Strivin & Thrivin – Ep.22 – Lucy Briggs-Farrell

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“The best advice that I’ve received over a period of time is to be authentic. It’s way easier to be yourself than to try to be someone else.”

This week on Strivin & Thrivin we chat to Lucy Briggs, Senior HR Business Partner at Mindbody, a SaaS company providing industry-leading fitness and wellness software. 

Lucy lives and breathes all things HR and wellness. After discovering a genuine interest in the human psyche, Lucy changed university degree from Psychology to Human Resource Management and has never looked back. In this space, Lucy realised her obsession with driving success in businesses through people. 

While her career path hasn’t been linear, it has taught her to take every opportunity and be open to change. Finding a position in a great company right out of university, Lucy was able to gain early exposure to executive level colleagues through her HR role, validating that she was in the right industry. 

Lucy describes her transition into a not-for-profit as a personal decision that sparked her curiosity. Seeing people work beyond their salaries, with limited tech, inspired and taught her the importance of prioritising purpose as a professional driving force. 

“They were working for a cause, they could see the purpose in what they did, and that was the driver over salary”

Next, Lucy took on an HR Advisor role at software testing company, Planet, entering into the tech world, which really excited her. Acknowledging the lack of people studying technology, Lucy believes it’s important to take opportunities to change the status quo and take on opportunities in the technology space when they come your way.

Today, Lucy works at Mindbody and truly champions the core values, with a professional and personal passion for wellness. Her top pieces of career advice today?  Be your authentic self and reject the notion that you should always stay late in the office. 

“It feels like the perfect combination of who I am and what I do. I am a Senior HR Business Partner at Mindbody, but I am so driven by wellness.”

To hear more from Lucy, including her best career advice, her experience with mentorships and the way she stays goal-orientated, listen to the latest episode of Strivin and Thrivin now!

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson and today, I’m thrilled to be joined by Lucy Briggs-Farrell.

To get us started, can you tell us a little bit about your career background and your current role?

Lucy: Yeah. So I am currently a senior HR business partner at a company called Mindbody which is a SAS company. Head office is in the US and I am the Head of the Asia-Pacific region. My career path, to date, certainly not linear. I started working in the HR space in a recruitment company and then moved across to not-for-profit and then into technology. I am absolutely obsessed with technology, and I think that’s where I have certainly excelled in the HR space. I think that it definitely attracts the most interesting, innovative people, and it’s certainly fast-paced and agile. And that’s definitely where I have seen my passion for HR and all things people really be defined so far.

Laura: What attracted you to HR in the first place? What took you down that path?

Lucy: So, I started off my university doing Psychology, and I really loved that people aspect. I found that human psych, how people tick really interesting, but the further I went into that psych space, didn’t love statistics. That part of it really didn’t interest me and the more I went into it, the more, I didn’t want to really do private practice. So I spoke to a few of my peers and found out that there was a brand new degree that was called Human Resource Management. So it was basically applying that human psyche, psychological behavior, but more in the workplace. So it’s more about workplace strategy, employment strategy, and being able to drive success in businesses through people. So that’s where I transitioned quite early on in my university. So, was really happy about that transition and have been really passionate about this space ever since.

Laura: You’re the second person, I think we’ve done about 40 so far. You’re the second person that actually studied HR. Everyone else is like, “Oh, it just happened. We fell into it”. That wasn’t very interesting. I guess then talking about role-to-role, so obviously you’ve been in quite a few different sectors. What kind of spurred those moves on in between different sectors and trying new areas to HR?

Lucy: Yeah. I think first role is always just about getting your foot in the door. I was a budding, just out of university, 20-year-old, not knowing really what the world would hold. But fortunately, got into a really great company and in HR, you’re exposed to executive level from a really early stage in your career. So, was able to bounce off from the CEO to the CPO and really find out if this career was for me. My transition into not-for-profit was definitely a personal choice after that. It was something that from school and throughout my friendship group and family definitely wanted to see what that not-for-profit space was like. And it is really interesting being able to work on a shoe string. Not-for-profits, certainly doesn’t have the abilities to use the latest, greatest technology, but by no means is the business strategy any different.

So, a lot of transitions with getting government funding, being able to employ a lot of people all at once and then obviously deploy them off to different projects and being able to work for a great cause. I think that that was a really grounding moment for me, being able to see people working for beyond their salaries. They were working for a cause, they could see the purpose in what they did, and that was the driver over salary. So, I definitely really liked working in that space. But then got the opportunity to work in technology. And that has certainly turned my head forever more, I think. I worked for a software testing company. I started with a company called Planit and that doubled in size since when I started as an HR advisor. So it was incredible to be a part of the journey of that company, moving into India, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia, and just seeing how quickly a company can expand and thrive in so many different countries across the world. Being able to provide high quality technology from anywhere is something that I’ve really been excited by.

