Faith Tull of Intelex Technologies on the speed of talent in tech and the power of not falling off the floor
Faith Tull is the Chief People Officer of Intelex Technologies, a global software company who is leading the way in the development and support of software solutions for Environment, Health, Safety and Quality (EHSQ) programs. Faith is an experienced HR leader who previously worked as the Chief People Officer of a major staffing company and has held various other senior HR leadership roles across her 20 plus year career. She is a passionate and strategic employee advocate who draws inspiration from her love of sports.
Looking back five/ten years, where did you think you’d be by this point in your career? How did you get here?
Ten years ago, I was just moving into my first Director level role which ultimately set me on the path to getting to where I am now. Looking back on my entire career holistically however, I always wanted to be in the position that I’m in today. I’m someone who constantly challenges myself to be better and learn more and being in a senior leadership position is something that I’ve consistently aspired to. After starting in HR about 20 years ago, I can certainly say that I’m happy and thankful that things have turned out the way they have. I’m a generalist and that broad knowledge has been a big help in paving the way to get me where I am currently.
How has the world of HR changed over the past few years? What is the most important thing that those in HR need to focus on today?
At the beginning of my career, the prevailing thought around HR was that it was just a cost centre support function which dealt with administrative matters and compliance issues. Now, more CEOs and executive leaders consider HR to be a strategic business partner that drives real value. HR is ultimately responsible for the talent of an organization and without that talent, it’s impossible for any business to be successful; even in the age of AI. As more CEOs have started to invite HR to the table early for strategic decisions, this has pushed HR professionals to become more analytical and data-driven because to really be strategic and make smart business decisions, you need to understand data and how that relates to core business and financial metrics.
If you are going to be in HR today, having a people first but business centric mindset is the only way you are going to add value. It’s about translating the needs of your people into the needs of the business. When I was working for an injection molding company, I took it upon myself to take a course in injection molding so I could really understand what the business was about. Doing that enabled me to be much more effective because I had a more intimate understanding of the business. The best HR people I know are very smart business people and that is the way you need to think today to be successful in HR.
What is it like being a HR leader in tech today? How is it different from the other industries that you’ve worked in throughout your career?
While HR skills are transferable to any type of organization, the kinds of people who you tend to work with in the Tech industry are very unique. I truly believe that on a basic level, most want the same things in their jobs when it comes to being paid well, having the opportunity to learn, be challenged and grow alongside amazing people. The difference in Tech is that the speed at which people’s expectations change when it comes to their careers is much faster than in other industries. Tech is also highly competitive and amazing talent have a good sense of what they are worth in the market. That is why attracting, retaining and engaging the best talent is a big part of HR’s job. Being a part of a winning team is also something that is very important in the Tech industry. Tech talent want to know that they are working on sexy and cutting edge technology and that there is meaning behind what they are doing so that they can better connect with the business. This is one of the main reasons why I’m so excited to be at a company like Intelex. We are serving an important cause globally when it comes to Environmental, Health, Quality and Safety issues. This is easy to get excited about.
Was there ever a point in your career where you felt stuck and didn’t know what to do next? If yes, how did you overcome that?
I immigrated to Canada from Jamaica and didn’t have any formal education until I was 10. As you can imagine, I had a difficult time in school as a result and throughout high school, getting a 60% was a big accomplishment for me. After completing high school and not being able to get into university, I ended up going to college and started working in dead end roles for a few years but was never satisfied with that kind of work, I wanted more. Because I took HR in college and found that very interesting, I started looking for HR jobs but nobody would hire me because I didn’t have a degree. That realization made me go back to school to get a degree part time so that I could go and get an HR job. It’s funny because while I was doing my degree, I was working for a recruitment firm and knew that I would be great in an HR role because I spent a lot of time working with HR professionals. After completing my degree, I was finally able to land my first HR job because I had work experience, a college certificate and a degree. The way which I overcome many of the difficult situations in my life is through a mantra that I learned from an executive who I once worked with which is the saying, “You can’t fall off the floor”. In everything that I’ve done, I’ve never let tough situations get to me because I knew that if I kept trying and didn’t worry about failing, I’d find some way to succeed eventually and pick myself up off the floor. It’s always been about just trying and seeing what happens without worrying about failing.
What are some of the most important business lessons that you have had to learn the hard way? How have they made you more successful?
In business, you can’t rest on your laurels. Never get comfortable, never get complacent and always learn. It is important to celebrate your successes but you are often only as good as the last thing that you’ve done and delivered well.
I’ve also learned some tough lessons from admitting failure and being human. I once worked for a company where we rolled out a program which fell completely flat and really impacted the lives of our employees. In retrospect, we didn’t do enough to understand the issue that we were trying to solve and we didn’t have the right buy-in that we needed to be successful. That was a really tough experience because we had to admit to our people that we failed them. I took a lot from that in the sense that one shouldn’t be afraid to admit failure but then it becomes a question of what are you doing to go and fix things? You can’t just sit around and stew in what has gone wrong.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone in the workforce today to get ahead and find work that is fulfilling?
When I mentor and coach others, I always try to get down to what that individual is passionate about. It is not just about what is going to make you a lot of money. That is great but at the end of the day, it comes down to what can you do with enthusiasm and happiness on a daily basis regardless of the ups and downs that are associated with any kind of business. You need to exact satisfaction out of what you do because to be great at it, you need to be able to devote a lot of yourself to learning about your craft. For me, I got into HR because I love connecting with people and being able to provide a voice for others who may not be able to provide a voice for themselves. When I was growing up, I was quite introverted and that is why I think I enjoy the role that I play so much; especially when it comes to helping the organization make big strategic decisions.
Networking is also very important. No matter what you do, keep in touch with people from every company you work at and build real connections. You never know at what point you are going to stumble across interesting people who are doing something that sparks your interest and having that network always opens up lots of opportunity.