Talk to a Tykling: Assunta Senese, Partner Manager

Talk to a Tykling – getting to know Assunta Senese, Partner Manager

The Tyk team is constantly improving, tweaking, adapting and expanding Tyk in order to help our users achieve wonderful things. With Tyklings dotted around the planet, we work around the clock to make Tyk the best that it can be.

But who are these hard-working, energetic individuals who have devoted their brainpower to Tyk and its users? That’s what our Talk to a Tykling interview series is here to reveal!

This week, we’ve put our Partner Manager, Assunta Senese, under the spotlight. Assunta shares her insights and experience and dives into everything from the importance of the right mentality when it comes to partnerships, to the similarities between working in sales and lifting weights.

What do you do at Tyk?

I’m Tyk’s Partner Manager, which means that I’m in charge of the partner program, from how we work with partners to the processes we use for approving and training them. The role covers every aspect of our partnership working arrangements.

By ‘partners,’ I mean organisations like consultancies, system integrators and so forth, which are interested in working with Tyk. I make sure that these companies are onboarded, trained and supported so that they are successful while working with Tyk.

Do you cover a specific region or the entire world?

My main focus is Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) but I’m also supporting the US and Asia-Pacific (APAC) teams as much as I can. As we have partners globally and I can speak a few languages, I think it’s just a natural thing for me to work across several territories. At the end of the day, we are just one big team!

Which languages do you speak?

I’m Italian but also half-Spanish and I’ve been living in the UK for 15 years. I’ve also lived in Finland, so I can speak Finnish. And I can just about manage a bit of French, as well. 

Pandemic aside, does your role involve much travel?

I’ve not been at Tyk that long. But as our partners are distributed across different countries, I foresee that being the case again. It’s easier to have conversations face-to-face, so it makes sense for me to meet up with people in person within the EMEA region.

Where do you prefer to work when working remotely (again, ignoring the pandemic)?

I like to spend some time in the office as I like to see people and meet with them face-to-face. Otherwise I’m based at home. I live in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere. If I get tired of my desk, I can take my laptop outside and sit on a bench in the garden for ten minutes, for a change. And when I am allowed to travel, I like to go to Italy and spend time with my family while carrying on working. The Devon coast is another favourite of mine. I normally split time working and holidaying there, always with a sea view.

I like to work in a quiet environment, so a coffee shop wouldn’t cut it for me – it would be too noisy.

Could you tell us a bit about your background?

I grew up in Italy and lived there until I was 25. After I graduated, I did a short spell as a teaching assistant. I felt that teaching was my calling, even though my degree was in history, so I had to try. I tried and I failed! Or rather, I like to think that while I like to study, I wasn’t meant to pass my knowledge on in that way.

When I moved to the UK, I worked for an Italian company that ran transfers from the airport to the city centre. Then I moved on to sell advertising for a magazine in Norfolk. I moved around the UK a bit and also tried different roles, mainly in sales.

About eight or nine years ago, I moved into partner sales and I’ve been doing that ever since.

What do you particularly enjoy about working in sales?

With partner sales, it’s all about helping different organisations to get new streams of revenue to help them grow in financial terms and as an organisation.

I’m very target focused. I like to be working towards a set point. That’s why I think I enjoy sales so much – it’s not the pressure, it’s knowing where I need to get to. Then when I get there, I reset and start again.

When I started working in sales, I made the mistakes that everyone makes, working 14 or 15 hours a day. It was a case of knowing when to start but not when to finish. It’s hard when you’re home alone and there’s nobody checking on you! There was a harsh learning curve and it got too much. I was working six, seven days per week.

Then I refocused. Now I know what time I want to start and what time I want to finish. I know what I need to achieve each day and split my time accordingly. I also leave time for unforeseen distractions, so if someone needs me, I have time to spare for them. I’m strict with my cut-off time now – after 9 pm I don’t check my mobile anymore. Although maybe I shouldn’t tell my colleagues that!

It has really helped to have a bit more balance, particularly working with an international company. When you have colleagues all over the world, it’s easy to end up working until midnight. So you have to manage your time and know what you want to achieve during your working day. That makes it easier.

