Women in Digital: Andrea Babbs

Andrea Babbs, country manager and head of sales for VIPRE Security, on how the need for social interaction shaped her career – and the impact of coronavirus safety measures on her team, partners and customers

Posted 30 November 2020 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

For the majority of my time there, yes, but probably more for the social interaction rather than the education! I am a person who likes to challenge things and interact with people, so sitting in one place for long periods of time became harder as I got older and progressed through my academic career. I think my enjoyment of socialising and interacting with people is the reason I ended up doing well in sales.

What qualifications do you have?

While doing my A Level courses, I received an unconditional offer to university. However, two months before taking my final exams I decided I didn’t want to go to university so joined the circus instead – true story. Even then I couldn’t avoid education as they pushed me into NVQs for business administration and customer service.

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or combination of both?

Luckily quite smooth but very varied, especially at the start. I fell into cybersecurity sales 20 plus years ago and have never looked back. The move from direct sales into channel sales really showed me that this was the right path for me. I have started two successful UK and Ireland partner programmes and now head up the VIPRE UK and Ireland sales team as well as acting as the country manager for the UK. I am very lucky to be able to say that I love my job and the people I work with.

What’s the best career advice you can give to others?

If you are lucky enough to find something you enjoy, find ways to make it work long term. Bringing it back to the bit of school I did enjoy – the social side, moving into sales as an adult allowed me to get that social interaction I needed with a variety of different people at different levels every day. Sales meant that I didn’t have to sit at a desk all day every day, I would be on the road meeting customers and partners one day, at a trade show the next day and on the phone in the office the next day. That variety in my job kept me interested and engaged.

If you are not enjoying your work and you can’t facilitate change where you are right now, be prepared to try something different.

If you had to pick one mentor who has had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

There are many and I can only get this down to two, not one – the sales director and CEO of the first cybersecurity company I joined all those years ago. To this day I still value the sales training foundation that they instilled in me. Having a CEO with such belief in the company and the people working for him, motivated me to deliver everything I was capable of delivering. For anyone who knows who I’m talking about – “keep it real people”.

From where do you draw inspiration?

From my own experience and the people around me.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date?

I have to say becoming a mum and everything that brings with it. My daughter turned 17 this year and one of the biggest challenges, even now, is dealing with the work-life balance. I think every parent can relate to that and how hard it is to give 100 percent of yourself to family and work; something always has to give and I have learned over the years not to beat myself up about it and just do the best I can to keep everything moving forward. So far, it’s worked!

What qualities do you feel make a good leader?

Humour is key for me as well as respecting the people who work for you. Patience and honesty also come into play. Your team need to be able to trust you to do the right thing by them and the business needs to understand that not everything can happen right now, so a little bit of patience and trust go a long way to making the impossible possible in the best timescales for everyone.

From a work viewpoint what has 2020 been like for you so far?

Surprisingly consistent. We were in a fortunate position that transitioning to working from home was relatively effortless. Everyone in our office already had that capability. I’ve been concerned about the impact for our partners on managing this process for their customers and can only hope our services and support have helped ease this transition for them. Like many, in the beginning it felt like an escape from day to day reality having the luxury of working from home, but as a very social team, reality kicked in rather quickly and we’ve all been pulling together to ensure we remain as close-knit and supportive of each other as always, but from a safe distance.

What do you feel is the greatest cybersecurity challenge we face today?

Something we are talking about a lot at the moment is helping our customers, partners and their clients remain secure while needing to be agile. Businesses and their end users have had to move from the office, to home working then back to the office and now back home again. Our portfolio of protection really helps with this and ensures that end users are safe, secure, informed and covered whether they are in the office or working from home – everyone has the same level of security. I believe that cloud-based cybersecurity has really played a big part in keeping everything running over the last six months.

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.

If you ask the people around me at work, they would say I’m too open about recounting tales from my youth; but what most people might not know, is the role reading plays in keeping me sane. Reading is my escape but unfortunately an elusive luxury nowadays.

My favourite book is Mort by Terry Pratchett. It still makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, especially a section of the book that really highlights how your brain compartmentalises seemingly impossible or unpleasant tasks to make them more palatable and achievable. Another favourite is a Christmas Carol and the reason for that is it gives me hope.

Andrea Babbs is country manager and head of sales for VIPRE Security