Talk to a Tykling: Stephan Matter, Tech Ops Lead

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Stephan Matter, Tech Ops Lead

At Tyk, we’re constantly blending engineering with innovation to make things better. We want to work with our product and our community in the best way possible and that requires the best team possible.

That’s why we’ve scoured the globe in our search for the brightest and most creative team. Our Tyklings hail from over 25 countries, all working together to improve, adapt and build more into Tyk to help our clients succeed.

But who are these brilliant Tyklings? Our Talk to a Tykling interview series is shedding light on them one by one. Today, we’ve put Stephan Matter under the spotlight, finding out just what it takes to be Tech Ops Lead in a company as exciting as Tyk. 

What do you do at Tyk?

I’m the Technical Operations Lead at Tyk. It is a really broad role that connects in to all the various teams.

In my day to day work I look after internal tech support, supporting our Tykling’s with the right tools for their roles. This could be anything from a MacBook not working or an inaccessible folder to needs for new software.

One other aspect of the role is making sure that Tyk operates is in accordance with its ISO27001 and 9001 certifications. Information security is always on my mind; it’s an important part of my role.

I recently worked with our Culture Manager on a project called Tyk-Connect. This project is focused on enhancing and improving the way we communicate and connect at Tyk. Human connection is vital for a remote first company.

It’s a really varied role, that’s what makes my day so special. I love it.

Where are you based?

At the moment I am in central Switzerland at the place where I grew up. We will be here for a little while, close to my parents and then the plan is to relocate to Spain.

We also had planned a visit to Phoenix, but right now neither the trip to the US nor the move to Spain is set in stone. It’s been a complete swirl of uncertainty and I’ve had to learn to surrender to it. There is no other option!

When you were working in London, did you go into the office or did you prefer to work from home (or coffeeshops, or somewhere else)?

Coming from a highly corporate environment I was used to going to the office on a daily basis. So, when I joined Tyk I started off by going into the office twice a week.

After having been there for about three months, I went on a long trip to the US and worked in a different time zone. With that, I really started to get used to working remotely. Once back in London I began to work in the office less and less in order to acclimatize to working remotely.

Now, I finally know what work/life balance is!

What do you like about working at Tyk?

There are so many things that I like about working at Tyk.

I really like working with my fellow Tyklings. Everyone that works at Tyk has a level of empathy and of understanding that I haven’t seen in any other workplace.

I like the trust-based model that Tyk operates on and that my voice is being listened to and I am being heard.

Because of Tyk, I know now what it really means to have a work/life balance. Before, I’d heard of the term but never really experienced it. Since I joined Tyk, my personal and professional life has drastically changed.

Do you get to travel as part of your role?

We all connect through our tools online (obviously, we all have to do this at the moment). I don’t have to travel specifically for my role, but the intention is that I will eventually meet other Tyklings in person. That could be as part of a dedicated visit to one of the offices or at the Tyk retreat.

Thinking about the tech sector more broadly, is there a particular issue or pain point that you would love to be able to fix?

That’s a tough question! The tech sector is a highly driven sector and can be consuming at times.

I’m generalizing, of course, but most of the people that work in the tech sector have a passion for it. When you have a passion, it can be easy to forget all the time spent in front of the screen. It’s really important to have a healthy balance.

Please could you give us a potted history of your background? What has your journey to Tyk been like?

I’ll try to be brief! I grew up in Switzerland. I first started off in the health sector. After a few legal changes to the system I decided to step out of that and then did a business and commerce degree.

The schooling system in Switzerland is completely different to that in any other country. It’s now starting to fall more in line with the EU, but back when I did my degree that wasn’t the case.

With my business and commerce degree, I worked for the Swiss National TV Channel in customer service. I then worked for a well-known Swiss newspaper in a customer service/support role.

A few years later I moved to Spain and started working in technical support for a UK-based company. That’s how I got into the world of IT support.

When I moved to London, I had the opportunity to work in various industries. Because of that, I have been able to broaden my knowledge and enhance my experiences.

After my last position in private banking, a highly corporate environment, it was time for a change: fresh air, something more.

I’ve gotten very lucky and ended up here at Tyk.

Was it quite a culture change then, coming into Tyk?

Absolutely! It was a big change and at the beginning also a bit of a challenge. Coming from a corporate background, you have a certain language. You talk in a certain way, address people in a certain way, operate in a certain way.

Starting at Tyk, I had to adapt my mindset and get used to things moving a lot faster and realising that I can really make a difference and have an impact.

From the very beginning, my manager (James, Tyk’s COO) has given me trust to let me get on with what needs to be done. Coming in from a corporate environment to this completely different mindset was a huge change.

Now, I don’t think I could ever work in an office-based environment again. I like policies and procedures very much, and it’s part of my role at Tyk to bring in more of them in relation to technical operations. But there are different approaches; you can think outside of the box and create something that works without it being incredibly dry and corporate.

What tips would you give to a new starter working for a remote-first organisation for the first time?

Take time. Don’t have the impression you’re going to know it all in the first week. There’s a vast amount of information to absorb in order to understand how Tyk operates and to understand the teams.

Make sure you have the right setup if you work from home – a comfortable chair and a table where you can really work comfortably.

Speak to other Tykling’s. They’re incredibly helpful and super supportive.

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

There are many mistakes to choose from! I think that all of our experiences are in some way founded in or built on mistakes.

I wouldn’t call it a mistake, but I have learned that even when a ‘yes’ is a ‘yes,’ it doesn’t always mean it’s a ‘yes.’ Things can change in an instant, so always make sure that you have a Plan B or even a Plan C.

What are the values that drive you? What’s important to you? 

Honesty, being direct, respect and empathy.

What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts? 

I can give you both! My favourite podcast is Unlocking Us – Brene Brown. My second is 1619 by The New York Times, which talks about racial injustice, discrimination – a lot of the things that are happening right now. And my third is Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Conversations

For books, it’s Gabrielle Bernstein’s The Universe Has Got Your Back and Eckhart Tolle’s New Earth. There’s lots of competition for my third book! I think I’ll go with Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. It’s one of my favourites.  

The Universe Has Got Your Back is a book that helps you with spiritual transformation but in a way that can be applied to anything in life, from your work environment to your personal environment. It gives insight into how you and the universe interconnect. 

The same kind of topic leads into New Earth. When you’ve read that book, every other self-help book or spiritual book or book about connection and belonging becomes just a nice-to-have add-on! A book that should be read by everyone; really powerful.

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness is about racial injustice, white privilege, dignity, respect, community, minorities… so many points that are incredibly important. We think that history can’t repeat itself but if we don’t learn as a collective there is a chance that it will. Many countries have wounds that have never been dealt with. It’s a tough topic but one that we need to address. I highly recommend it.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love doing yoga and I meditate a lot. I love travelling. Obviously, that’s off the books right now. When I travel, I love going to the West Coast of the US: Phoenix Arizona and Los Angeles, California are my two favourite places. I love exploring nature and, when time permits, I also like watching a good TV show. 

What is it about the West Coast that you particularly love?

I can’t really put it into words. There’s something magical about the West Coast. About the landscape, the earth. A lot of people say Los Angeles is plastic and fake, but there are so many aspects to it. That’s what makes it so special. 

And about Phoenix, it’s the vastness of nature with that desert landscape. The animals and plants that live in the desert. And the heat! A lot of people can’t stand the heat. In the summer it can get very hot, but I love the heat, I thrive in a Sunny environment.