Development & Alumni Relations Office 

MEET TESSA BRESLIN – REALISING AMBITIONS  Tessa Breslin, Queen's Psychology graduate in New York

06 July 2020

Tessa Breslin (née McDaid), Head of YSC North America at YSC Consulting, was one of a number of graduate volunteers who participated in a highly successful online Queen’s Career Networking Evening in June.  

Proudly describing herself as a ‘Derry Girl’, Tessa graduated from Queen’s in 1998 with a degree in Psychology and went on to win a scholarship to complete her MSc (1999) in Occupational Psychology at the University.

“I thoroughly enjoyed Queen’s. It was a rich, rewarding experience on lots of fronts. I made great choices in studying Psychology and Occupational Psychology; they were absolutely the right programmes for me and I enjoyed the faculty, the learning, and my classmates,” said Tessa.

“I had considered pursuing options in England and Scotland but my heart was really set on staying in Northern Ireland and I was glad that Queen’s worked out for me,” she added.     

Living in New York for over 11 years, the genesis of the family’s move came from the Business Education Initiative. During her undergraduate days at Queen’s an opportunity arose to study in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which she took and enjoyed. Tessa promised herself then that she would come back to the US ‘as a grown up’ to do all the things she couldn’t afford to do as a student. That opportunity came in 2009 and the family jumped at it.

“I made lifelong friends at Queen’s and have fond memories of the Bunatee (also known to many as the Bottom Bar), folk nights in the Speakeasy, running for the 212 Maiden City flyer on a Friday afternoon and quiz nights in the Egg (the Eglantine Inn on Malone Road); I could go on!

“I also achieved a First Class Honours degree of which I’m very proud and my journey in Queen’s was with my now husband, Declan!”

Achieving success

As part of her Master’s degree Tessa undertook a three-month placement in London with internal communications consultancy Banner McBride, part of the multinational comms, advertising, PR, tech and commerce company, WPP. When her degree programme finished, and clearly recognising her talent, the CEO offered Tessa a permanent role, which she gladly accepted.

In addition to being offered a job off the back of a placement, Tessa cites landing the Head of Talent role at British Airports Authority (BAA) – where she spent five years playing a key part in talent reviews and succession planning for leaders running airports – among her career highlights.

She followed that up in a similar role at Sodexo where she had responsibility for performance, talent, and leadership development for 48,000 people.

Then, in 2010, came the move to leadership strategy consultancy YSC, where initially she was Director and Head of YSC East Coast before taking on the role of Head of YSC North America.

YSC, established as Young Samuel Chambers Ltd. in London in 1989, helps organisations around the world drive leadership, interaction and culture to achieve commercial and/or organisational success.

“I was a client of YSC’s at both BAA and Sodexo and was always impressed with what I saw on the other side of the desk. To now lead the YSC business in North America is a real privilege.”

A chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society and a member of the Health Professionals Council and American Psychological Association, Tessa’s special interests lie in helping individuals with high potential, particularly women, realise their ambitions.

So what does she love most about her current job? The answer from the highly-capable and much respected talent expert will not come as a huge surprise.  

“It is the people – my internal teams and the clients we partner with. I love the sharp, research and analysis-based insights we can bring to clients to further their leaders and businesses.

“When I took this role I thought it would be good for me as the next stretching career move on my leadership journey – it’s that and much more.”

In recent years, Tessa has also become more connected with her alma mater.

“I’ve been on the board of a liberal arts university in New Jersey for seven years and it really struck home how active alumni are in the states and, frankly, how passive I was. When I learned of Queen’s east coast chapter of alums I wanted to do my part and I really looked forward to our meetings and events – the Queen’s crowd is good craic!

"And I’ve got a lot from sharing insights and experiences with students and alumni.

"At YSC our business is about unlocking the leaders to deliver commercial strategy. So we have tons of insights to offer students and graduates and organisations (!) around realising potential, capabilities that count in the future and leadership at the most senior levels.

“I had the opportunity to share those recently with a few other alumni on a Queen’s career webinar and really enjoyed the opportunity." 

Advice for the Class of 2020

With that in mind, does Tessa have any guidance for the graduating Class of 2020? Speaking directly to those about to leave Queen’s in the coming weeks, she said: "I’d propose that you take ownership, and be creative in how you make opportunities happen for you. Think innovatively about how you craft a narrative for prospective employers. Do the work – don’t simply describe your experience and expect employers to join the dots, own that yourself.

“Think of yourself as a leader from day one; impact is important. And relationships are key in creating that impact – be authentic and your best self.

“And just because you’re leaving University, the learning doesn’t stop. Indeed, our research at YSC indicates that self-awareness and responsiveness to feedback are key indicators on your overall career trajectory.” 

Tessa’s remarkable leadership journey has been undertaken while raising three young children - Charlie (aged 7), Katie (5) and Lucia (2½). So how does she find time – and what does she do – to relax?

“Any form of ‘me’ time is relaxing! I love to read, travel with my girlfriends, enjoy the fabulous city that is New York with my husband, and play an active part in the vibrant Irish American scene here.”

That, and periodically escaping to the family’s holiday home back in Donegal.

Find out more about the School of Psychology and the opportunities and courses currently available by going online. 

For general enquiries about this story, or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office, Queen’s University Belfast.

Main photo above courtesy of Tessa Breslin

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