By Caitlin Burns, DocsCorp Content Manager.
This post is part of a series for International Women's Day 2020 that aims to highlight just some of the women at DocsCorp who are inspiring change and diversity in the technology sector.
Samantha Jefferies is our Vice President for the EMEA region, the leader of an all-female Sales team, and a member of our senior leadership team. So, for International Women's Day 2020, we asked Sam how she thought DocsCorp and every other tech company, could make impactful change and encourage more women to pursue a career in technology sales.
What kind of career did you want when you entered the workforce?
I studied Business Studies and French and had no real idea about what industry I wanted to get into. I fell into tech with my first job at Packard Bell NEC and have worked in a variety of marketing and channel and end-user sales ever since. I love working at tech companies as the landscape is always changing, evolving, and innovating
Has your career in tech sales always been a straightforward path?
Prior to joining DocsCorp, I worked in computer hardware sales at Packard Bell NEC and then at NEC Display Solutions Europe for over 15 years.
I actually started in Marketing and held various positions until I joined a tech start-up in 2000. After setting up all the Marketing/PR for the start-up, we struggled to find the right Salesperson. Having written – and lived – our pitch for over a year, I decided it was something I could do. So, I googled the top 100 UK law firms – our target market – and started calling them one by one. I have been in Sales ever since, and I still love it.
Has the tech salesforce changed much during your career?
I was the only woman in my first sales team for some years, until I became the manager. Now, at DocsCorp, I actually have an all-female Sales team. I didn’t plan it that way. They were just the best people who applied at the time.
How far do you think the tech industry has come in terms of gender diversity?
One of the biggest challenges still facing women who pursue careers in tech is that there are few women in the industry. They don’t often see themselves represented.
I really have not come across a closed mindset in which women are actively excluded from the industry. I feel there is just a lack of women being attracted to joining in the first place.
What do people say when you tell them that you are a Sales VP for a software company?
More often than not, they are a little surprised. Unfortunately, it is still unusual for a woman to be in a senior management position in a tech company. I hope this will change in the future as more women join and come through the ranks.
As a Sales VP, how would you describe your leadership/management style? Have you had to change it over the years?
I have been managing sales teams for 12 years, and my style has definitely evolved. I’m more confident than I was 12 years ago, but I always think I can be better. Constant learning and development is key to being a good leader, so I am a bit of a management and sales book junkie.
I was lucky to join a high achieving team early on that worked hard and played hard. I believe culture plays a massive part in being successful. If you build a team of people who care about their clients and want to grow and develop, you can inspire a great culture for the whole company.
What are the advantages of being a female Sales VP? And the disadvantages?
I have honestly not given it that much thought and have just tried to do my best in every role. Sometimes, being the only woman can help you be noticed in a room full of men. As long as I knew what I was talking about, I have never found the treatment of me any different from my male colleagues.
I am fortunate to say that the most gender bias I have experienced is a few awkward moments when a group of men forgets that they have a girl in their midst or feels like they have to act differently because I am around.
What is one small, tangible way you ensure your job works around your family?
When my kids were younger, I worked 4 days a week – I still did the same amount of work, I just did it faster! I think working mums are so good at maintaining balance as they often do a hundred jobs before they even get to work. They make excellent employees because they manage their time brilliantly.
Why do you feel gender diversity is important for the tech sector?
Gender diversity is essential in every industry. Women have an amazing capacity for abstract thinking, strong communication skills, and the ability to bring a different view to their male colleagues.
But the most important thing for every sector is to have diverse opinions and views feeding in. Having more women in tech is hugely valuable, but so is having a diverse workforce with people from a variety of backgrounds.
What, if anything, would you change about the tech salesforce to make it an equal environment for women?
I think for women in tech today, it is, on balance, becoming a more equal environment. Many companies encourage people to work from home to balance their work and their responsibilities as parents.
I think a lot of the gender gap comes from not getting enough women into tech, or educating women about the kinds of careers available in the industry. The truth is you can do anything with technology and it’s a great feeling when you really can improve someone's workday with new technology. Every day we interact with it in hundreds of different ways and those interactions are all opportunities to make a difference in the world. Plus, for every job coding the software, there is another job for selling or marketing it or supporting it.
What advice would you give to women who wanted to pursue a career in tech sales?
I would say go for it. I find that people don’t always think they can get into the tech industry if they’re not developers, but there are many different skills needed and so many different things you can do within the industry, so I would tell someone to just go for it.