Tell Me Your Story

Ceinwen MCNeil_First Follower

I have quite an unusual name it is fair to say. Ceinwen (pronounced Kine-wen) is a Welsh name. McNeil is Scottish. I am neither Welsh nor Scottish. My Dad (Ross) is a Kiwi and my Mum is of Irish convict descent.

So where does my name come from?

My Mum was reading a book called How Green is My Valley (1939) set in a Welsh mining town. The protagonist is Huw, whose first girlfriend Ceinwen, is a buxom kitchen wench. There was a list of pronunciations in the back of the book and Ceinwen was duly put on my parent’s shortlist of potential baby names should a wee little girl make an appearance.

Which I did on 19 April, at which point my Dad declared Ceinwen would indeed be my name rather than my mum’s suggestion, Harriet.

Growing up and attending a regular Australian State primary school in the 1980’s meant I would have given anything to have been a Kylie, Narelle or Tammy. Alas instead I was the girl with the weird name, the one where the students would start to snigger as the poor emergency teacher made their way down the role to the ‘M’s’ and stutter over my name:

“IT’S CEINWEN!” the class would bellow in great united delight. Sigh. 

But as I got older I began to appreciate the value of having an unusual name. A boon for small talk and pretty much guaranteed to ensure the person I was speaking to at whichever event, function or meeting will recall my unusual name.

One of the questions I get asked most often (after the ‘how do I pronounce your name, oh that is unusual, where is that from?’) is how do you find out so much about people so quickly? And I cheerfully tell them the secret is one question, ‘Tell me your story’. 

‘My story?’ the person will invariably say, ‘What do you mean? My work story, my life story? Where should I start?’ And I say wherever you like…

It’s not a trick or a ruse to garner the State secrets. I am genuinely interested in, and fascinated by, people. And this one question provides an entrée to a much broader conversation than the usual ‘and what is it you do for X company?’. Try it some time and I guarantee you’ll be fascinated by the response.

For those of you who would like to know a little more about my story (or rather my name’s story), Ceinwen means blessed and beautiful. McNeil on the other hand is to conquer or to die. A perfect combination?

Ceinwen McNeil is the founder and managing director of client focused international strategy firm, First Follower. Drawing on over twenty years of business development and client management experience in both the public and private sectors, she founded First Follower to enable businesses to successfully navigate step growth change. Ceinwen’s direct approach, commercial acumen and exemplary stakeholder engagement skills make her a highly sought-after adviser.

Ceinwen McNeil