Intervew - Una Short
Hi Una, could you give a brief introduction to yourself?
My background originally was town planning; that’s what I did at university. And then my brother-in-law died in my final year and I had originally planned to go away to England to get a job and I decided, no, I have to stay here. So I went on a management training programme and I don’t even remember choosing the management course, but I went into HR/personnel.
I’m Personnel Officer in Queen’s [Queen’s University Belfast], and it’s hard work. I’m married with three children, with just one at home.
Are you noticing a big difference?
Yes, a big difference. My oldest is 25 this year so he’s been out of the house for a long time. My daughter has been away a couple of years. Lorcan was our wee late one and I was so glad we had him. I don’t know what Cillian [Una’s husband] and I would be doing now if we were on our own - we’re glad he’s here.
In terms of the personnel work you do for Queen’s, how many staff are involved in Queen’s?
Well, they’re one of the biggest employers [in Belfast]. So I’m HR business partner and I look after probably about 1500 employees. I haven’t actually counted myself, but I look after... I think it’s seven schools and one directorate.
That sounds like quite a job!
There always seems to be problems although, I’m doing a lot of recruiting at the minute which is unusual in this economy. It is good news but it can be difficult just attracting the right people to Belfast. Once we get them here, they love it. They absolutely think it’s brilliant and... but it’s getting them over here.
Do you find there’s a perception about Northern Ireland, that it’s hard to get over?
It’s the perception and the idea that they think it’s a long way from the mainland, from England and the flag issue didn’t do a great job for us.
In terms of your outside interests, what gives you energy? What inspires you?
Well, I’m a born again runner. I never ran... never did anything. I didn’t even run my own baths until about two years ago. And then Lorcan, my youngest, is pretty typical of teenagers in that he wasn’t doing anything. My other two got more involved in sport and would have been playing football, even my daughter; you know, she played football at County level; stuff like that and they were just natural athletes and fit. He was different and was different from when he was born basically. He’s just a jolly, good fun guy but, you know, don’t ask me to do anything like run or anything like that.
So we’ve been trying with him over a long number of years to do something and just two years ago - because a friend of his was running in the Waterworks - we suggested that maybe he would like to do it and, of course, he said “No”. But we got him to go and of course, he’d only go if I’d go because he thought there’s no way that I might want to get up out of our bed at nine o’clock on Saturday morning... so I did. And the two of us ran together and for a full year the challenge was for him to beat me and now he has surpassed me, he runs, at least ten minutes faster. So that’s what got me started.
What distance do you do now?
What’s your best time?
My best time is about 27.03, about. That’s pretty precise, isn’t it? For me, for a 50 year old, never run before - I started off about 35 minutes so I’ve just gradually come down. I absolutely love it.
So that’s your big passion outside of work?
It is, yes. And, I sicken people about it. You know, because I’m sort of evangelical about trying to get people to do it, just to try it ─ because, you know, run it and walk it, you know, take your dog, create community spirit.
Are you involved with the Park Runs [www.parkruns.org.uk]?
I do the park runs, yes. I’m Female Park Runner of the Year in 2012. It’s more like a community and belonging to something, you know, it’s not about running. That certainly isn’t about being the fastest or the fittest or anything like that. As a family we would go nearly every weekend and, you know, there’s normally a panic on if we’re not there.
One of our previous interviewees actually talked a little bit how she runs just for mental health purposes, just to keep herself steady.
Yes, I have difficulty sleeping and it’s the one thing that regulates and it’s a total de-stresser. I run with my music and love it. I didn’t realise the last day for the Marathon was Friday, to enter the relay. So I mentioned it to the girls at work and then discovered on Friday evening that it was the last day so I signed up without their agreement! ... and cycling. I’ve started cycling as well. I’ve come late to all of that sort of stuff!
Excellent. You did some wear-trialling for Attune for Clare-Marie. Tell me about how that went?
I had the the wee vest top and a long sleeved top and the ballet wrap long sleeved cardigan. I actually wore that to work, that whole ensemble to work a few times, it was very comfortable and it was lovely. For running I used the vest top and the other top I would have run in. I wouldn’t have naturally run in a long sleeved top, I just wanted to see how it felt. So, yes. I ran. I did my 5k I did my park runs in those.
And did you find it worked?
I found straight away that, you know, once I am running and stop, I get really cold very, very quickly but I didn’t get that with the tops. You know, especially in our climate. You’re running, you warm up, but then you get so cold very quickly then afterwards and, you know, you’re not changing directly and I found that was good.
You talked a little bit about cycling, adding to your repertoire of interests. Are there any other things that you want to achieve?
What’s next on my list of targets? Well, really probably... and I think I’m moving there, getting the balance between work and home life right. For years Cillian worked away, he worked all over the world. The last two years he’s been at home and, I’m still working really long hours I think now having turned 50 and he’s just turned 50 on Saturday there, I think it’s just looking at our next stage of life, which is just going to be me and him. And it’s really finding things that we are going to be doing together. Which we didn’t really do for most of our married life?
So it’s probably a big selfish, self-indulgent future I’m looking forward to. Isn’t that terrible?
That’s no bad thing.
And retiring to the sun, or somewhere hotter in about ten years.
Anywhere in mind?
Well, my mum and dad did it and they’re in Costa Blanca, near Murcia and they just love it and I just see them running about like teenagers, at 77 and 78. I’ve been over I think three times this year already for long weekends. And it’s just the heat and how you feel when you get up in the morning and it’s just glorious, you know? And I see how it works for them at an older stage, you know, their stage of life. And they have a great community. And I think if you plan for it, it can happen because... so that’s to be planned.
Just to round up, two silly questions. What’s your greatest vice and your greatest virtue?
My greatest vice? I don’t have any! I’ll probably have a drink! My greatest virtue? I don’t know, I’ve never been asked that before. I suppose my sense of humour. I will always see the funny side of things and try to be humorous! But I’m disappointed that I have no vices - no really scandalous things!