Talk to a Tykling: Camille De Wulf, Growth Hacker

Talk to a Tykling: we get the latest from Tyk’s Growth Hacker, Camille De Wulf

One of the main factors behind Tyk’s success as a creator and supplier of innovative API solutions is its team of expert Tyklings. Scattered across the globe, this talented bunch of individuals bring together a global perspective and a desire to make things better.

In this series of interviews, we’re talking to each of the Tyklings and exploring what really makes them – and the company – tick.

We recently caught up with Camille De Wulf who has the fabulous title of Growth Hacker. Camille tells us what her role involves and why she prefers to work in a co-working space rather than from home. She also explains why Tyk’s flexible working policy means she doesn’t ever have to face attending a dreaded 8am meeting!

What do you do at Tyk?

I was hired to work on the cloud product as a Growth Hacker. My role is to develop the marketing for the cloud product, to make it grow and improve its performance. When I joined, I worked with a product owner who left after a few months to pursue a personal project. While he was being replaced, I spent a lot of time working on data and performance for the marketing team, building it up so that they were more data driven.

Tyk had a goal to become more data driven so I really dug into the data, dug into all the software, the data sources, code – a whole bunch of stuff. It was a lot of fun. Now I have a new product owner, so my role is kind of a hybrid between the two. It’s really interesting – it’s bringing the data element into marketing, which to some people sounds like fluff and theories, but it’s not, it’s actually backed up with data. It’s amazing and I love it.

Can you give me a quick history of what brought you to Tyk?

I have a master’s degree in marketing, and I started working in 2005 in online marketing – basically SEO and booking adverts. That was my first year of a professional career, finding out what I liked. Then I was hired by a digital advertising agency to do just that. So, I learned ‘search’ before it was a thing without even realising it; it was just data and data management. I dealt with it all day long – lots of numbers, lots of optimisation, and lots of campaigns.

I did that for eight to ten years in different agencies, in Madrid and in London. In London I dealt with a lot of ecommerce clients and got more into the backend of things – building product feeds, product catalogues, automating campaigns and processes. So when I arrived in Barcelona, I searched more for those types of roles as a consultant. I decided to go freelance so I could find projects that I could grow from.

After being in Barcelona for a year, I wanted to add some more technical skills to my portfolio, so I decided to learn coding and building web applications. And I got from that an understanding of databases, of backend, how to bring data, use it and send it back to a database… basically how to be a data analyst. I learnt how to code my own scripts and make my own tools. It’s been really good fun.

It sounds like you’ve got a good role at Tyk, blending the marketing side with the data side…

Exactly. It’s not that I don’t feel confident to have a full data role because I’ve already done that for some clients. But I do feel that what I’ve learnt in terms of coding and technical skills is not really focused on data, so I really want to do some training in data science. I might learn a language that is really meant for that – for data analysis, calculations and statistics. So I see the next steps and I see progress but for now it’s amazing to have this role where I can apply my understanding of marketing into my newer skills.

Which languages do you speak?

I’m French, so I speak French! And I also speak Spanish and English.

Where do you like to be based when you work remotely, pandemic aside?

I like to have a place dedicated to work. When I was a consultant, I always made sure that I had a place that was my office – a co-working space so I wasn’t isolated. Sometimes when you’re a consultant or you’re the only employee it’s quite lonely so it’s important to make sure you can bounce ideas off people, hear people talk about how they negotiate stuff or how they deal with a problem. That social element is really important to me. I’ve never been someone to work from home. I would feel isolated at home.

If you had a magic wand, what would you fix in the marketing industry?

Attribution – knowing people’s journey, where they come from. That would be the first thing I would fix.

At the same time, I do understand that a lot of people worry about privacy. But to me, dealing with data first hand, I know how anonymous it is. If you really wanted to and you have a sensitive product you could drill into it and find a specific person. We don’t do that at Tyk! I use the data for calculations and statistics. Some people are against cookies and that’s because some people have used data in the wrong way. That has made accessibility a lot harder.

I would also love to fix managers or clients who only focus on one data point and don’t see the big picture. They like you to drill down into something that’s insignificant. You can spend an entire day doing this and, in the end, it’s not going to give you any answers!

What do you like about working at Tyk?

How amazing the people are – the kindness. I joined when it was ‘Tyk Week’. Everyone was supposed to be in Bali but in the end it was a bunch of games and other fun stuff online, because of the pandemic. It was great!

Someone asked me what I worried about in joining Tyk. I said that I worried about people being protective of their work. This was because of past experience of joining a new client – when you ask a data person if you can look at the data, they can get defensive and protective. The response was that I wouldn’t have that issue at Tyk because if people can help you, they will help you. And that has been true for an entire year now.

People at Tyk are incredibly helpful. If people can jump on a call to tell you about something, they’ll do it right away. And people thank each other and give credit to each other all the time. It’s really refreshing.

