What makes a successful leader or, really, a successful professional?
Pamela Eachus would say relationships.
“It’s all about people — more than ever before,” Eachus said in a recent interview with Fairygodboss, when asked how COVID-19 has impacted her leadership style. “Since we’ve moved into an environment where we’re not able to meet in person… we’ve had to rely on the existing network that we’ve built over time.”
Eachus is someone you want to listen to when it comes to career advice, especially as it relates to networking and climbing the ladder. She moved her way up from Business Analyst to IT Director, UK & Ireland at global professional services firm Marsh & McLennan, thanks in part to the company’s supportive culture that values internal promotion and teamwork to boot.
“I’ve been able to come up through the organization with my peers. It’s given me a great network of very capable individuals,” she said of the firm.
Of course, there are tricks to increasing buy-in and making relationships thrive — and we spoke to Eachus about her tried-and-true tactics. In our conversation, she also shared her best advice for women in technology, and what makes Marsh & McLennan an especially exciting place to work in the tech industry. Keep reading for more.
How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously?
I took over as IT Director in the UK & Ireland in September 2016. Prior to that, I was a Global Program Manager, rolling out our document management and collaboration solutions.
Tell me a little about your current role. What are your priorities?
As an IT Director, my top priority is to increase our engagement with business colleagues on digital initiatives — getting us out of the back office and into the front office where we can engage directly. We’re also spending a lot of time on vulnerability and risk management to make sure we’re protecting our client’s data and our working environment, especially as we are in this unusual working situation due to COVID. And, of course, looking after my people is always a priority.
What made you first want to pursue a career in technology?
I actually tried very hard to not have a career in tech as my dad and my grandfather were both in technology. I worked in retail and recruiting, but soon realized after the dotcom boom that a career in tech was the best way to make money.
What projects or programs are you working on that you’re particularly excited about?
We have a massive technology initiative happening at Marsh & McLennan right now called Operational Excellence (OpEx). We’re looking globally, and building new systems and digital experiences to support our clients. It’s a really significant investment to our organization and it’s a really great time to be in technology.
How have you been able to step into leadership during your time at Marsh & McLennan?
I’ve been with the organization for a very long time now, and we’ve got a long-standing team, so I’ve been able to come up through the organization with my peers. It’s given me a great network of very capable individuals. A particular challenge for women as you move up is that you may be managing people who were previously your peers. So, being able to manage that transition very carefully and gradually evolve the relationship has been something I’ve had to learn how to do. Collaboration and learning how to get people on your side has been critical.
How has your leadership style changed or evolved during the pandemic?
It’s all about people — more than ever before (and it was always about people).
We have an enormous amount to deliver as a technology organization and we’re going through a large integration program right now. Since we’ve moved into an environment where we’re not able to meet in person and have those informal coffee or cooler conversations, we’ve had to rely on the existing network that we’ve built over time. We are investing in taking time to reach out to people and make a constant effort to ensure we aren’t losing anyone during this difficult time.
I have an incredibly resilient team and I’m so proud of how they’ve been able to respond to the current circumstances. As leaders, it falls to us to make sure we’re not taking that resiliency for granted. People are feeling an enormous amount of tension, so we have to support individuals more than we ever have before.
You’ve been able to move your way up to a Director role during your time at Marsh & McLennan. What are some of the things that have helped you find success?
I’ve benefited from finding a sponsor and cannot underplay the significance of that. Outside of sponsorship, the two main things that have contributed to my success are:
Being flexible. I joined the organization in a business analysis role, then moved into architecture, then into program delivery. The willingness to pursue new opportunities and try new things have been instrumental in growing my career.
Work collaboratively. As we trend towards less structured organizations, collaboration is a skill that will allow you to get people on your side without using explicit authority. This ability to work collaboratively has allowed me to get buy in and support on my ideas, and provided the support I needed to move into a Director-level role.
What’s one thing you think job seekers should know about Marsh & McLennan?
At Marsh & McLennan, we work on some of the most complex problems in the world. You can insure almost anything you can think of against practically anything happening to it, so the work and the thinking that goes with capturing all of the information is extremely intricate.
We are able to get involved in supporting our communities when the worst happens. Insurance is a public good — it’s what you buy and hope you never need. At Marsh, the insurance we help our clients put in place is able to provide capital flows to support communities, and even countries, in their time of need so that they’re able to continue to focus on innovation instead of rebuilding.
Why are you passionate about your work?
The insurance industry is rapidly changing and there is an enormous opportunity for innovation and modernization. There is innovation occurring both in the way that insurance is purchased, and in the types of products that are available for people to engage with their insurance. For example, we can now look at an individual's health data to help them get a better rate on their insurance. Being able to contribute to that innovation and getting insurance directly to the people that need it most is what keeps me passionate.
How have you used your role to help bring up other women behind you?
I’ve been a part of a Women in Tech board, which launched Lean In at Marsh & McLennan.
As a sponsor of Lean In, Marsh & McLennan has made Lean In circles available to everyone in tech, and individuals have the opportunity to be ambassadors or circle moderators to help them develop their skills. Our ambassadors also have access to our Global CIO, Scott Gilbert, to develop them and give them visibility.
Personally, I practice diverse recruitment and have a well-balanced leadership which consists of three women, including myself. There are two other things I can do effectively: one is to keep being authentic in my identity as a woman, and two, create space for women on my team who can rely on me to support them.
Are you part of a mentorship program? And if so, what do you find most valuable about the relationship?
Being a mentor to a woman in another part of the business has been a very rewarding experience. In a mentor-mentee relationship, you spend a lot of time talking about individual challenges, so there’s a great opportunity to learn about situations you get an objective view on. You’re able to hear someone else's way of thinking and how they would deal with those challenges. The sharing of information definitely flows both ways, and has helped me shift my perspective.
What advice would you give to women who are interested in pursuing a career in technology?
In the words of Nike: Just do it! So many women will be their own worst critics. Don’t let the little ‘what-if’ voices slow you down or get you on a track towards complacency. You will be amazed by how much you can accomplish if you just let yourself. Be brave and try these things you’ve been interested in, and ultimately, allow yourself to impress yourself.
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