OnThePeiroll Podcast #15 – Tara Aldridge

15th #OnThePeiroll #podcast with Tara Aldridge now out!

This was a beautiful conversation, full of empathy and… human-ness.

I loved Tara’s story about where she came from and how she got to where she is now, and the struggles that she faced.

That built a picture of someone who is strong and compassionate, and whose leadership skills have been forged by the challenges and adversity she had to overcome.

I invite you to listen in our conversation.




Pei Mun Lim  00:06

Hello, Tara, welcome to my podcast called OnThePeiroll. How are you today?

Tara  00:12

I’m good. Thank you very much for having me.

Pei Mun Lim  00:14

I’m so glad to have you on. I we met a few years ago on the London’s calling event. And that was not the first time I heard of new voice media, by the way, done a project. So that’s a company that’s in kind of like in my consciousness. And I know that that’s where you’re currently. And what I’m really interested to hear is your journey from where you started from. I know you didn’t start in tech, and how you ended up here.

Tara  00:47

Sure. So I am from a non typical tech background. I didn’t do technology University, or even at school, I didn’t, I didn’t do a levels or anything like that. I have a humanities background, I did a psychology degree. And when I left university, I wanted to go on an app, I wanted to actually be a relationship counselor, I wanted to work for relate to charity. But they were looking for people with more life experience, because I was only 21 at the time. So I needed a job, I desperately needed a job. So I got a job in a call center. And I was the person you rang up when you were unhappy that there was a pothole or that your bins hadn’t been connected. That was what I did. And despite the fact that I got shouted out by a lot of people, and I love call centers, and so I ended up working my way through and I came in, I was an agent, I worked my way up to a resource planner. So scheduling a team of call center people. And at that point, I was very active on LinkedIn. And I was posting in the call center groups, and in the technology groups, and a recruiter found me said, hey, we’ve got this, this job we thought thinking might be good for. And he introduced me to new voice media. And he said, Hey, you want to be a professional services consultant. And at that point, I didn’t know what a PS consultant was, and hadn’t heard of it before, didn’t know it was a thing. And I met the folks at new voice media, and fell in love with the company with the ethos with the people with the with the idea of the role, went through the application process and got down to the final two. And they chose the other person. And I was gutted, absolutely gutted. But a few months later, I reached back out and I said, Hey, I want to be considered if anything else comes up. And it was just timing was perfect. And they said, Actually, yeah, we have another role. So let’s have a chat. I applied the second time. And they offered me a job. And at that point, I was like, Oh my god, now I need to actually do it. And so I joined new voice media in 2014. And started learning about technology. And at that point, when my very first week, they said, this is Salesforce. And at that point, I fell in love. And I love Salesforce, I’m a proper geek now about it. I get to do the best of both worlds, I get to enjoy Salesforce, and I get to do technology and implement solutions for call centres. And I sort of worked my way through and at that point, I was dealing with customers in the UK. And I was traveling around the UK sort of bopping around to different call centers and helping them implement great solutions for customers. And then I got a phone call one day saying, We need you to go visit a customer and I’m like, okay, sure where and I was expecting someone like Birmingham or London or something in Poland. And at that point, I’d never traveled. I’ve never been on holiday abroad, and I’ve been on a plane. And I ended up flying to Poland. And at that point, I just fell in love with traveling the world and visiting customers. And yeah, that was four years, seven years ago. And ever since then I’ve been here and I’ve worked my way up and I now look after various teams. At Vonage. We’ve been acquired since I was new voice media. And, yeah, I get to do everything I love every day.

Pei Mun Lim  04:38

What an amazing story. It sounds like the path that you’re taking is one that’s not very, let me start again. If you look at the tech vacancies Something like yourself would have not been the first, you wouldn’t have thought. That’s something I can do. And this is a path I can take to get there. So what are your thoughts about how companies can advertise their vacancies to be more inclusive, to not exclude those who then go to take a computer science degree, for example, I saw a LinkedIn post this morning. I think by Ben Fuller, about a particular post that required the green color computer science. Eight years in Salesforce in order to do a sell suspense rolled, which is a bit it’s a bit of a stretch, what were your thoughts from?

