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The 20 Coffees Project: Tanis Jorge

Do you remember your first kindergarten craft?

Was it macaroni? Papier maché? Macramé?

Mine was a modified version of crochet that I’ll refer to here as faux-crochet (at least there weren’t sparkles). Despite my young age, I remember the lifecycle of that project.

Ideation. Production. Anxiety. Presentation. Accomplishment.

CrochetProject

Photo credit: hellomomo

There were critical decisions to be made at every turn. Red yarn or purple? Short stitch or long? How do I even do this without poking myself? The road ahead was paved with uncertainty.

I’ve been reflecting on this experience deeply, and often, as part of my leap into a fast-growth Vancouver tech startup. As Marketing Educator at Unbounce, I work in the midst of a larger, much higher stakes faux-crochet experiment. Every day, I work alongside my teammates to deliver that crafted masterpiece with pride and precision.

The majority of the time, this means detailed and focussed legwork. Collaborating on strategy documents. Executing project plans. Writing educational content. Editing educational content. Editing it again (and again, and again). The story is similar for all my fellow Unbouncers.

On occasion, I look up from my faux-crochet to take stock of where we sit as a unified group. For me, this has fed my lifelong interest in organizational development, leadership, and change management at a macro level.

This is where the idea for The 20 Coffees Project started. Through the support of the Unbounce employee networking budget, I’ll be producing a series of blog posts recapping interviews with 20 of Unbounce’s closest friends, customers, and partners.

The goal of this project is to highlight the unique challenges and bright spots for leaders in the Vancouver business community (particularly startups), and metaphorically speaking, to compare macaroni – or faux-crochet – crafts.

This installation features Tanis Jorge, CMO of Trulioo.

Tanis Jorge

Tanis Jorge

Trulioo is a leading global ID verification company that provides advanced analytics based on information such as public records, credit files and government data as well as alternative sources including social login providers, ad networks, mobile applications, e-commerce websites and social networks.

Trulioo enables increased trust and safety online by powering fraud and compliance systems for hundreds of clients including governments, ecommerce merchants, financial services, insurance, health, and travel companies.


EB: In your own words, can you describe your current role and what lead you there?

TJ: In my current role, I am the co-founder and CMO of Trulioo. Being the CMO is a bit of a transition because in the earlier stages of the company, I was the COO. Its funny, I read an article recently that talked about how a founder’s role (especially as COO) changes during the very early stages of 20 or less employees. They tend to pass off a lot of pieces and tasks to other people. For example, one day you’re solely in charge of HR or accounting, but then as the company grows and progresses you end up passing that on to a CFO or a Human Resources Manager. Your own tasks start to become smaller and smaller as the company grows. What I found for myself was that the sales, marketing and promotional work was really interesting to me, so as we started to find great people better suited to take on many of the tasks I was doing, I slowly moved into the marketing role which I find exciting and fun. We have general managers and people to handle more of the internal side of things, and I get to do more of what I love.

EB: How would you describe the relationship between creativity and structure in your position?

TJ: I think this is a really interesting question because I’ve been talking to a few different people about how companies change and grow. For me, I totally thrive on the unknown. I love when things are in an idea phase, and you’ve just gotta run with things. You have to be prepared to move forward and make decisions knowing that none of your ducks are in a row. I find that when you have to enter uncharted territory, that is where the creativity happens. I’m not talking about being artistic, it’s not that kind of creativity, it’s more about being quick on your feet and being able to react to things as they happen.

For example, when an obstacle arises you need to be able to figure out how to move around it. Here you have a challenge and that’s the part where the creativity comes in. Unfortunately or fortunately (depends how you look at it) in the early stages everything is creative. Things are just off the cuff and ploughing forward. Structure isn’t really there; you’re not quite ready for structure yet.

But then there comes a time, when your company starts to grow, that you can’t only be creative anymore. There’s a tipping point where structure needs to come in. Maybe it even needs to come in so that you can keep being creative.

What I’ve learned is there’s a type of person who’s really good at creating and visualizing structure. I think it’s important for a founder to recognize the point when they need to bring in that person who thrives on the structural side of things, so the two of them can work together cohesively in the same environment and take the business to the next level.

In the beginning, creativity is the most important part, but the intersection comes as the company starts to solidify and come together, that you need that structured side of things. I think it’s two different types of people. I don’t know how many people can do both.

EB: How would you describe the experience of building a team that includes creatively and structurally motivated people?

TJ: It’s probably been a little bit of trial and error. I think its hard for entrepreneurs to do structure. We live in malleability for so long that we tend to be comfortable there and can try and stay there for too long. Eventually, as I mentioned before, founders need to come to grips with process and structure. That said, getting processes in concrete can definitely make things easier too so seeing that happen can make the transition go so much more smoothly.

It’s also important that the team that comes in recognizes that it’s hard to change habits. They need to be patient with us founders as we walk that journey, and explain to us why something is happening so that we see the value in putting systems in place. I think that’s been key. A lot of the leaders that we’ve brought in truly understand that. They walk us through proposed changes; explain the value prop and they really listen. That said though, despite this, sometimes the company can’t be structured. It has to be movable. It’s a give and take on both sides to recognize that in an earlier stage company, there are moments when you have to move a titanic 180 degrees, and other times you can stay the course. I think the key is being able to hear everyone’s side and keep an open mind

EB: I can say it’s very much the same experience over here, always looking for balance between the two. Ways to be organized and methodical, but still be agile and up for anything.

