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Boss Ladies Part Four: The Kiwi women thriving in the business industry

The fourth of our Boss Ladies series shines a light on Sam Ramlu, co-founder of creative tech studio Method and AR/VR, games studio M Theory.

Ramlu has a passion for creating experiences and stories that connect with audiences. With extensive knowledge in the creative tech industry, she has successfully planned and implemented a range of digital and integrated campaigns and experiences for leading New Zealand and global brands.

Here, we discuss with Ramlu the challenges of being a woman in business, advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs, and the stage that her business is at now.

Sam Ramlu, Co-Founder of Method and M Theory.

How did Method come about?

Method originally came about organically. While at our respective workplaces, a design studio and an ad agency, my partner Eugene and I saw an opportunity for a new breed of studio – one that showcased websites as beautiful interactive experiences rather than just the usual cookie cutter style. 

We started developing these websites for the companies we were at before realising there was a wider opportunity to start our own venture and create some world leading digital experiences that went beyond just the web. 

How do you juggle managing your business and looking after children and most likely a household?

Food delivery services are the secret to my success! Ha!

With a 7-year-old, a crazy dog, and leading a creative tech studio and a game studio, life can be pretty hectic. 

My partner and I typically manage to balance most of the household chores but day to day women do tend to do the lioness’s share. With days fairly full of meetings, calls and time put aside for the team and managing projects I find my own to-do list tends to be the last thing to get looked at and typically only after my son’s gone to sleep.

PC (pre-Covid) I was able to call on my parents to fly over from Sydney to help out over school holidays or I was able to travel there and work while my son hung out with them. The inability to do so now has been probably the toughest thing over the last 18 months. 

However, I’ve also had to do a lot less travel and can work from home and run a lot of meetings virtually so that’s helped ease some of the loss of family support. We were able to see them for the first time in a long time in April and that was awesome. We’re lucky to have them and my son adores them. 

I make sure I always carve out some one-on-one time with my son every day and we love to play, act silly, go to the park, read, play games or even just hunker down on the couch watching one of his shows – some days are better than others but it’s definitely something I don’t want to sacrifice too much of.

I am trying to make more time for myself which is always a struggle and more so my own fault than anyone else’s! I think this is something that comes up time and time again as being a really important factor of our mental health and wellbeing.

What stage is your business at now?

We call these our ‘teenage years’. 

Method is 18 now and just when we think we’ve figured it all out life throws a few spanners our way. We’ve done some growing and we may not be the cute new kid on the block but there’s solid structure and foundation to our business with amazing potential for the future with a few different paths we could follow. 

I think, like any 18 year old, direction and focus is key. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to ensure we’re growing and innovating in this space while continuing to deliver awe-inspiring experiences across creative technology. 

We are such a unique business and not just in our market but also internationally. There aren’t many studios which can create beautiful websites alongside games and AR/VR experiences. But, at the heart of it we’re simply creating beautiful stories and experiences that connect with audiences so we want to ensure we retain our edge. 

It’s been really important for us to build a team and culture that values success but not at the expense of people’s wellbeing. The last couple of years have been a focus on getting the right mix of people that have quality skills and experience but, and just as importantly, imbue our values and understand they’re part of a bigger whānau, together we are greater than the sum of all our parts.

Have you had any challenges being a woman and in charge of a business?

The simple answer is yes. 

I don’t know if I always see it, especially when I was younger, but there have been situations where it’s been so overt I’ve been shell shocked. It knocks you to your core and for someone like me (forever suffering from imposter syndrome) it can set your confidence back quite severely. 

I only know the experiences I’ve had so it hasn’t always been apparent to me that I was treated differently, left out of conversations or didn’t get the same opportunities. It’s hard to know what you’re being left out of when you aren’t included in the conversation in the first place. 

However the more I talk to other senior leaders the more I realise that, all other things being the same, my experience is vastly different from those born into typically white, privileges. 

There is definitely a ‘corporate box culture’ that I’ve seen with clients and agencies that I’ve rarely been privy to, yet this is often where relationships are nurtured and can be the difference between making or breaking a business. 

In general, it’s clear people in minority groups have just had to work harder to prove themselves. I don’t want to take on the whole “woe is me” narrative but many in those groups don’t and won’t have the opportunities given to them that others may find fall into their lap. 

Immigrants, POC, low socioeconomic backgrounds, female – it all adds up, and all of a sudden you’re positioned 10 meters behind the starting line and have to work twice as hard just to catch up. 

I also lacked confidence to push further as the risks as part of a marginalised group are much greater if I fail. However, at the same time I feel that the make of a person is how they deal with the situation they’re handed.  

I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, I’m just always striving for more and better. I am also on a bit of a mission to make sure that young women, POC and people who just aren’t ‘born’ into privilege can have the same opportunities as others and are exposed to the massive potential the creative tech sector offers. 

How do you think the industry needs to support more women into leadership roles? 

It ties into what I’ve mentioned earlier and while I inherently don’t want women to be given any special opportunities, we have a long way to go before a natural balance is achieved between men and women in the industry. 

It needs to be driven from the top and within the team itself. Having my own supportive and trusting team around me I can see how important that is, it instills confidence in my own ability to drive the business and their futures. 

However we bring so much to the table as a minority, true equality will create a wider diversity of thought, and through that business across the industry will be stronger for it.

Yet we need to make this change authentically, and not just like we are ticking a box. It shouldn’t be surprising when a woman is given a CEO role of an ad agency. This should just be the norm. 

Honestly, I’d love for the next generation to find that balance between something being too easy. It’s not a challenge or too hard that it’s soul destroying. 

What advice would you give to young women looking at starting a business?

What are you waiting for?! 

The doubts we women face are usually very personal and often I feel more related to our confidence than our actual ability. 

There are so many amazing women leaders out there than ever before so reach out to them. You’d be surprised at how accessible they are and willing to help. 

Sometimes you need to just make the move otherwise you’ll be forever stuck planning and never realising what could have been.

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