Paula MiltonPaula has over 20 years’ experience with digital transformation at leading global brands, with a particular passion for customer experience.

Prior to joining Pega, Paula held a leadership position at Oracle and has also enjoyed the non-corporate world of running a start-up business.

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

The ‘private Paula’ is a keen runner, hill walker, and general outdoor enthusiast! My family is incredibly important to me, and I have so much to thank them for.

I have worked at Pega, which develops software that helps organizations personalize engagement with their customers, for almost 7 years. In my current role, I am responsible for our new Specialist Sales business across EMEA.  Pega is approaching the customer engagement market in a very deliberate way, and this team has been created to bring deep domain expertise to guide our clients. This has meant introducing a new business model and ways of working to Pega, which has been both exciting and challenging.

I am also a global co-chair for Pega’s Persons with Disabilities (PwD) ERG and feel privileged to be given the opportunity to help drive change and raise awareness in this area. One of the things I am proud of is the creation of a community of members and allies who now feel able to be more transparent about their personal disability experiences in a safe space.

In addition, I am a volunteer for the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, a charity that provides information and support services for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis, their families, friends, care givers, and health professionals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I actually left school at 18 and went straight to work at a tech company for 10 years. One of my first managers told me I should be in sales – so I was fortunate to be afforded opportunities early in my career to practice my craft. It wasn’t until a bit later that I actually paused and thought about how to broaden my experience to help me progress my career. I then did a couple of very deliberate things.  I ran a start-up company for 2 years to prove to myself that I could do business without a large brand behind me. This was tough but a huge learning experience – and pretty successful! The other thing I did was to ensure that in whatever role I took, I would volunteer to do projects outside of my ‘day job.’ This gives you a broader insight across the business, gets you connected to different people, and helps develop your personal brand.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I have never felt that being a woman has held me back in my career, I was comfortable working in a male-dominated world and felt well-supported as I progressed. I do, however, see how much the workplace has improved by creating more diverse and inclusive cultures. Everyone is different and we should celebrate that. I am proud in my new role to have built a diverse team, although I think I could do even better in this area.

Like most people though, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been without challenge in my life! One of these led me to be an advocate for Persons with Disabilities. I was diagnosed with severe Rheumatoid Arthritis at a fairly young age and have had over 20 major operations, including the UK’s first wrist replacement (which failed). To help halt the progression of this insidious disease, I take a powerful immune suppressant drug which I consider a necessary evil. But, I do believe that not giving in to this condition and keeping up my love for sport and exercise, has given me more ‘grit’ than I may otherwise have had – and this has definitely helped me in a work context to stay positive and see the good in tough situations.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Knowing what my priorities are and ensuring the right work/life balance. So much so that my daughter didn’t really realize I worked during her school years, as I was always there to take her and pick her up from school. Having a successful work life and a daughter with the right values who is now thriving herself has been my biggest achievement. I know that being a parent has made me a better leader as you have already learned not to be selfish and that it’s not all about you anymore!

If I am allowed another achievement, then I still have to pinch myself that I am a VP in a prestigious software company that counts the global 250 orgs as their clients. I definitely have imposter syndrome, not having been to university or studied for an MBA – but I guess the lessons of life and rich experiences give you a good grounding in business.

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

My mantra as a leader is to be transparent and empathetic and to celebrate our differences. Achieving business goals is critical, but HOW you achieve them also matters. I aim to lead by example by being kind, collaborative, and consistent – I don’t always succeed, but I definitely try to model this behavior. If I had to boil it down to one thing, then it would be behavior.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I think mentoring is a critical aspect of personal development, and I have been both a mentor and a mentee. It is important to match the right people together since these relationships will only work through mutual trust and respect. It is important to also have goals and outcomes in mind so that you can be clear on progress.

At Pega, we are fortunate to have a formal Mentor program, which provides structure and guidance for those new to this. I am fortunate to have a couple of mentors, who, whilst I do not speak that frequently, do restore my confidence when I am doubting and help me to think outside of my comfort zone. I always feel energized and positive after these sessions, which I think has to be the best outcome I could wish for.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

Gender equality is both a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Yet, at the current rate of progress, it will take over 10 generations to close the economic gender gap.

If I can play some small part in this, then I will aspire to be the best role model possible and, as a leader, to give a platform and voice to those who would benefit from this support and visibility.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To be less defensive in situations where I am challenged or criticized. I am highly competitive and a bad loser – which is a strength in many ways, but also a failure when misdirected. Learning from our mistakes is important and having people be honest with you is critical for our development.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Having built a new team and go-to-market strategy at Pega over the last 12 months, my next challenge is to help every member of my team be successful and for them to have a sense of belonging to something special.

 

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