am able to see, understand, and work with every single person in the business which has given me more knowledge and understanding of the corporate world than I ever had before.
What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?
With working on projects of a cross-functional nature and internal focus, it can sometimes be hard to gain buy-in from the people needed on the project as they may prioritise the work they are doing for clients as that’s seen as more important. Finding a way around this and creating the needed buy-in, as well as not internalising their de-prioritization as rejection is something that I find challenging.
What are the highlights of your career to date?
The highlight of my career so far has to be the growth and scale of Walr. When I started at Walr 2 years ago, I was the 4th person in the company alongside the two co-founders and one other employee. Today we are over 80 employees across 10 different countries and are one of the leading companies in our field. Thinking about that growth and the role that I played in it right from the start, makes me incredibly proud.
What was your career path into this job? Have you also worked outside the arts?
After getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology in the US, I moved to London to complete a Master’s in Marketing Psychology. At that point I knew I wanted to work in Market Research. For the first three and a half years of my career, and even for a year and a half at Walr, I worked as a Project Manager. I only recently undertook a career change, moving onto the Chief of Staff career path, and am grateful that Walr allowed and encouraged me to do so.
How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?
I committed to majoring in Psychology before I had a desire to work in Market Research, and I saw a Psychology degree as a degree that I could go into any field with. When working as a Project Manager, the data side of my Marketing Psychology Master’s was more relevant, but now working in the People Team I find my general Psychology education invaluable. Working with people, navigating their emotions, and finding ways to make them and the business as a whole more efficient is a challenge that I lean on my Psychology education to help with.
Did you have any role models or inspirations growing up?
No, none to note
Can you describe your biggest challenge so far in your career? How did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge and the scariest part of my career has been moving into a role that I had no experience in and knew quite little about. Going from Project Management into the Junior Chief of Staff role was completely new territory which was scary but refreshing at the same time. There was a lot of discomfort at first but having the support system within Walr that I do, I was able to settle in relatively quickly. It’s been the biggest challenge, but also the greatest personal and professional growth I’ve had in quite some time.
Have you had a mentor anytime during your career, and if so, how has having one made a difference?
My current line manager, Emily, really feels like a mentor to me. Having come into this role with no prior experience in anything similar, she has helped me learn a lot in a short period of time, and helps me identify further learning opportunities both in and out of work. She is constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone in ways that allow me to grow and develop both personally and professionally. Overall, she goes above and beyond what is expected of a line manager and I’m incredibly grateful for her.
You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?
At 16 I’m pretty sure I thought I was going to be in the Olympics playing Ice Hockey by now, but nonetheless I would tell her to push herself out of her comfort zone way more than I did back then, and to embrace all the challenges that come her way. I’d also tell her to continue working hard and she never knows, she may end up living in London, England someday.
Do you have any advice for young people interested in doing your kind of job?
For people interested in a role like mine, I’d say confidence and ambition are incredibly important. The Chief of Staff role is relatively new and therefore it’s possible you may need to be the first of its kind at your desired company. Any experience is good experience as within this role, you work on so many different projects and use so many different skills. You can go from any department into this role, and likewise, into any department from this role, so don’t think that there’s not a path to a Chief of Staff role from where you are now, just know that it will take hard work and a healthy dose of confidence and ambition to get you there.