Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Andrew Murray, Global Commercial Director
Tyk has expanded rapidly as our product’s reputation has grown. Scaling up so fast would not have been possible without the right people. We’re known for our leading API and service management platform, but also for the smart, helpful team behind our product.
In this Talk to a Tykling interview series, we’re sharing insights into the people who make Tyk tick. This week, we caught up with Global Commercial Director Andrew Murray. Despite being responsible for leading Tyk’s services across APAC, EMEA and the Americas, Andrew remains down to earth – perhaps because he spends much of his time working from the Atlanta office broom cupboard!
What do you do at Tyk?
I am the Global Commercial Director – Tyk’s number three employee, after Martin and James! Having been here since the beginning, my role has evolved over the years and is evolving still.
My responsibilities sit within the revenue and customer sides of Tyk. I manage the commercial team – all of those who are talking to users day in, day out.
How did you come to be involved with Tyk initially?
Before Tyk I had a very different life; I was teaching English in Paris, which I had been doing for five years. I was ready to come back to England and I wanted to get involved in a startup – something high tech, ideally.
It was perfect timing… when I came back to England, I caught up with one of my old school friends, James Hirst. He had recently founded Tyk with Martin (who James had worked with previously) and it had just started to get interesting.
Martin and James are both very smart and driven people. As soon as I heard the detail of their new venture, I wanted to join them on the Tyk journey. That was four years ago now and the time has flown by. It’s been a rollercoaster!
Was it a bit of a culture shock, going from teaching English in Paris to being part of such a dynamic startup?
Yes, absolutely! But humans are very adaptable creatures and I’ve had quite a few career changes like that in my life, so that for me was an attraction. Having to do something out of your comfort zone and out of your depth where you have to learn, that’s something I find stimulating.
How did you end up teaching English in Paris in the first place?
I went to university in Bournemouth and studied business studies – one of those sandwich courses where in the third year you go out and work and have a proper job. I really enjoyed that whole experience.
My first job after university was in the television production business, supplying all the equipment that you need behind the scenes in order to make big television shows or big sporting events. It was a similar journey to this in a way; when I joined the company it was very small, just 15 of us, and by the time I left there were over 100 of us. It was a fast expansion and we operated in a lot of different countries during the eight years I was there.
I had started learning French while I was there thanks to a business opportunity with a French firm who needed our equipment. I fell in love with languages and with learning French. I went to France with the company and did lots of business there.
When I left that job, I took a bit of a career break. I wanted a new challenge, to travel, to do some charity work and to improve my French. So I went around the world to all sorts of French-speaking countries, then came back and volunteered for the Samaritans for six months.
I had always fancied trying teaching professionally, so my next move was to head to France to do some training to become an English teacher. The company I trained with then offered me a job and I stayed there for five years. It was quite a stimulating role. I got sent to lots of companies of different sizes. Clients ranged from firemen to groups of unemployed people to directors of large banks. Every day was different and I enjoyed the variety.
Have Tyk tasked you with learning any languages yet?
They haven’t! But I love the fact we have such a diverse team. When I talk to potential users, I always stress how truly global we are. I think we’re in 24 different countries now, spread over six continents – we span the world! I haven’t learnt any languages, but I’m interacting daily with people I haven’t met before from different countries and that’s always exciting.
I think there’s an international feel sometimes to some of the conversations on Slack. We’re sharing information from different cultures and different nationalities. I like that.
Do you get to travel much as part of your role?
I do, yes. There are three main reasons I travel. One is attending conferences around the world, sometimes because Tyk is sponsoring the event and other times to meet potential users there.
I’ve also been out to our office in Singapore, as well as spending a lot of time in Atlanta, getting this office up and running. I’ve spent the majority of the last six months in Atlanta. We only opened the office here last year, as there’s a huge opportunity in America. I’ve been on a mission here to recruit the team and build them up so that they can get started.
The other reason I travel is to visit potential or existing users on-site.
When you’re in England, do you tend to work remotely or in the office?
I only live about a 10-minute cycle ride from the office and I do prefer coming to the office, but I love that flexibility of knowing that I don’t have to be there. I’ll be honest, if it’s pissing down with rain then I may well do my morning calls from home and think about going in later, or perhaps the next day! It’s that freedom and flexibility that I love the most.
Ideally, I prefer to be in the office for the interaction with other team members. I’m a big foodie, so lunch is an important part of my day. If I can go out for lunch with a colleague, that’s always a pleasure.
My job doesn’t really stop, though. If I’m in the UK and I finish at 5 and cycle home, my day doesn’t finish as America’s just waking up, so I’m getting emails… and it’s the same when I’m in America.
How do you prioritise the work part of your work-life balance?
I have a 24/7 mindset and of course you have to make sure you don’t overdo that. Before, in the early days, I was handling everything and that was pretty stressful, having to deal with Australia and the East Coast as well as the UK. Luckily now we have a great team and systems in place. Tyk as a business never closes, and we have great people to take care of that… but I like to keep an eye on what’s happening, I can’t resist!
I’m absolutely capable of switching off completely if I want to go to the cinema or I’m off to bed – and I think that’s important. But at the same time, I’m always around if people need me.