Tara  05:52

I think it’s having been in the position where I’m recruiting, it’s very easy to build up a picture of the ideal person that you want in your team, with all the right experience, and everything that you would you would want from a dream team member. And then when you do that, you have to realize that actually, you may as well go and try and hire Harry Potter, because that person doesn’t exist. And then you have to think outside the box, and think, okay, so not only what sort of person would be a good fit for me based on the role and the team and everything else. But also, where am I likely to find those people. And I was really lucky at the time that the recruiter that found me was using the group’s facility on LinkedIn to find people who were having the right conversations, if you just looked at my background, I would never have been a good fit. And I definitely wouldn’t have applied for the role because I didn’t even know that career existed. So it’s around being creative, and widening perspective about what the potential is for the the ideal person. I saw a really great job advert the other day on LinkedIn. And they set out the usual thing, that description about what what sort of person they’re looking for, and everything like that. But then at the end of the job description, what they set out was the expectations for what month one, two, and three, in the new role. And I’ve never seen that before in a job description on an advert. And it just really resonated with me that setting out those expectations really publicly and showing. This is what we expect from you, when you join us opens up the the pool of people who may apply for a role. Because they’re not it is clear that you’re not expected to hit the ground running and immediately be an expert in everything. You set expectations, say for the first month, we expect x, y and Zed, we want you to be a member of the team, we want you to be on boarded with our IT systems, we want you have to have done this, we don’t expect you to be on top of absolutely everything. And if you don’t set that up out front, when you’re going through the very beginning stages of a process, you’re automatically putting putting people off from applying. Because their expectations of what’s going to be expected of them potentially don’t match yours. And they’re worried about applying. And we’ve all heard the stat that’s out there about. Women don’t apply for jobs that they’re not 100% taking every box for. And actually, if we’re really clear up front about expectations, and we want you to get to the stage where you can code where you can do something, and we’ll help you get there. That opens up and makes so many more people look at the job advert look at the company look at you as a recruiter or an employer and go, actually, that opens up a path for me that I didn’t think existed, or that’s something I want to give it a shot. I think, yeah, trying to be as open as possible, is easy to say it’s hard to do. But when you do it well. It’s pretty awesome.

Pei Mun Lim  09:09

I can see that. I can see that. Did you? Maybe this is quite far back for you to remember. But it’d be interesting to hear. Did you get any feedback from the recruiter? In terms of how he identified you? So you mentioned that he saw or you interacted in one group that you belong to? How did he look at your engagement in your comments, and thought, hey, she’d be really good professional service consultant because, yeah, I would really like to know.

Tara  09:46

Yeah. And so the recruiter that found me he found me in a group where we were asking technical questions. So as part of my sort of career path, I’d gone from being The person’s shout out on the phone to actually looking after the telephony system for the call center. And I actually had, it was my unofficial job. But I was the bridge in between the contact center team and the IT team. And I did the translation in the middle so that they both understood each other. And there were some things that I was learning about the platform that we were on at the time. And I didn’t understand everything. So I was regularly posting questions in the LinkedIn group. How do you do this? How does this work? Has anyone had this experience? And I was trying to answer as many as possible as well. And the feedback I got is that’s how he found me. I was active, I was posting questions I was learning and sort of looking for more knowledge. And yeah, he just sort of then connected the dots.

