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Women in Business Q&A: Pam Murphy, COO at Infor

08/08/2014 11:56 am ET | Updated Oct 08, 2014

Pam Murphy has been the Chief Operating Officer at Infor since October 2011. Prior to assuming that role, she served as Senior Vice President of Corporate Operations. She has been with Infor since December 2010.

Prior to Infor, she spent 11 years at Oracle Corporation, where she was responsible for a wide range of operational and financial functions which included running Global Sales Operations, running Consulting Operations for Europe, Middle East and Africa, and running Field Finance function for Oracle's Global Business Units.

Prior to Oracle, Pam was with Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen where she provided strategy, direction and counsel to existing and potential Clients.
Having held a variety of roles in Europe and America, her background includes extensive experience in field sales and consulting/professional services operations as well as deep operational experience in running global organizations. Pam earned her business and accounting degree from the University of Cork, Ireland and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I've had the opportunity to travel the world and live in multiple places throughout Europe, Asia Pacific and the U.S., and my ability to quickly adapt to new cultures, teams and companies has given me the insight I need to successfully lead employees around the world. Also, my trusted Irish accent doesn't hurt.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the COO of Infor?
I couldn't stress more that women should take on every challenge that presents itself in the business world. I didn't graduate college thinking I was going to go into software - but I couldn't be happier where I ended up. I took my first IT assignment as a graduate consultant in Dublin right after graduation. The technology industry was never something I imagined being a part of, and no one knew it would become such a booming and lucrative industry to be in. I quickly learned that hard work and dedication was the fastest way to move up - and after a two week project with Oracle turned into two years, I knew I found my calling. In that exciting period, I met my husband and moved to London with him, and started working at the company full-time.

Every Monday morning I found myself at Heathrow airport, bound for some country or other in Europe, Middle East or Africa until we moved to Silicon Valley in 2007 - where I moved to the role of VP for Finance and Operations at Oracle. When the opportunity with Infor came about in 2010, I couldn't turn it down. As a family we decided to stay in California, but Manhattan is now my close second home.

By being open to new places, new adventures and working with new people, I was able to open a lot of doors for myself. There is no need to map your life out. It can be scary for a woman, or anyone for that matter, to move away from friends and family, but you have to rely on your strengths and constantly challenge yourself to do more, to be more, and you'll start seeing results. At the end of the day, if I can't trust my own decisions, how are others supposed to look up to me and trust the ones I make for them and the company?

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
To be honest, it's tough. And it's something I am always working to be better at. It's natural to want to have it all - an exciting career and a family life - but helping run a company comes with long hours, lots of travel and more emails than you can imagine. However, I have found ways to make time for myself, my husband, my daughter, friends and family... and occasionally a DVR'ed episode of Downtown Abbey. I really enjoy what I do and if you like your job, work can be a source of fun, too.

I love walking into our New York office, you can practically feel the high energy, but being part of such a fast-paced industry and culture comes the need to take an hour or two to unplug and unwind. If I can take a long break, I usually try to head back to Europe with my family, but tennis and skiing are also other great ways to get some me time.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Infor?
An immediate highlight is working next to our brilliant executive team. When we all joined in 2010 a new energy buzzed throughout the organization, we were ready to take on our competitors and change the face of enterprise software. We had a few hurdles we wanted to overcome - the first would be recruiting new teams. We got right to work and hired hundreds of new developers and staff. Our employees are the cornerstone of who we are, so bringing in the right talent was critical to our success. The second was really changing the perception of our company. We were no longer a grouping of acquired companies - we were the third largest enterprise software provider and had a vision that would be game changing. Over the past year we've delivered an innovative approach to architecture, a new beautiful view to software and social capabilities that change the way people work. It's exciting to be part of the team who put these plans into motion and watch as the industry takes note of our growth and innovation and views us as an increasingly formidable competitor.

What advice can you offer women seeking a career in business technology?
Women in technology, or any other industry, need to stay confident in their decisions and ideas, and should not to be intimidated by the number of male counterparts they work alongside. Everyone's heard of a woman's intuition - but it's true - some of the best ideas, innovations and products come from those wanting to be disruptive and trust their instincts.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women need to be bigger risk takers when it comes to work. I could have stayed in finance right when I graduated college, but instead I decided to take my career growth head-on and accept new and challenging opportunities that took me around the world. I knew there was a possibility that I could fail, or I wouldn't like it, but I was confident in myself and my decisions and knew that that's all I needed to be successful.

When I joined Infor it was a complete risk. This was a private software company that not a lot of people knew about, so I had to have faith in Charles Phillips and myself, and take a calculated risk that things would work out. Doing something just because you are comfortable with it, or it seems easy, is selling yourself short. Taking on new challenges and all the risks that come with it - that's how you get ahead.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I have a lot of respect for Sheryl Sandberg, her book has ignited a much larger discussion on the topic of women in the workplace. Sheryl did a great job of bringing these issues forward with her own views on getting females a seat at the proverbial table. Especially in the technology industry, the number of women leaders is much smaller, and that's something that I aim to change at Infor, and I hope changes in general. Letting women know that it's okay, and encouraged, to be ambitious.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Me personally, I've never had a formal mentor. I've been able to look up to both successful men and woman who have challenged the way that I think about problems and business issues, but I have also learned tremendous amounts from people who report in to me. I believe that you can learn something new from anyone, at any level, in your organization or network. For example, Infor just recently launched the Women's Infor Network, which gives the female staff at all levels at our organization an opportunity to meet locally and engage in open discussions on important issues in the workplace from a female perspective.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
It has to be my mother. She was extremely dedicated, and at a young age I wanted to mirror her work ethic and sense of values.

What are your hopes for the future of Infor?
That we continue to operate like the world's largest startup - we stay nimble and fast. That we recognize where the market is heading and we get there first. Our innovation is what sets us apart, and what we've done in the three years I have been here has been electric. We want to change the way people work, and interact with business software, and are continuously proving ourselves to customers and the industry that we are generating big ideas that will shape the way business technology is used and viewed.