Tilo Sequeira is a Learning & Development specialist in our Singapore office. To mark her one year anniversary at Spotify, (wahoo!) she’s reflecting on what it was like to transition into the company and gives us the dirt on her first year:
Many of you have been asking me what it has been like to have moved from insurance to tech, and more importantly how it has been working for one of the world’s most loved brands.
Before I continue, I must say that I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with some incredibly talented people and on some very forward looking projects at AXA Insurance, without which I would definitely not be where I am today, with Spotify – but needless to say, the two have been incomparably different experiences.
While AXA was all about building the length and breadth of my expertise as an L&D professional, Spotify, for me, is beyond that – it is about the challenge of balancing scalability without compromising personalization which is the most exciting thing for me, having never before seen L&D from this angle.
From transitioning between two very different company cultures, finding my place in the new world of tech, figuring out the nuances that make four very different markets, and the varying maturity of music streaming in each – to being surrounded by superstar colleagues and having the chance to expose myself to so many different working environments & cultures across Australia, Japan, South East Asia, Sweden and the US, needless to say, I have had one incredible year.
And to top it all, I even got to meet some of my favorite musicians in the flesh!
And so, I thought it was time to share my learnings from what has been perhaps one of the most transformative years of my professional life:
1. Understand what keeps your leaders up at night
My first 3 months on the job was a much needed discovery of many different variables – I was not looking for answers, but rather the questions themselves. What problems are we trying to solve? – Understanding the business and our markets in JAPAC was top priority. I was convinced that a thorough needs analysis and scoping of the region was key critical to our success.
We approached the needs analysis from both a top-down and a bottom up approach, and it took a while but in hindsight I would not have it any other way – because knowing the problem in and out, is half the battle won.
2. Be the best at what you got hired for
Spotify is one of those companies where there is just so much amazing stuff going on, all the time. With so many incredible people to meet, and thanks to our amazing people experience teams & various employee led initiatives, there’s always something interesting waiting for you to discover every day. As such it is extremely easy to get lost in both the volume, the pace of things, and be distracted by the many exciting opportunities.
Could I do it all? Absolutely. Should I do it all? Probably not.
One of my biggest learnings has been around deciding just that – where I wanted to spend most of my time, who I spent it with and what I spent it doing. Nothing says credibility more than being absolutely the best at what you were hired to do. Everything else is a bonus.
3. Focus on the basics & the ‘delighters’, the rest will fall in place
I soon realized the mammoth task ahead of me – It just so happened that our entire HR team in JAPAC was as new as I was, we had a blank slate in front of us, and the things that we could do were limitless!
In situations like these, I always go back to a thumb rule I have always followed – if you take care of both extremes, you can take your time with everything in between this is something I have not only applied to my day to day but also to my career (having gone from insurance to tech being the most relevant use case)
So we started building out the foundations of any solid learning organization.We made sure we had the right level of buy in from the leaders, awareness with the teams and the operational girth to support it all.
Once we had everyone swinging to the same beat, the next step was to focus on 1-2 delighters – the experiential elements that keep people excited, engaged and hungry for more. And now being in year 2, we are slowly working through the “in-betweens” – iterating every day to provide personalized yet scalable solutions to our businesses in JAPAC.
(Don’t get me wrong – There are still definitely points in time I desperately wish for a cloning device or a teleportation tool)
4. Everyone is “your team” and is just a “Fika” away!
For the first few months, I struggled to understand our unique team structures and our ways of working.
Having come from financial services, I was so used to hard lines and dotted lines that it was almost as if I had forgotten that we unintentionally tend to create these imaginary boundaries for ourselves.
It took me a while to break out of that shell and ask, what’s really stopping me from reaching out to person x ?
Fika, as I learnt on day 2 of the job, is the Swedish word for having a break, usually with coffee, and occasionally with delicious Swedish pastries. Having started my first two weeks in the HQ in Stockholm, I cannot even begin to count how many Fikas I had in those two weeks.
Now that I look back on the year, I understand that Spotify is the kind of company where pretty much everyone is just a fika away, you just have to ask for it!
5. Knowing when to pause and take a step back
This last point I am going to selfishly focus on myself. Last year was as exciting as it was overwhelming for me.
I underestimated the magnitude of change I was going through. It was also one of those years I can clearly single out as the year I learnt to be a lot more resilient.
Being part of a very lean team, most often than not, we are always rolling up our sleeves and getting things done and this means there are moments where I often find myself getting caught up in the “busyness” of everything and starting to unknowingly neglect myself.
A big learning last year for me personally was the realisation that I have to learn to protect my biggest asset – myself. While this is an ongoing journey of finding balance, I want to share a couple of small changes I made in my lifestyle that has largely contributed to my well-being this year:
- Sleeping 8 hours a day and 1 hour of exercise is non-negotiable:
This was a game changer for me. Between the many flights, the jetlag, the evening calls, I had somehow decided that I could function with 4-5 hours of sleep. Needless to say it was not a great idea and I didn’t realized how much productivity and personal efficiency I was losing out on, until I made the change and started sleeping 8 hours no matter what. Once my sleep rhythm was stable, I eventually added an hour of intensive exercise as part of my non negotiable as well – and honestly I have never felt better.
- Reading at least one book a month:
This is an attempt to keep me inspired. I have a lot of downtime on planes and instead of binge watching the entire catalogue of shows, I have consciously given myself a reading list to complete by the end of year. Reach out if you want a copy of my reading list!
- Practicing daily reflection & gratitude:
I have always been the journaling kind, but since last year I have structured my journaling routine a bit differently.
I spend 10 mins every day, mindlessly writing the very minute details of everything I did, what reactions I got from others, how it made me feel and what I was thankful for in the day. I do this every day, without fail.
At the end of each week, I read about my whole week and write about all the things I was grateful for that week, what I perhaps could have approached differently, had I had access to a time machine, and just taking a step back to recognize how far I had come.
This simple exercise that hardly takes 90 mins in a week, but has done so much for me in terms of keeping me grounded and self-aware.
It has also helped me find meaning in seemingly mindless day to day activities that tend to become reflex actions as part of any job – I now, not only recognize and value the place of all tasks big or small but also find myself being much more patient with myself and others.
That’s it from me! I hope this not only gives you a glimpse of my new life at Spotify but also inspires you to take a step back and think about what small changes YOU can make in your own life to create space for the things you love doing, no matter how seemingly busy you are
And if you feel like talking about it, don’t hesitate to reach out for a Fika!