Group Corporate Communications Manager
Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc
Gemma Taylor joined the Spirax-Sarco steam business, part of Spirax-Sarco Engineering, as their UK Marketing Communications Manager. She is thriving within the company and has participated in their year-long leadership development programme (LEAP).
After increasing her skills and confidence via LEAP, Gemma was offered an exciting promotion while on maternity leave, and so returned to work in the new role of Group Corporate Communications Manager.
Returning to work can be challenging for any professional but, for Gemma, an extra spanner was thrown in the works as her return coincided with the UK entering lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social distancing rules and a lack of childcare options mean Gemma – like so many people – is temporarily working from home. Caring for a six-month-old baby while learning the ropes of a new job is no mean feat, so Where Women Work took the opportunity to hear how Gemma is managing her transition and how Spirax-Sarco is supporting her.
Gemma’s tips and her impressive career history serve as inspiration for further working parents, demonstrating that being both a productive employee and hands-on parent are possible, even in the most extreme of circumstances.
What attracted you to Spirax-Sarco Engineering?
I was impressed by the size and global spread of Spirax-Sarco. This was particularly attractive as it provided plenty of opportunities for career progression. Members of my family were already working at Spirax-Sarco before I applied, so I already knew from the inside just how great the company was to work for.
When you join Spirax-Sarco, it’s like joining a family. Everyone comments how welcoming and helpful its employees are. People genuinely care about each other’s wellbeing and are good at making time for one another.
I joined the company in the role of Marketing Communications Manager within Spirax-Sarco in the UK. After joining the company, my role became a regional one with responsibility for marketing communications across Northern Europe. In addition to this, I also have a keen interest in, and passion for, all things related to corporate social responsibility. As a result, I championed the development of the company’s volunteering policy, led the UK Charity Committee and engaged with local community organisations to discover ways in which our employees could support them.
What are your responsibilities, favourite elements and biggest challenges?
The Group Corporate Communications Manager role is a new addition to the department and so it is very much evolving at the moment. My core responsibilities include managing the delivery of a new Sustainability intranet site; reviewing, developing and implementing a crisis communications policy; creating and executing a Group social media policy; supporting the Head of Group Corporate Communications with half year and annual reporting; and acting as UK Community Engagement Champion. This is just to start with though, there will be many more responsibilities as time progresses.
My new role is providing me with the opportunity to learn new skills, dust off some old ones that haven’t been used for a while, and draw upon my experience to date to help progress or establish improved ways of working. I’m enjoying getting exposure to the wider business and the people within it. I’m constantly learning new things.
The most challenging aspect is definitely working from home with a baby in tow! To make it work, I am working longer days to make up time lost spent caring for my daughter. Aside from that, getting to grips with new terminology that I hadn’t been exposed to in my previous role and keeping relationships going with colleagues virtually takes my time.
“When you join Spirax-Sarco, it’s like joining a family. People genuinely care about each other.”
How has Spirax-Sarco’s LEAP program supported you?
During my time within Spirax-Sarco, I was fortunate enough to attend a number of training and development courses. Attending LEAP definitely opened the door for me to new opportunities. In terms of my promotion, it not only provided me with the opportunity to build a relationship with the individual who is now my manager but it also gave me the courage to take the role.
LEAP is a 12-month leadership programme for individuals within the business who have the potential to be the company’s leaders in the future. The programme challenges your thinking, builds your confidence and provides you with a set of tools to draw upon so you return to work fired up and ready to take those leaps that previously you may have hesitated about.
You enter the programme with a group of colleagues, many of whom you may never have previously spoken to. You leave the program with a network of trusted peers and, in some cases, strong friendships.
How were you supported by the company during maternity leave?
Support began from the moment that I notified the company about my pregnancy. Risk assessments were undertaken by my line manager in conjunction with myself to identify and adjust to any changes that surfaced. My well-being was definitely monitored throughout my pregnancy.
During maternity leave, I was left alone to enjoy my new baby – which was very much needed at the time. Most of the contact I had with the business was on a personal level and mostly instigated by me, mainly keeping in touch with colleagues and friends.
Due to the change in my role I didn’t really make use of keep-in-touch days, however the company does offer them which is great for keeping in the loop on business progress.
Becoming a mother has not hindered my progression in any way. The company was supportive of my journey to motherhood and has helped ensure a smooth return to work.
As a new parent, how are you managing your work-life balance?
As my role is new and therefore the workload is building, my manager was happy to accommodate my request for a phased return to full-time. This enabled me to return after 6 months’ maternity leave, gradually adjusting into work mode while still caring for my daughter who is still very dependent on me. The company recognises the importance of helping new mothers return to work and balance their family commitments.
How have you adapted to returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic?
I am fortunate that my husband (who also works for the company) and I had recently constructed a new home office that accommodates both of us working from home at the same time. We try as best as possible to schedule calls and meetings around each other so that one of us is always available to care for the baby. We are fortunate that our daughter is at an age where she can play independently for a while but is not yet mobile so is quite happy between us in a bouncer, walker or play gym. My manager is understanding of the balance between caring for the baby whilst working and is happy for me to work flexibly so that I can juggle both.
What’s your advice for further women seeking to work for Spirax-Sarco Engineering?Spirax-Sarco values the individual skills and experiences of its employees – so be yourself. Everyone has something different to bring to the company and we’re encouraged to constructively challenge opinions and decisions for the greater good.
The company recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and actively encourages it. The engineering sector has historically struggled to attract female talent but increasingly more women are joining Spirax Sarco at various levels.
What’s your top piece of career advice generally?
We spend a large portion of our lives at work, so make sure you are doing something that you enjoy, with people you enjoy working with.
Understand what truly motivates you and set yourself personal goals in line with this. To get a good idea of what really motivates you, take a look at your personal life first. What do you like to do in your spare time? Why do you enjoy doing these things? Equally, think about what you don’t like doing in your spare time? Why don’t you like doing these things? Then transfer these questions to your work life. What tasks do you like/dislike and why? Hopefully you will start to see one or more common themes appearing. Once you know what motivates you, not only can you think about the long-term with goals, but you can also be more effective at work by structuring your day around your motivations.
Finally, how do you relax outside of work?
I’m a sociable individual who likes getting to know people during activities. These days this often tends to be through parent and baby groups, but I also like to participate in yoga classes which I enjoy for both the well-being it provides as well as the social relationships with the group.
I believe a work-life balance is very important and luckily I find it quite easy on most days to switch off from work – however, practising yoga or getting lost in a good book does help.