Talk to a Tykling: Adam Rainsford, Financial Director

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Adam Rainsford, Financial Director

Tyk cares about its team, its community and its product. We see all three of them as essential to our ability to help businesses around the world achieve what they need to. Our community and our users are familiar with our product, but often don’t get to hear about the people behind the scenes who make the magic happen. That’s where our Talk to a Tykling interview series comes in. 

This week, we chatted to Adam Rainsford, Tyk’s new Financial Director. We discovered everything from his plans to ensure that the finance function is an enabler across the business to how you steal a little spare time for yourself when you have four children at home. 

What do you do at Tyk?

Ultimately, my role is about ensuring that we are doing everything we can to meet business objectives, while also making sure from a cash perspective that we have everything we need in the right place at the right time, with the right resources to deliver over an extended period. 

It’s a fascinating role. It goes from the granular, looking at how the data flows through our business to accurately, reliably and completely report what we need to report, with the appropriate process in place to do so, to a top-down, holistic view of how we’re operating. 

I see the finance function as a hub within any business, as most things travel through finance in some capacity. I like to try and think of it as an enabling function. Finance should be set up to facilitate people to do their jobs. There’s sometimes a lot of anxiety about the finance function. Should I be spending this? Is it the right thing to be doing? A well-oiled finance department can act as a ‘yes’ function, but one that considers all the inter-related elements of the business when making decisions. 

Finance sits across the whole business. It encompasses things like legal, compliance, human resources – all the broader operational functions of a business. Finance needs to support those functions. 

I’ve discussed this at a few conferences and round tables with other finance leaders… Finance teams can often be stretched and under-resourced, if a company views them simply as a means of paying invoices and people and doing some number crunching. But a well-embedded finance department can add real value to an organisation. It can give people the confidence to make the right decisions, which is a very positive force within a business. 

Tyk has a remote-first policy. Do you take advantage of that?

I live and work in London, so spending time in the office is easy. I work from home as well. I’m used to a culture of freedom and ownership of your time and am a huge advocate for it. You have to be responsible for how you interact with this kind of culture. 

It’s a question of deciding what really works for you. When I joined Tyk, I spent a bit of time rethinking my schedule and now typically work in the office Monday through Thursday from about 9 am to 3 pm, then travel home before the rush hour and work a bit more once I get home. I usually work from home on Fridays and some weeks I throw in another day of home working. 

Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your background? What brought you to Tyk? 

I trained with PwC and then spent some time in industry, working in investment management. I moved into the startup world after an opportunity came up at a barbecue! It came from left-field really and I wasn’t that prepared for it, but I saw the scope to do something that was non-standard and fairly limitless in terms of boundaries. It was a very exciting opportunity. 

The first startup I worked for had just raised $128 million in the US and was looking to expand internationally. They needed somebody with a finance mindset to help them. It was an incredibly varied role, straddling operations, HR and other functions as well as finance. I learnt a lot about what it means to grow and operate a business in real life. It was a very dynamic situation – I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants for about four years… and have done ever since really! It’s the nature of these startup environments and I really enjoy that sense of dealing with the unknown. 

From there I moved to another startup that had just raised about £18 million in a series B round. That role made me realise that I wanted to continue in this space and deepen my experience in different ways, becoming a more complete all-round professional in the process. 

My reason for coming to Tyk was that I was looking for a business that more closely aligned with my internal ethics and mindset. The Tyk job advert stood out to me due to the express mention of people being humble and the way that humility was woven through the ad. I love that. It’s not something that you would normally see expressly stated on a job description. 

When I met the founders, I could see that that was part of how they wanted to grow this business, finding really hard working, phenomenally smart, ambitious, driven people who can come together to work in this asynchronous environment. It’s about working in a way that doesn’t bring any agenda or ego to the table. I thought that was really positive. It’s behind a lot of how they run the business – fast growth but in a sustainable way. That sat really well with me. 

You mentioned internal ethics. What are the values that drive you?

There’s a lot I could talk about here! I care a great deal about the quality of what I do. I worked as a waiter for my first job at 15 years old and loved the hospitality industry. I did everything from private functions to running restaurants for Café Rouge as I went through university. While I love the industry though, I realised that it was quite unsustainable as a long-term career path as I have different ambitions. I am very fond of the hospitality sector though. When I retire and find myself at a loose end perhaps I will find my way back somehow!

I also loved acting when I was younger. It was all part of giving people a great experience and ensuring that they had the best possible experience to suit their individual circumstances. Being socially receptive and sensitive to what people wanted was a big part of it. Sometimes diners would want a quiet service that left them alone, while others were looking for a more interactive and chatty experience. I got a real kick out of hosting and that has carried through into my work life. 