TJ: Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. You can quote yourself on that one!

EB: If we were having this meeting 6 months from now, what achievements or changes would you want to be celebrating?

TJ: I think just continued growth.

That sounds very plain and boring, but what’s interesting in our space is that we really came in creating a whole new industry.

The identity verification space has been around forever, but it hadn’t changed. It was the same old guard for so long. We came in with the desire to be disruptive and innovative, and really turn the identity verification space on its head. When we started to evangelize what we wanted to do, we hit so many roadblocks. People just didn’t see the big picture at first. Finally our first investor, Blumberg Capital followed along with our idea that something big could happen. They were visionaries in that sense, but it was a gamble. We really were trying something new. To see that the idea has grown into a viable business and is succeeding and is being accepted worldwide – that’s super exciting. It could have not happened. So for us to continue to see growth and to continue to see businesses accept the vision we have for ID verification; that’s very encouraging. Every new company and every expert in our field that accepts what we’re doing; that’s a huge win for us. It validates our vision and our path for getting there.

EB: Internally, what are the three biggest accomplishments your team has experienced?

TJ: The main one has been recognition from that “old guard”. There are organizations that have been doing ID verification for so long and being recognized by those companies as a force to be reckoned with, that’s a huge deal. That’s definitely the result of our team bringing their expertise together and making things happen. Recognition from established business is a big one.

EB: How do you deal with roadblocks (or even failure) in your role?

TJ: It may sound cliché but I’ve definitely come to learn that failure is a chance to learn, and if you can look at a failure as a lesson then you can use it to turn any obstacle into something you can hopefully circumvent or move away from. Failure really is the best lesson.

Fortunately I failed early, and I always say I’m glad I failed at a few different things early on when the stakes weren’t so high. That way as the stakes got higher and higher I was able to bypass the landmines more easily and avoid even bigger failures. Experience is more important when there’s a lot at stake. I think that’s the best way to deal with failure: consider it an education in life. I can say, “At least I learned something from it!” and know what not to do next time. I’ve said that more than a few times in my life.

As an entrepreneur, there’s a roadblock every day (sometimes multiple times in a day!). That’s what excites me. That’s the time when I can get creative. That’s the time when it becomes challenging, but in a good way. It’s that I have to figure it out and get past it. It’s these little wins, when you manage to get around a problem that makes being an entrepreneur so exciting.

There have also been so many times when a roadblock has come into play and we’ve had to try something different; change our approach, open a new door, and we’re so grateful that it happened because it forces us to go in a new direction that ends up being way better than the route we were going to go before. Instead we head in a direction that allows us to take a better path. So roadblocks…I don’t see them as disastrous as I used to.

EB: How do you celebrate success?

TJ: Food and drink!

I don’t think I ever really celebrate a success – to me success is intangible, more about looking back at the journey than celebrating the destination. The best thing I can relate it to is building a house. Yes it’s a success when it’s all done, but having built it, you really remember all of the heartaches, mini victories and the challenges and the minor flaws. I find that success can be like that. Success never looks perfect. You achieve a goal, and it’s kind of anticlimactic because you see the success, but you also know the journey that it took to get you there. It’s exciting, and you need to take time to appreciate it, but often by the time I’ve been successful at something, I’m already working on where I’m going next. There’s usually a brief feeling of accomplishment, but by then it’s time to jump into the next thing.

EB: That makes sense. It seems that for a lot of people who are very passionate about what they do, and who are achievement oriented, if you ask them what their best memory was of a project, it’s very rarely the completion of a project, it’s more likely “that time when everything went wrong and we all had to stay until 10pm”.

TJ: That’s exactly it! It’s one of those things where success becomes more noticeable many, many years later, because that’s when you look back and can appreciate the success itself, separate from the journey that took you there. It looks more like a milestone and you forget about all of the trials. You just remember that it was a great success (you might even forget about all of the hard stuff). You just look back and think “Oh, actually that was pretty cool…I did that.”

EB: What is your favourite thing that doesn’t bounce?

TJ: I got thinking about this, and thought “What a crazy question!”

Besides my family (of course) I tried to think about something really important that I couldn’t do without, and I guess my answer is the Internet! The Internet has become so much a part of our lives. I love having so much information and the ability to communicate at my fingertips. I love where technology is going, and what’s happening in that whole realm. I’m excited about the possibilities, and so yes…that’d be my favourite thing that doesn’t bounce.

 

Erin Brown
Marketing Educator @ Unbounce 

  • Kyrie Melnyck

    This is awesome! Looking forward to the next 19 :D

  • http://www.unbounce.com/ Carter Gilchrist

    I love this series Erin! Great interview, and some really relatable insights from Tanis. We need to find a meeting room in the new office that we can name “The Internet” now!

  • Laura Faunt

    This post is great! Excellent interview, Erin!

  • Zenas Chin

    Great idea and interview, Erin! Lovely read and looking forward to what comes next. :)