In a society as competitive as we have now, the last thing you need is a boss who puts you down instead of motivating you and raising your spirits at work.
We sat down with Sarah Taylor and Margaret Ng of Payroll Metrics, a payroll software company, to find out how they started from scratch and successfully broke the glass ceiling without stepping on any toes.
Sarah Taylor started her career as buyer, managing various portfolios and roles for the British Railways Board over the years. She eventually became the director of Payroll Metrics, which she co-founded. Meanwhile, Margaret Ng commenced her career in software development 30 years ago, and is now the Development Manager in one of the top performing pay offices in Australia.
These women worked their way up with their determination and hard work whilst motivating their teams, and communicating well with them. Here’s what they have to say about their journey to where they are today.
Note: This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
Leaders in Heels: How did you start your career in the payroll industry?
Sarah Taylor: Perhaps more by accident than by design. I, along with the MD of Payroll Metrics [Greg McManus], co-founded the business. My strengths in the commercial field complemented Greg’s in software development, sales and marketing.
Margaret Ng: I first learnt about payroll for Australia whilst working for a software development company that was contracted to build a payroll system for their client.
LIH: Please tell us a little about your role in Payroll Metrics.
ST: I am the Commercial Director with responsibility for the Customer Services Team, Contracts, Third Party Arrangements and Finance. As well as being a director, I am also the secretary of the business!
MN: My role as Development Manager involves the analysis of customer requirements and statutory payroll requirements to design a solution based on the requirements. Architecture of the solution includes the database design and considerations for the procedural flows for various case scenarios.
I work with a team of developers. I also work with the director in deciding priorities and am responsible for creating specifications, scheduling, and allocating tasks to developers
LIH: What are the qualities that you possess, which helped you become the leaders that you are?
ST: Primarily, I am a self-starter. I love a challenge and am motivated by undertaking a task or project with no or little precedence. I’m a complete finisher who’s committed to stay the course until the project is successfully delivered.
MN: Communication is key! It’s important to be clear when giving directions and also important to state expected outcomes when assigning tasks. Also, working together in collaboration with the team is crucial. You need to respect them, and be open to receiving inputs and suggestions from the team. Finally, learn from your mistakes. Use them as learning opportunities.
LIH: How do you keep your team motivated?
ST: Communication and feeling valued are great motivators which I endeavor to adopt. I make time for my staff, to discuss issues, provide support and resolutions and create an open environment where people can contribute.
MN: A few simple things. Set clear goals. Work together and collaborate. Encourage team work. Praise good results.
LIH: How do you manage stress at work?
ST: I adopt a simple strategy – prioritise. I can only do one thing at a time, so I choose the most important to do, do it well and only then move on to the next.
MN: It depends on the circumstances. Stay calm and focused, take 1 step at a time and ask for assistance if you need it.
LIH: What are the highlights of your career?
ST: Starting up my own consultancy business and now, co-founding Payroll Metrics.
MN: Delivering a payroll system from scratch is a great challenge, and to make it a commercially suitable application is an achievement.
LIH: What challenges all throughout your career did you encounter? How did you resolve them?
ST: I was blessed in having people believe in me and what I could deliver. Therefore, my career moved forward. Third parties/outsiders might have had a different view of me from time to time, but I believe those I had the privilege to work with changed their view of me!
MN: Dealing with personality issues can be challenging, especially when team members undermines your authority or make comments about showing favouritism. Be open to listen to complaints and criticisms, but also be firm and stand your ground.
LIH: What advice can you give to aspiring female leaders?
ST: People believe in you. That’s why you’re there! Do your job and do it well. Don’t waste time looking over your shoulder or being someone you think you should be. Be yourself and believe in yourself.
MN: Believe in yourself and lead by example.