Looking at the industry as a whole, is there a particular pain point that you would like to fix?
I’m not sure if it’s quite answering the question, but there’s one thing that bothers me. There are lots of the companies who get in touch with Tyk because they’ve got some pain with their current solution, or because they haven’t got a solution.
Tyk is usually a great fit, but what bothers me is that a lot of them have this mindset of wanting to deal with a company that’s been around for 10 years or that has £x billion of sales and offices in 20 countries. Tyk is one of a new breed of companies – we’re remote first, super agile, young and we have a great product. So it frustrates me that we miss out on some opportunities because we’re not IBM and people are less willing to take a “risk” on a company that’s less well known. I’d like to be able to change things so that that was no longer a barrier.
What do you like about working at Tyk?
It sounds like a cliché, but we have a really, really good team. We take a lot of time with our hiring so that we get the right people and I love the team we’ve got together. I enjoy working with them.
I spend a lot of time with the people in London, as well as interacting with people remotely, and it’s always a pleasure. No day is the same; there’s lots of variety. I’m in the user-focused front line and it’s really exciting, the number of different people contacting us every day. They always have different problems to fix and it’s fascinating hearing about their situations and how Tyk can help them.
It comes down to the people – they’re a happy bunch. We trust people to get on with the job; we allow them to be flexible. We treat them like adults and we get that back in return. It’s a really grown up way of running a company and that’s quite exciting.
Plus the fact that it’s a little bit new – that the world is changing. It wouldn’t have been possible to have a company like Tyk 15 years ago. The technology that makes it possible was still in its infancy. So many companies are now taking advantage of this, but we’ve had this mindset from day one and I want to make sure we keep that going forward.
What is Tyk doing to make sure that mindset remains embedded as the company grows?
There’s never a perfect answer to that – there are always growing pains. We’ve gone from a handful of people to 70 now and will have over 100 at some point. That’s going to be a challenge. But we’ve got the right people and the right systems in place – and the ability to change and evolve.
It’s important that people are able to give feedback and that we can improve as the company gets older and bigger. It’s never a perfect process, but we have a few mechanisms in place to manage it well, including the ISO9001 quality management system, which we achieved in 2017. Evidence that we’re walking the walk and not just talking the talk!
Everyone at Tyk is open to embracing change as well. Given that we’re a bit of a disruptor in the market, everyone is pretty comfortable with that role.
What are your tips for getting the most out of working for a remote-first organisation?
I think I might approach it in a way that wouldn’t suit everyone; I’m fine being connected all the time, but some people need to be able to step away. We have a system that allows you to tell people when you’re online and when you’re not, so I think that’s quite useful. Slack is really handy for that: it’s a really good tool.
What are the values that drive you?
Honesty, first and foremost. I tell the truth when I can and don’t bullshit people. I feel that Tyk is very similar to that – we say it how it is. We don’t lie or pretend, and I think our users appreciate us for that.
I’m also a real people person. I enjoy finding solutions that make people happy and that really fits with the approach that Tyk takes. We listen. From senior management down, the company is always willing to listen and take on board people’s opinions and feedback in order to get better and stronger. That idea of continuous development fits well with my own ethos.
An obvious one maybe, but I also believe in treating people how you would like to be treated.
What is a mistake that you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?
I’ve had a disaster when I was supposed to give a speech in front of a big crowd. I thought I’d learnt it off by heart and I wanted to do it with no notes. However, I hadn’t learnt it well enough, so the lesson was that if you want to do a talk without notes, make sure you practice and that you’ve done it 20-30 times, because you don’t want to look stupid up on stage! I’ve done it once and don’t want that to happen again.
It was in front of about 100 people and it wasn’t good! I resorted to getting the notes out in the end. I’d got on stage and my mind went blank. And then there was lots of juggling to get the notes out… it wasn’t good. When I finished, some colleagues patted me on the back and said, “Well, that wasn’t too bad.” It really must have been awful!
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have three books and/or podcasts, what would they be?
One book I would definitely take is Love All The People: Letters, Lyrics, Routines. It’s a collection of all the transcripts from the shows of my favourite comedian, Bill Hicks, plus letters he wrote and interviews he did. He died really young, so there’s only a limited amount of material. A lot of comedy doesn’t age well, but his still sounds really fresh even now.
I would also have to have a huge, big boy French Dictionary! That would definitely be on my desert island.
I also adore Desert Island Discs, although I can’t stand Lauren Laverne, the new presenter. I would take the archive of Desert Island Discs and I advise anyone to begin with Kirsty Young as the interviewer.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
My favourite thing to do in my spare time is cook, especially cooking something I haven’t made before. Actually, I love cooking something the second time, because I like to make it better than the time before! If I can share the experience with friends, so much the better.
The food in Atlanta is superb, as it is in London. Being able to cook with different sets of flavourful ingredients in each location makes for an interesting experience. The wine and beer in Atlanta are excellent too!
I enjoy going to restaurants as well as experimenting in my own kitchen. I like travelling. I like good movies… something to make me think, or to make me reflect or laugh or cry.