Plus there’s the least amount of pressure for performance that I’ve ever felt. Tyk has this vision that even if you fail, you have still learnt something.

I mentioned earlier that the first product owner I was working with left for a personal project. Having projects like that is something that is actually encouraged by Tyk. I love that.

What would your tips be for someone joining Tyk and new to remote working?

I would say they should take their time to figure out how they like to work. Do they like to be alone? Do they like to be at home? Do they like to be completely silent or work with music?

And it’s ok if you change your mind. It’s ok to try to work from home and then the next week decide you want to try to work from a coffee shop. That’s fine. What works for me is not necessarily going to work for you. Investigate different options.

Also, take some time to figure out what time you like to work and communicate it efficiently to people. I’m a night owl. If you put a meeting in at 8am I’m probably not going to respond well. If you put a meeting in at 10pm, no problem! In Spain that’s the time we’re probably having dinner, so it’s fine. Tyk operates in such a way that you can voice those preferences and it’s completely fine.

Finally, don’t feel pressured to understand everything from day one. I’ve been at Tyk for a year and I still need refreshers sometimes because I’m working on products and projects that are incredibly complex. I can’t understand everything but I need to do the marketing for it, so I need to understand it to some degree. It’s ok not to be technical and it’s ok not to understand everything. At Tyk, you will always find someone willing to explain it to you in a different way.

Thinking back to your career before Tyk, what’s a mistake that you made and what did you learn from it?

I probably used to accept too much from clients, on many levels. For example, accepting working from their offices, on a fixed day a week at a fixed time. That’s not something I respond well to but I’ve learnt that the hard way. So, I guess I’ve learned not to accept things that go against my natural way of working.

Also, taking on roles that I don’t agree with. For example, taking on something and then realising that the tasks are not in line with what we agreed, and then not speaking up straightaway. So, I’ve ended up working in an environment that I don’t like, on something that I don’t like, often for a fee that I don’t like. These are mistakes that I have learned from.

Unfortunately not everyone is in a position, especially in this economy, to fight for precisely what they want. But as you progress in your career, and I think particularly as a woman, it’s very important to learn to voice your opinion and stand your ground.

Fee negotiation is another example. I remember six years ago this was something that I would almost apologise for. Fast forward to the present and I’m comfortable saying, “This is my fee”. If the person thinks that’s too expensive, that’s ok and I wish them luck. Most of the time, three months later, they call you back! You learn not to apologise for being an expert at something – for being a professional.

What are the values that drive you?

This is going to sound cheesy but it’s honesty. Honesty is a big one. At work I think it means owning your mistakes and not throwing people under the bus. And being a really reliable person. If you commit to doing something, do it. Or, be honest and say if you can no longer do it. Always be open about what works and what doesn’t work.

I value people who are patient and considerate and who have empathy. I try not to judge people when they’re in a bad mood or have an outburst of anger. Everybody has their struggles, so I try to take a step back and consider the other person’s perspective. And I expect other people to do the same.

What are your three favourite books or podcasts?

There are several podcasts I listen to in French – they are mostly feminist podcasts that understand patriarchy and how we can deconstruct it, not by opposition but by trying to slowly flatten it, in a sense. So I like women telling their stories – in their work life, historical podcasts about this topic. I think it’s really important. And the reason I listen to them in French is to keep up my vocabulary!

Some of my favourites include La Poudre (some episodes are in English), Un Podcast à Soi and Yess. Un Podcast à Soi can deal with some difficult topics, like abuse and violence, and what society can do to make men less violent towards women. Yess is about women’s daily victories in their personal or professional life, from witty comebacks to public burns of blatantly sexist men. It’s really funny!

One of my favourite books is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s one of the first adult books I read in Spanish. It’s a really complicated one but the story is beautiful. It will always have a special place in my heart because I was discovering how far I had come in learning this language. I was able to read and imagine a beautiful world in a language that wasn’t my own.

Another recommendation would be Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m halfway through it. It explains how our society was first formed and the culture of religions and beliefs. It’s fascinating. I love reading those kinds of books.

What else do you like doing when you’re not working?

I like DJing. I’ve loved electronic music ever since I was a teenager. Most of my friends listened to the radio and pop music but I was always listening to darker techno stuff.

So last winter I decided to take a course. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but it was a male dominated activity and I had a big fear – I’ve never been musically skilled and I didn’t think I was going to be good at it. I did the course (because this is the way I do things – the proper way) and I loved it. I have gigs once in a while and people call me to come and DJ at their parties.

I’ve always had a very odd way of enjoying electronic music because I don’t drink and I don’t take drugs and I go to these massive festivals solely for the music! With the pandemic and not being able to go out, finding this new role to enjoy at a party, behind the decks, is something I really love.