As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Bianca Chambers.
Bianca Chambers is the former US Country Manager at SoPost. She was one of the first team members at the company and helped launch the US market. She’s currently based in London, UK. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her dog.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
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.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
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.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
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!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It has to be our CEO, Jonny. It’s really because of him that I’m here today. He has been the most encouraging person in my career and he really believed in my abilities from the start. He let me do what I felt was needed in order to be successful and that trust allowed me to grow the business in less traditional ways.
As a leader and CEO he creates an extremely motivating environment to be a part of, which has been a key element in my ability to grow.
As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
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.
As you know globally we’re currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
A diverse workforce in my opinion is the only way for a company to succeed, people from different backgrounds and walks of life coming together allow us to generate the best possible ideas. If any executive team only has like-minded people on that team there is no way to encompass multiple values. Having different perspectives is key for business success and bringing together different minds will always generate the best business decisions.
I’m proud to be part of the SoPost executive team which is heavily represented by women. It’s inspirational for me and hopefully for others who join our growing company.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
There are three things that stand out to me that help create inclusivity, representation and an equitable society, when it comes to to business:
- Diversity in hiring — creating an environment where we have opportunity for lots of ideation and different types of representation is key. It will always lead to the greatest outcomes and best decisions.
- One of core values at SoPost is: Stronger Together. The idea that we can rely on each other, care about each other’s well being and also the business as whole makes a real difference in how people feel and what they perceive in the workplace.
- Generating value in different places: our business originated in the Northeast of England. We love to continue to hire and invest there. Talent can be found in all corners of the world and it’s important to provide a place for that talent to thrive.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The key difference between being a leader vs. an executive is the impact your decisions have. When I make choices for SoPost I’m not only thinking about my own team but constantly about the bigger picture, how will this impact the greater business. This also relates to finances. Choices an exec makes aren’t only about the bottom line but also the betterment of the business as a whole, how will the people who work here be impacted?
We spend a lot of time looking after each other, ensuring that our people feel like they are part of something great, and have opportunities to grow and achieve.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
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 that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
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’
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I didn’t have preconceived notions of what this job would be or become, but to me it feels so natural to be here and a part of SoPost. I enjoy every part of my role so much, of course, there are pressures and responsibilities, but when you’re loving what you’re doing it doesn’t feel like work.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
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 leaders to help their team to thrive?
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
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.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- 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.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d love for mentoring to be a bigger part of career development, particularly for women. Education and schooling were great, but it was the working world that I really found appealing and that has been my happiest place. I don’t think I realized how many ‘jobs’ and ‘opportunities’ existed beyond the much more traditional concepts we grow up with.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
‘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.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
First and foremost I have to say it would be Michelle Obama. Imagine the stories she could share!
Also, Sara Blakely, founder of Spanx, what an amazing empire she has created.
But I’m really inspired by so many female founders. I would love to share breakfast with any of them! I’m in awe of anyone who has created or developed a company. I love hearing about how they did it and what they’ve learned.