Interviews, Lifestyle, News

International Women’s Day 2022 – Spotlight on Milly Richardson

Milly Richardson – Vice President of People


Q: Could you start with your past experiences that have shaped your career today?

I’ve been working in HR/People for almost 17 years in a variety of roles but I think my career really kicked off when I moved to London in 2009 and started at Thomson Reuters. I progressed really quickly whilst I was there thanks to some great mentors and a leadership team around me that gave me opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and succeed.

Through this support and growth, I became the Global HR Business Partner for the Tech team –  supporting 3,500 staff across the world and that was insane! I think this was the point I had the realisation that not only could I do this, but I could do this well. From then onwards, I looked to find bigger roles in smaller companies because my role at Thomson Reuters made me realise that my passion really lay in truly getting the know the people I’m responsible for, and that is just impossible on such a large scale.

To have the influence to enable people to work in an environment of complete authenticity made me realise this is what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be when it came to taking responsibility for people functions. I have some pretty strong ideas about how work should be and this is typically the exact opposite for most people; none of this work version of me vs a version of me in real life – a place where people could really just be themselves.

So that’s where I’ve focused my last 10 years; building cultures that enable people to thrive.

Q: What is your role at Vitesse? What would a typical day look like?

So my role is to enable everyone else to do their work better. Basically, whatever that looks like – it’s super broad.

The company will have a strategy and it will be impossible to deliver that strategy without people.

I have to make sure we’ve got the right people doing the right things, and that they’re really happy and empowered to do their jobs to the best of their ability, whatever that might look like.

And I guess the question of a typical day is an interesting one because it’s very reactive a lot of the time and I am at the mercy (that may sound really dramatic!) of the people in the business.

Who would have thought a month ago that we would be supporting our colleagues through a war in Europe – you literally don’t know what’s going to come about each day.

That being said, I do always have a people strategy; a handful of things that we absolutely need to deliver that year. And my focus will be on designing, crafting, and deploying those types of things across the business. But aside from that, it really is very human led, what do people need from me that day, and that’s where I focus my energy.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your role?

Being able to truly be part of something completely ground breaking and unprecedented such as the pandemic is really terrifying, a mentally and physically massive responsibility in keeping people safe, but also incredibly exciting.

I had to take a whole company remote overnight, and establish ways of working that would enable them to do their jobs in a completely different way; the majority of them hadn’t even done flexible working let alone remote working.

And then I had to bring them back into the office a year later; by then we had tripled in size so bringing together a new 60 people who hadn’t met their colleagues when everyone was feeling vulnerable was a challenge.

It’s like building a plane whilst flying it. There’s no time to stop and take the time to learn and plan. It was so immediate; everyone had to go home, it’s unsafe, grab a laptop and we’ll work the rest out from there.

At times like that, it’s so important to have a people function that has a good relationship with the leadership team because it has to be a joint and cohesive effort. That’s what I thrive on and to be able to manage my business through challenges like that is what I really enjoy.

Q: What challenges have you experienced them and how have you overcome them?

Obviously COVID has been probably one of the biggest people challenges of our time. Aside from that I would say there’s probably two big challenges that stand out across my career.

The first one was being a young female in tech companies where the leadership teams were considerably more experienced, in terms of years, than me and I genuinely had to prove myself every single day, in a way that I didn’t see my male colleagues having to do. It was very frustrating, but I’m pretty bloody minded so I knew that I was going to not let them win. The constant having to prove myself was a hugely defining part of my career and character growth.

The second thing was becoming a mum which has changed the entire dynamic of my life and my career. Suddenly you’re having to balance two full time jobs, only one of which you’re being paid for!

Your life is completely different and trying to re-establish myself in the workplace in the middle of a pandemic with a one year old felt like probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to deal with for sure.

I think to be honest, it also made me more comfortable with being vulnerable, because I don’t think I had the energy to pretend to be anything other than what I was. I found that being more vulnerable and therefore more authentic in the workplace meant other people started letting their guard down a bit more with me as well; and then you actually get to know people in a completely different way.

That then changes how you run a people function because it’s less about process and more about individuals and you start to understand how this is going to impact people’s lives because I know how my life is impacted right now. So I think I’m better at my job as a result.

Q: Any tips for getting into the industry / your role?

I’ve never been in the FinTech industry before so I have no tips for how to get into that space specifically, however I would say that when you’re starting out in HR, it’s really important to find a HR leader that is aligned with how you think ‘work’ should be because there are so many flavours; it’s really evolved from the black and white that HR used to be. You can be an amazing HR person in multiple different ways but it’s about finding the leader that suits your style.  

I came to Vitesse thanks to my amazing specialist HR recruiter who I’ve know since I’ve been in London; we’ve always been connected and chat regularly even when I’m not looking.

Having worked at a variety of organisations through my career, I had a clear view of what type of business I wanted to join next, one being run by smart, grown up people with low egos; so Vitesse was the place for me!

So it is important that if you find a recruiter that cares about you as a human and not you as a placement fee then stick with them your whole career as they are the people who will let you know about the roles you never would have thought about and an opportunity might come from it. It doesn’t mean you’re a flight risk by any means, but at the same time why would you want to miss out on something that could be career defining for you?

Q: What is the best piece of advice you have received?

It was probably when I was at Thomson Reuters and the advice came from my CTO. He was amazing and fundamental to my success; we partnered together in our roles and where he went, I followed and that is how I ended up in my insane job there.  

It wasn’t necessarily a piece of advice specifically he gave me, but he always used to try and throw me out of my comfort zone. And I guess the advice that I would take from that and share with other people was to just step into it and give it a go.

And he used to throw me out to speak suddenly on the town halls with 3,500 people dialled in and he’d ask me what I would think. I found this ability to think on my feet and to articulate my views and you know, sometimes I completely messed it up, but other times I absolutely smashed it and I grew in my confidence. And I think if I hadn’t given those things or tried, if I’d always stayed safe, I would never have got to where I am now.

Speaking or presenting especially can be difficult but that’s only because we don’t do it often, right? I learned very quickly that we put so much pressure on ourselves regarding what people think of us compared to their actual perception of us.

So just give something a go – what’s the worst that could happen?

Q: What would you say is your biggest achievement?

I think getting to where I am is a bloody miracle. But actually, the thing I’m always proudest of is the relationships that I’ve built. And in turn the feedback that I’ve had from my leadership teams and the wider organisations I’ve worked with is that they have said they like having me around.

As far as I’m concerned, that makes me think ‘job done’, especially when you’re in HR and that can sometimes be met with some reservation or negativity. People actually wanting me in the room makes me very happy.

Q: Any goals for the future?

Ok this is super cheesy but I would love the company I’m working for to win some kind of culture award for doing something innovative or being a great place to work. To have someone within the business nominate us to say that they love being there and that we are driving a new or strong culture would really make my career.

Q: What do you like doing in your spare time?

I have no spare time being a mother of a two year old! Keeping my child full of snacks? Getting a lot of Ben & Holly and Thomas and Friends, which are his two favourite TV programmes.

I do love reading. I like reading inspiring business books to learn about what other people and cultures and companies are doing.

One of the best books I read last year, which I recommend to everyone, is The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer. It’s the true story about a man who identified this inner voice in his brain and he decided he was going to let life lead his decisions and say yes to everything.

I’m currently reading Joy Inc. which is basically a book about how to create joyful workplaces. I love stuff like that.

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