Pip White of Slack discusses the challenges of going hybrid, how more flexible work could boost diversity, and her path into the world of software.
Pip White is senior vice-president and general manager of EMEA at Slack – the messaging app that provides services for businesses such as BT, Man Group, HSBC, Vodafone, Monzo and Deliveroo.
Based in the UK, White has held several senior positions in the tech sector. Before joining Slack last year, she was Google Cloud’s managing director for the UK and Ireland and she also held senior leadership roles at Salesforce.
‘One way organisations can really make an impact and level the playing field is by listening to what employees want and by offering increased flexibility’
– PIP WHITE
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
One of the biggest challenges we’re seeing across all industries is how we can make hybrid work for every business. There are key mindset shifts needed for business leaders – for example, embracing flexibility and actively avoiding proximity bias – but the right digital toolkit is also essential.
With hybrid work likely to become the norm, it’s crucial that businesses don’t rely on outdated and siloed communication methods like email. This cannot be the default going forward, as not only will workers feel more disconnected and out of the loop, but new joiners won’t get up to speed quickly.
Companies that want to thrive in the new reality of work need to introduce a ‘digital HQ’ that serves as the main hub for collaboration, communication and connection between teams, wherever they are. At Slack we’ve built this digital HQ, that any business can use, to overcome this problem.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
At Slack, we offer businesses the ability to do three things: break down silos, empower employees to succeed from anywhere, and automate work for everyone.
Channel-based messaging available through Slack allows businesses to organise conversations for every topic, project and initiative, making day-to-day collaboration across teams simpler and more productive. This way of working encourages greater transparency compared to email. Slack also allows organisations to extend collaboration beyond the walls of their businesses, with external partners or customers for instance, via Slack Connect.
As hybrid working becomes the norm, Slack also empowers employees to work from anywhere. For example, Slack Huddles gives teams a digital-first way to brainstorm, solve time-sensitive issues, and chime in on projects without scheduling meetings, so work keeps flowing uninterrupted.
Another sector opportunity Slack is capitalising on is giving businesses the tools to automate tasks with ease. In fact, 80pc of workflows built in Slack are created by non-developers. We want businesses to realise the productivity gains they’re missing by making it easy for teams to compose reusable no-code workflows, right where they’re already working in channels.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
Honestly, I didn’t plan to land in software. I started my career in marketing, which led me to a role in an advertising agency, working on campaigns for some of the biggest tech brands. This experience opened up a new world to me. From this job, an opportunity to work for a tech vendor and build a sales career arose, which was the starting point for my journey into software.
What helped me? Staying inquisitive, actively looking for opportunities to open up new possibilities for learning and development, staying humble and focusing on being a multiplier for talent.
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I was 24 when I walked out of marketing and into a tech vendor – I was just going on a hunch that this was something I could do, but really I had no idea. There were also plenty of people who were warning me off the move, but I’m glad I ignored them, as I now love my job helping thousands of customers across EMEA optimise for hybrid working.
What one work skill do you wish you had?
I would like to learn more languages! It’s so rewarding leading a diverse, multicultural team across EMEA, and I’d love to be able to collaborate with them in different ways.
How do you get the best out of your team?
This is something I think about all the time as I truly believe it is essential to leadership. I take the time to continually take the pulse of my team to, for instance, listen to what motivates each individual. Everyone is unique and it’s important for me to create an environment in which every individual and team can do their best work and feel part of our mission.
At Slack, we try to have fun along the way and our goal to make work life simpler, more pleasant and more productive is as true for our customers as it is for our own team.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector? What’s needed to be more inclusive?
From navigating the challenges of being a working mother myself, I know how important inclusivity measures are to employee experience. The current shift towards a digital-first world offers a great opportunity for businesses to redesign work and integrate diversity, equity and belonging throughout their policies and practices.
One way organisations can really make an impact and level the playing field is by listening to what employees want and by offering increased flexibility. Our Future Forum research reveals that the desire for flexibility is particularly strong among those who have historically been underrepresented in knowledge work, such as women and people of colour. The schedule and location flexibility myself and the team are afforded at Slack has made it so much easier to balance other priorities in life.
Firms also have a responsibility to evaluate how they can redesign workplaces, not only to enhance belonging and social connection when employees gather in person, but so everyone feels they can be heard in a safe space.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
I am an avid book reader, here are my top three right now:
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- The Way of the Tortoise by Matt Little
- The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
Slack of course! The other is my water rower – it’s a new purchase and I love taking 20 minutes out to go and listen to a Spotify playlist whilst rowing away. It also helps me when I am struggling to think through a problem or need some inspiration.
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