Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Michal Peleg, Head of Talent
What does it take to build a fantastic product? Fantastic people, of course! As a remote-first employer, Tyk scours the planet for talented individuals with the right approach, irrespective of where they happen to live.
Together, this team of Tyklings are serving customers across the globe, delivering reliable, finely tooled engineering across international borders and language barriers.
How have we built up such a trusted team? One element of it is our approach to recruitment. And that’s in the hands of our Head of Talent, Michal Peleg. Why not grab a cuppa and take five minutes out of your day to get to know Michal?
What do you do at Tyk?
I’m Tyk’s Head of Talent, so I deal with our open roles, from the whole recruitment process to onboarding new team members and of course selecting and interviewing them. I’m part of the people team, which includes our HR Manager and our Culture Manager. Overall, I’m in charge of bringing in awesome people to work for Tyk around the globe!
Do you travel much as part of your role (COVID-19 outbreak aside) and meet the people you recruit in person?
No, I don’t travel – it’s all done remotely. I sometimes get to meet the people face-to-face if they’re based in the UK and coming in to the London office for their first week, for their induction. But we’re a remote business, so a lot of the people that we hire aren’t UK-based.
What we do have is an annual retreat, where everyone meets each other face-to-face. Other than that I meet people by video, rather than in person.
Does remote recruitment present any particular challenges?
I actually find it a lot easier to recruit people remotely. They only thing you miss are the smaller nuances that you might pick up face-to-face. When only their face is in the frame you can’t always see their body language, like how they sit. But that’s really not a deal breaker, it’s just me being picky!
I think that remote recruitment actually brings a lot of positives rather than challenges. Financially, it’s much easier for the company to hire. We don’t need to pay agency fees, which are extremely high – often thousands and thousands per hire for companies who use agencies and have a preferred supplier list. We don’t use agencies at all. Since I joined, maybe one person came via an agency. That means that our cost per hire is extremely low, leaving plenty of room for the finance team to spend that money on things which are crucial to the business instead.
The other benefit is that we’re extremely diverse. I listen to a lot of webinars where companies are looking to become more diverse and bring more women into their teams and all of that. We’re in a good place – we’re so diverse that we have people in 25 different countries working for us. So our focus is on managing that, looking at how we can ensure we are respectful to each other and things like that.
There are a lot of amazing things that happen to a business when you open it up to remote working. It just makes it incredibly accessible, so you can get really, really brilliant people. They’re not based in the UK… so what? They’re brilliant and they can do the job.
Whereabouts are you based when you’re working remotely?
I’m currently in London and due to move to Borehamwood towards the end of the year. I work mostly from home (all the time right now, obviously!) but I come into the office when there is someone new starting. Also just sometimes because you need to see people from time to time when you work alone!
Is there a particular pain point in the HR industry that you would like to fix?
Personally, I wish that other companies would trust people a bit more in terms of working from home. Obviously, a lot of people are working from home right now out of necessity, but I wish companies could have been more open to the benefits of it in advance.
I went to about four or five webinars where companies were asking about how they could manage people remotely and how they could ensure that their staff weren’t slacking off. The answer is to just hire good people, then they won’t slack off! If you’re worried about it then you’ve hired the wrong people. You shouldn’t have to micro-manage people.
I guess I wish that more people would be open to the idea; that Tyk wouldn’t be so rare in our approach. I’m not sure how I could actually influence that – other than talking about it and hoping that others catch on!
I think when someone trusts you, it creates a very responsible and really creative environment. When someone hires you and says, “You’re the expert – we hired you to do recruitment so we’re not going to tell you how to do it,” it’s pretty amazing. It has a lot of power. Even if you’re alone in the room it’s very empowering in terms of your career and how you manage your role. It’s not for everyone, but it’s certainly effective if you love what you do – and Tyk’s very focused on hiring people who love what they do.
Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to Tyk?
I grew up in central Israel, about 40 minutes from Tel Aviv. I moved to the UK about 11 years ago. I started working in recruitment here almost straight away. I recruited for agencies, so I recruited for retail, the oil and gas sector, marketing and commercial roles, digital and tech…
In the role before Tyk, I was working in a software business as their recruitment manager. It was a similar role and ecosystem to Tyk, so the move to an autonomous role here was the perfect transition.
So, you’re fairly comfortable with the tech side of things?
Sort of, though I’m not a technical person. I get a little bit of everything! I’m more comfortable with the marketing side if anything as I recruited for marketing previously and it’s always really interesting, with really interesting roles – but that might just be my personal taste.
What do you like about working at Tyk?
Loads of things! I like that we are so autonomous. Everyone talks about radical responsibility, which is how we are all responsible to our workload. We have big goals, big objectives relating to what we have to do, but it’s not micro-managed to the point where you feel uninspired and don’t feel like working. I find that so much autonomy means that I am a bit more creative. That’s one thing that I really love.
I think I’ve been more productive in Tyk than I’ve been in any other role. I’ve had roles where there has been loads of pressure and loads of things to do. I think there is that same pressure at Tyk but you’re free to manage it in whatever way works for you. You’re trusted to know what is best for the business, which is very powerful.
I also really appreciate that we have the work/life balance. I appreciate it from a brand perspective. It’s great to have unlimited holiday and be able to work from home, but I appreciate that it comes from our leadership and that they are setting an example for the rest of the business. I think that’s really important and it’s one of the things I really love.
And it’s great that we have full transparency. Anyone can always reach out and speak to the CEO or the COO – the founders are so approachable. I hope we stay that way when we grow! They’re still talking to us as if we’re team members – they’re always adding notes on Slack and getting involved in chats. They’re not cut off where nobody can talk to them and I think that helps the culture at Tyk, for sure.
What are your tips for someone new to get the best out of working in a remote-first organisation?