That can be a double-edged sword though. I’m a bit of a people pleaser. I want people to know that I care about my work and care very much about the business as a whole. That commitment to quality of service and caring about what I do is a core part of my values. It boils down to personal integrity. I think I would struggle if that was questioned on any level, whether at work or at home as a husband and a father. It’s pretty key to a financial role! 

What did you want to be when you were little?

I don’t remember having a particular job that I wanted to do. I just wanted to be successful. As I grew up that became about wanting to succeed in whatever I did. I never stopped when I was younger – theatre productions, working, trying my best at school… I wanted to get the best out of life. 

In my late teens and early 20s I thought about going into acting. However, I’m quite risk-averse, so it didn’t feel like the right choice for me long-term. Plus I quite enjoyed the journey of going into PwC and exploring the financial world. That gave me something large enough to tackle that it distracted me from doing something completely maverick and deciding to become an actor! I enjoy the financial work and don’t want to stop doing it. 

Tyk exists to help people make, create and build things better. Which particular issue within your role or the industry is important to you to fix? 

One pain point I have is that there can be an expectation that finance can just handle anything. Thankfully, it sits within my role and remit to address this. Ultimately, most things do come through finance, but sometimes people don’t quite have the insight into what finance does. That can lead to a bit of a culture of seeing finance as an admin workhorse that exists to deal with difficult forms (for example) that could perhaps be dealt with by other departments. 

That’s not a criticism as such, as finance exists in order to facilitate other people doing their jobs. It’s just a point that needs to be handled carefully. It’s something I put pressure on myself to address. It’s a matter of having clarity around processes and what it is that finance does, plus what people within the business can expect from it. Finance involves interacting with everyone, so there’s scope there to develop an appreciation of what finance does. 

Are there any particular challenges that arise from Tyk’s geographic spread?

Yes, in a way. Operationally and financially, when you’re spread across the globe, there are lots of different touch points that can impact you, whether due to tax legislation, employment law rules, or more. You have to be comfortable with looking at the different risk profiles at which the business is operating in each jurisdiction, as well as the levels at which it needs to be operating. 

I think it’s a lesson that we’re learning more and more these days, particularly with the spread of startup cultures and remote working. 

What tips would you give to a new starter when it comes to working in a remote-first organisation?

Really take ownership of your schedule and think about what works for you. When it comes to engaging in the freedom to essentially operate as you want, the right way to do that is to take absolute responsibility for being clear and communicating how you’re working. It’s nice to have that freedom but make sure your calendar is updated with your location so people can see where you’re going to be based. Transparency around working locations and times is key, particularly if you have other people who are dependent on you within the business. 

Personally, I’m also as receptive as possible to face to face meetings. 

Do you travel much as part of your role?

I try to keep travel to an absolute minimum. I don’t see a huge need to travel with my role, bar occasional one-off trips to the other offices. 

Let’s get personal for a minute. Can you share details of a mistake that you made early on in your career and what you learned from it?

Not asking for help. Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome and self-doubt to an extent and this can particularly be the case in highly ambitious environments. There’s a tendency to benchmark yourself and question whether you’re good enough. I’ve become very aware of that when I’ve had mentoring and that kind of development. Early on in my career, I worried that asking for help would be viewed as a sign of weakness or lack of knowledge. However, not asking can be quite detrimental and lead to anxieties of its own! 

What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts? 

I am absolutely addicted to Desert Island Discs. There’s such an array of individuals that come through it and it’s such a lovely format. I love it. I’m a big fan of Radio Four’s News Quiz as well.   

In terms of books, Jean M Auel’s Earth’s Children series is fabulous. They’re really epic novels set in prehistoric times, following the interactions between the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnon people. Very fascinating. 

On the business front, I love Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s got some interesting things around forming habits, productivity and engagement. It looks at the challenges that we face in being productive in modern working environments and applies particularly to the remote-first culture and juggling children and family. I have four children, so setting boundaries and being effective on all fronts can sometimes be a challenge, albeit an amazing one! There’s an interesting personal battle about what you give to work and what you give to your family and how you shape those decisions… and how effective you are as a result. 

How do you spend your spare time, assuming you get any spare time with four children at home? 

My spare time is my scooter ride to work! I don’t really get much more than that. If I can grab 10 minutes to sit down with a cup of tea or a good single malt (depending on the time of day!) then I count that as a win. I read an article on the BBC recently about stealing time for yourself. If you’re doing the school run and tag 15 minutes on to grab a coffee, that’s a good way to squeeze in a few moments of quiet time for yourself. 

When I was younger, it was acting and theatre projects that took up my time, but those have taken a backseat to family life these days. My down time is the time I spend with my family. I love spending time with my kids and enjoying family time. Time with my wife is incredibly valuable too.