As part of our ongoing employee spotlight series, we’ll be profiling colleagues who inspire us. Today, meet Alexandra Tull.
Company Role: Head of People
Most likely to: Have a movie quote for almost every situation
Secret talent: Event Planning & decor
When you’re a startup that’s hiring like crazy, you’re eventually gonna need an HR department. When String and Key got to that size, we naturally sought out the best of the best to lead our People function. Someone who’d help find us the best of the best in talent. That special someone? Alexandra “Alex” Tull, of course (this is her spotlight after all).
With over 10 years of experience handling employee development, Alex had already built a department from the ground up before we’d even met her, so this wasn’t her first rodeo. Coming from a fashion retailing background, she started her HR career at the original Uniqlo in Soho, NYC before going on to work at European fashion powerhouses Reiss, Sandro, Furla, and more. So how did she go from fashion to tech? Sheer curiosity, great conversations, and vibes. Good vibes to be exact. So what does she make of her decision to switch industries now that she’s been with us for 8 months? “BEST. DECISION. EVER.” — yep, that’s a direct quote.
A vital member of our String and Key senior leadership team, Alex is probably the first person you’ll talk to if you apply for a job here. So, get to know our incredible Head of People and learn how you can get into her good books ;).
What do you do, and what does your typical workday look like?MEETINGS! I’m the Head of People, which means my days revolve around S&K and its people. Typically, I start my day by reading relevant articles to find out what challenges and ideas are buzzing around in the HR space. Next, I tackle my inbox and add to my ever-growing to-do list. I also spend a lot of time looking through resumes and speaking to candidates. Since we’re in growth mode, we have quite a few open positions to fill this year (hint, hint). Re: the interviews, I try to make them enjoyable, and I always try to end them having learned something new from each person. After that, it’s onto in-house meetings where we mostly discuss what people want/need to be successful in their current roles and where they’d like to see themselves further down the line. After all the meetings, I sit down and strategize employee development, engagement, and process improvement. Overall, I have jam-packed days that include A LOT of talking.
What’s your favorite part about working at String and Key?
That we’re not afraid to fail, as long as we fail fast! We’re constantly learning and improving, but since this is new territory for most of us, a lot of us are learning through trial and error. And no one harps on the failures; we just learn from them and adjust. It’s refreshing to work amongst people who don’t cower in the face of a challenge but instead put on their war paint and meet it head-on. “I would follow (you) ya’ll into the mists of Avalon…” — shoutout to anyone who knows where that’s from!
What excites you about your job?
Helping people realize their career dreams and aspirations. Sometimes I speak with people who say all the right things about where they see themselves in the next 5 years or so, but I can tell it’s not what they’re passionate about. I like to create roadmaps with individuals that stem from the intersection of what they’re passionate about and what they do well. Work shouldn’t just feel like a job, especially in this day and age where you can literally do WHATEVER you want and make a profit. You get a different sense of energy and effort from a person who enjoys what they do.
What do you find most challenging about your role?
Not having met most of the team in person! I’m more of an in-person person, so it can be a bit challenging at times to “read” people or to fully get our points across virtually. We rely so heavily on Slack, but the tone is lost via text, and without having met most of the team, It’s tough to get familiar with their mannerisms. Communication is so much more than just speaking, and I find that gets lost in this new virtual world. If I was the traditional HR function, I probably would have much less interaction with the team, but I prefer to be a lot more hands-on and speak to everyone. Not just when hiring, benefits, employee relations, and exits.
What are the values that drive you?
Ask for forgiveness, not permission. We should all aim to be bold enough to take the initiative and tactfully push the boundaries to accomplish goals. I believe if you have an idea, just do it. If it works, great; if it doesn’t, don’t do it anymore — and (quickly) readjust. I always make a point to say this when I’m interviewing for a role. Not every company follows that philosophy, but it always resonates with the right ones.
How do you stay on top of your game?
I read a lot of publications by HR professionals, and I also join different social groups. Fishbowl is a really great app for any and all professions. Since a lot of my job revolves around people, the best way to learn is to listen. There is nothing an article written by a stranger in [insert some far-away place] can tell me about the S&K team that I cannot learn from just talking to the S&K team. I also follow some HR meme pages on Instagram — it reminds me, humorously, that we all face the same challenges. It’s reassuring and keeps me going!
What drew you to tech, and what excites you about the industry?
I’m one of the least technical people you’ll ever meet, seriously! I don’t understand what the engineering team is talking about (more than) half of the time, but Google always comes through in the clutch. My tech ignorance aside, I see the direction the world is headed, and I want to make sure I’m evolving along with it. I love that people are working on making things better and easier. One of my favorite things to say is, “It’s 2021, we should be able to…”, and what I’m learning is that there’s probably a team out there working on bringing that to fruition. I wish I understood that world a lot more and could play a bigger role in it, but regardless, I’m hitching my wagon to this rocket.
What’s one thing — either industry-related or not — that you’ve learned in the last month?
That baking is a science! I’m definitely not winning any prizes for my baked goods, but I’ve gotten so much better once I realized it absolutely matters the order in which you add the ingredients. I can cook, so I thought I’d naturally be good at baking, but nope. It also takes patience that I don’t currently possess. The funny thing is, I don’t even really like pastries and such but I just want to know how to make them.
If you could swap places with anyone at String and Key, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, Jasmin, our senior copywriter! I love that she can take bits of information — or an idea — and create a beautiful story. That is talent. And I’ve always admired the art form. I just don’t have it in me since I’m way too blunt and always trying to get to the point. Even with this spotlight, I’m sure she’s taken the scraps I’ve given her and created a beautiful fabric. I promise you, what you’re reading is waaay better than what I provided her. She’s fire!
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I love watching movies and documentaries. I think I now have every streaming platform, so please send your recommendations — the crazier the plot, the better! I also love working out, mostly lifting weights, though as I LOATHE cardio (although it’s a necessary evil). And I’m almost always involved in some sort of workout/ weightloss challenge as the competition aspect keeps me motivated. Otherwise, you’ll find me sitting on the couch eating Doritos (purple bag) and drinking Wild Cherry Pepsi while watching a documentary about a serial killer or something.
Any fun or interesting facts about yourself
Growing up, I really wanted to be a profiler in the Behavioral Analysis Unit so I could track down serial killers. Clarice Starling from Silence of the Lambs was a HUGE inspiration! I’m also terrified of snakes! Terrified to the point that I cannot watch them on tv or look at pictures of them. It probably stems from my childhood since a couple of my cousins used to own snakes and would chase me around with them when I was younger. But, my dad is also afraid of them, so maybe I inherited the fear? It’s on my bucket list to take a pic holding one someday, but umm yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.
Can you list five hashtags that describe your personality?
#Blunt #Curious #Funny #Stylish #Audacious
Beach life or city life?
City life! (With the occasional beach escape).
Appetizer or dessert?
Long drive or long walk?
Long walk because I have a 5-hour driving limit! (Went on too many long road trips when I was younger, so I’m scarred).
iOS or Android?
Comedy or drama?
Comedy! (I love Coming to America & Step Brothers).
Interested in working at String and Key? Join us