Pei Mun Lim  10:49

It’s really interesting, because from what you’re saying, he doesn’t act like a normal recruiter. No, I don’t wasn’t a normal in that way. Which which is rare, which is rare. So it sounds like he was looking for the soft and human skills, the attitude, the mindset, the interest around technology, the wanting to learn, wanting to know more wanting to solve problems, as well as contributing, which are all the key things that makes you really good for the role that you’re currently in. So that was really interesting to hear. And later on, if you have a name, that would be good to add in the list of people to head for. That’s, yeah, that’s really interesting. Now in terms of call center, because of that is also very close to my heart. I was a call center consultant A few years ago, and were put in cluttered systems. Tell me a bit more about how and how new voice media attracted you. So you mentioned you went for an interview? And you What was it about the interview process that made you fall in love, because he read a job advert, most you can do is look at a website to get to know what the company is about, then you go for the interview. And I guess that’s where kind of the movie starts, in terms of moving you. So just talk us through how that very first date, when and how it made you feel so strongly about the company that you asked to be reconsidered A few weeks later. So

Tara  12:44

we went through the typical cycle and asked, but maybe it was, I don’t know, maybe it was unusual at the time. But in 2014, the very first interview I had was a video interview. And at that point, I was based up in Manchester, and the head of HQ was based in Basingstoke where I am now. So I was up in Manchester and I was sort of doing all my research about them. And the very first thing we did is we had a chat online at a video call very much like this, and I was chatting with a guy called Scott Hawkins. And we had a great chat. And all we did was we talked about call centers. We talked about my background, what have you do? What have you done? What do you do now? What’s your thoughts on this, and it was very informal, and it was just a getting to know you session. And that’s one of the things I really liked about the company was that it’s not just formal Question and Answer type things. It was a conversation. It was with people who understood the industry. And we’re passionate about giving great customer service and delivering great solutions, leaving happy customers. And it was all of the things that are the human aspects of tech. And the tech part was a bit daunting. So I’m Oh god, I’m never gonna get this. I’m never going to understand it. I’m not a coder. Even now, I’m not a coder. You’re sort of this is terrifying, but the human side of it with with all the people I met was just amazing. And then after the video call, we went down and when I went to the office and met them coming from a local authority background, where everything was quite severe coming into like this tech workspace, but it was all open plan. Everyone was like super friendly sat next to each other. You had your executives that sat next to your individual contributors. You had everything and it was it did feel like a family at that time. And we’re really lucky that we’ve managed to keep that feeling all the way through. Even now that we’re we’ve become Vonage and we’ve been acquired by an American Corporation. We still have that close knit fee. within the team within the department, even though we’re now more more geographically spread out. So the fact that was tech was just a fluke, it was the human aspect I fell in love with.

Pei Mun Lim  15:14

That’s fantastic that that is a really good lesson for companies to actually learn and not focus so much on being they say, the tech, but really focus on the people. So you said a couple of things that I’d like to follow up, for example, I’ve been in quite a few companies that’s been acquired. And now we hear so much about the partners that get swallowed up by the bigger gsis. And it’s rare to find one, and stories such as the one that you just related in that, even after being acquired, you’ve still kept your culture. Can you share how how that was achieved? Because that can’t be easy. That is probably going to be policies, there’s got to be roll down, for example, but how did Vonage manage this acquisition in such a way as to keep people keep the culture and keep the quality of service high?

Tara  16:20

It’s something that you have to be very deliberate about. And we went from a relatively small company, there wasn’t 1000s of us and new voice media, to being owned by an American Corporation. And at first, it’s like, American Overlord, it’s going to be disaster. But when we were acquired, we kept the same executive team in place. And we weren’t immediately merged in and amalgamated into the big sort of hive mind. We operated for a long time as our own unit as part of a bigger family. And that I think, made the transition much easier. It wasn’t immediate shock on all type change. And since we were acquired in 2018. Yep, there have been leadership changes and executives have moved on. But they weren’t forced out. They weren’t immediately fired. Once we were acquired, it was a very slow transition. And at the same time, people who were in new voice media and have been in news media for a while haven’t moved up through that path as well. What helps i think is one edge was going through a bit of an acquisition spree and did by other companies at the same time. So we have colleagues who are formerly from nexmo and then are part of Vonage API. So it’s not like we were the only ones going through that experience. Everyone felt like we’re our own little tribe. We don’t want to be part of big Vonage. But now we all are. And don’t get me wrong. It’s difficult. There are challenges. And yeah, some people are like, I don’t want to be part of a big corporation, because they prefer a startup type environment. And I get it because you get a lot more flexibility in a startup type environment, and you get pulled into different bits and pieces. And it’s a different type of exciting. But the benefits of being part of a larger company like this is the the power and the ability to build really awesome technology our tech team has just grown massively from when I first started. We’ve got amazing people working in the background building products and features that sort of, I couldn’t even imagine when I started. And now it’s like, yeah, look at this, we’ve just delivered this. So there is definite benefits to being part of a bigger company. But I think of all the things that we did to try and maintain the culture and the feeling is came from the middle level of management. Vonage couldn’t tell us to keep it. And the people who were sort of individual contributors could drive it, but only so far. But we had some great directors and VPS, who just looked after us so well. So the likes of Phil dabit. Chris haggis, all of the people who were newvoicemedia through and through ensured that we kept that culture and feeling all the way as we’ve gone through

