Bianca Chambers is the Director of ProductSamples.com. Previously, she was the US Country Manager for SoPost, expanding the company into the US market and building a NYC team from the ground-up.
How did you begin your career in the tech industry? Have you always worked in this space?
I started my career path in a sales oriented Account Management role, which is where my love for small businesses, sales and being within a commercial team began. As I was looking for a new role I had a chance encounter with Jonny, SoPost Founder and CEO. I can still recall leaving the meeting and knowing I would turn down the other offers that were available to me. I had to work with him!
I joined SoPost as their first Account Manager and from there grew the UK, EMEA and eventually US teams. I really saw the opportunity that existed with SoPost and just kept moving it forward.
When deciding to move back to the UK in the midst of Covid, I was offered the position of Director of ProductSamples.com – SoPost’s newest initiative and budding B2C brand. I was intrigued by the idea of building something from scratch which could allow for new vision and expand SoPost’s existing offer. I was (and still am) excited by the ingenuity and flexibility of the project, while also being afforded the opportunity to once again build a team from scratch and kick off SoPost’s first B2C initiative.
What is one of the most exciting stories or experiences you have had since joining SoPost and leading the ProductSamples team?
There have been many interesting moments along the way. But really, it was the relocation to the US to launch, grow and manage the US business, not to mention leading this function through 2020/21 amidst the global pandemic.
Aside from the challenges that many of us faced over the past two years, I found hiring to be one of the more interesting elements of my US move. Hiring decisions in the US market are very different to the UK and it wasn’t something I had anticipated when we started to quickly scale our team.
What is a mistake you have made along the way? What did you learn from it?
Perhaps not a mistake, but definitely a lesson. Being a Brit in the US comes with its advantages, particularly the accent, which I always played up. However, one time after a really big pitch meeting I was in an elevator with some of the attendees and overheard, ‘ I didn’t pay attention to a word she was saying, the accent was too distracting’. Over reliance on my accent — lesson learned!
How do you prepare for a high-stakes meeting or intense conversation with a potential client or partner? Do you have any personal anecdotes you can share? Any tips to stay calm?
This is something I really had to reevaluate when the world stopped during the pandemic. I had a great sense of uncertainty on a personal level alongside that of our business’s survival. As a leader, I also wanted to ensure that my team had someone to turn to and provide them with guidance and support. Therefore, it was important to me that I entered each day with a clear head and a positive attitude.
As a part of ensuring my mental wellness I created a routine. Which included a lockdown commute I created. This meant that I took 45 mins before starting my day and at the end of my day to either go for a walk or listen to a podcast, something that gave me time to reset from work. This allowed me to create the headspace to continue to carry out my duties but also take care of myself.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being an executive? Can you expand on these myths?
Not Approachable — Executives can be put on a pedestal and felt as if they are the only decision makers for the company. In reality they executives and CEO’s are continually looking to improve the business for everyone and listen to and absorb feedback from people across the entire company to impact and business decisions going forward.
Age Bias- Even though older generations usually lead companies, this does not mean that they are not open to learning from younger team members. CEOs are open to learning from younger team members as they might have an in-depth knowledge of various things that folks at the CEO level might be privy to.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives especially working in the tech sector which has greater male representation?
When joining a call or walking into a room there is the automatic assumption that the male within the room is more senior than the woman. There is a requirement to continually need to present a woman’s place within the company, especially as I was lucky enough to be in a senior position in my late twenties, there was a constant question of ‘who is the decision-maker above you’
In your opinion, can anyone be an executive or business leader? Are there specific qualities that will increase one’s likelihood
Anyone can be an executive if that is what they aspire to be, but I doubt that this is something that would be everyone’s passion or desire. People’s passion can be within the workplace, it can also be without and all of these are equally as important. Anyone can excel at something they are passionate about and this can lead them to be executives. If I didn’t say it enough times: be passionate. You have to want to be here.
What advice would you give to other women in the tech industry?
Have you felt like you have been able to make a difference in the world through your success and experiences?
I hope so, my team and the company culture is the most important thing to me and the best part of SoPost. I believe that as a leader I am responsible for my team’s success not only within SoPost but across their career. I hope that seeing someone who has taken control of their career and kept pushing for what they want inspires them but also that they know they always have someone who will be their biggest cheerleader throughout their career.
Can you list “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?
- Being honest — making mistakes is ok, if something can’t be done or has gone wrong, being able to come forward and solve it together is important — there are people who can help support and fix the situation.
- Always ask questions, no question is too small — internally or of you ask your customers — questions are really important to be able to deliver and achieve your goals.
- Always put your hat in the ring — if you want something you have to ask for it — such as when it comes to promotions or growth opportunities from within.
- Hiring — the importance of finding people who have skill sets you don’t possess — don’t be scared of them.
- The importance of being a great people manager — it is so important it is to have a leader to look up to, but equally important to empower people by being a great manager for them. Some of my most touching work experiences have come via gratitude from team members as I’ve transitioned out of roles to new ones. Also, having other women see the opportunities that exist for them via you.
What’s your favorite life lesson quote? Why?
‘Don’t miss out on something that could be great just because it could also be difficult. ‘
It is sometimes hard to step outside of your comfort zone but when you do and show yourself that you can do it, the reward is greater.