Studio IX: Good morning, Tiff!
Tiffany: Good morning.
Studio IX: So let’s jump right in. Tell us who you are and what it is you do?
Tiffany: I'm Tiffany Pillifant. I'm the Marketing Performance and Insights lead for one of the three customer segments within Thomson Reuters. My job is to understand our customer and our market, our competitors, and how we best can position ourselves for differentiation, and then measure how well we're doing after the fact. So, I work with stakeholders in strategy, throughout marketing, and in the product development teams to figure out what they need to know from the market, and figure out if we're doing well.
Prior to that, I did broad business operations and special projects, so any time our executives needed a town hall presentation and a speech written, I would do that. And likewise, if we needed a location strategy for hiring people, I would research the pros and cons of hiring in, say Brazil versus Poland. And, prior to that, for 15 years I was in software development, so I did user experience, product management, and product strategy.
Studio IX: What do you enjoy most about the work?
Tiffany: It's changed over time, but what I really enjoy about what I'm doing now is that I'm not exactly job-hopping, but every couple of years I get to take on a new role for the business, and I love being thrown into the deep end of something I know almost nothing about, and, you know, just learning alongside my teams, so I love the uncomfortable feeling of learning and a challenge. Yeah, I like not having the answers and trying to figure it out on my own. I love cleaning up big messes at work. So those are the things that I'm really enjoying right now with my job.
Studio IX: What are you passionate about?
Tiffany: At work or at home?
Studio IX: Generally.
Tiffany: That's a hard question. So, I was listening to a lecture at UVA the other day by a man named Dan Pink, and he's done a lot of research and written a lot of books on timing and leadership, and he said, The question is not what are you passionate about. The question is what do you do when you're not working? What are you thinking about? What are you waking up in the morning and wondering? When you're at the gym, what is running through your mind? And that really leads you to what you enjoy.
Studio IX: Wow. Yeah. That makes sense.
Tiffany: And what I'm thinking about, besides, which is always the case, my kids and do they have the right clothes? And are they fed? And should I be challenging them more academically? And do I have the energy to do that? And thank God for the people who help me teach them. But outside of that, it's mostly about how I can do better, both professionally and personally. In a professional sense, it's a lot about cleaning up messes, either that I've made or somebody else has made. How do I take something and make it better than it was before I saw it? A process at work, a presentation, or a marketing campaign. At home, you know, that dinner I cooked last night was awful. How can I do it better next time?
Studio IX: Right.
Tiffany: Yeah, so it's just revisionist. It's all just backward looking revisionist stuff; constant reiteration.
Studio IX: Can you share a memorable story from your work? Something that stands out.
Tiffany: Well, yes, but this is from the early days.
Studio IX: Great!
Tiffany: So, I started out as a User Experience Designer for a software product, and the product was geared towards the academic publishing space. So, journals, academic, scientific, technical, medical journals. A good example is the New England Journal of Medicine. You hear them on the news all the time.
Studio IX: Yes.
Tiffany: I was designing a new product for the staff of those journals to be able to review scientific literature that the authors were trying to get published, and we were working with a bunch of the editors-in-chief of these journals. So these are the premier people in their field worldwide. The best neurosurgeon, the best concrete engineer in the world, and I would travel around the country sitting with them, learning how they work, and what they needed, and getting feedback on prototypes that we put together. And to understand who we’re designing for I would give them a set of tasks to do, and, I will never forget, there were two guys who completely changed what we had to do just single handedly. One was a man who, when I asked him how he would assign a paper to one of his editors for review and to show me in the system how he would do that, he didn't even turn on his computer. He wrote it on a sticky note and gave it to his secretary, and he said, "That's how I would do it." And I said, "Okay. So you're not going to use the system."
The second time, a man was having trouble. This is a man who is a brain surgeon. He was absolutely brilliant. He was having trouble completing one of the tasks in the prototype and he asked me for help. You're not supposed to give help, but I felt a little bad and so I said, "Okay. Put your mouse on this button and click it once," and he picked up his mouse off the table, pressed it to his computer screen, and clicked it once. And I was like alright. Well, it's a good thing we're doing these design sessions because now I know I have to really back it up.
Studio IX: That's amazing.
Tiffany: Yeah, it was memorable. It reminded me that the whole job as a User Experience Designer is to know who you're designing for.
Studio IX: Yeah.