Pei Mun Lim  19:29

it, it’s really interesting. You use the word contributors twice. And I just want you to just flesh out slightly because I’m thinking that the definition that I’m thinking, even though

Tara  19:47

the way that the terminology we use here is you are either an individual contributor, contributing to the success of knowledge and your customers or you’re a manager contributing to your success. So it’s not that we have team members or employees. You’re a contributor of some level and it’s either individual or manager contributor.

Pei Mun Lim  19:59

Why did they I choose to use that.

Tara  20:02

To be honest, that’s just what we inherited when we became Vonage. And I quite like it. I think it’s better than saying employee. Yes, because that that just seems like you’re looking down on someone. Whereas actually, if you’re contributing to success, that to me is more inclusive.

Pei Mun Lim  20:22

As I like that, actually, because as you say, employee has gives you the feeling that there, there’s an transaction going on and paying you. And therefore you are doing the work that I’m paying you for words content, contributor sounds so much more, that person has more value than just transactional, transactional one. That’s really, that’s really cool. The probably, I think, culture is a mix of everything you mentioned, the fact that you’ve got the middle management who’s actually keeping the team and the feel and keeping things going. That is quite key. So tell me a little bit more about your So you mentioned also earlier on that you this new to you, that you’ve come from a family and a background where tech may not have been what you thought you’d grow into. And you took your first flight to Poland? What would you say to if there was a time machine or a magic wand and you went back, and you met yourself when you were 16? What are what are the kinds of things that you would say to yourself at that age. Um,

Tara  21:55

I think it would be to be more confident. So I used to be painfully shy, which is really hard to believe now because I talked to anyone and everyone. But I used to be painfully shy. And I used to really doubt myself. And I still have those doubts. But I now I have the mental tools and the equipment in my head to say, this is a doubt. It’s okay. It’s actually not true, but I’m just going to feel it and then I’m going to work for it. So don’t doubt yourself as much to have that confidence. But also, I would say your tribe is out there. So when I found Salesforce, one of the things I fell in love with was the community. And I go to events like London’s calling like World Tour like dreamforce. And I’m just amazed that there are people like me who love a system and a platform and a community that much who I can properly geek out with. And there’s a shared interest and a commonality, that no matter what company you’re from, what background you’re from, like, this is awesome. And yeah, finding your tribe is such a big thing. And if you can find it, especially if you find it early on, is super powerful. Because once you find your tribe and you find find people like that, you find people who inspire you. And I can look to the Salesforce community, particularly in the UK, and see so many strong female leaders, and what they do and how they do and I looked at them, and I and it’s just so motivating. And there are just so many brilliant people out there men and women, but particularly, there’s a really strong contingent of strong women in the UK.

Pei Mun Lim  23:44

Can you can you list a few give them a bit of a shout out.

Tara  23:48

So I volunteer with a charity called Super moms. So Heather black, does amazing work getting parents back into technology. So that’s seeing her and seeing her posts that she shares on on social media and things like that, seeing how she’s open about the thoughts that she goes through in her life and the training that she does, but also how it motivates other people is awesome. So Heather black, there’s the likes of Gemma. And all of those people who are just, you see them at events, you see them on social media. You see the ladies the architect logo everywhere, and you just look at them and go Wow, that is awesome.

