What I've Learnt: Laura Butler, VP of Marketing, Summize
Laura Butler joined the team at Summize in 2022 as VP of Marketing, having held previous senior marketing positions at a number of fast-growth tech businesses.
Manchester-based Summize, which was founded in 2018, is a digital contracting software business for the legal sector with a headcount of 30.
Prior to joining Summize, Butler previously spearheaded the marketing strategy for a number of high-growth software companies including AppLearn, Apadmi and Avecto. She now leads Summize’s marketing strategy and execution as the business moves quickly from start-up to scale-up.
We found out all the lessons she’s learnt throughout her career...
Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?
Fresh air! Making time for a walk to reset the brain is so important to me. I go out for a break every day, even if is just 15 minutes round the block when working from the office in Spring Gardens. I work from home twice a week so during this time I make sure to take the dog out for a walk. Those moments of fresh air are just as important as other bits on the daily to do list for me.
What's been your luckiest break?
Getting my content marketing job at Avecto in 2013. I’d recently moved house and would take walks to a business park right nearby. I hadn’t heard of the company at the time, but after near-daily walks through the business park I decided to take the plunge and apply for a job there. That pluckiness served me in good stead during my time there. I went on experience a true global growth journey through to Avecto’s acquisition by BeyondTrust five years later in 2018 – a very proud moment for me and a fantastic career experience.
I joined the business at such an exciting time of its growth and there was such a buzz about the place, and I try to emulate this in my own leadership style now. It’s why I love working for Summize; to join a business on such a rapid growth trajectory is so energising, I feel that buzz when I walk into the office all over again.
What's your best failure?
At 18 I had six university offers and decided last minute to decline them all. I thought I’d rather gain work experience and start earning and I’ve never looked back. Everyone said you couldn’t have a career in media without a degree, and yet I landed a job as the sole journalist at a local newspaper and that was a brilliant kick start to commercial PR and later, content marketing. I’m a massive advocate for different learning paths and routes into industries. Whilst it’s not a ‘failure’ to not go to university I still think prejudices exist and it’s really important to keep encouraging freedom of choice and what’s right for the individual.
What is the best investment you've ever made, either financial or time?
Whilst working in junior marketing roles, I did two years of night school to gain my Chartered Institute of Marketing qualifications. It was a big commitment, working full time then having a quick sandwich on the way to college ahead of an evening of studying, two nights a week. But it was without a doubt worth it, as I gained valuable practical and academic experience during that time and I’m forever grateful to my younger self for persevering.
Which book would you recommend others to read and why?
Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed, for sure. The book is all about marginal gains and continuous improvement and it’s really stuck with me in my working routines. You can go round in circles with all the business books out there, but Black Box Thinking focuses on real life examples of best practice from key players in the business and sporting world. It’s brilliant.
What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Don’t be so serious! Your twenties are about being as care-free as you can. Taking risks is all part of the process but making sure you enjoy yourself is one of the most important things. Worrying less and just enjoying the ride is key at such a young age. It’s something that I’ve taken into my thirties, especially encouraging myself to do a fair bit of solo travelling from beach breaks in Ibiza, ski holidays on my own and even a trip to Jordan.
It’s a great way of getting to know yourself and becoming comfortable in your own company, building confidence, and just throwing yourself into new things. So, with the hindsight, I would encourage my 21-year-old self to never let circumstances get in the way of having the experiences you want and do more solo travelling.
Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?
I would have to say my dad. From a young age, he’s incentivised hard work and high performance which has motivated me throughout my life. He had a career in technology and sales (he was one of the first people to own a mobile phone!) so it feels like a full circle moment working for an innovative technology company like Summize. I feel really proud to have followed in his footsteps to a certain extent.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
Earlier on in my life I actually thought I’d become an actress. I received a letter that I performed in the top five in the country for GCSE drama… but I never ended up seriously pursuing it as a career. Though I never quite ended up on Coronation Street like I once anticipated, I do think all those years of drama in school gave me a great amount of confidence and communication skills in later life. Every cloud!
How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?
COVID has forced a modernisation of the way everybody works which I think is so important. The hybrid model offers flexibility and balance that is needed for a happy team and productive output – COVID made us really appreciate human contact, but equally forced some quieter time which worked really well as a balance for me. Now, I work from the office three days a week, and this is when I try and do most of my meetings – it’s always great to collaborate and communicate in person with the team. On my working from home days, I try to take fewer meetings/calls, and give myself the time to focus on longer tasks and more strategic projects without so many distractions.
Everybody works differently, but I think the hybrid model is a real benefit to all companies. The Summize culture is built around the principles of continuous improvement and growth, respecting each other and working as one team - with a competitive spirit and will to win. That’s why it’s great to have those moments in the office where we all collaborate and bounce off one another, and creating an environment where people want to be back in the office and really enjoy it. For any business, communication is key and the pandemic has offered us more varied ways to communicate, be it on Teams or a brainstorm in the office.
What does success look like to you?
What I’ve learnt over the years is that success is about enjoying the journey. To me, this means feeling like you’re making a difference, wanting to be in work every day, and feeling proud of what you’re a part of. I have a history working for fast-growth companies and I think it’s so important to not just focus on the end result for these businesses, it’s about enjoying the small things that make up the bigger picture.
You need to have that sense of a North Star to know where the business is going, without a doubt, but to me success looks like fully immersing yourself and enjoying the day-to-day so that you can look back and say “I was part of that.” It’s great to experience this all over again at Summize, we have our macro aims for the business, but I’m surrounded by a great team of passionate and talented people who really embrace the day to day journey we are all on and celebrate the wins (and learnings!) along the way.