Women in broking stack2

Name: Sam Ward

Job title: Managing director 

How long in role: Three months

What’s your role? Responsible for leading the business

SAM never expected to be excited by vans. But it’s surprising what happens – especially when your workplace is Vansdirect. Rather like Sam’s career trajectory.

She started in the business as part-time training coordinator and progressed quickly, taking on roles including business support manager and operations director. 

Three months into her new role as managing director, she describes work as ‘pretty full on right now’ so she is thankful to have a fantastic team around her. Her current focus is predominantly on the people, structure and aligning the 47-strong team to her vision for the future. Sam has an evident passion for the industry, commenting:

‘Automotive is a brilliant sector to work in, there really is a role to suit everyone. What I love is that the industry offers continuous change and real variety. No week is ever the same for me. I might be in the office one day, then out meeting with dealerships, visiting suppliers and manufacturers or networking.’

It was via the AA that Sam got into automotive back in 2001, fresh out of university and planning for a six-month stop gap. That stop gap lasted 12 years, culminating in her role of training and development specialist. 

Sam believes that working for two hugely supportive and flexible businesses has been fundamental to her success and she has been given what she describes as ‘a fantastic career path’. At both companies she was able to progress while working part time which was critical while she had a young family. She says that she always knew she would want further progression once her children were older and gives this advice to those looking to further their careers in the industry: 

‘Never stop learning and grasp every opportunity. Take the time to understand the foundations of the business and make yourself really valuable to your employer. There’s a good chance that your circumstances may change – the role that works for you today is not necessarily what will suit you in the future, so you need to plan for that.’

While admitting that the automotive industry can still be very male-dominated, Sam is proud that her management team is predominantly female, stating:

‘Companies are driving real change. There is so much more flexibility in the workplace today, but we need to do more as an industry to better market the huge range of roles available. There is still a lack of awareness, especially among women, and we need to be getting that message out much, much earlier – in schools and universities.’

So, to the million-dollar question, does Sam have a favourite van?

“It’s very tough to choose,” she says, “there are so many brilliant vans! I’m currently driving a Volkswagen Transporter, but my husband wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t give his van my vote, so I’ll go for the Ford Transit Custom.”

About Vansdirect

Award-winning Vansdirect was founded in 1999 in Newport and has become one of the top independent commercial van retailers in the UK.

Vansdirect was acquired by Vertu Motors plc in January 2019 and a year later, the Group committed to the brand’s Welsh roots by signing a new 10-year lease on its Newport premises.

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