Published: Feb 14, 2023Time to read: 5mins Category: Insights
PeopleFluent’s Bright Lights: Meet TJ Seabrooks, Managing Director
In light of our recent announcement that TJ Seabrooks is taking on the role of PeopleFluent Managing Director, we caught up with him and got his updated thoughts as part of our Bright Lights series! Read on to find out what TJ has to say about his work at PeopleFluent, why he loves it, and his favorite work perk.
Hi TJ! Please tell us about your role at PeopleFluent.
I’m the Managing Director, so I provide strategic and cultural leadership. The second part, I find to be as important, or even more important, than the first part. The goal is to build a place where the people who work here never wake up hating the idea of going to work.
Before PeopleFluent, what did you do for work?
Before PeopleFluent, I served as the CEO of Rustici Software, sister company to PeopleFluent within Learning Technologies Group (LTG). I started with Rustici in 2011 after leaving my job as an Embedded Software Engineer for Toshiba of America where I mostly wrote the software powering TVs.
During my time at Rustici (and then LTG), I’ve held a number of positions ranging from Support Engineer, Director of Engineering & Products, to CEO.
What are you doing when you’re not at your desk?
I recently did a short talk for an internal team-building activity talking about a bunch of hobbies I have, or have had, and ultimately decided what I’m doing when I’m not at my desk is far less important than why I’m doing these things. For me, my hobbies exist as ways to spend time with the people I care about most. Sometimes that’s an annual snowboarding trip, traveling for a great concert, kayaking, hiking, and even video games. Across all of those, the common thread is the people and relationships that exist around those hobbies.
What skills are needed to be successful in your role?
As my role is equal parts strategic leadership and cultural leadership, I think you need to have the technical expertise to understand the work of your teams, the empathy to understand your customers, empathy for the folks that you work with, and most importantly you must be kind.
There are definitely a ton of other skills people could rattle off, like leadership, decision-making, business finance, technical architecture, software engineering, etc. They’re all great skills to have, but it’s super clear to me that there are a million ways to fill the role I have and be successful. Each of those ways appeals to different types of people, with different skills, and they’re all equally successful.
But… I think technical expertise, empathy, and kindness are universal.
Prior to becoming the MD, you were the Chief Technology Officer. How has your team dynamic changed with your job transition?
It’s not that different. We’re still focused on how we, the entire PeopleFluent and LTG collective, can succeed together. The how of the way we all work together is slightly different, but so many of the skills needed or the things we do every day for managing a department haven’t changed. We’re coming together as an organization to help each other succeed across all of our teams.
What’s your favorite work perk?
It’s definitely the ability to work remotely and the flexibility it offers. I can travel when I need to without it impacting my ability to get my job done. One of the things I value most about my job is that it puts me on the road some amount of time in the year. It's important to me that it’s part of my job.
What’s your favorite aspect of your job?
I like helping people be better at their job. I like succeeding in my role, but I want it to show up as the success of others.
We talked earlier about which skills you’re currently building. What do you want to develop in the future?
I’ve always known I needed to work on time management and overall organization, so I’ve been working on improving this. It generally shows up as being slow to move big chunks of work that require multiple hours of focus time to accomplish. One strategy I’ve found helpful is breaking the work up into multiple 30-minute, or 1-hour, blocks and booking the time on my calendar for each work session necessary to get the task done.
What’s some advice you’d give to somebody just starting out in their career?
You’ve got to be able to get along with other people. As a younger person, I was certainly loud and obnoxious and fussy, and I still am a bit. People I’ve worked with for a long time would tell you I was hard to get along with in the beginning. It makes it hard to move up inside an organization.
You've got to prioritize getting along with others at least a little bit. Helping each other succeed is ultimately the attitude that gets stuff done. If you're always combative, you’ll miss the chance to get the job you want. You could have all the skills, but every role from entry-level to managing managers requires collaboration. For managers, it often means convincing a boat full of people to row in the same direction. You’ll never be able to do that if you can’t get along with people and help make everyone around you successful.
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