Meet Emily Miller, VP of sales, EMEA, Workhuman 

Emily Miller

In this piece, we talk to Emily Miller, VP of sales, EMEA at Workhuman.

Based in the UK, Emily is responsible for overseeing and expanding Workhuman’s sales team in the EMEA region. Emily is an experienced leader with a track record of overachieving revenue targets and leading high-performing teams within the tech and professional services industry. She has built and directed teams to success across a wide range of products, channels and regions, launching, integrating and scaling businesses to achieve healthy growth.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have had a long and successful sales career in the tech and professional services industry. Before Workhuman, I spent ten years at CEB, Inc. (Corporate Executive Board) and later joined Gartner as Managing Vice President for its sales and marketing practice across Europe and APAC.

Now, as Vice President of Sales EMEA at Workhuman, I help companies to build a more human workforce through gratitude and recognition. There is a growing awareness of the strength of a diverse, human workforce, and embracing the differences that make us unique individuals – that make us human – is what Workhuman is trying to encourage in organisations all around the world.

We help organisations build inclusive cultures of connection, increase employee engagement and retention, and celebrate the human workplace, primarily through tailored recognition and reward programmes. Recognition that is shared amongst peers and across a whole company can be a powerful tool in bringing people together, especially important in today’s digitally-dispersed working world. In our latest survey with Gallup, for example, we found that organisations with a culture of recognition can increase employee engagement by four times, as well as save up to $16.1M (£13M) annually in employee turnover.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never had a formal plan, but early on in my sales career I naturally gravitated towards coaching, and this led to me focus on people-leader positions. I also knew that I wanted to try out lots of different roles. I’ve had a number of roles across a variety of regions and products which have given me diverse opportunities for growth.  This variety has enabled me to build up a wide range of both transferable and specific skills.

Just before joining Workhuman, I was looking for a values-led organisation that had a strong sense of purpose – and this is what I found! Throughout my career I have focused on a skills-led evolution, and I’m delighted that this has now led me to a role and a company that I’m really passionate about.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

One of the biggest challenges I faced was when there was a huge go-to-market redesign while I was pregnant. There was a huge amount of uncertainty and questions around how I would handle a bigger role with a baby. In the end, I didn’t do anything special to overcome this challenge – I continued to show my ambition and capabilities to do the job and deliver results as before. Key to this was learning to re-prioritise to ensure that high-impact tasks got done. I found that prioritising in this way on a daily basis worked best. This also meant learning to be ok with letting things slide that were not important in the long term. That would be my main piece of advice to women struggling with the balance of work and personal life – you need to have a laser-like focus and be okay with making trade-offs.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of prejudices when it comes to working mothers and pregnant women.

I think the best way to overcome this is to normalise working mothers, parents, and pregnant women in the workplace. Allowing open and honest conversations whilst at the same time recognising the work individuals contribute and the part they play in the organisation, no matter their circumstance, will create a more human workplace where everyone feels included, supported and welcome.

Luckily, more and more organisations are supporting women in this way. Workhuman, for example, has brought at least seven pregnant applicants on board since 2019, including our Senior Director of Corporate Communications, Amy Rice, who has since strived to pay it forward by making sure not to overlook qualified expectant applicants.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Throughout my career I have built and led teams to success across a wide range of products, channels and regions – using data to anticipate and respond to trends and market needs and successfully launching, integrating and scaling businesses to achieve healthy growth. It is difficult to pinpoint one specific moment to date, but what I am most proud of is my ability to build teams from scratch and enable them to over-achieve on goals. I am deeply proud of my role at Workhuman – a mission-led company – and adding value every day. Finally, I am truly proud and grateful to have been able to inspire other women and help them to see that they can ‘do both’.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Early on in my career I had some professional mentors, but these relationships were not necessarily so fruitful. What I’ve found more valuable are the allies I have found along the way – the people who mention your name when you’re not in the room. I’ve had a number of such people during my career, and this was particularly impactful during my time in one company when there were huge strategic shifts, including layoffs and job changes. My journey to success benefitted hugely from these allies – these valuable relationships with people who have championed me in current roles and advocated for me in new ones.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

