Lead(H)er: Sarah Hill, Director of Project Management and Proposals at Eze Software
“I love the people that I work with and the people I work for,” Hill said. “It’s such a great place to be, and I really can’t say that enough. There have definitely been some bumps in the road, but I am just so happy to be at this company.”
Over the course of 15 years at Eze Software, Hill has worked her way up from QA analyst to her current role as Director of Project Management and Proposals. Her department is the go-between for engineering and product, and Hill sits at mission control. She helps manage scrum masters, program and portfolio managers, and operations within the company’s Boston and Hyderabad offices. The data that Hill’s team collects is used to determine where each team and program can grow and which resources are needed for the best results.
Hill discovered her passion for project management early in her career. She initially considered product management and took on a business analyst role created for her within that department, where part of her work entailed answering requests for proposals. When it came time to choose between a new role in project management or one in commission management, Hill chose the former.
“I was managing a team at that point, and I realized that I loved helping people,” she said. “I loved growing people’s careers and finding out their strengths and weaknesses to help them thrive within the company.”
Hill took on various project management roles from then on and now oversees the entire project management division, which includes a system of program managers for each of Eze Software’s product offerings, a team of scrum masters, a portfolio manager, and an operations team.
Hill’s career hasn’t been without its challenges. However, as she likes to remind her team, there’s an opportunity in each one. Throughout her tenure, Eze Software has made the switch from Waterfall to Agile and gone through several acquisitions, the most recent one by SS&C, and each change has brought its own personnel and leadership changes.
“We’ve grown significantly from when I first started, but one of the things that we continue to do really well is trying to maintain that small company feel as much as possible,” Hill said.
To that end, the company supports a large number of committees focused on employee interests like company culture, community service, women’s empowerment, allyship, and environmental issues. They’re one of the many things that Hill appreciates when it comes to connecting employees across more than just their work.
Over the next year, Hill is working to make connections of her own that will ensure her team’s success. She’s hoping to make her team’s voice heard as a member of the research and development team, and she’s also looking for ways to bridge the gap created by time zones and physical distance with the Hyderabad office.
“I’ve been reaching out to some of the other companies within SS&C to really understand what their processes look like and see what we can learn from each other,” Hill said.
On a personal level, Hill is working on her public speaking skills to ensure that she’s always representing her team and the company she loves in the best way possible.
“This place just has a very special spot in my heart,” she said.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love spending time with my family. I have a six-year-old, a dog, and a husband, and we spend all of our time together. I love beach walks with the family and any sort of nature or outdoor activities that we can do together.
How do you manage stress?
I went to a stress workshop recently where I identified various trigger points, which helps me understand when my body is starting to react negatively to situations. When I realize that I’m getting to that point, I try to step away and take deep breaths. I try to never respond immediately when I’m stressed. I always try to put things in perspective, recognize the triggers, and only respond when I’m in a clear state of mind. I also go to a chiropractor -- that might help, too.
How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Two -- one before I leave the house, and then one as soon as I get to work. That’s it. Because if I have any more I’ll be up all night. They’re very strong coffees.
What’s one of your favorite places in Boston?
That’s a tough one! I would say the Freedom Trail, but I spend a lot of time at the Children’s Museum.
What do you consider one of your greatest accomplishments?
My greatest accomplishment so far is building up the PMO team within the company. It’s been the most rewarding thing by far. I’m so close to the team I work with, and we’ve created a sense of family within the company. It’s a challenge to go through the hiring process, but finding the right candidates that work well and then identify opportunities that play to their strengths and coach them through weaknesses has been amazing. As I’ve watched my own career grow over time, I've been able to watch the team's careers grow and coach them as well. I am a stickler for poor performance, and I won't tolerate it because I think that it has an impact on the team dynamic as a whole. It's been really important to have difficult conversations as soon as possible and taking coaching opportunities so that the team feels empowered and comfortable making the right choices that are really going to help their careers and help the team. We definitely can do more together than individually, so it's really been great working with such motivated and passionate and smart individuals.
If you talk to my boss, he'll tell you that I'm like a mama bear protecting her cubs at all times. I am protective of my team, but I also will do whatever I need to do to make sure that the team is getting the feedback that they need so that they can continue to grow and improve. It's really why I made the decision to go into to follow the people management course.
Is this where you saw yourself ending up 10 years ago?
I never set out to work for a tech company. When I graduated from college, I wanted to be a famous actress, but I can’t act to save my life -- I moved to L.A. for three months and decided it was not for me. So I came back and moved out to Boston on a whim, and this company just reached out to me. I thought I would end up in finance, but I’m so incredibly happy with the choices I’ve made along the way. I can’t imagine what life would look like if I had gone in a different direction.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
I would say that it's really important to be yourself. I was so nervous when I came into the interview here. I met with the CEO during my second interview, and I never met a CEO before, so I had this huge picture in my head of what this person would be like. I felt so under-qualified. I had just graduated from college. I knew how to use computers, but I wasn't an expert and I didn't take a lot of computer science classes. The CEO could see my nerves, and he was so nice and told me to just relax. We stopped talking about the company and started talking about his family and our values. I wound up getting the job, but believing in yourself and being confident can take you so far. It’s also important to be open-minded about different opportunities and find opportunities that really match your skill set, so work to identify your strengths and find opportunities that align with them.
Images courtesy of Sarah Hill and Eze Software