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Spotlight Series: Gill Mahon, Chief People & Places Officer, Totalmobile

Gill Mahon

ARTICLE SUMMARY

We sat down with the incredible Gill Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile Ltd, to talk all things female leadership, her career advice, role models and much more.

Gill Mahon, proudly serves as Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile Ltd, making history as the first woman to join the Board in 2021.

With a career steeped in leadership roles within recruitment and HR, Gill passionately champions authentic leadership and diverse workforces. Her mission is simple: she’s dedicated to making HR more approachable by ditching traditional jargon and helping people achieve success through authenticity. Gill’s expertise in the field of HR and recruitment has helped her to successfully navigate the challenges faced by both employees and employers alike. Her approachable and collaborative leadership style has been instrumental in fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity at Totalmobile, where she is committed to creating an environment where everyone can thrive. In addition to her work at Totalmobile, Gill is also a strong advocate for women in leadership and is dedicated to creating more opportunities for women to advance in their careers. Her passion for authentic and approachable leadership has inspired many, and she continues to be a role model for aspiring leaders around the world.

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How did you land your current role? Was it planned? 

I worked with our former CEO a decade ago and he called me out the blue to see if I would be interested in applying; I was fascinated to find out more. The opportunity to design a people function on a blank page was truly thrilling. Those opportunities don’t come around too often! Then I found out about the mission of the company “making the work and lives of mobile workers better” and heard some of our customer stories. Working in a software company that helps our customers, many of whom are in emergency services or in front line roles was so appealing. Knowing we were in a period of growth with ambitious plans was also exciting. Finally, I had the opportunity to meet some of the Totalmobile team and it was an obvious choice for me, I was sold!

What are the key roles in your field of work, and why did you choose your current expertise? 

I lead the People and Places function and on the ‘people’ side, my role involved working with the Leadership team to effectively ensure that we meet and beat our growth goals. I am a big believer that people leadership is about driving exemplary performance through people and that means we need a sound strategy to source, hire, onboard, develop and keep the right people for Totalmobile. We are unbelievably lucky to have a team of talented, passionate, and hard-working individuals and it’s my responsibility to create an exceptional environment where everyone can achieve their personal and professional goals. This vision is supported by my wonderful People team who help us work towards this goal every day.

For the ‘places’ part of my role, I look at our spaces, our remote working environments and the creation of interesting and inspiring spaces. Since Covid, the world of work has changed, and it’s difficult to find a one size fits all solution to this ongoing debate. So we give our employees choices. To work from home, or work from home and office, or to work full time from the office. We all come together as teams in our offices for meetings or learning, and we are changing our spaces to facilitate that.

I opted for this career path because we have the power to make a tremendous difference in people’s work lives if we get it right! Creating happy, professionally challenging and personally fulfilling environments is both fun and rewarding and drives impactful business results…what’s not to love!

Did you (or do you) have a role model in tech or business in general?

Yes, a man called Malcolm Kelly. An entrepreneur who built and grew a small hydraulic engineering company from scratch to an international company with over 350 employees. He also happened to be my dad! I inherited a lot from him, including my ambition, determination and energy, but one of the biggest lessons I learned from him was his absolute belief that people make a business successful. He was a massive advocate for “Investors in People” and was very proud of the Company accreditation. He supported his employees and in return had very low attrition. The people who began the journey with him and contributed to the growth and success were never forgotten, and they were deservedly recognised and rewarded for their efforts. I’m forever grateful to be reminded that simple actions can have a big impact.

What are you most proud of in your career, so far? 

My current role has been a career highlight for me. I’m incredibly proud of my people team and their achievements. They each embraced the journey I sold them on three years ago and they have wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to the incredible pace of change with unwavering commitment, hard work, and great humour (something I believe contributes to a great team!). Together, we have driven remarkable results across the business. I was also incredibly proud to be the first woman appointed to the Board at Totalmobile. I must confess to an imposter syndrome moment or two, but I have found this role to be facsincating and rewarding. I’m always delighted, and a bit surprised, to hear from young women that I have inspired. I am embarking on a mentoring programme this year so I can pay it forward and encourage other women to shoot for the stars.

