PRINCIPAL UX DESIGNER
Each&Other ChalkTalks are a monthly talk series, where we invite design, technology and business people to talk about their innovations, challenges and general trends and phenomena.
ChalkTalks serve as a forum for networking and sharing ideas and thoughts, and more importantly to learn something new.
In May 2022 we had the pleasure to welcome Claire Fitzpatrick from TikTok to discuss her fascinating career journey from finance to tech. Claire is a true believer of being open to change and letting your career path form in multiple industries and positions. We also got to hear what soft skills tech companies look for these days and Claire’s thoughts on a different way of recruiting staff in tech today. Here’s a little recap on what we learned.
Claire never had a plan for her career and probably never will have. She started her career as a chartered accountant and trained at PWC. Large organisations and consultancies such as PWC tend to have very structured environments, which Claire found very useful as a graduate. While her experience at PWC was a very useful one at the time, it somehow didn’t quite feel like her place.
After PWC, Claire went travelling and took on a purely financial role in Nestle - here she got to work closely with sales and realised her own interest in the commercial side of the business. On her return to Ireland she got a job at O2, a brand that was just launching in Ireland as the second business to get a mobile-licence.
10 years later, she had witnessed the rapid growth and decline of the business and the sale of O2 to Three. Before the acquisition, an opportunity opened up for Claire to move onto operations and customer care and she decided to take it. At the time, O2 were the first to build a web store to sell mobile phones in Ireland, as an alternative to buying in store. That experience allowed Claire to pivot furtner into operations and leadership positions.
From O2 Claire moved to Wyra, a innovation accelerator investing in digital startups. It was a move from a large organisation to a small company - she quickly realised how isolated she had been in her role in O2 and was now meeting lots of companies and startups on a daily basis - the experience opened her eyes to the world of innovation and product development.
Being exposed to startups in her role in Wyra led Claire and a couple of her colleagues to set up their own company - Red Planet was set to match companies with startups and got acquired by Deloitte after a few years in operation. And onto the next adventure Claire went! She was approached to help set up Consensys, a block chain technology software. Knowing nothing about crypto currency she had a lot of catching up to do but managed to successfully open up a development centre in Dublin. What got her there was curiosity towards yet another new industry and learning new things.
Next thing she knew, TikTok came knocking on her door with a role in trust & safety in 2020. Again, it was an area she knew very little about. But a hyper-growth platform was massively intriguing to Claire, with the addition of a purpose-driven role in safety so she found herself saying yes to this opportunity too.
While moving from finance to telco to tech may seem like a stretch, there are common threads between the three. One common thread between the telco industry back then and today’s innovative products & technology is of course regulation, and more precisely regulation on privacy. Claire has also been able to introduce structure from her early career at PCW and Nestle to her work today, in a less structured hyper-growth organisation.
In her current role as the Head of Operations (Trust & Safety, EMEA) Claire holds an average of 6-8 interviews per week - and goes through hundreds of applications every month. In hyper-growth organisations, traits such as resilience, ambiguity, curiosity, collaboration, leadership, confidence, resourcefulness and being able to communicate and prioritise are appreciated. Her own main evaluation criteria when looking to move jobs are people, culture, development potential and growth & innovation.
One of the key traits to being successful in a hyper growth organisation such as TikTok is ambiguity - since tech is never ready or finished but always moving, it’s crucial to be okay with the fact that you don’t know all the answers. There’s also an element of needing to be able to find your own way in hyper growth businesses. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a leader who listens to you and gives you advice but you definitely need to have a degree of self sufficiency.
Face-to-face networking in live events and meetings didn’t happen for a long time due to the pandemic but are now back on track, serving as an effective method of meeting people who might be beneficial in finding new career paths. Tech organisations also do headhunting in networking events and are known to be generous with their time when it comes to introductions and recruitment.
The roles and skills required in tech today vary a lot from the roles and skills required back at the early stages of Claire’s career. Traditional roles such as accountants and lawyers are still needed, but today large organisations in tech also recruit less traditional roles such as psychologists! This is just one example of the evolution of recruitment in tech where doors have opened to so many new skills. Today, you really don’t need to come from tech to be in tech, it might even work as an advantage if you don’t.