Gail Sampson

Inspirational Woman: Gail Sampson | Regional HR Director, Sovos

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!


Anna Norden

Inspirational Woman: Anna Nordén | Principal, Regulatory Affairs, Sovos

Meet Anna Nordén, Principal, Regulatory Affairs at Sovos

Anna Norden

As Principal, Regulatory Affairs at Sovos, Anna Nordén pursues government relations and other public affairs work to anticipate new regulatory trends and laws. In tight collaboration with colleagues in both Strategy and Regulatory Analysis and Design, her long practice and expertise are instrumental in guiding both Sovos and legislators as new tax control reforms are rolled out across the globe.

With a background in law, Anna has solid experience from international work with e-commerce and information security regulations in organizations such as the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), the United Nations Centre for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC); she also lectures in information security law at Stockholm University.

Coupled with many years in the VAT and e-invoicing compliance industry, both as co-founder of TrustWeaver, a company that was acquired by Sovos in 2018, and as the Swedish representative in the EU Multistakeholder E-Invoicing Forum, Anna’s position in the interface between tax and information security is quite unique.

Outside the office, Anna enjoys outdoor sports in general and climbing and skiing with her family in particular, but also sailing when opportunity is given.

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

I got my Swedish LL.M. after having studied law at the universities of Lund and Gothenburg. I started working for one of the large Swedish law firms right after my studies and quickly got sucked into the long working hours and intense business lawyer lifestyle. I realized that if I didn’t try something else soon, I’d risk being stuck in the firm for the rest of my career. I applied for a position at the District Court, which is the first step in the judge training program. I was admitted to the Court but last minute decided to decline the offer and instead spend some months traveling. I was living on a shoestring backpacking my way literally around the world, trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a career.

Coming back to Sweden, I started working at the Gothenburg District Court. I was however soon offered a chance to move to Vienna for a UN project at the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and was granted an eight months’ leave of absence from the Court. It was at UNCITRAL I started my “tech” career, looking at the interplay between law and technology and how this could be used to harmonize legal digitalization efforts globally. I took part in drafting the UN Model Law on Electronic Signatures and had to understand the technology behind digitalization and how technology both could impact and be a tool for law. I had found my place – working in the intersection of law and technology, in an international environment. After Vienna I returned to the Court for some time but moved to Paris when I was offered a permanent position with the International Chamber of Commerce in my area of interest, thereby ditching the judge career once and for all. Electronic signatures and their legal aspects and implications had become my passion and area of expertise.

After just a year at the ICC I was approached by a head-hunter who convinced me to join an IT start-up in my focus area. The start-up experience taught me a lot and I met some great people; a bunch of us eventually left this project and started a company of our own, being true pioneers in combining law and technology.  This company, TrustWeaver, was later acquired by Sovos.

At Sovos I today focus on regulatory affairs, which means I work towards governments and regulators to try to make new laws in tax digitalization as effective as possible for governments while still being enabling for the users. I also teach information security law at Stockholm university – I have done this for two decades now but never get tired of interacting with the students, trying to embolden them to think outside the box when starting their careers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I did not. But that doesn’t mean that I left it to chance altogether. I was very open-minded and took opportunities when they arose; I’ve been in private sector, public sector, NGOs etc. And I regularly stopped to look at my compass to see that I was headed in a direction that felt good – be it without knowing which my end station would be. I knew from day one that I wanted an intellectually stimulating job in an international environment with interesting people, while maintaining a good work-life balance.

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

Despite the fact that I have always been managing my time and had very understanding managers and colleagues, having small children while working a lot is challenging. I have managed by working flexible hours and partly from home, but at times my work-life balance has not been ideal.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being part of founding and developing TrustWeaver.

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

I cannot mention just one thing. It’s a combination of commitment, hard work and the luck of being in the right area and lastly but maybe most importantly working with great people.

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

Check your compass from time to time – are you happy in your position; is this where you want to be right now? If not, make a change.

Be open with your employer as to your needs and private situation; demand work-life balance.

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

To start with, if we want more women in tech we must strive towards girls becoming interested in and getting the opportunity to learn technology from a young age. (In some cultures, this will mean a change of mindset to allow and expect also girls to be interested in technology.) Secondly, it must be recognized and remembered that women are in general more risk averse and less competitive than men. These traits, in combination with women typically taking a large responsibility for household and children, are reasons why few women make a career in competitive and male-dominated areas. To change this, you need to provide a different career structure than you use to attract and advance men.

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

Companies must be aware of the above, provide different career structures, and ensure work – life balance.

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?

Get more women in tech education; get more women interested in technology generally to start with.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I don’t think women in tech need any different resources than men, and I personally don’t believe all that much in female networking but rather in networking generally. Examples of resources I have been recommended are:

  • edx.org
  • Pluralsight
  • Udemy