Talk to a Tykling: we get to know James Pavey, Regional Marketing Manager for EMEA.
Users around the world are familiar with Tyk’s innovative API management solutions. But who’s behind the products? This Talk to a Tykling interview series uncovers what really makes Tyk tick – the network of intelligent, creative employees based all over the world.
This time, we meet Regional Marketing Manager, James Pavey. He tells us why ‘blue sky thinking’ is mostly nonsense and why it’s so important to work with lovely people.
What do you do at Tyk?
I’m one of three Regional Marketing Managers and my responsibility is Europe, the Middle East and Africa. We’re the bridge between marketing and sales, working with and supporting both teams to deliver their goals.
Our primary role of course is to generate interest in Tyk’s platform and solutions. We do that by using a real variety of marketing techniques, whether that’s creating white papers and blog posts, sponsoring digital events, organising webinars, running email campaigns, supporting partners or conducting social media campaigns. We used to run physical events (pre-pandemic) and hopefully they’ll return one day, as there really is no substitute to meeting people face-to-face. We also work closely with our sales development representative team to make sure all the leads we generate are followed up and qualified.
So in a nutshell my role is lead generation and though I’ve been doing this kind of role for 25 years, I still very much enjoy it.
Can you give me a potted history of your background?
I grew up and went to school in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and went to the University of York to read history, which is one of my passions. When I left uni the country was in a recession, so I temped for a finance company in a call centre for 16 months. Then I saw an advert in The Guardian for a marketing role. I can still remember what the ad looked like! I applied and got the job, which was in an IT company in Watford. That’s how I started working in IT marketing – pretty much by accident. I worked at that company for four years, and then seven or eight jobs later I came to Tyk, which I came across via LinkedIn.
Did you travel as part of your role (pre-pandemic) and will you travel as part of your role post-pandemic?
Yes. Pre-pandemic, I did loads of travelling. I used to work for a company called New Relic and I did a lot of travelling there. I was very fortunate – I went to Dubai, Cape Town and all over Europe. The kick-offs were all in the States, so I got to travel over there too.
I remember vividly one time I was working in Finland doing an event on the Thursday, I stayed in Helsinki for the weekend, flew into Heathrow on the Sunday, changed terminals and flew to an event in Dubai that afternoon, then flew to Turkey for another event. The travelling was exhausting but they were truly happy days.
I hope I’ll be travelling at Tyk. Since joining the company I’ve been to London three times but otherwise, I’ve not been anywhere yet! Realistically, I don’t think I’ll be travelling for business until next year.
What would your advice be to someone coming to a remote-first environment for the first time?
I’ve been working at home in Berkshire for six years now, so with the pandemic there was no real change, other than I didn’t go to London anymore. But before then I was always office-based.
For me, when I was first changing from being in an office to working from home, I took some advice from someone who’d been working from home for a while. She said you need to make sure you’re disciplined enough to have a routine. I thought it was good advice and have stuck by it.
I typically start at 9 am and finish at around 6 pm. I try and avoid looking at Slack or email outside of those hours, but inevitably I do!
I also suggest you have a desk – don’t sit on the sofa with your laptop. I can’t work like that. I need a desk, even if it’s just a kitchen table.
Also, have music in the background. I don’t enjoy working in silence. I listen to classical music as I have found it to be the best accompaniment to working, because there are few words to distract me.
And finally, try to get out of your seat regularly. Sometimes I realise its 11 am and I haven’t got up for two hours. That’s something you should routinely do – get out of your seat and make a cup of tea or put the washing on or something. Sometimes I fail miserably though!
Stepping back from Tyk, if you had a magic wand, what would you fix in the marketing world?
I think sometimes marketing can be a bit too woolly and fluffy. It’s the classic, everybody sitting in the room and ‘blue sky thinking’. I hate that expression and frankly, it’s mostly nonsense. Too many marketers spend too much time doing all that and not actually doing any proper work!
We’re all here to generate interest in the product (or whatever it is that you’re promoting) and you need to actually get something out of the door. I’m a great believer in JFDI. It’s better to get something out of the door that’s 70% perfect than spend weeks trying to get something perfect that never gets out the door.
That’s why I think some sales teams probably look at marketing with disdain and wonder what we’re delivering. Marketers have to remember why we’re here. Our main purpose is to support sales. Too often, marketing forgets that their customer is the sales team. If we’re not delivering for the sales team then really, we haven’t got a job, because they’re the ones bringing in the revenue.
If you do something in marketing that hasn’t got the buy-in of the sales team, then you’re wasting your time. They’re the ones doing the follow-up and interacting with customers and prospective customers, so they need to feel comfortable in the message, the channel and the campaign that’s being run. It’s easy to get excited about an idea and then realise, hang on, the sales team are not going to like this so I’m wasting my time!
