Laura Handler

Laura Handler is Chief of Staff at Sovos, where she devotes her time and energies to support the “tax for good” company mission.

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

Who am I? That is quite a question! Professionally, I am Chief of Staff at Sovos. Personally, I am a single mother by choice to a two-year-old, a proud Jewish feminist, and a recovering perfectionist. What do those have in common? A passion for transformation, a respect for consistency and an ability to lean into “Swiss army knife” skills in any situation. I’ve been with Sovos for almost nine years and in that time have had numerous opportunities to enable leaders and teams to make their imprint – something that has become a bit of a personal mission.

Over the last 18 months, I’ve partnered with our finance organisation on its transformation journey and as of 5 June, I am excited to be working with new Sovos CEO Kevin Akeroyd, at a moment when our industry is ripe for accelerated change.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Everyone who knows me, knows that the answer to that question is “yes, of course”. I am a planner by nature, so have planned my career several times over. And none of those plans took me on the career journey I’ve While I’m a planner, I subscribe more to the “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” philosophy. Perhaps cliché, but for me – true.

One resource I use and often recommend is the “petal exercise” from What Colour is my Parachute. A leader and mentor recommended it several years ago, and it truly shaped how I think about my interests and value. I refresh parts of it from time to time.

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

Of course. I don’t think anyone experiences success without several failures or setbacks along the way. I try to remind myself that challenging moments are simply a sign that something “isn’t done” – and use it as a moment to evaluate what needs to be done differently. “Try” is the operative word there; to get there, I often lean on a small network of people for support and advice.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I don’t look at this as a singular event or moment. Any opportunity I have to connect a team to a bigger mission and embrace a new way of doing things is an achievement. From leading Sovos’ regulatory analysis to embrace an expanded mission along with new processes and structures or working on one of the first real estate projects in the country to embrace new technology, processes, and contract structures, I look back on my time with each team I’ve worked with fondly because of what we have accomplished together.

These opportunities are not without obstacles (something worth doing rarely is). The most challenging times often show us what really needs to get done.

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

I am not satisfied with the status quo of anything, ever. I am drawn to working amid disruptive change and embrace any opportunity to lean into it – and have had the benefit of mentors and sponsors who have connected me to those opportunities.

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

I think it must start with personal reflection: what is your definition of “excelling in your career in tech”? What type of work energises you? Then it’s about mapping a path to get there – which includes examining your environment to ensure there is space for your definition of success, charting your course, building relationships and more than anything else, showing up (even when you’re not sure if you are supposed to show up).

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

There is always room for improvement when it comes to opening doors for underrepresented groups in business and in tech – and I feel passionately about the WHY: organisations can only thrive when they a diverse set of experiences and perspectives. While I’m no expert in the HOW, I do think the change management basics apply: put the vision front and centre, identify the quick wins, building blocks to change and rally champions and allies to the cause.

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

Start by talking to the women in the organisation. In fact, talk to everyone in the organisation. Do you know what they want? Their preferences? Where they get stuck? Go to the source, seek to understand, and then act.

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? We need to consider what it will take to accelerate the pace of change for everyone in the industry. Women do not need to be considered as a separate entity and every time we put “woman” in front of our needs or achievements, we put a question mark after our own equality.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I don’t have a specific resource I’d recommend. My view is there is a lot of noise out there and what is most important is for each of us to find what serves us best. Right now, I frequently skim HBR and listen to the Unorthodox podcast. And that works for me.