Fleur Thompson | Tumelo
What does a job title actually tell you about a person? And in this day and age, are all job titles completely reflective of what we do day-to-day?
When Fleur Thompson decided a change was due after being with the same company for 9 years she struggled to identify with a specific role and what would suit her experience. After studying Computer Science at Uni and spending the first few years of her career as a software developer the tech skills were obvious, however, she had also picked up a load of soft skills along the way, opening up many more options in her new job search. Now Principle Solutions Architect at Tumelo, Fleur gets to use all her skills in an amazing culture, surrounded by amazing people - the dream!
Are you ready for a move? Or feeling a bit lost or overwhelmed with what is out there? Then give this a read and take the leap...
KICKING THINGS OFF COULD YOU PLEASE TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR JOB AND WHAT YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LOOKS LIKE?
I'm currently working as a Principal Solutions Architect at Tumelo. I've been here nearly 11 months now, and so far my job has mainly involved helping our customers to integrate Tumelo's technology and then feeding customer requirements back into our engineering and product teams internally. As the first person in this role, I've had lots of opportunities to improve our processes and my previous experience in dealing with contracts has been very handy! In the last couple of months, my focus has shifted more towards our internal engineering practices, and looking to improve how we work so that we have a stable foundation to support Tumelo's future growth. I've had a fairly traditional path to get to where I am today - I studied Computer Science at university and then after spending the first few years of my career as a software developer, I gradually moved into customer-facing roles. I
really enjoy being able to blend my technical background with the soft skills that I have.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO COMPANIES TO ATTRACT MORE DIVERSE FOLK INTO THEIR TECHNICAL ROLES?
You can normally tell fairly easily whether a company is just saying that they care about diversity, without actually meaning it. If you look at a company's leadership page and it's all white men then that's a pretty big indicator! I think something that's really important is recognising that women will typically not apply to jobs unless they feel they meet all of the criteria for the role, so take the time to craft your job listing carefully, and call out that you aren't necessarily looking for applicants to tick every box. Celebrate the diversity that you have within your organisation on your careers page and social media profiles, and highlight any company policies that you have in place which may be particularly attractive to underrepresented groups.
DEGREES, I HAVE HUGE RESPECT FOR FOLK WHO SPENT YEARS (AND MONEY) ON A DEGREE BUT EQUALLY, I THINK TOO MANY COMPANIES REQUEST THEM AS STANDARD AND CAN BE A BLOCKER FOR MANY (AND MOSTLY UNDERREPRESENTED FOLK) INTO THE INDUSTRY. DO YOU THINK A DEGREE IS ESSENTIAL TO GET INTO TECH?
My former boss not only required applicants to have a degree, but if it wasn't a Computer Science degree from one of a handful of universities then you didn't really stand a chance of getting an interview. This then resulted in an environment where there was very little diversity of background and perspective as everyone had had extremely similar experiences. Technical ability is objectively measurable, so there's absolutely no reason to make a degree a prerequisite for a role when it's so easy to determine whether someone has the right skills in other ways, for example asking them to complete a technical assessment as part of the interview process (although ChatGPT presents an interesting challenge there for companies given candidates could be using it to complete the assessment for them!). I also think some companies focus too much on requiring very specific experience in certain technologies rather than evaluating candidates as a whole - it's much easier to teach someone how to use a particular technology than it is to mould someone's behaviour.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TO DATE?
After 9 years with the same company, I decided to look for a new role. It was only then that I realised that having a job title that doesn't accurately reflect what you do or how senior you are is a significant barrier when it comes to applying for jobs. I struggled with knowing what kind of position would suit my experience, and I found it challenging to find suitable jobs to apply to and work out how to highlight the value I could bring. I definitely learnt a lot from this though, and my advice to anyone in a similar position would be to focus on what you enjoy doing and your strengths and highlight those areas when applying to appropriate roles.
WHO INSPIRES YOU MOST IN A PROFESSIONAL/PERSONAL SENSE?
As someone who follows a lot of sports, I am naturally inspired by sportspeople, particularly elite-level netball players in the UK. As the sport isn't professional here, the athletes have to balance their sporting commitments with their full-time jobs (doctors, lawyers, teachers...), and some of them are mums too. Netball is such an underrated sport, I really encourage anyone to go and watch a Superleague game if you have the chance, it's so much faster and more physical than the game you'll remember from school! In a professional sense, I have to mention Tumelo's CEO, Georgia. Not only does she have an unwavering drive to succeed in Tumelo's mission, she is passionate about creating a great culture within the company and really strives to ensure that we have a diverse team. I love that at Tumelo, I'm never the only woman in a meeting, even if it's just with engineers, and I have male colleagues who will call out the use of non-inclusive language (not that that's a common occurrence!).
I’D LOVE TO KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON CULTURE. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE A GREAT CULTURE?
Culture isn't just words on a page, it's a living, breathing thing. It's great if a company has a defined set of values that underline its culture, but if the leadership team doesn't embody those values, or if employees aren't actively encouraged to live by them, then it's effectively meaningless. Psychological safety is something that I think is really key when it comes to creating a great culture, particularly because people need to feel able to call out when they've seen something that goes against the company's values.
WHAT ONE PIECE OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS?
Don't be afraid to speak up and share your views. It's unfortunately often the loudest/most vocal people in the room that get themselves heard - if that doesn't suit your personality then try and find another way to make sure that you have a voice.
YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE OR MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?
Do the right thing, even when no one is looking.
Thanks, Fleur you rock!
Interview by Alicia Teagle