Pei Mun Lim  24:35

I totally get it. I think Gemma is amazing. So let’s just going back to sorry, so I made a few notes so that I can’t go back to it. So you started off wanting to be a relationship counselor. Yes. Now, looking back, do you do you have it? No. I think I know the Because I was going to ask, do you have any regrets not pursuing what you wanted to pursue?

Tara  25:08

No, actually, I mean, I still have the possibility of going back and being a counselor later on in life. But actually, the bit that appeals to me about psychology and about relationship counseling, and counseling in general, is the human aspect. But actually, I get to, I get to travel around the UK, around Europe around the world, meeting customers, meeting agents and call centers or resource planners or EMI analysts, Salesforce people and technology people. And I get to meet so many new people and have so many new experiences and conversations, that that part of me that needs to be fulfilled through human contact is just like thriving. locked down was really painful for me not meeting people not going out on the road. was really challenging, and really difficult for me at times. I, I’m a social creature, I get energy from being around people. And I was locked in a one bedroom flat for a very, very long time. And that was just there were times when I was like, I need to move house, I need to get out, I need to just go for a walk, I need to do something, because I was climbing the walls. But being able to come back into the office now. So I’m setting our office now. And just having the routine of getting out my flat, and having the process of I drive to work, I’ve got a commute. It’s like three miles, it’s not massive. I have a I have a start and an end to my workday just makes the world of difference to me and my mental health and how happy I am at work.

Pei Mun Lim  26:54

It sounds like you found your your dream job, isn’t it just all your boxes in your arms,

Tara  27:01

I I am so lucky in what I do. And that I have a job that I love. And I’m passionate about and I get to meet people. And not many people can say I enjoy coming to work every day. And I do

Pei Mun Lim  27:13

you also run the women in tech group. Yes. And so what what prompted you to start that?

Tara  27:20

So Shawn runs the Hampshire tech group, but as community group. And it was great having that from a very technical perspective, having people talk about the cool things they’re doing with Salesforce and the cool things they’re doing in their industry. But one of the gaps that I felt we had was, we had the London women in tech group. But by the time I’d finished my work day travelled into London, attended that and turn back. It’s a bit long. So I’ve applied to Salesforce to set up the Basingstoke women in tech group. And so that was set up in 2018. Had a we had great meetings in 2018 2019, sorry. And then COVID hit. And at that point, I was overwhelmed. And we had sort of really, we didn’t have any meetings last year after about April. Because it was like, Oh my god, I can’t stand any more zoom quizzes, zoom club nights, any of this stuff is just so overwhelming. And like I said, my mental health wasn’t great with lockdown. And, but I’m super excited to start them back up again and actually having seen and spoke to women one on one. And I’ve actually been open and said to some of the members of the women in tech group I was like, Look, the reason it’s gone quiet and we didn’t have any was because actually locked down was not my friend. And so I’m super excited to get them up and running again. Here. Well people have been doing, because there’s lots of movement going on in people’s careers right now. And everyone’s talking about the great resignation that’s coming in, everyone’s gonna all of a sudden quit and find their job where they’re remote out in the country farming or something. And there’s so much movement in people’s lives right now. And I’m super excited to hear from everyone and hear how they’re doing and what has changed and what their plans are. And if they’re like me at the start of lockdown, I made a bucket list of all the things that when lockdown is finished, I’m going to go and do and I’ve started on that path. And I’m super, super excited to get some of those done.

Pei Mun Lim  29:38

I’m gonna have to ask about what’s on their bucket list.

Tara  29:40

So it covers a bit of everything. There’s like destinations, I want to see it all in my head when locked out was going starting I was like, I never got the chance to go to Iceland and sit in the springs. So that’s on my list. But there’s also things like I would really like to try a pottery class. I don’t know why. I just, I don’t know what it is. But I, I’m not a creative person in any way, shape or form, I can’t draw a stick. But in my head, I’m like, I need to try a pottery class. So that is on my bucket list.