It really depends on who the person is. I guess, “speak up.” If you have an idea or you’ve picked up on a gap or a mistake, speak up. As a remote employee you’re not going to have your manager next to you telling you what to do day in, day out. The whole company is happy to help with anything, so know that!
We have an induction and onboarding process that is constantly being improved – I’m working on that. Hopefully that will make it better for remote workers.
I think it’s key to reach out to people if you’re feeling down or you’re not sure what to do. Also, make sure you manage your workload properly and you’re not overwhelmed with too many things. Everyone will always help you and it won’t ever be an issue. There’s no micro-management, so you have to manage your own day and meet your goals yourself.
Make sure you have meetings with your manager if you need to. Sometimes line managers can be a little too hands off and it’s not right for everyone. If you need weekly meetings, then you need weekly meetings and that’s fine. Use that radical responsibility and set the meetings up with your line manager. Be proactive.
What support structures does Tyk have in place if people are struggling with taking responsibility or with their workload?
We have a very detailed Trello board for new starters, which covers things from a technical perspective. It covers step-by-step what you do in week one, week two and so on. That makes it easier for people who need to see specific tasks on a daily basis.
Other than that, our Culture Manager, Vicki, is all about how we communicate within the business – she was brought in to work on our internal comms. We’re not the best at internal comms (yet!) and because we’re all from different cultures there can sometimes be mix-ups, just around tone of voice or what we write on Slack. Jokes that I might find funny, you might find really offensive, for example.
Things like that are very important to us so Vicki’s role is a really important one for the business. She runs training sessions on communication and has opened a mental health channel on Slack. It’s actually really active. I thought that people might be embarrassed to write on it, but people use it to cheer each other up, especially given what we’re all going through right now. If you’re having a hard day or feeling a bit down, you can post something and everyone will reach out to you and chat to you and cheer you up in whatever way they can. And if you need specific help with something, of course, someone will be able to talk to you.
We also have a buddy system for new starters. I team up the new person with someone who has been in the business for about two years or more. They’re not necessarily from the same team. In fact, most of the time they’re from a completely opposite team. They catch up with the new starter for the first five minutes of every day for the first week, answering any questions about how things work and making the transition into Tyk easier. The first week is pretty full on, with lots of meetings of different heads of departments and the buddy helps by catching up with the new starter each day.
We want people to be able to reach out to anyone they want to. It’s a very open approach to comms. All our diaries are also very open. Anyone can see my diary; I can see the CEO’s diary… everyone’s diaries are open so you can always put a meeting in. All you need to do is add a Zoom link and you’re good to go. It’s all very open. We want everyone to feel completely comfortable reaching out to everyone else.
What is a mistake that you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?
Ha ha, there were so many! A generic one that repeated itself over and over again until I learned my lesson was not trusting my gut – not trusting my instincts. When you interview a lot of people, sometimes something just doesn’t feel right, but you may not be able to put your finger on what it is. You want the person to be right and to work out, so that you can be good at your job, but there’s just something telling you that they’re not.
Whenever I ignored that feeling, it came back and bit me! The person would either not show up to work or pull out at the last minute or come back and say they had a job offer elsewhere and ask for more money. Or just really nasty things that you don’t want to tell your manager as they’ll think, “How did you not pick up on that?”
I had one candidate when I was working in the oil and gas sector who said that his grandma died. That’s such a common line to hear in recruitment – most people use it when they don’t want to come to an interview. I think if people realised how many other people say it, they might come up with something else!
Anyway, he was supposed to start a job in Japan with a Japanese client. Their culture is quite different to that of the UK. I had to call the client and say that the candidate’s grandma had died, that he was going back to India to spend time with his family and that he didn’t know when he would be able to start the job.
After a week, I called the candidate and asked how he was doing. Straight away I could hear the smile in his voice down the phone but I had to play the game and not be angry or take it personally, as he had said his grandma died. He then fed me a story about his mum being unwell and a whole bunch of lies. I still tried to give him another chance and that was a mistake – I should have pulled him out of the process way earlier than that. The Japanese client didn’t want to work with us after that. They didn’t forgive us. I’ll never forget that candidate’s name!
What are the values that drive you personally? What’s important to you?
Honesty is really important to me. I really value it, even if the truth is something I don’t want to hear. I would rather hear an honest opinion that something fluffy.
I also value people who are hardworking, but not in a negative way where they work themselves to the bone. People who work smarter. I like to be part of a team where we complement each other and bring out the best of each other. That’s really important to me. Plus a lack of egos.
What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts?
Some of the books that I like are in Hebrew, so I’ve not chosen those ones. Right now, I’m reading a lot of books about body language, which is particularly interesting because I interview a lot of people so it’s good to read about facial expressions and non-verbal communication and that sort of thing. At the moment I’m reading a book on evolution and how we came from animals that still use the same facial expressions that we do. It’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals by Charles Darwin. That’s really cool.
There are a few books by ex-CIA agents that interest me, where they write about using body language and non-verbal communication to spot a liar. That’s really interesting. It’s good if you’re in a relationship too!
I don’t really listen to podcasts. Listening to people talking isn’t that engaging to me – I need something visual.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I have a little home gym, so I work out quite often. I also do aerial acrobatics: silks, ropes, straps… all of those things. I don’t always want to go to the gym, and I have a background in dance. I like to make pretty shapes – to make working out look pretty. I find you don’t really notice when you’re focused on creating a nice shape that you’re actually working really hard on your body position and your core. It’s like exercise in disguise. Plus, there’s an element to playing around on trapeses that takes you back to your childhood memories of the circus. It’s a way to get fit without noticing, which is quite cool!
I also sing. Not in public anymore, but I’m still somewhere on Spotify, I think. I just like to check that I still have some octaves every now and again!