Name: Thayer Prime
Current position: CEO & Founder, Team Prime
Bio: My career began back in the first dotcom boom, working as a programmer at UpMyStreet.com. My fun and illustrious career has included working with Tim Berners-Lee, Jimmy Wales and NASA to name just a few. I’ve founded three successful companies, and also act as a strategic adviser to founders and C-level executives growing their tech capacity within their organisations.
Over the years, I’ve been a technology judge for BIMA, Big Chip, and Teen Tech as well as talking in schools and giving career advice to children, teens and adults about working in digital technology. I’m passionate about inclusion in the workplace, emerging technology, tech for good, video games, and running.
I once threw the biggest free party in the London technology industry.
Tell me about your life before leadership – what kind of roles and projects did you work on?
I left school straight after GCSEs – I did a really weird mix of roles from working in a Chinese take away to being an admin assistant in the Civil Service. After a few years I was lucky enough to be headhunted as a programmer during the first dotcom boom in London due to my side hobby of programming. After that it was all roles in tech: programmer, UX designer, Tech Project Manager, and finally recruiting and growth strategy.
How did your first leadership position come about, and was it intentional on your part?
I would say my first leadership position was when I worked as a Technical Project Manager on a huge project for British Airways via Agency.com. It was intentional in that I went for the role and got it, but the leadership part was accidental. There ended up being some pretty tricky parts to manage and it required me to step up and own a lot of the process and sign off on a multi-million-pound project, which I wasn’t expecting. My first C-level role was as a Commercial Director and that was absolutely intentional as part of a startup I helped found in my mid-twenties. My role was to fund the company!
How did you manage the transition? What came easily / what was difficult?
Moving to leadership is a strange leap of faith. You have to rely on trusting yourself to make big decisions that affect a lot more than just you and your world. Plus, being confident in where you can go for advice and support – for reasons of both quality of advice, and confidentiality. I found taking control of situations came to me easily; I had left home at 16 and as such, was used to owning all my decisions for a decade by then.
I also wasn’t afraid of failure, which I think helps a lot. The difficulties for me were in dealing with how to switch off at the end of a day and stop thinking about work or answering just one more email. I’m not sure I ever worked that one out either, I keep trying though!
What was your biggest failure in that first leadership role?
I’ll use the Commercial Director/co-founder role for this example. For me, it was not being able to assert myself enough on the commercial direction of the company. It took me a while to find my voice and gravitas in leadership. I suspect that was mostly due to my conditioning as a woman, and being 25-years-old at the time, giving rise to Imposter Syndrome.
What made you keep doing it?
A deep desire to run my own company and prove the commercial models I was thinking about, were both correct and really good! I went on to form my own company as sole Director and CEO after that, and took control of all areas from commercial, to services, to branding etc. It’s been great.
Tell us a fun fact that nobody knows about you
Dave Grohl and Josh Homme took me out for dinner once, and it was epic. Also, some do, but not everyone knows I was a zombie in Shaun of the Dead!
What are the three key skills you think every leader needs?
- Clear, direct communication;
- Empathy; and
- Not to fear failure.
What have you learned about acquiring and retaining talent?
You don’t have enough space for me to write that!! Haha. But my top take away would be: It is your highest priority, whether you realise it yet or not, and should always be invested in as such.
How do you motivate your team and manage their stress levels?
I don’t currently have any staff, but when I did a few years ago it was all about making sure they had a healthy relationship with work. Things like:
- Working the hours they felt most productive in;
- not being afraid to take longer breaks in the day or over lunch to do exercise or spend time with their family; and
- Pay them well from the outset, and always give pay rises before they’re asked for.
If one of my team seemed like they were having a hard time in or out of work I just opened up a line of chat to see how I could support them. I would always offer time off in the form of ‘duvet days’ or more flexible hours whilst they do non-work things because it helped keep them mentally healthy.
How do you manage your own stress levels and productivity?
The same way as above, but without the pay rises.
How do you stay in sync with other parts of the business?
At the moment, I’m a one-woman-business, but in terms of how I keep in the loop with my clients: in non-plague times, I find a nice, relaxed lunch or afternoon tea once a quarter works well for really no reason than to ‘shoot the breeze’. Knowing who people are as humans – not just professionals – is incredibly important to understand how to help them when managing them and making sure I’m being helpful and open in my communication. In addition to that, I keep in touch on email or messaging platforms for more work-related things on a weekly basis.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I’m currently studying for a BSc (Hons) Psychology whilst running my business and raising two children, so honestly? Asleep would be good. I’m pretty tired! Ha! Hopefully though, I will find a way to work with marginalised children and teens and help them get a leg up where they’ve been let down in the educational system, possibly/hopefully related to the tech industry if it starts treating folks working in it, better.
Finally, what product do you wish you’d invented?
Google or Amazon, so I could have made it tech for good, rather than the path they’ve taken, and paid people fairly.
Thank you, Thayer!
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