By Mel Murphy, Senior People Partner at Birdie
Working in tech start up isn’t for the faint hearted. I discovered this early on.
At age 18, along with most of my peers, I was full of the drive to ‘do good’. However I had no real concrete direction as to where to ‘do good’ and who to ‘do good’ for. I therefore practically fell into my first job in Greentech, just days after my A level exams. Green, after all, equals good.
The years that followed saw me building reporting tools to measure ex-offenders’ job prospects and benefit entitlements, managing customer service teams specialising in vulnerable customer support and leading women’s health and fertility teams for an employee benefit app. The days were long and the work was hard but the constant undercurrent of general purpose kept me afloat.
It wasn’t until I burnt out at age 30 that I had finally time to focus on what doing good actually meant for me. The year before I had interviewed at Birdie, getting quite far in the process for a role I didn’t imagine I’d ever be ‘ready’ for. I’m a firm believer in timing and really believe everything happens for a reason; so I couldn’t shake the feeling that Birdie was where I was meant to be, but perhaps not quite yet. I took some time to truly rest, something I’d not made time for in the past, and it was through that I came to the realisation that what I really wanted was to do good for people.
Through the pandemic my role as caregiver to my parents and three children was heightened (as it was for many) and I felt more than ever the pull of the Birdie mission. What we’re doing here isn’t just improving lives for millions of older adults - we’re caring for their caregivers and enhancing cross-generational quality of life.
We’d be naive to think that the work we’re doing serves older people alone. Their families benefit so greatly from their presence at home. My mum grew up in rural Thailand and my dad is a great world-traveller/knowledge gatherer. Our lives are richer for their presence. At last I found somewhere where doing good feels personal.
So - now the timing is right, and I’m here. My role as a senior people partner at Birdie means that I can translate my personal experience into working practices that serve our vibrant growing team. While they’re nurturing our product, I can develop processes that nurture them. If there is one thing I’ve learnt in over a decade in ‘Tech for Good’ it’s that the people who work at Birdie all feel our mission. They join because they’re incredible and driven, and they stay because they’re cared for.
Caring for our people means understanding what they need and providing it proactively. We have a great culture of Radical Candor here at Birdie. We give feedback quickly, kindly with conscious intention. It means we can iterate at pace and act quickly when we identify areas for improvement. We create psychological safety by being honest with one another and trusting each other to hold ourselves accountable. In doing so, we create environments for creativity and diversity of thought which makes our product better for our partners.
The first tangible project I’m working on at Birdie is creating Manager Training modules. Why? Well, the funny thing about start up is that, as we grow, incredible individual contributors start to find themselves leading teams. I heard on a podcast recently that “...being in start up is wearing many hats. The beauty is that you can often choose the hat you want to wear but if you don’t choose you’ll have a hat popped on your head anyway”.
At Birdie we want to recognise that our Managers are incredible as individuals and give them the tools to wear leadership hats successfully, if that’s what they choose. I think of managers as our “secret sauce” to inspire growth, collaboration and role satisfaction. Supporting them is so important and it’s rare, and very exciting, to see such attention paid to this area at this growth stage.
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