March is Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate women’s contributions and achievements in different fields and spheres of life.
Ad tech is still a mostly male industry, but there are more conversations than ever around critical issues to the empowerment of women at work, including opening doors and access for women early in their careers so they can progress to C-suite; supporting women to choose and stay with STEM careers; and helping women achieve a work-life balance.
This month at Cadent, we’re profiling women who are leaders in their departments, asking about their career journeys, approaches to growth and mentorship, and their philosophies on leading others.
Sarah Collie, a Technical Project Manager based in the UK, has 20 years of experience in the broadcast and advertising industries. As a PM, Sarah said she likes to help teams self-manage and lead themselves, providing frameworks and guidance for the groups she collaborates with, adding, “I like helping teams improve and identifying processes that can be made better.”
Read a conversation with Sarah below about her path to ad tech and Project Management, and a manager who made an impact on her journey.
The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
What led you to Cadent?
At university, I studied the History of Art, then began on the administration side of projects at BSkyB (which later merged with Sky), and progressed to Project Management roles. One of my managers from BSkyB led in a way which has really inspired me and has stuck with me. She knew her business area inside out, actually gave her team ownership and let people pave their own path.
How did your manager influence your career path?
She helped me find the confidence to become a Project Manager. One lesson from her leadership was that it pays to be open to any kind of commentary. There are always benefits from listening and communicating, just allowing people to empower themselves, run with ideas and learn from mistakes or from successes. She put a lot of faith in me, and she really set me on my career path. I wanted to learn a lot more about the business area I was working in rather than the administrative side.
So it’s fair to say this manager enabled you to make this change.
She was kind of the springboard. After making the shift away from administrative work, I had a wide variety of roles. I was a business analyst, worked in pre-sales and was a project manager. I don’t think I would have done any of that without having her support to make the initial change.
I felt that if I didn’t make the leap, then maybe I wouldn’t have the career I really wanted, and I wanted to have a career that I could really get involved in and find interesting. I wanted to understand the specifics as a Project Manager, and I wanted to transform the processes involved and be more involved with the stakeholders and clients.
How do you enable your teams today?
I work with three different teams, and they’re all very different.
You have to understand your team, their work motivation, and then you also have to help them understand the external influences, the stakeholders and how the teams are working together. It’s quite dynamic. We do these retrospectives every two weeks, where we reflect on the previous sprints work, and look to identify improvements we can implement as part of the teams continued growth, and the next sprint-worth of work can therefore be entirely different.
Senior leaders in cross-functional roles often have to work hard to reach a consensus. How do you encourage people to follow your process?
I’m honest with my team. If I’m asking them to do something that I don’t think they would like to do, I explain the positives and the downsides of not doing it. I find clarity around what’s been asked, and then I’d probably just say “please.”
Can you name a few qualities that make a great Project Manager?
I appreciate honesty, patience and calmness. Humor is important. Being someone that people want to talk to and engage with is important, someone who encourages open dialogue. I want to communicate with others, and I want people to feel comfortable talking with me. I want to be able to listen.