Pei Mun Lim  30:18

Let’s do, let’s hear some more.

Tara  30:20

So what else is on there? So one of the ones I really liked is, I got into sort of cooking for myself a couple of years back. And like most people who live on their own, for a long time it was there’s no point really good cooking a nice elaborate meal, because it’s just me. And then I started getting one of those mailboxes where I started cooking proper food for myself and looking after myself like that. And so I’ve got into like foodie stuff. So my bucket list is the list of restaurants I want to try. And I was very lucky last month that my birthday treat, I took myself and a friend out to a Michelin starred restaurant in Redding. So really nice that we sort of tried this sort of stuff out. I stuff that I would never have even thought of doing a couple of years back. But as a birthday treat to myself, I thought why not? If If survived the zombie apocalypse then got to give it a go.

Pei Mun Lim  31:18

Absolutely. Can Can I hear another couple more? Cuz I’m just so interested.

Tara  31:23

So there was, there’s concepts I want to go to. So in 2019, I bought myself tickets to Andre view, the orchestra concert, it got put on, put on hold, and is now rescheduled for 2022. So I’m really looking forward to that next year, and probably making an event for it and go into that sort of thing. And but also, there are of course, people I want to go and see like, I would give my right arm to go and see Beyonce in concert. I think she’s a brilliant performer. So yeah, that’s on my list. Wow.

Pei Mun Lim  31:59

Sounds like you are going to be very, very busy when things open. Ah, yes, absolutely. Okay, um, what are some of the? So if I look at your story of your career path, it feels like there’s been lots of happy accidents. Yes, along the way. And right now, where you are, and it’s so amazing to see you so excited about your job and about your life right now. In the journey to get here, has there been any mistakes, like really big mistakes that you think that uh, go back and do over that one?

Tara  32:47

Not really mistakes. No, I think I am a firm believer in that things do happen for a reason. And that if those things hadn’t happened in the past, I wouldn’t be where I am now. And I wouldn’t be the person I am now. There are things that maybe it would have been if things have been different, I definitely would have been on a different path. So when I was in university, I I was not academic at school. And I went to university mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. And I like psychology, so I thought I’d give it a go. And in my third year, just after my first semester, so around about Christmas time, one of my tutors noticed that there was something odd about the work I was submitting and they sent me to an occupational therapist, and I got tested and it turns out I have dyslexia and dyspraxia so my words jumble around and stuff. But then with a dyspraxia that means I have trouble with holding pens and pencils and, and depth perception and balance and things like that. So I’m a little bit wonky, which is, explains a lot. So I was 21 when I found out I was dyslexic. And when they were reading back the findings to me, they said, you have the reading age of a 14 year old. Now considering I was 21 in a university, that’s not great. And it just took a while for someone to recognize that that was what was happening to me and my experiences. And so I do sometimes wonder what would it be like if someone had spotted that earlier? Would I have gone on a different path would things have opened up to me in a different way. But I look around now so I’m not too focused on it. But it just it has made me more passionate about sharing the fact I am dyslexic so I’m very open with that work. And talking about it and saying hey for girls. dyslexia presents in different ways, because girls and boys cope in different ways, different strategies. Individuals cope in different ways. So it’s actually, if you’re if you’re interacting with someone who is young and struggling, it’s keeping a really open mind about those things. And being aware that what may be typical in one person is atypical in another. And so I think that’s super important. Using that, and playing to that as a strength. Yes, my brain is wired differently. But also must got me Well,

Pei Mun Lim  35:29

how did so you mentioned that you words were jumbled. Were there any other ways that it presented itself? Because obviously, I’ve got, I’ve got young children? And I think my spelling wasn’t best. How would how would someone have looked at your work earlier, let’s say and identify that? You know, so at 21, somebody identified it, but for a young child, he said, it presents differently, How was yours presented? In what way?

