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Sharon McDermott interviewed by TechBlast

Recently, our managing director and co-founder Sharon McDermott was interviewed by TechBlast - where she explored how a lifetime of breaking glass ceilings and challenging misconceptions has helped build her character, and her business. If you missed the original article, or simply fancy a catch-up, just keep reading…

Nobody is born with prejudice. But we all begin to face it from the moment we’re born: based on class, nationality, gender – so much so that we begin to believe the misconceptions ourselves.

I was certainly guilty of this, having grown up in Liverpool before taking the leap ‘down South’. I never came from money. My dad was born in Ireland in 1933 and lived from hand to mouth, but he was proud of his roots. Now that I’m older, I can say the same with confidence.

Perhaps it was this challenging upbringing that left me feeling a little unsure of what path to take. My 21-year-old self could never have imagined a career in law. It all started in a sales admin job – one that many people cutting their teeth find themselves doing. It was in telecoms, and before long I had become a comms administrator, working on the first round of a cable build for Liverpool.

You can’t say it’s not character-building. I guess this is where I started to develop a thick skin! I would handle all of the complaints – we often called my phone the “red phone” – and then send the claims on to the insurers. From tripping accidents to holes in pavements, there was never a dull moment — it seemed like the whole of Liverpool was falling over!

Having skipped the traditional university route, and going to a polytechnic to do a degree in business and languages, I wasn’t sure which step to take next. I wish I could have told myself back then that it’s fine to take an unorthodox path. This certainly happened to me, and it was these initial dealings with solicitors that led me to pursue a career in law.

It was time to make it official. Aged 24, I was older than your traditional university undergraduate, but I didn’t let that deter me. I decided to take a (very expensive!) part-time course, starting with the College of Law in Chester and then DeMontfort University in Leicester.

This kicked off a period of great change for me – moving away from the city I’d always known to much farther South. But I knew I had to take control of things. Soon after, I relocated to London and began my first role as a paralegal at Telewest. I followed it up with a year’s training in a private practice, at Simmons and Simmons in London.

More character building. I really felt like I didn’t fit in at the practice – everybody seemed so posh, while this young woman from Liverpool was in the corner eating sandwiches with crisps in! Looking back, I realise now that I shouldn’t have let people put me off. Everyone has their own preconceptions, but we can only be judged by our actions — not our upbringings.

I think that shapes my outlook on life today. Our background should have no bearing on what we want to be – I proved that a working class gal from Liverpool can break glass ceilings. Why not everybody else?

I also learned that the path to success is never plain sailing. I made a lot of sacrifices while I was training, even if it wasn’t the most straightforward path. I’d often miss seeing my friends at the weekend to stay focused on my studies.

That work ethic has never left me. I owe it partly to my upbringing, following the example of my father. He’s part of the reason that Trenches Law came to be – certainly for the name, if nothing else! I founded the firm in 2017 having worked at Virgin Media, and I could not be prouder of the work we’ve done, or my Irish and Liverpudlian heritage.

When my father was just four years old, he lost his dad to pleurisy following a horse riding accident, in which he was thrown into the River Shannon. My dad’s family had to move to a lodge house in Coolcarty, which was based next to what they called “The Big House” – owned by the Trench family.

It turns out that John E Trench owned acres and acres of land in Ireland. My dad would always talk about the Trenches family and would often recount ghost stories about phantom carriages crashing through the gates to the lodge. The name Trenches stuck with me; it reminded me of my father and his struggles, and how his family always stuck together.

Today, the firm has gone from strength to strength, working with some of the biggest names in telecoms — such as Virgin Media and Openreach.. But we’ve never forgotten our roots – and to this day, I still love an underdog. We make it our mission to get people out of poverty wherever possible, and have taken individuals on from all walks of life.

Background doesn’t matter; commitment and a true passion for doing what’s right does. Of course, that’s not to say that setting up Trenches Law has been easy. We’ve encountered a huge number of challenges along the way, but this just spurs us on. Like my dad struggling through to support his family, we’re always striving for the next big improvement.

Working with likeminded people has also brought me so much joy. Some of my favourite parts include working on Project Network Expansion at Virgin Media , and helping to navigate the issues operators face, whether large or small. Clients tell us that they love our proactive attitude – rather than reacting to a problem, we actively seek out solutions from the get-go.

Running my own firm, which has since expanded to three offices since 2017, has taught me a little about success. As much as the hours may be long, often working until 11pm sometimes, it’s all made better with good routines. For example, I never underestimate the value of sleep, or making time to spend with my son.

The best piece of advice I have ever received is that I can be whatever I believe I can be. I only wish more young people could tell themselves this – I certainly would have told 21-year-old me! That’s why I’m so keen to work with the underdogs and nurture those from all backgrounds to success.

From a call centre operator in Liverpool to a business owner in Hampshire, a lot can happen over a career. But I wouldn’t have got where I am today without believing in myself.

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