What does an average work day look like for you? 

There is no average day currently. Every day is unique, which is why I love my job.. One day, I might be scouting new office locations, participating in management or development workshops, enhancing our HR strategy, implementing new software to improve the employee experience, or ensuring our team members are happy and motivated. On another day, I could be analysing data with our HRBP’s, brainstorming solutions to various issues, interviewing potential candidates, or introducing myself to new hires. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job that’s always changing, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. No two days are ever the same and I sometimes wonder how I got so lucky. 

Are there any specific skills or traits that you notice companies look for when you’re searching for roles in your field? 

More and more I think companies need the people function to be real business partners. Being data savvy is key to this. People’s actions and decisions can have a massive impact on stability in challenging times, and in capitalising on opportunities for growth and progress, so we need to keep our eye on the ball and stay focussed on impactful talent initiatives and tracking business metrics. It’s vitally important as People leaders that we are commercially and financially astute. At a recent event, someone asked if I see myself more as a HR person or a businessperson. The simple answer is I need to be both. 

Has anyone ever tried to stop you from learning and developing in your professional life, or have you found the tech sector supportive? 

I think if anyone tried to stop me from learning or developing, I wouldn’t last long in that environment! I have been very lucky with my experience in the tech sector. I learned the most in a software company where I worked for five years. I had a progressive manager and wonderful mentors and supporters. I was given so many opportunities to learn and they put enormous faith in me. They created room for me to take risks and, of course, to learn from mistakes. It was a period of great challenge and growth and I will forever be grateful for that experience and to those amazing leaders.

Have you ever faced insecurities and anxieties during your career, and how did you overcome them?

Yes, of course, and I still do! I think as a leader you have to learn to be super resilient and be able to take knocks occasionally. That can rock your confidence, but it’s all part of the package. I am better now at handling those situations because I will either talk them through with a trusted colleague (of which I am fortunate to have many) or I will put some mental armour on during tougher times. For me, it’s about being self-aware, understanding my strengths and weaknesses and being ok with that. I had a review recently with my boss and genuinely said some days I wonder how I got here! I think it’s just part of being human and that’s ok. I really believe that one of the greatest strengths you can have is to admit when something is getting to you and sharing it. It was of no surprise to me that many of my friends and colleagues share the same insecurities and there really is a comfort in that.

Entering the world of work can be daunting. Do you have any words of advice for anyone feeling overwhelmed? 

First, take a breath. Second, take your time. Third, embrace the wonderful world of choices. Sometimes, it takes a bit of time to find the right fit. Take some time to figure out the type of company you will be happy in, it’s ok to try different roles and companies. I wish I could say I had planned my every move, but I really didn’t. I moved with and for opportunities and embraced the adventure of work, new environments, and challenges. I understand that’s not for everyone, but work is a huge part of our lives, and you should always strive to find something that makes you happy.

What advice would you give other women wanting to reach their career goals in technology? 

So much! But if I had to narrow it down:

  1. Look for opportunities to do more or learn more at work and grab them. I have been really lucky to be given opportunities to learn as you go on several occasions, simply because I had the energy and enthusiasm to say I can do that! You may make some mistakes along the way, but you’re continuously learning and growing.
  2. Look for amazing female role models in your company and learn from them. Get involved in networking and be visible.
  3. Don’t get in your own way! Try things. If you fail it’s really ok. Have a positive mindset and try not to let insecurities stand in your way.
  4. If you get the opportunity, always support other females and pay it forward.
  5. If you lead, lead with empathy and enjoy it – be authentically you and not what you think a leader should be.
  6. Surround yourself with like-minded people. It never ceases to amaze me what can be achieved when people truly work together.

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