As part of the 8th March International Women's Day, we want to highlight the women working at all levels at AluK. Meet Sarah Taylor, she is our Customer Services Manager. We've prepared an interview where she shares her experience in this industry as a woman.
Can you share a little bit about yourself and your work at AluK?
My name is Sarah Taylor, I currently manage the Customer Service team and have 8 direct reports. My team oversee everything from sales order entry to processing returns and handling Complaints. I am a passionate leader and I look to empower my team by coaching and developing their current skill set. Outside of work, I am a married mum of two, and we also have a pet pug called Percy. I love to travel and do so as much as I possibly can. My family are my motivation and I work to make my children proud.
What influenced you to pursue a career in the aluminium/building industry?
If I am completely honest I fell into the role. I have a strong banking background, having been a Bank Manager for 6 ½ years and found myself at a crossroads. The position became available in Customer Service, then three months later my current role.
What do you like most about your job?
We are exceptionally lucky to not only work in the building we do but also the people within the organisation. I am exceptionally proud of the team I have built. My team work hard every day to ensure we produce the best customer outcomes. The thing that I most enjoy about working is how I can influence change for the positive. I feel I have had an impact on the work that is produced as well as the way in which we work. I love the fact that I come to work and I have another family that not only supports one another but also encourages each other to be better
What is your biggest accomplishment in your career so far?
Leaving my previous organisation was a huge step for me, I left a role that I was comfortable and confident in where people would seek me out for guidance. I moved to a role where I had very little knowledge, all I knew was how to get the best from people. I have successfully managed to fill some of my knowledge gaps, and I continue to work at building my knowledge and skillset to benefit the team
What else would you like to achieve in your career?
For my personal growth, I would like to be the best version of myself I can be, I am looking to further my education to support this. The end goal is to have full oversight of the Customer Service Team, my goal is to be a Director. Retirement for me is years away so I have time on my side!
How do you balance career & family?
My life is extremely hectic, I am very lucky to have amazing and supportive parents. My husband is in the forces so is away more than he is home. I have to be organised, I have to plan as if it’s not in my diary it won’t happen! I spend time on a weekend planning and making meals for the week, and organising where the children need to be and at what times. I quite enjoy being busy but when I stop I sleep.
Aluminium is a field mainly dominated by men. Have you faced any obstacles in your career which you believe were due to be a woman? If so, how did you overcome this?
I do not believe that sex is a limitation. I believe one’s belief is the only limitation we work to. I am confident in my ability to be able to manage my team as effectively as possible. Although I do not have the knowledge of some male colleagues, this not down to the fact they are male but simply the experience they have in the industry and company. It is something I am working on and developing weekly. When dealing with customers I am always honest about what I know and what I don’t, I think they value honesty, I will then focus on what I can do as opposed to what I cannot.
In your opinions, what challenges women face in the aluminium/building industry?
Whether you are Male or Female you need to ensure your voice is heard. I believe you should empower people to voice concerns, and champion their suggestions. I think if we create a strong leadership culture of empowerment women will thrive in the industry. The industry is predominantly male however I haven’t come across anyone that wouldn’t take my thoughts into consideration purely because I am female. Be strong, be courageous and most of all speak your truth as you see it
What do you think is the best part of being a woman in the aluminium/building industry?
I love a challenge, to gain and keep my attention I need to be stimulated. I like that I can influence the softer side of the business, and also have the opportunity to challenge change. I look forward to the day when I can say that customers are happy with the experience they receive from us, not just achieving OTIF but the communication and the service they receive is second to none.
What woman has influenced you most in your life and/or career?
A few years ago, when I decided I wanted to be a leader I looked for and found a mentor. My mentor was a chief of finance for South Wales Police. She was strong, intelligent and an advocate of women in business. When I met with her we worked on what we thought would make the biggest difference to my career. At the time I struggled with confidence and the ability to speak publicly. Together we decided to work on my personal brand and what I said about me, and what people would think when they met me. I have over the years built my confidence so that I believe in my ability to solve and look for a resolution. I want to be the best version of me I can be and for my children to be proud. I can overcome anything I just need to stop, think what is the best way to solve this and then commit to my actions. I know there is no such thing as a good plan unless we can adapt. This is the belief that changed my career and my personal life. Over the years I have had some bad managers that have also influenced me and demonstrates what sort of leader I don’t want to be.
What advice would you give to a woman looking to start her career in the aluminium/building industry?
If you are looking to start a career in the aluminium industry take your time to ensure you invest in yourself and your own needs. Do not be scared to admit when you do not know what something means, be courageous and ask, there is no such thing as a silly question. Ensure you know your colleague’s and peer’s strengths and call upon these when needed. Do not be scared to challenge, look to continuously improve and propose new ideas. Most of all have the belief in yourself that you can achieve in any role that you seek to pursue
What do you think companies like AluK can do to encourage more women to choose careers in the aluminium/building industry?
Like any companies, I think it is imperative that we invest in our people. If a member of staff expresses an interest, and we have identified that this would be beneficial for the company with some training and development then this would be positive. I think that we should continue with the equal opportunities recruitment, whether male or female if they are the right fit this will only benefit our industry. I do however believe that if there are skills gaps that we should be identifying these in schools and university fares ensuring we sell the benefits of our industry and what it has to offer.