Tara  36:05

So one of the things that since reading about this and sort of exploring it more, one of the things that really resonated with me as it’s really hard to focus on someone presenting and take notes, that for me, is virtually impossible, I cannot do both at the same time. I can pay attention, and focus on what they’re saying, and try and soak it all up. But as soon as I have to write notes, I lose track of what they’re saying. Because my writing is not great. I can’t even read my notes at the end of it, which is a challenge. And, and yet, it just really doesn’t work. And so thinking back about, okay, well, actually, then, when you’re in high school, and the teachers writing on the board and asking you to write notes, it’s no wonder that was really difficult for me. And so it’s things like that. And so it’s, it’s then thinking, Okay, well, if I’m delivering training, part of my job now is I deliver training is there making sure that I’m providing a variety of content, it’s not just me talking, there’s slides to back it up, there’s crib sheets to back it up. There’s other tools out there. If something isn’t working, when I’m talking about it, actually getting hands on with it would work with it. If being hands on isn’t working, let’s read the theory and understand the logic in the background. And so really making sure that no matter how someone how someone learns, accommodating that, I think is super important. And I’m, I am sad that it wasn’t picked up earlier for me. And I’m, I’m sad that there are still people going through that struggle that like they’re finding out later on in life, that actually, it wasn’t that they were silly, or stupid or sick. They just had a different style and a different way of learning.

Pei Mun Lim  37:54

Thank you very much for that. That’s really like I said, I’ve got young children, I’m going to be paying more attention in how they’re struggling, and make sure that I cover those base. So thank you for that. How did you cope at university? So you’ve talked about how you’ve got so much more empathy about people’s learning styles now. So they that’s how you make sure that your training is easily accessible and has impact that you’re wishing it to take. But how did you cope at school and at university when listening to the lecturer or teacher and taking notes was so key? How? How did you manage it?

Tara  38:38

I think badly, I think would be the way to describe it. My teachers would say especially at high school, I was a difficult pupil. I if you ask me questions, I can I can talk about stuff forever. And I can explain my thoughts and things like that. But if you asked me to write it down, not so much. And especially sort of high school sixth one. I just didn’t submit homework. And I did I was I was one of those naughty kids. Not like malicious naughty just didn’t do stuff. And now looking back, I realized why. But yeah, just at the time, it was like, Well, why didn’t you do it? Well, I didn’t. And things like that. But at university, it meant that I spent a lot of time reading which is ironic considering I’m dyslexic. And having to read the books, highlight and work out what tools worked for me. So very much color coding visual stuff. So mind maps, all of that sort of thing. All of those sorts of tools really helped me absorb information. So I’m a big fan of colored post it notes and pictures and very, very visual because I don’t jump around the page as much for me.

Pei Mun Lim  39:55

So if a young dog was to listen to this point, caste, and then, hey, I’m having trouble with all these things. There’s no adults I can go to what are some other tips you think you’d be able to give her or to give yourself now that you know what what are some some of the tips that you might give her,

Tara  40:19

I would tell anyone, if it doesn’t feel they can go to else go and speak to an adult, is there are loads of tools out there available for free on the internet, or in libraries, or that you can access through school without having to get your parents involved and things like that there’s loads out there. And it’s knowing that those tools are out there and where to find them. One of the things that I’ve, I’ve recently discovered is the dyslexic community or Tick Tock. And actually, there’s loads of people out there talking about their coping strategies, and their tools and things like that. And hearing other people say, there is not one way to do it, right, there’s not one way to be dyslexic, there’s not one way to learn, there’s not one way to do anything, you have to find what works for you. So for me, it’s color visuals, and things like that. For other people, it’s audio. So actually record sessions, and then play them back, or record yourself reading a book and then play it back. And things like that really do help. But it’s a case of trial and error. And working out what is the right tool for you and your brain. And you at that point, because the right tool may change depending on the topic or how you’re feeling or where your brain is. So it’s being flexible with yourself being open to trying new things. And really using the power of the community in the internet out there to say, Okay, what are other people doing that could work for me? What do I know works for me. And then when you get to the stage of maybe you know what works, and you’ve got a tool that just makes it so much easier for you. At that point, it is easier to then approach someone to say, Hey, I’m struggling with you teaching like this in a lecture style. Is it okay, if I just put my phone at the front and record your meeting? So I can play it back? Or is it okay if I do something else? And that then opens up a conversation. So yeah, it’s, it’s all about doing your research and understanding your own thoughts.