And not only that, I think attracting talent that is always pushing the status quo and being able to change people’s lives. I think fortunately or unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of people that study technology. I think that’s changing in Australia. But being able to sponsor people, move people around the world based on the projects that we’re working on. It really feels like you’re changing people’s lives and their careers every single day. And then I guess, being able to move through those different steps, moving into an HR business partner role and working on strategy with the leadership teams throughout Planit, throughout Australia, they all come with different complexities based on the state or city that they’re working in. And the workforce planning certainly never stopped. They were always at the front of technology in where they wanted to go and where they wanted to be in terms of industry and project spaces that they were working on.

And then moving into the management side, I loved being responsible for a team. Working with, again, it almost took me back to my young, budding days. Being responsible for a team that was just so enthusiastic, so work orientated and so calm in a crisis. It was just so inspiring. I definitely think that management grounds you a lot and allows you to think back on what you wanted to know or could have known before and how you can put those best practices in to make sure that hopefully they don’t make the same mistakes that you, or if they do, they learn quicker. And then my transition into Mindbody, it feels like the perfect combination of who I am and what I do. I am a senior HR business partner at Mindbody, but I am so driven by wellness. So it’s wellness and SAS combined. It’s one of those opportunities that I couldn’t turn away from. It felt like I could be completely my authentic self and that’s really where I am today.

So, I feel really passionate about what I do and the people that we employ here and by no means has the last year and a half been easy in the wellness space, but it’s certainly a tribute to the people that are in this space and what they do. And that really is, the company as a whole, is an amazing brand but they certainly live and breathe their core values as well.

Laura: That’s incredible. What a great summary as well, to be able to feel that way about where you work is pretty amazing. And totally, it’s definitely been a rocky what? 12, 18 months for that industry. But I just think it’s one of those as well that people are really starting to understand just how important it is and businesses are really backing it. So, it’s going to be, although it’s been a rocky 18 months, I’m sure you’ll end up seeing incredible growth over the next 18.

Lucy: Yeah. We’ve certainly seen that pivot in the virtual space. It’s been really interesting and again, passion piece separately to my employment, but wellness and movement, always at the forefront of what I do. And I think that being able to check in with yourself, especially in a lockdown, being able to take time out away from your computer to connect in with family and friends is really important, but also taking time out to go for a walk or do some yoga and meditate. So it’s really at the forefront of everything that we do here and making sure that our employees and our customers are looking after themselves as well.

Laura: I love that. That’s awesome. I guess, going back, I wrote all these kind of different career roles and everything, what’s the best and worst career advice you’ve received along the way?

Lucy: I did write this one down and I think the best advice that I’ve received over a period of time is be authentic. It’s way easier to be yourself than to try and base someone else. So that, to me, was the best advice because navigating difficult opportunities or difficult situations, if you can go back and go, I wouldn’t do that any differently because I was doing these things all for the right reason, then you probably won’t regret anything that you’ve done, even if it wasn’t the best path forward. 

The worst career advice I think is when people say let’s stay back late. Stay back late and be the last person to be there. And I have worked in that environment and it simply doesn’t bring the best out in people. And that I think has changed over my time in HR, but certainly in the earlier days where we were expected to have to sit in the chair all the time, that was something that I definitely don’t resonate with. And I don’t think that you get truly the best out of people if they are just sitting there for the sake of sitting there.

Laura: Yeah, I think when I graduated, that was one of the pieces of career advice I got is that you’re the first one in the office and you’re the last one to leave. And that was the kind of, and I do think that’s one of the good things that’s actually come out of the last 18 months is like, that’s no longer a thing, right? Because people are at home. And I really hope that something that’s going to change my default setting sometimes is still to work more hours.

Like if I’m busy just to work, work more hours and you soon realise after maybe a few days or a couple of weeks of doing that, that that’s absolutely the wrong thing. And you’re right. Actually going out and going for a walk or doing 10 minutes meditation is much better for your brain than just trying to power through. I guess sometimes just lessons are hard to unlearn, right?

Lucy: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. But it is changing. I think that that level of trust that you have for your staff, no matter where they’re working from. And also, I guess those finite periods of being able to be super productive, they’re are definitely more value add than having someone work and burn out.

Laura: Truly. So I guess on that then is how do you set realistic expectations for yourself?

Lucy: Post-its and checklists. I think that I’ve certainly, and I agree with you, do work long, big hours at times. So, US company, my boss is in London. Sometimes I would call myself A type so I can be my own worst enemy with regards to being able to prioritise and having big hallmark things to do personally as well. In terms of being able to put goals ahead, one of my bosses now she says, “Always do three things”.

And I think that would be my advice is when you’re prioritising things, you write them down, you put them in your diary, have three things that you want to do each day and get them done. 10 things. Yes, you could probably do by the end of the week. But if you can predict those three things and make sure that they can happen, then you’re moving through that process as well.

