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Conversations #67 Marilyn Tyfting, Chief Corporate Officer, TELUS International

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Written by WWCode HQNovember 9, 2022

Women Who Code Conversations 67     |     Spotify - iTunes - Google - YouTube 
Marilyn Tyfting. Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS International discusses her role as a non-technologist working in a highly technical field, the importance of building workplaces of choice, and her methods for ensuring that teams are driven, on task, and effective.

Hello everyone. My name is Luz, and I am the Leadership Fellow for the Front End Track at Women Who Code. Today I am interviewing Marilyn Tyfting. She is the Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS International, she oversees a multidisciplinary team that brings together the key parts of the business that touches people every day to build the best overall “employee experience.”

She is based in Vancouver, Canada, and lives with her husband and two children. She’s an active member of the President’s Group for Inclusion and Employment, helping make British Columbia the most progressive jurisdiction in Canada for People with disabilities.

You’ve been at TELUS International for about 13 years now. Can you tell us more about your career journey? 

It's amazing to me that I've been with TELUS International for 13 years now. It doesn't feel like it's been that long, and my journey has been unique. When I started, my role was primarily focused on people, culture, learning, and development. Over time, it has expanded to include facilities, marketing, communications, and CSR.

As my career has grown over time, TELUS International has also changed. There have been evolutions and introductions in digital technology. TELUS International has gone from being a more traditional customer experience service provider to a leading global digital customer experience service provider and partner for some of the world's largest and most disruptive brands.

That has meant an evolving ecosystem regarding how we support our customers, an evolution of the technology, and greater insight into how we deliver customer experience journeys.

We've also moved from a standard recruitment process to one that is 100% virtual and technology-enabled. We've created learning programs that are customized, curated, team driven, automated, and available through in-person community support and an online experience.

Can you tell us more about your day-to-day work at TELUS International? 

There is no typical day in my work at Telus International. There is always something new and different. We operate today in 28 countries around the world with almost 70,000 team members. What's happening around the globe impacts what we do every day and what's going on with our customers. Whether we're talking to telecommunications and media customers, healthcare, travel, or hospitality, what's happening in those verticals is different.

My days generally start early and end late, but there's lots of flexibility. My role involves a lot of meetings, a lot of presentations, and a lot of looking at what we do for our customers, what’s happening in the world around us, and how my teams are going to work together to build the programs, the initiatives, the learning opportunities, the communication plans, the recruitment resources, the compensation, and benefits programs, all of which help us be an employer of choice.

We are cognizant of getting day-to-day feedback from our teams as to what their challenges are, what they’re working on, and what the solutions are to ensure that we have the right people with the right skills, the right motivations, and the right competencies for us to meet the growing and changing demands of TELUS International as an organization. 

Can you tell us more about how TELUS International has supported you as a woman in leadership?

Flexibility is one of the things that have been most helpful for me as a woman in leadership who has kids, a family, a husband, and two dogs. Being technology-enabled and an organization focused on digital transformation and automation, we have a lot of internal practices, processes, and tools that allow for flexibility in how and where we do work.

I can start early in the morning or end late if I'm meeting with my teams or customers in other parts of the globe, and I still have the flexibility to have some time in the middle of my day so I can chat with my kids when they come home from school.

That flexibility ensures that we are focused on what the deliverables need to be, how I'm interacting with my teams, that I'm available, that I support my teams and know what's going on, and use technology to facilitate collaboration and communication offline or in real-time.

TELUS International offers learning and development opportunities. Suppose I want to understand emerging technologies, even though I might not use them daily. In that case, I can use self-directed learning programs or connect with a community of women or other learners interested in some of the same things as me. We're never successful on our own, we’re only successful as a community and a team.

I also enjoy the platforms and programs that are in place to encourage collaboration and communication. Support for additional information gathering and connection helps us all learn and grow.

In looking at your impressive resume, including an MBA, I find it interesting that you don’t have any specific tech certifications listed. Yet, a lot of what TELUS International does is very tech-focused. Can you explain how you navigate your role as Chief Corporate Officer?