Thinking back to your pre-Tyk career, can you share an example of a mistake you made and what you learned from it?
You never leave a company, you leave your boss. I’ve worked for a couple of bosses in the past where I probably should have left sooner but I stuck it out and became unhappy. Then finally I snapped and started looking elsewhere.
With hindsight, I probably should have spotted the signals sooner, realised I wasn’t enjoying my work anymore and that the culture had radically changed, then started looking for a new job. That’s a learning experience.
You don’t often leave a company. You leave the person you work for. That person can ruin your weekend, they can ruin your holiday…
What’s great about working for Tyk?
The fact I can work from home. I’ve got so used to it. I couldn’t bear to go back to commuting to London. Apart from anything else, commuting is such a waste of money and time.
Also, often you work for companies in the IT industry who start waxing lyrical about values and culture but they’re just going through a tick-box exercise. With Tyk, they genuinely mean it – remote-first, radical responsibility, all of it. If you have an emergency at home or you’ve got to go and do something, you don’t feel guilty that you’re not at your desk.
I’ve not been able to do it myself because of the pandemic but looking at photos on Slack I see people at Tyk in the past have worked from some very nice locations around the world! The culture is very important and what Tyk says about it is true.
I think as well, while your boss can have a direct impact on your love of the job, so can the rest of the people you work with. I always think to myself, “Could I go on a long journey with this person?”. And at Tyk, I’d say yes for everybody I’ve met, spoken to or interacted with!
You spend so much time at work, you can’t talk about work all day. You have to get to know people better and find out, for example, what they did at the weekend and whether they have any holiday plans. It’s important to spend time with your team discussing more than just work. How did Everton get on at the weekend? Did you make that cake you’ve been meaning to for weeks? How are your kids? Meetings are as much about these issues as they are going through a series of bullets and actions.
Plus, when you get to know people, you understand what makes them tick and motivates them, so it improves what you do. You might think, I won’t talk to them now because I know they’ve got this going on, but I’ll talk to them later.
What’s important to you?
I don’t like rudeness. I’ve worked with people in the past who were rude and it rubbed me up the wrong way. I like job satisfaction. I like organising events particularly. I like to come up with an idea, see it through to the end, then see the results and move on to the next thing. I like the satisfaction from that. But sadly, we can’t do any of that at the moment.
I’m not into formality. Hierarchy at work is not really me. I like to be able to talk to someone senior without feeling that they’re senior. It’s like that at Tyk.
So often at a company you have a prima donna, someone who’s arrogant, someone who’s opinionated and then you have a small group of people who are really nice. In your career you’re trying to find a company where the majority of people are nice, if not everybody. When you think how many hours you work each week, you’ve got to work with nice people. And I have found those nice people at Tyk.
What are your top three books or podcasts?
I’m not a book reader but I am a prolific reader of current affairs and politics online. Because all the websites are opinionated, I tend to read loads to try and get a balanced view on things.
I’m also a big reader of foreign news and politics websites. When I worked at New Relic, the EMEA HQ was in Ireland and many of my colleagues were Irish, so I began to read lots of Irish news sites, which sometimes have news stories about the UK that aren’t featured in the UK press. Yesterday, I found myself reading France 24’s website (which is in English) and I’ve just discovered another French politics website that’s in English. I’m a prolific news consumer.
In terms of podcasts, I came across one earlier this year called Something Rhymes with Purple, which is Gyles Brandreth and Susie Dent from Countdown talking about the derivation of words and phrases. It’s fascinating – it’s about why we use particular words in English, which is a language that has been influenced by so many different languages.
There’s also Americast on the BBC, which is about American politics. I enjoy listening to that too.
You’ve mentioned that you’ve travelled extensively in the past. Where is the best place you’ve been? And the worst?
The best place would either be Japan or Cape Town. I went to Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima. I loved it because everything was ordered and clean and everybody was fantastically polite. The food was amazing. It was totally different to Europe. It was incredible.
I went to Cape Town two or three times with work. It’s just breath-taking with the city, Table Mountain, the ocean and the botanical gardens. The food is exceptional, the wine is amazing. There’s so much history. It had all the ingredients I love.
I’m not sure where would be the worst place. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to every state in the US. It took me 27 years to do that. The place I wouldn’t rush back to would be Oklahoma or somewhere like that, simply because there’s not much there of interest to me, so there’s no reason to go back. There isn’t anywhere I wouldn’t go back to because I hated it. I’ve really enjoyed everywhere I’ve been.
What do you like doing when you’re not working?
No surprise, but I like travelling! I’ve just started travelling again. Last week I went to Tallinn and next month I’m going back to Helsinki.
I’d love to go to Argentina, which is somewhere I’ve never been before. I’d also love to go to New Zealand – those really faraway places.