Laura: I like that. Three things is it always the golden number for those, isn’t it? Like anyone you speak to, it’s three things because it’s not too overwhelming. But it’s so easy just to sit over your to-do list, because I still do like to-do lists because I like to tick things off, right? And then you look at it and it’s like 26 and you’re like, “Ooh, which three do I actually pick?”. But it’s a pretty good exercise. I guess then going back to realise expectations and best and worst career advice, if you could go right back to someone like at the start of your career, what’s the one thing that you wish you knew then that you know now?

Lucy: I think as I get older, I’m realising that life is not linear. So taking every opportunity, not being stuck in all, this is where I should go and this is why I should go there. Sometimes you go down to go up or you go sideways to progress into a totally different industry. It’s really about just taking those opportunities as they present themselves and putting yourself out there. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to someone that you may be intimidated by.

They are a person at the end of the day. And also, I guess being really open to change, that change is always going to be there. But I would definitely look at my career path to date and now I feel a lot more comfortable going who knows where the next step will be or where I’ll be in 10 years’ time. But that is actually exciting. It’s not something that I’m worried about or anxious about at all.

Laura: I love that. That’s awesome. And then I guess getting back to what you were just saying around like you work long hours, you’ve got people in different countries, there’s always something changing because you’re in Tech’s, ever-changing landscape. What do you do to kind of stay on top of things? How would you make sure you know what’s happening I guess, with tech, but also across the HR landscape?

Lucy: Yeah. So I am an addict to all things HR. So HR Daily, HRM. I’m always on the BBC news, stay global. I think it helps that I’m passionate about what I do. So, it’s not really something that I would call homework when I am writing about HR. That’s something that I actually like keeping involved in. In terms of staying in touch with my colleagues, there are so many ways that we do that. So WhatsApp with my group here, Slack obviously with all of the employees, Zoom, phone calls, everyone’s always a minute away in terms of being able to access when they’re back online.

So, in terms of that communication piece, it’s actually gotten easier with technology which is fantastic. Staying across all the priorities, I definitely think stick to the three that you’ve got burning platforms. HR’s all about staying agile so there’s always going to be something that’s on fire at some stage in the day, but keeping that cool calm is really important in this role. I think being able to provide that sound mind, and also knowing that you can take the time, take the space to be able to come back to your latest with a solid answer is really important in this role as well.

Laura: Have you ever had a mentor throughout your career?

Lucy: I have, yes. I think I’ve actually had some, not formally, but definitely have had mentorship along the way and I highly recommend it.

Laura: What do you think that you’ve got out of mentorship in particular?

Lucy: I think a lot of things, actually. I think that being able to have really strong mentors and people that you aspire to be keeps you pushing yourself. I really liked with my mentors, they’ve not necessarily come from same industry or look, sound, feel like me. They are the ones that push the status quo, that are comfortable being uncomfortable. And I’ve worked with them and not work with them. Some mentors along the way, I’ve actually approached myself and then others have been internal. But I think the consistent thing is that they are always at least 5 to 10 years above my tenure so that you can reach for the stars and know that there is that next step.

I think that being able to have a mentor that really is paving a path for you and your career and profession is something that I always aspire to have. And I think mentors keep you accountable. Every time you meet with them, they’re like, “What’s happened? Where to next? What have you done? Where are you going?”. It keeps you goal-orientated and it also allows you to think more about your future as well.

Laura: I love that. I think that’s a really awesome summary. I guess two more questions. Just kind of looking at time. Obviously you’ve got a busy role, you’re across the globe. You’re reading, you’re learning, you’re doing all this. What do you do to switch off or unplug?

Lucy: Good question. In lockdown, walking. Loads and loads of walking. Out of lockdown, I’ve done ballet my whole life so, ballet is definitely a passion piece for me. Yoga, Pilates, hanging out with my partner, my friends and family. And one of my new COVID hobbies is surfing. So being able to switch off, you can’t take your phone in the sea. So being able to catch some waves and down load in the ocean is definitely been something that I’ve really enjoyed getting to do over this periods. So I’ll continue it beyond this COVID period.

Laura: I love that. One of our first guests was a ex-professional ballet dancer. So I’ll have to introduce you both or maybe there could be a Strivin party we get everyone together and we can have some kind of ballet dance off.

Lucy: Oh, my goodness. I love that. Oh, I’m certainly not professional. Did competition back in the day, but definitely not professional. So I’d love to meet them.

Laura: Love it. Okay. Last question that we ask everybody. Who else would you like to hear from on the Strivin & Thrivin podcast?

Lucy: Great question. Okay. Well, I would probably have to Canon Brooks, I think would be someone who is constantly pushing the status quo. Almost makes massive swing risk statements before they actually come to fruition, and he’s normally right. And then one of my old bosses, I would love to, for you guys to interview her name’s Emma Pilcher and she worked at the Planit. Yeah, she has guided that company in so many ways in people. And I think that she’s super dynamic and someone that really has inspired me. So that’s probably the two.

Laura: That was awesome. What great recommendations.

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