Susanne Pugsley’s highly successful career trajectory has been defined by the professional and personal commitments she has consistently honoured.
In this episode of Leaders with Ambition, we learn how this dynamic mentor and pioneer in the area of legal marketing carved out a niche that was anything but foregone. As she explains to Host Nicky Acuna Ocana, the first critical career decision Susanne made was to change course when her vision of becoming a Lawyer proved not to be the right fit. We learn about what it looks like to stay nimble, adapt to evolving opportunities and always remain true to oneself.
Having worked as a NED, BD and Marketing Consultant, Susanne recalls the challenge to establish credibility within corporate legal environments that haven’t traditionally deployed digital and other communications strategies. She also reflects on career highs and lows and offers advice for anyone in search of that elusive work-life balance.
A fulfilling, engaging career journey such as Susie’s is a constant work in progress, which is why she recommends we continually evaluate our goals, articulate our value propositions and boldly embrace our priorities. As for Impostor Syndrome and missteps? Those are to be expected, she says: “Never fear failure. You will learn so much more from your failings than your successes.” In Susie’s case, we are talking about lessons learned both in her professional services leadership and through her fascinating experience serving with the Territorial Army, including a transformational stint in Bosnia. Enjoy this in-depth conversation and the actionable takeaways/resources it yields.
A discussion of childhood influences that have shaped Susie’s ethics, commitment to education, giving back and balancing work-family interests.
Upon understanding that a career in law wasn’t her calling, Susie reoriented towards marketing/PR, which quickly revealed itself as a passion.
Joining the Territorial Army, why the military made a good fit temperamentally and her extraordinary, affecting experience serving in Bosnia.
Inspired by personal goals and an understanding that at a certain point “charity begins at home,” Susie pivoted towards technology at the height of the volatile dot.com bubble.
A bit surprisingly, Susie found an opportunity at Norton Rose to be a tremendous fit and never looked back, winning awards for her cutting-edge use of digital marketing.
Regarding the generational shift that has moved the concept of marketing in the legal sector from illegal to somewhat “distasteful” to essential.
What it looked like to inhabit the linear corporate structure within which Susie had to acquire authority and measurable strategic (as well as operational) results.
The importance of deploying metrics that render marketing results tangible and outcomes clear.
Walking the Walk
After years of preaching the virtues of networking, Susie’s consulting work reminded her of just how important it is to connect with the right decision-makers.
It is important to note that networking isn’t random. It’s focused, deliberate and goal-oriented.
Family First is a core value and Susie recognised that the piecemeal nature of consulting might not be the best fit in terms of continuity and planning as a mother.
Making It Work
Susanne pioneered remote work by focusing on outcomes rather than the timing or number of hours worked. New technologies have accelerated adoption.
Soul Searching - consulting is a trial-and-error experience that requires ongoing self-reflection and adjustment based on personal strengths and goals.
Susie reflects on the differing tasks for change agents working with larger versus mid-market (and generally nimbler) law firms.
Mentoring Mums - taking a step back doesn’t necessarily equate with a reduction of work, hours or dedication. So be sure not to undervalue yourself or your value prop!
What Partners Really Want
Deliverables! Hone in on very specific goals and then overdeliver on the mission.
About finding your own business philosophy – based on an aggregate of thought leadership and personal experience/observation.
Susie explains how personal development can be achieved through various means and why it’s important to identify how you personally learn and grow most effectively.
Impostor Syndrome? Yes! Of course! Anyone who says they’ve never suffered from it is either a) lying or b) self-confident to the exclusion of self-awareness.
A Seat at the Table: Susie asserts herself by leaning into her natural problem-solving orientation and direct persona. She’s been told she’s “scary” but doesn’t see it!
Susanne's Career Highlights
Failing and coming back with more depth of knowledge and strength.
Being made redundant and in the long run having it be the best possible thing!
Morphing and changing as circumstances evolve.
Working to live, rather than the reverse.
Finding work that is fully engaging and life-enhancing.
Mentoring and giving back in a personal and charitable context.
Modelling a full and equal domestic partnership with her husband.
Maintaining a family-first orientation.
Susanne's Career Challenges
Underwriting child care costs.
Suffering guilt about levels of commitment at home and at work.
Taking time off and seeing how quickly networks can erode and vanish.
Staying “out there” and keeping up a relevant social media profile.
Juggling demands coming from many different directions.
Words of Wisdom
"You don’t have to do what everyone else does. Find your own path!"
"Don’t be afraid to try different avenues in searching for your path."
"Don’t worry if you fail. It’s how you learn!"
"While debt is frightening, just keep going in the pursuit of your right fit!"
“(As a military leader) you have to motivate and inspire and encourage but you also have to make incredibly difficult decisions which will have a direct bearing on the lives of the people working for you.”
“I joined (legal marketing) at a time when it was still only 12 years since it had been illegal to do any marketing in the law… so you’re still working with a generation of Partners who didn’t feel it was right.”
“A job title doesn’t necessarily give you the power and (legal) corporates are much more linear and much more distinct. You know who’s in charge.”
“There is a tendency in Marketing to measure outputs, not outcomes.”
“Never forget that as a service department, and as a consultant by corollary, your client is the internal client as well – and who has the gift of the work?”
“When Covid happened and everything else, nothing changed for me really because I’ve always worked this way and been remote part of the time.”
“My USP (unique selling proposition) has always been that I am a change manager. I am an agent for change.”
“You must retain value in who you are or no one else will value you. You have to believe in yourself first and know the threshold you won’t go below.”
“Assimilate as much knowledge as you can in other people’s thinking, and then create your own.”
“Never fear failure. You will learn so much more from your failings than your successes.”
“I think now it’s accepted and expected that men have joint ownership a lot of the time for making the family work. It’s the right thing, but it’s hard.” (Nicky)
“You’ve got to know what’s important to you and for me family always comes first.”
“Lots of juggling happening all the time and a few plates dropped along the way, which is perfectly normal.” (Nicky)
About Susanne Pugsley
Susanne Pugsley provides pragmatic and practical business development, communications and marketing services to law firms and accountancy practices. She has had a long career in BD strategy and audit, CRM selection and implementation, sector programmes, key account management, events strategy and delivery and coaching and training of all levels of professional. Susanne has worked in the Professional Services sector, predominantly legal and accounting since 2000. Her earlier Marketing career was in the Technology, Social Housing and Charity sectors. Alongside a successful corporate career Susanne also spent 15 years in the Territorial Army with a period serving overseas with the regular Army. She retired in 2007 after her final post of training both regular and reserve forces in Aldershot.
About Nicky Acuna Ocana
Nicky has led high performing recruitment teams for over 20 years. As the Regional Managing Director of Ambition UK, Europe and US, she leads a team of highly-skilled recruitment consultants who are experts in their niche specialist areas.