Women in IT – Sam Mudd

Next in our series of ‘Women in IT’ blogs is Sam Mudd, Managing Director of Phoenix…

How long have you been in the industry?

For 31 years now.

What roles have you held?

Sales (TrustMarque)

Channel Manager for Partners (WordPerfect & Novell Inc)

Channel Director (Novell UK)

Sales Director (TrustMarque)

Services Sales & Management (TrustMarque & Phoenix)

IT Solutions – Associate Director (Phoenix)

Managing Director (Phoenix)

How long at Phoenix?

I have been at Phoenix for 16 years.

What made you choose IT?

A chance to earn some money in my GAP year before university, turned into a career choice without me really having an intention to work in IT. But now I think fate played its hand and whilst I thought I was going to work in HR one day (I studied Psychology), I have ended up in Sales and developed my career from there on.

The reason I chose to stay in the IT industry is because I have found some of the best relationships and friendships within it and I love to recite and recount the ‘old days’ in IT with those colleagues that I first started out with. Clare Metcalfe and I both started together in York aged 19 in sales and quickly found we were quite good at it back then. It gave me personally goals to wake up to every day, to achieve the calls and orders and make the target’s we had been set. At the same time, we were all in it together, learning fast and having to compete against a growing set of other IT companies.

If I had to choose again, I would still choose IT. The industry is simply the most exciting and fast moving one on this earth and attracts intelligent and professional people that I love working with. It is full of creative energy, and the pace is what I like – fast and focused.

Did you face any challenges when starting out in the industry?

Notably back in the 1990’s no challenges, but as I moved up into management it became more apparent that the industry was highly male orientated at senior level with very few female leaders. Today it is getting better. For example, Microsoft’s UK CEO is a female, and the head of VMware Public Sector is a female. But we need more coming up the ranks in all our companies for the future succession lines.

Throughout my career my line managers have all been men, which has never been an issue – as they have all been hugely supportive in my career goals and helped to coach and to promote me. It is a question of pushing yourself forward and demonstrating you are always the best candidate for the job by being willing and professional.

On one or two occasions I would turn up to meetings and my name ‘Sam’ has thrown people. They were expecting a man. But they soon adjusted to a female Sam being there. I tend to work on putting people at ease as soon as I meet them, so we can quickly get down to sharing good information and having great communication in a meeting. Remove any awkwardness as soon as you can, and let people see you who are, and be authentic as you can in a short amount of time. People see through false personalities or people who are trying to be what they are not. Just be yourself!

What changes have you seen in the industry and Phoenix over the years?

Challenges for women are that the world is now a 24×7 with relentless demands coming at us and we still do many of the house chores and carry the family caring responsibility. I think for women it is important they have their maternity leave to spend quality time with their children and men too with their paternity leave. But given our IT industry is moving so fast, a short amount of time out of your career can mean a lot has changed when you return, so just be prepared to spend time catching up and address the knowledge gap on new solutions and IT phenomena’s that keep evolving.

Phoenix try to be supportive to all our staff and reasonable where family balance is concerned, but we are such a lean and hard-working company, it is often a delicate balance of supporting people and not letting the work burden then shift to their colleagues. We all muck in and hopefully, everyone feels supported when they need it.

As we look to support modern working practices, working from home and flexible working hours are options for our staff to help with the family and work life balance. I only see that becoming more prevalent if we wish to retain staff and ensure they feel great about their career and work balance.

What can be done to encourage more women into IT?

More women can be encouraged into IT if we promote the varied roles that can be considered at an apprentice or a graduate level.

Phoenix intend to use current role models in our organisation to explain to young women that a career in IT does not mean you necessarily have to be technical, it can for instance be in Marketing, Sales, Operations or Software Audit. These and Development and Support are departments where we would love to recruit the next generation of female talent.

By showcasing the Phoenix females and what they have achieved in their career so far, and the paths that led to where they are now, we hope this will reveal that it’s a wholly applicable industry for females to work in, and an exciting growth industry that is here to stay.

If women feel they will be supported, coached and developed to their full potential and given the same chances as males to progress – I see no reason why more females should not think of a career in IT. Coupled with good working policies (maternity/paternity leave, WFH, Flexible working etc) it is a vibrant and exciting industry like no other!