First of all, I firmly believe that female leaders have to speak up. Women ought to be confident in their abilities and promote their skills with conviction and belief. Alongside this, I’d say the best thing to do is to network – to gather a group of supportive peers who can act as your advocates when needed, whether that’s an Employee Resource Group (ERG), your team members, or a mentor. In addition, a company-wide peer-to-peer recognition programme really helps in this scenario, as it encourages employees to regularly give thanks to one another, and speak up about each other’s achievements. As well as creating a great company culture of positivity and gratitude, this also provides individuals, teams and managers with concrete evidence of everyone’s achievements, engagement and productivity which can be key to making decisions about career progression.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I would say there are still a lot of minefields for women working in tech. Traditionally, women have had to find the right balance between being feminine and letting go of femininity in the workplace. For example, many women say that if you wear heels and a fitted dress, you’re looked at one way, if you wear flats you’re viewed another. Women are also often viewed as aggressive if they speak up, yet meek if they don’t. There are so many double standards like this.

One thing that really helps is having a male supporter or female leader to help you grow and show your talents. Once again, it’s these positive, supportive relationships that can really help women overcome challenges in the workplace.

I’m also a big believer in having formalised groups to actively combat bias and support individuals within an organisation. At Workhuman we have several such groups, like our Parents@Workhuman ERG. Through ongoing opportunities for connection, support, and networking, Parents@Workhuman provides our people with resources and opportunities to excel in both their parenting and career journeys.

Another way to overcome barriers for women working in tech is to actively celebrate the women within your own organisation. This can be on a public level, such as through events for International Women’s Day, or at a company level. The latter is where peer-to-peer recognition programmes come in handy, as they provide a framework and platform through which employees can celebrate, recognise, and reward each other on a regular basis. This is a great way to show the positive impact women are having in tech organisations and roles, and so will help overcome bias. What’s more, per our Gallup survey, employees who consistently experience authentic recognition at work are five times as likely to see a path to grow in their organisation and 44% more likely to be “thriving” in their life overall.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

There are several key steps organisations can take to support women. The first is to simply understand the challenges they are facing.

As an example, Workhuman iQ research estimates that unconscious – or implicit – bias in the workplace is found in 20%-30% of written communications, even in a positive setting. In this environment, it can be hard for women to feel psychologically safe. Indeed, our survey into psychological safety revealed that men experience higher psychological safety than women, and moreover that working parents have lower psychological safety compared to non-working parents.

In this light, it’s vital that employers take the time to listen to their female employees to find out what would help them. This could be through regular check-ins, frequent pulse surveys or using AI-powered data analysis to identify and mitigate unconscious bias in recognition programmes.

Organisations should then take action accordingly wherever possible, by making sure women feel welcome and included. This can be done, for example, by creating programmes to develop future female leaders and promote female role models. Identify aspiring female leaders – through regular check-ins or peer-to-peer recognition – and match them with coaches and mentors, providing women throughout an organisation with development opportunities and a chance to build connections of trust across all levels, promoting change for all.

Another great way to support women is through specific ERGs. At Workhuman, we have a Women & Allies ERG as well as a Women in Technology group to support women across the organisation, identifying opportunities for allyship, mentorship and sponsorship. Today’s employees want to connect, share and learn from others at all stages of their careers. Relationships with mentors, sponsors or allies can help them achieve that. The Women & Allies @ Workhuman ERG ran some really impactful events in 2021, including a virtual speed networking event to reconnect women and allies, and a series of International Women’s Day events under the banner of #ChooseToChallenge.

Organisations can also look externally, partnering with and supporting existing groups that support women in tech. Workhuman, for example, is a member of STEM associations such as Women in Technology and Science Ireland, and supports organisations like Women ReBoot, which helps women with tech sector skills and experience to return to work after a career break.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I think one thing that would make a big difference would be to have more, and more visible, female role models in the tech industry. Female representation matters – without it, what does that say to young girls? Female leaders bring different attributes to the workplace, particularly industries like tech that are still heavily male-dominated. They have been shown to be more empathetic, collaborative, and have more soft skills overall. Over the last 10 years, these skills have been mentioned more and more, and there is now greater awareness of the impact of soft skills and how to bring out those traits in the workplace. So, I’d say we’re at a turning point in that regard.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

You’ll get advice from all sorts of people throughout your life – what I have learnt is to actively choose to listen to people who give you energy and inspire you. This can be different for every individual. Personally, I love listening to people like Brené Brown.