Tiffany: And you have to get creative sometimes about, you know, people at one end or the other of the extreme, and it turns out that a lot of people who are premier in their field in scientific, technical, and medical fields are of a different generation, and they will not use computers, so ... It's changing now, but for a while there it was that we had to kind of switch and design for secretaries.
Studio IX: This is not on the list, but I'm curious, do you see anything that’s been gained or lost in that transition?
Tiffany: From no computers to computers?
Studio IX: Post-It notes to technology.
Tiffany: Oh, for sure. I mean, yes and no. There's gains and losses on both sides. It depends how you weight the equation, where the balance lies. In terms of productivity, cost savings, it's huge. Obviously, you can't send a courier in the mail to send all this stuff that you could send before, and then wait for a response, or pick up the phone, but then you lose that type of human to human interaction that makes the workplace, that's probably more important in the workplace.
Tiffany: And so I think we have hit this rubber band, this kind of slingshot affect, where you get to the maximum productivity, and we are there as an economy right now, at maximum productivity level, but how then do you back it up to a place where interaction and humanness matters at work again? I think what all the research shows is that the “what” you do is table stakes now, everyone can do amazing things. People know how to manipulate data, people understand technology, but how to do it, and how to do it well, while including other people along the way, taking advantage of other peoples’ strengths along the way is the biggest question now.
Studio IX: Efficiency is sort of obsolete.
Tiffany: Exactly. Before the release of technology, it was about how quickly could you do it, how well could you do it, how much could you do it. Now, all of those things are irrelevant. It's about how you do it and how you work with other people along the way. So, the whole leadership skillset is different now. You know, data analytics is a huge prerequisite to almost any job that you have now in the marketplace. Where people like me, who graduated 20 years ago, it was not that. Email was new.
Studio IX: Yeah it's amazing. What's an aspect of your work that may surprise people to know?
Tiffany: Well, I'll talk about my previous role since I am still surprised every day about my new role, being only two weeks in. I think the thing about my previous role that would surprise people is that just because my role was primarily to support executives, in whatever they needed help with. I think what I learned that was surprising to me is just how much time, and effort, and thought goes into actually making things work in the interior of a business. It's not about necessarily about relying on good people to execute or people to have good ideas, it's also all about organization and planning. It took me by surprise when my boss and I worked for three weeks on a meeting agenda, but it's all for good in the end, but those types of things often go unnoticed or underrepresented, but they do really make a difference in terms of efficiency and productivity. Kind of a boring thing, but there's nothing really surprising.
Studio IX: Where do you see yourself & where do you see the industry in 5 to 10 years?
Tiffany: For me it's always about what's the plan for my family and then how does my job - what do I need to do in my job, or what kind of job do I need have to support that. So for us, we want to be living internationally, within the next five years we want to move internationally, live there and be imbedded.
Tiffany: We would love to be in Central Europe, so we could travel all over Europe and Asia easily. So that's what we want to do and to be honest, and this is something that drives people at my work crazy, I don't really care what I do when I'm there. I just want to do enough so we can get on a train and travel and experience another culture. So, 5 to 10 years, I hope to have come back from living in another country, settling down, and still looking at retiring, hopefully early.
Studio IX: That's great.
Studio IX: Last question - what do you enjoy most about being here? About being at Studio IX.
Tiffany: I think one of the things that surprised me from the beginning is just how diverse the community is here and it's one of the things that I find really refreshing and energizing. So, within the first week, I met people who are studying religion, people who were writing books, people who were writing political articles, sales leaders, leadership coaches, programmers, and everyone has a different point of view and what was really interesting, and what continues to be interesting is what everybody's talking about on the phone. Everybody doing totally different things, in a totally different style, for a completely different end game, and it's fascinating. Whereas, when you work with all of your colleagues, it's homogenous, it's cyclical.
Studio IX: You have to watch what you say.
Tiffany: Always have to be careful what you say. You know, when people come here, they come here to work and there is definitely a feeling that ”this is where I come to do my work. This is where I'm coming to be productive and I don't need to walk on eggshells while I'm doing it.” I think there is a comradery in terms of kindred spirits that don't want to be working from home all the time, but we also need a little bit of space, but we are within arms reach. That's what I like.
Studio IX: That's it. You did great!
Tiffany: Phew. (laughter)
Studio IX: You knocked it out of the park.