A former Mary from Dungloe is working as a senior business executive at one of the world’s largest snack companies.
Dr Jolene McGroarty (40), from Station Road, Falcarragh, works at the headquarters of Mondelez International in Zurich.
As part of a large international corporation has meant she gets to work with some of the world’s leading food scientists, regulators and marketeers as well as with some of the world’s most renowned brands such as Cadbury, Toblerone, Milka, Philadelphia and Belvita.
One of her main responsibilities is managing the EU’s Green Deal for Mondel?z International, specifically the aspect related to Farm to Fork. She is also working on various initiatives with the World Health Organization in Geneva.
“After school I applied to study law in Dublin and nutrition at the University of Ulster and it’s funny how the two have now come together,” she said.
“One of my roles is to help keep Mondelez International comply with the relevant the food laws. Other roles across the food industry are centred around leading scientific and regulatory affairs and nutrition science teams.
“With more and more regulations we’re trying to satisfy consumer demand but what the consumer wants and what the regulator wants are two very different things. We’re trying to stay on the right side of the law but to grow a business at the same time,” she explained.
Dr McGroarty is the daughter of Cathal and the late Frances McMonagle. She is the youngest of five children, that are well known for their golfing prowess with Ciaran and Seamus on the pro-circuit for many years. Her eldest brother Cathal lives in New York while her sister Raylene is a primary school teacher in Letterkenny.
The premature death of Jolene’s mother during her Leaving Cert had a profound influence on her decision to pursue studies in nutrition and health.
In 2002, she graduated from the University of Ulster with a degree in Human Nutrition. During her degree she received a scholarship to study Business & Finance at Spalding University, Louisville, Kentucky. After her degree, she worked on a research study investigating energy balance in children at the University of Dundee, Scotland. Then in 2004, Jolene graduated from the University of Surrey with a Post-Graduate degree in Children’s Education before embarking on her Ph.D. studies. She lene graduated from Trinity College Dublin with a Ph.D. in NutriGenomics and Personalised Nutrition in 2008.
Mary from Dungloe
In the midst of all that Jolene was very honoured to be selected to represent the Gaeltacht and became the Mary from Dungloe in 2002, fulfilling her mum’s prediction.
“I got to do a few nice things as Mary from Dungloe. It was the year that Ireland hosted the Special Olympics World Games and I was lucky enough to do some work with them,” she recalled.
Over the last 13 years, Jolene has worked in European and global positions with Kellogg’s, Nestle and Mondelez International.
In that time she has worked with some of the world’s most renowned brands such as Special K, Corn Flakes, Cheerios and now with the largest snacking company in the world, Mondelez International, she is working on brands such as Cadbury, Toblerone and Milka.
“Milka has just celebrated its 120th birthday and Cadbury will celebrate its 200th birthday in the next few years. There are many brands within Mondelez International that are steeped in childhood memories and still taste amazing today,” she said.
When asked about being a young woman in a leadership position Jolene said a lot had improved but work had to be done in many parts of the world to ensure that governments enable women to contribute fuly to the workplace.
“Mature states like Sweden, which values the contribution that both parents make to a child’s early years, is a model that we should all aspire to,” she said.
Her work has taken her from Dublin to Lausanne, Switzerland and now to Zurich where she lives with her husband Liam.
Originally from Fanad, he works in the football organisation UEFA as a strategic manager.
Joking about careers, Jolene says that whenever anyone hears that Liam works for UEFA, they have no more interest in her job.
The couple have four children, Sophie (11), Chiara (9), Xavier (4) and Theodore (1). Asked about juggling life as a senior business executive and a mother she says she is grateful to work with a company which encourages a work-life balance. She also said it was important to stick to your priorities.
Dr McGroarty feels that life has given them a fantastic opportunity to live in the heart of Europe and, with the Swiss Alps as their back garden, they spend a lot of time on the slopes in the winter. The children speak German, Swiss-German, French, English but they are most proud of having their cupla focal.
“We’re native speakers and we probably speak more Irish out here than we ever did at home. The two older girls, especially, most definitely know they’re Irish,” she laughed.
Jolene and Liam’s children were born at 29-30 weeks gestation, ranging from 750g – 1kg, due to severe pre-eclampsia and meant long-term stays in neonatal intensive care.
“Going through this roller-coaster experience multiple times gives you a great perspective of the importance of life and one’s health, both physical and mental. We are very blessed to have four healthy children and during the time there were hundreds of people around Donegal praying from these tiny babies, for which we are forever grateful,” she said.
She is regularly invited as a guest lecturer to her numerous Alma mater. The main advice she gives comes from the example of her own parents – work ethic and respect for everyone will get you a long way.
Jolene says they are long overdue a trip home, but due to Covid they’ve had to delay that many times.
“We are hoping by Christmas to visit and introduce our latest addition Theo to his grandfather Cathal McMonagle, Gortahork and his grandmother Josephine McGroarty, Fanad.
“Switzerland is beautiful but I just can’t wait to get back to the beaches while a pint of Guinness would also be very welcome,” she said.
Does working for one of the world’s largest snack companies mean that she have a sweet tooth?
“I enjoy a bit of chocolate every now and again but in moderation. Liam has such a sweet tooth while the children were all excited when they heard that I was going to work for a chocolate company”.