Pei Mun Lim  42:30

Sounds like your struggle has helped you become so much more empathetic as a as an adult, and also, as a leader, you’ve got new routines. So it sounds like you create a very safe environment for people to experiment to try to be different. Now, what are the sort of things when you’re running a team? Or when you’re working with colleagues? What are some of the things that you will not tolerate?

Tara  43:05

I think it’s so detrimental to people and to businesses to come into something close minded. And the irony is, it’s something I do struggle with when it comes to change. So if you come in and you’re like, No, we’ve always done it this way. That is usually a bad sign. And it’s something that I personally struggle with someone will come to me go, why don’t we do it like this? And I’m like, Oh, we can’t do it like that. And then I have to wait. And about half an hour later. I’m like, but we could do it like this. And so for me, I know that I have to to stop my initial response because my initial response could be defensive or could be coming from a place of fear of change. And then once I thought about it for an hour or so I’m like, Okay, now let’s do it. But yeah, the one thing I don’t tolerate is, is being closed minded, being prejudice, because there’s no place for that in business today. If you are, if you are saying oh, well, that type of person doesn’t belong here. I frankly get out. You don’t belong in business at that point. Because diversity of, of culture of people of thought of everything only makes businesses better. And that diversity comes in so many shapes or forms. It’s not just race, it’s not just sex. It’s not just gender or anything like that. It’s so many different things. And the more diverse you are, the better you are as a company, the more profitable you are as a company. This stats, bear this out. If you want to be successful, you have women on the board, you have people of color on the board, you open up your your interview processes and hiring processes to new people. You actively go and search out different people for the team. If you don’t do that, you’re going to end up Have a team of the same people, just clones of each other, and you’re not going to grow as a business.

Pei Mun Lim  45:06

Yeah, I think that is so so key in making sure that teams are successful and businesses are as well. Just before we close, I’d like to ask you, what are your top values for yourself and how you live your life.

Tara  45:28

I try to be kind. I read somewhere, I can’t remember where I read it. Being nice as toxic, being kind is what you should do something like that. And being nice, could be the equivalent of being a doormat. And you do things to be nice and you do things, or you don’t hurt their feelings and all of that. Being kind empowers people to set boundaries, to treat people respectfully. But actually make decisions from a place of I’m not doing I’m not doing something to the detriment of myself, because I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I don’t wanna say no, you can say no, with kindness, you can set boundaries with kindness. And I think that, to me, is what I’m really trying to live every day is being nice. No, being kind is much better for yourself than others, for the environment for everything else. And so yeah, that became not nice to me is that it is a value.

Pei Mun Lim  46:43

Thank you so much, Sarah. I have really enjoyed conversation, it. It’s taken apart that I hadn’t expected when I first started. But I really love everything about your journey, and sharing about your struggles with dyslexia and dyspraxia and how someone from a totally non techie background, family can be so successful and find the dream job now. And I think what I love about this particular conversation is I think that it gives people hope, in a world where there’s just so much need to be pigeonhole and to pigeonhole others who say you are techie, you are not techie, or you can be a


coder or

Pei Mun Lim  47:30

so on and so forth. It is, I think, a really good thing that we’ve had this conversation, because what we’re saying is that, No, you don’t. There’s no set path for you. It is as you choose as you make it to be. So thank you so much for for this conversation. I really, really appreciate you acknowledge you for the struggles that you’ve had to get to where you are now and being an inspiration to so many in your team, and outside as well in a community, especially running the women in tech group. So thank you so much, Tara, thank you so much for having me. Thank you.