Leigh Segall, CEO of Smart Communications, leads with compassion and expertise.

With over 20 years in the tech industry, Leigh shapes a strategic vision that leverages cutting-edge cloud technologies and drives market-defining innovation for the company.

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

After Accel-KKR acquired Smart Communications, I knew that the company was destined for great things and I decided to join. I revamped the existing marketing plan and devised a fresh approach to creating and implementing a worldwide marketing strategy. I also expanded the team from four to over forty members and laid the foundations for today’s expansion efforts.

Soon after, I built and led a new executive department, and rose through the ranks to become the company’s CEO. My primary focus now is twofold. Shaping a strategic vision that leverages cutting-edge cloud technologies and driving market-defining innovation in this space. This strategic vision ensures we can support our customers and partners’ global ambitions, as well as their continued success in the market.

As you can imagine, much of my day-to-day is dynamic and revolves around current priorities and market conditions. I work closely with other departments like product development, customer success, sales and marketing to strategise new initiatives, explore new market opportunities, and drive revenue.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The journey to get to where I am now did not happen because of meticulous planning; instead, it was all about the connections I made along the way. A trusted colleague from Accel-KKR called me one day about a new business that they had acquired. Based on Accel-KKR’s reputation and this recommendation, I looked at Smart Communications, a business in an industry that was new to me. I love technology, I love fast-growing companies and I love markets where there is a clear opportunity to grow and to be mission-critical. It met all of those needs.

My background had largely been as CMO of fast-growing technology companies and SMART was looking for a proven CMO to build the function nearly from scratch. I was confident in what this business could grow to become, and I couldn’t wait to play a role in its evolution.

When I joined Smart Communications, I knew that this may be my last stint as CMO and that I would be ready for a new challenge, but I didn’t know exactly where I wanted my career to go.

I put this in my back pocket and built a phenomenal marketing team. I did that for several years before my boss, who was CEO at the time, and the team at Accel-KKR flagged the opportunity for me to expand my role. They allowed me to move into a Chief Strategy Officer role in anticipation of moving into a CEO role. As a Chief Strategy Officer, you’re immediately immersed in different facets of the business, asking questions and learning more to gain a broader view. That was lots of fun for me, and a nice stepping stone into this CEO role.

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

When I was first offered the role of CEO, I was concerned about not being an ‘expert’ in every key function of the business. I held the misconception that a CEO needed prior experience across every department. I shared my concerns with others. The reminder came that this is never the case in any productive new role you step into and that if the new position is one where every bit of experience needed is already possessed, it’s worth evaluating whether it’s truly the best next position. Turning to my close network of trusted peers, I sought advice. They helped me to re-evaluate the opportunity and realise that this was the perfect next step for my career path.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

After joining in 2017, I played a pivotal role in guiding Smart Communications through a successful post-acquisition transformation. The team spearheaded a comprehensive rebranding and relaunch, and this momentum continued with the strategic acquisition of two companies, extending our reach into the APAC and DACH regions.

These acquisitions not only expanded our geographic footprint but also unlocked new capabilities, driving significant innovation in the customer conversation landscape. This focus on innovation has paid off in a big way, with our Conversation Cloud platform being recognised as a leader by top industry analysts like IDC, Gartner, Forrester, Aspire, AiteNovarica, and Aragon. This recognition is a major win, not just for Smart Communications, but for the entire customer conversation technology landscape – and it’s something I’m proud to be a part of. 

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

I take my relationships at work very seriously. I think I’ve learned over the years that there’s not anything much more powerful than trusted relationships with top-notch experts. These relationships have been a real definitive factor in my success. The experts I’ve been lucky enough to work with have motivated me and challenged me. They reassured me in impactful and unexpected ways. Without the relationships I’ve built, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

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

Embrace the learning curve by soaking up as much information as possible. Ask questions, shadow colleagues on projects, and actively seek out opportunities to learn new things. This eagerness to learn will set you apart from the crowd.

Remember, you won’t be expected to know everything on day one. Your true strength lies in how you can combine your skills with those of others. Throughout my career, supportive colleagues and leaders have been invaluable mentors. They’ve provided guidance, opened doors to new challenges, and helped me navigate tricky situations.

Take the time to build strong relationships with colleagues. Find those who inspire and motivate you, and offer your own support in return. Don’t forget to express gratitude to those who have helped you along the way. Remember, this network goes both ways. You’ll be lifting others up too, which creates a positive and supportive environment for everyone.

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

To overcome the barriers that very much still exist for women in tech, it’s crucial to prioritise education. Seek out mentors who can provide valuable guidance. Building a strong network of peers and allies, both women and men, is also key. This supportive environment can help women navigate challenges, advocate for their ideas, and achieve success in the tech industry.

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

The first step to supporting the careers of women in tech is understanding and recognising the existence of gender bias. Real progress will happen when we address and handle this as an issue to be resolved. Companies need to provide women with management training, fast-track schemes and education as equally as their male counterparts. We all need to be deliberate about adding diversity of all forms to the workplace. It simply will not happen by accident.

Building a supportive, flexible culture also makes a huge difference. An environment that uses inclusive language and acknowledges the achievements of women opens the door to career progress. Female voices within the workplace may not be as plentiful (yet). As a result, we need to be deliberate about amplifying these voices and diverse perspectives where we can in order to pave the way for others to learn, grow and follow.

There are currently only 15% 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?

Amplify women’s voices! If they make up only 15% of the workforce then their thoughts, opinions, feedback and input need to be heard louder than ever. Comfort and self-expression are essential to progress at work. To achieve this, women need to be handed the mic. They need to be supported for who they are and how they show up as leaders and influencers in the workplace

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

For women in tech seeking guidance from experienced leaders, “Women & Leadership: Real Lives, Real Lessons” by Julia Gillard is a super inspiring read. This book dives into the true stories and practical wisdom of successful women. It offers invaluable advice and empowers women to navigate the unique challenges they face in the tech industry.

The Women in Technology (WIT) website is another great resource for women at all stages of their tech careers. It offers a job board, mentorship programs, events, and a blog with articles on a wide range of topics.

Read more from our other inspirational profiles here.