Meet Gail Sampson, Regional HR Director at Sovos

Gail Sampson

Gail is the Regional HR Director for Sovos, a SAAS software company, with responsibility for a region of c. 750 people across 9 countries. Passionate about early careers, she is a member of her local CIPD committee with portfolio for student engagement as well as an advisor to the University of Aberdeen’s business school’s Global HR Programme.

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

After graduating in History and Politics from the University of Aberdeen, I fell into the technology world as a recruiter in technology – having struggled with STEM subjects at school I was as surprised as the next person how much I resonated with the industry – the pace, the change, the ambition got under my skin!

Throughout my career I have enjoyed building assessment centres and challenges to inspire early career choices for people in technology and continue their development journey with ambitious talent programmes and secondments.

Working on People Plans which underpin the business strategy is an exciting part of my role which helps keep our employees focused on the bigger picture and understand how they can grow and develop to help us succeed.

Currently, as well as supporting the Future of Work discussions in my role at Sovos and more broadly in UK focus groups, I am also heavily involved in M&A and integrations – supporting the business through constant change to solve tax for good.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never – I fell into recruitment and technology but slowly realised the commercial imperative of having the right people in the right place at the right time to drive successful businesses – at that time, I simply wanted to gain exposure to as many types of business as possible to hone these skills and become a credible business leader.

As I have progressed in my own career, I have undertaken skills gap analysis on myself and ensured I am always ready to take the next step up.  I see my career as a journey – one full of twists, turns and opportunities to deviate from a route – as long as I keep growing and delivering, I will get to wherever the final destination may be!

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

The biggest challenge I have had is other women’s perception of me as a working mother – I recall another female leader telling me I had ruined my career by having children in my twenties!  I overcame this by being myself – never hid this important and grounding side of me – working smartly and hitting my goals – whilst still be present as a mum!

Interestingly, my male colleagues have mainly seen parenthood as a superpower – organisation, negotiation and pragmatism often being cited as learned in the most hostile environments!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Impacting the success of many businesses through having the right people in place – I still see the impact of my hiring efforts in businesses 10+ years on.

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

Resilience – learning from mistakes, accepting tech is a VUCA environment and adapting to change – I would also have to say that some luck would have to be a player here in being in the right place at the right time to grab opportunities to shine etc.

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

Be curious – ask lots of questions – understand the problems of the future and carve a path to solving these.

Be proactive – call out challenges and barriers you are facing – work with your manager to create a clearer path

Be authentic – do not try and be anyone but you

Remain ambitious – keep your goals in mind

Strive for balance in life – never lose your smile.

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

I think the industry is more open minded on gender but I still think that adolescent women in the UK are treated as an anomaly if they show an interest in STEM subjects.  Opening the discussion to an industry, rather than STEM skills would be a way of engaging people from all walks of life.

Women like solving problems as well – showcase the problems we are trying to solve as an industry and help women show where they can add value.

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

Normalise women working in technology – ensure women are recognised for their merits instead of their gender.  Recognise that equality of all their employees will bring progression opportunities for all.  Invest in flexible working for all.

There are currently only 21 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?

Recognise the importance of creating compelling stories around STEM from an early age – toy companies could stop only having male pilots in toy planes, toy laptops and tablets should not be pink and blue – create equality from play – these early stages can shape opinions.  Key Stage 2 and 3 posters in schools in UK only 5 years ago were all male – normalise loving tech from an earlier age through interactive activities and association.

I would also get the message out you do not need to excel in STEM subjects to excel in the Tech industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Whatever interests you!  Just make and commit to time to absorb these resources – talk to colleagues and friends for recommendations on topics close to your heart and aspirations!