I have skills, competencies, and experience that contribute to the tech community because some of my skills are different. I have a lot of colleagues with amazing technical skills and qualifications. Our CIO is an actual rocket scientist. That skillset exists. I think what's unique for me is that I consider myself a contributing member of the women in the technology community. Still, in that community, my role is to ensure that I am tech-savvy and up-to-date in understanding what creates a meaningful work environment for technologists. My contribution is to understand better and create those environments that will deliver learning and development opportunities for people in technology that find those learning opportunities meaningful. If I can create an employer brand and communicate it externally so people understand the opportunities for people with technology skills to be successful, and inspired, and to learn and grow with TELUS International, then I've done my job well.

Many of our Women Who Code members are looking to grow into leadership positions and need more role models of women in leadership like you. What can you tell us about the best way to lead a team?

I have a leadership role in an organization that is very technology-focused, yet I am not a technologist. To become a leader in an organization, you don't have to have every piece of knowledge and insight yourself when you're building and leading a team.

The real skill set is how you bring that team together. How you share their resources, create a common vision, communicate and support them, give them the information they need and create an environment where that team is eager to fulfill their part and contribute to the organization's overall goals.

Those leadership skills and competencies around communication, project management, bringing together technology, and process design, can happen formally in organizations. Still, I like to encourage them to happen informally as well.

We can get intimidated by wanting a big leadership role, that next title, or a formal leadership remit. I encourage people to start taking on additional projects and ad hoc initiatives in their organization. Bringing a small team together, maybe of peers, requires some coordination, some leadership, some communication, some encouragement, finding resources, and removing obstacles: all are leadership skills.

There are opportunities to do that in your community, even if it's not at work. TELUS International has programs where we connect with and work in the communities where our team members live. Those are opportunities to develop, lead and manage tutoring programs, mentoring programs, and schools. Seek out small opportunities and build that skillset over time.

You are an active advocate for inclusion and employment. Could you tell us more about what TELUS International is doing about these topics?

First, I’ll highlight what I refer to as our TELUS International Community Boards, where we bring together community members who are connected to non-profit organizations and are locally working to drive diversity, inclusion, and community support to underserved parts of their communities.

We fund small grassroots organizations because they often get overlooked by large grants. Small grassroots have lots of impact on families, kids, and educational initiatives across those smaller communities. We also partner with and support organizations like Women Who Code and many other local and regional organizations around the globe where we believe there are real win-win partnerships.

Organizations like Women Who Code inspire and provide opportunities for women globally to develop new skills and take on new challenges, which are essential to raising the bar on the opportunities available for women. We often recruit from our connections with Women Who Code, which means that we get amazing, talented people around the globe who are ready for that next opportunity and their growing careers in technology.

It's not all technology related for us. We also have a longtime partnership with Gawad Coalinga in the Philippines, whose purpose is to eliminate homelessness, and many other NGOs that create a foundation for addressing community changes around safety, housing, and education.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I have two teenagers. They're very different. My son is a sports-aholic, so I spend a lot of time on basketball courts, basketball gyms, and volleyball. He's now into jiujitsu and things like that. We, as a family, like to be quite outdoorsy and sporty.

My daughter loves theater and music, so we also like to go out to the theater and support her ambitions, whether playing instruments or singing. I love to seek out those community opportunities to support her in doing that locally in our communities.

In a quiet moment, I really do love a good mystery that allows me to turn off my brain and just be entertained by reading a great story, often accompanied by a nice glass of red wine.

If you could say only one thing to motivate women in technology, what would be your best pro tip? 

I love to remind women, particularly women in tech, that I think women in tech rock. They are rock stars for taking the initiative to develop a career and take on challenges that sometimes feel daunting, investing in personal development, education, and developing super marketable skills.

Women inspire me in tech, and I think we all need to give ourselves credit for exactly how awesome we are and how awesome women are for taking on roles within technology and continuing to build their education and skills along the way.

My other tip is there are lots of different roles that require different skills, and there are different ways to contribute to the tech community and different ways for women to be an active part of the tech community. All jobs are not the same. All roles are not the same. Seek out those that align most with your interests and passions, and give it a try, because there is a role in the tech world and the tech community that can inspire almost anyone.

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