What are your tips for working in a remote-first organisation?

If you can, approach it like going to work in an office. My desk, for example, is in another room. So I get up, have my usual morning routine, then when it’s time for work I grab my coffee and go and sit at my desk. I know some people roll out of bed and work, but I find that makes things harder. Having a regular morning routine makes you feel like you are going to work.

I think it’s important to always block time for lunch, too. If you were in the office, you wouldn’t work through lunch. So manage your time like you would in the office.

What do you like about working at Tyk?

It’s the vibe of the company; it’s very fresh and innovative. There are no barriers. I can talk to anyone in the organisation, regardless of their job title – there’s no hierarchy. That’s really good.

We have a weekly meetup on Zoom, where we chat about anything and everything, from working on specific projects to what’s going on in the world. We try to keep it light and diverse, so that everyone can join in the conversation. It’s always nice to see everyone getting involved.

That’s one of the good things about Tyk – there’s always something that gets everyone going. It’s a really inclusive culture.

What is a mistake that you made early on in your career and what did you learn from it?

I’ve been a partner manager for a long time, and I’ve realised how important it is to remember that not all organisations are the same. You can’t assume that an organisation needs to be treated in a certain way just because it’s a certain size, for example.

That was the mistake I made – assuming that because I’d worked with an organisation a certain way in a previous role, working with one of a similar size would be exactly the same. That didn’t work out. It actually failed really badly, which meant I learned a lot. I approach each organisation differently now and consider how to work best with each – and even whether they are the right fit to work with at all, or whether I should walk away. That’s my approach nowadays.

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

I like a good conversation and people being direct with me. Whether they need something or don’t like something about me or think that something needs to be changed, I like them to tell me it plainly.

I also like to converse on the phone or on Zoom – I’m not a big fan of email when it comes to discussions. Open conversation channels work for me. I like the feedback you get.

How do your values fit within the Tyk culture?

We are all so diverse at Tyk, but also have very similar goals. I approach everyone equally and talk with colleagues rather than emailing. It helps me to gauge their reactions and feel out ideas.

It’s like in my personal life. I have friends who are very different from me, so I know how to speak to them without upsetting them and I know who I can be most free with!

What are your three favourite books and/or podcasts?

Depending on the mood I am in, that dictates what I listen to or read. The podcast I’m listening to right now is Conversations of Inspiration. It’s hosted by the lady who founded Not on the High Street. She interviews entrepreneurs who went from nothing to become really successful. Some of them started with the lamest ideas and grew them to multinational enterprises. Companies like Innocent Drinks and Cobra (the beer) take part.

It’s quite interesting to understand where these businesses come from and what has inspired them. It’s very positive. It makes you think that you should always give it a shot if you have a business idea. Plus, it has some great tips to get you started.

Most recently, I have been switching between The Outlines and The Magic Ingredient. The Outlines focuses on unsolved murders and disappearances in the UK. Each season explores real-life cases that have taken place in a particular UK county. The Magic Ingredient is a food-based podcast. Each week, the hosts invite celebrity guests to challenge them to rustle up a special meal in their kitchen using a ‘magic’ ingredient.

When it comes to books, can I share one that is one of the worst books I’ve read? I was glad that I’d got through it, but I certainly wouldn’t read it again. It’s called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. If you have an issue with the F-word, you won’t get past the first five pages! It depends what kind of personality you have. If you suffer with low self-esteem or depression, it could give you a boost – and it does help you understand other people as well – but in my opinion it’s been written by someone who has never written a book before! It was hard to get through; it didn’t flow.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?

The million-dollar question! I lift weights for a hobby. I used to play rugby until one season I got just one too many injuries. During my rehab, watching my personal trainer lift weights, I decided to give that a go and here I am.

You have to exercise a lot of control when you lift weights, to avoid injury. You also always have a target to reach. I never thought about it that way until we talked about why I enjoy sales, but now I see that’s why I enjoy weights too.

And when I’m not in the gym or exercising, I love to spend time outdoor hiking and exploring. This is mainly done with the company of our two small dogs. And if the weather is bad, you’ll find me either baking or crafting something.