For Thea Dedden, enjoying your work day-to-day is the key to a happy and fulfilled life.
“We spend so much time at work, it should be a place where we learn, create, achieve, have fun and meet lifelong friends. We can do serious things and enjoy the challenge at the same time.”
As Digital Identity Program Manager at Thales, Thea hopes to share her refreshing approach to work and people, to create an environment where her team feel supported, appreciated, and can thrive.
We explored in more detail Thea’s four pillars of a happy workplace and how they have been demonstrated throughout her career.
Discovering your values & priorities
Like many of us, Thea didn’t really know what she wanted to do until she hit her twenties. It was through a process of trial and error, and with the help of others to guide her, that she began to learn what was a good fit. Thea realized it was more about the environment and the personal traits she could bring to a role, rather than the specific expectations of job:
“Some people have a clear idea of the roles they want to be in, whereas I understood the conditions I needed to be motivated and fulfilled. Via coaching, mentors, sponsors and leadership programs I’ve become more effective at defining what role those conditions might translate into at each ‘next step’.”
Continually checking you are on the right path has been an essential tool in Thea’s professional development, and she urges everyone to identify the people around them who can help them find perspective:
“Finding an organization that places value on the things that are important to you will lead to a more fulfilling career. I have been exceptionally lucky along the way to have had fantastic mentors and leaders, and I can’t state enough how important it is to seek these people out in your professional life.”
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Knowing when to take risks
Thea knows that, in part, you are also responsible for creating your own success and happiness by looking for new opportunities and being prepared to go out your comfort zone when needed.
A key part of Thea’s character is her approach to risk, and the grace with which she copes under pressure. Her skill for this has been largely shaped by the life she led before joining a corporate organization – like living on a boat for over a decade, travelling through roughly 40 countries, and her love of adventure sports like snowboarding and open ocean sailing.
“I have had a lot of different experiences in life. Many have made me nervous – from sailing in storms off the Great Barrier Reef, moving to the other side of the world with just a suitcase, having children, and taking chances on new roles professionally. But it means in a professional setting, it can take a fair bit to get my feathers ruffled. Instead, I take the time to constructively engage people in problem solving.”
But on the flip side, Thea’s experience and knowledge of people has also taught her when to take communication risks, like using humour, sarcasm, or mock outrage to ease interpersonal tensions.
“Being a coach, I have seen a lack of adaptability or reluctance to change can really hinder a career. I’m proud of having an open mind and adapting to new experiences and change throughout my life.”
Believing in transparency
Unlike many companies, Thales is not about putting in the desk hours. The focus is on results and Thea is “particularly supportive of the outcomes-based work approach.”
For any business, workloads can be difficult when deadlines are tight, and Thea admits to sometimes working huge hours in these times. But she also knows that to continue to achieve their high level of results, her team needs transparency around their priorities, and the ways she is supporting them.
“I have learned over time when I need to advocate for more resources or make the tough decisions not to move forward with work that our team does not have the capacity to support effectively. The aim is to do the things that are most important very well, and to prioritize ruthlessly those things that are less important. I try to make sure I do not become the source of a work-life-balance issue for my team.”
With the right attitude, Thea knows it’s perfectly possible to balance these busy periods and still find time for fun. So, Thea encourages her team to take advantage of slower patches at work:
“I’m passionate about enjoying life and work, and alongside learning about new tech and achieving goals, it is enjoyment that motivates me during the working week. I actively seek out time to pursue my interests when there are less busy periods at work and encourage my team to do the same. 10am Tuesday? Go for a run, have coffee with a friend. At Thales the focus is on outcomes not hours.”
With this well-rounded approach, Thea hopes she is better able to guide and manage those in her team, saying:
“If you respect people, practice empathy, and allow the work environment to include fun/joy, you’ll be a better people leader.”
Making lifelong friends
Our colleagues are often the people we spend most of our time with during the week, so it’s important we get on with them! Working with a global team, from multiple businesses and companies “you may never meet some of them in real life,” so Thea says it’s “really important to get to know your team members well.”
“I really value when teammates invest time in getting to know each other beyond the roles we have.”
This supportive environment and personal approach are felt across the company and are the driving reasons Thea has stayed with Thales for a significant part of her career to date:
“My takeaway from my time at Thales is that regardless of which segment I’m working for or in what role, it’s a company that takes care of its people. It’s a company that rewards initiative and drive. And it’s a company with a willingness to grow.”
Final words of advice?
Thinking about the big picture when it comes to our careers can help bring us greater perspective, and Thea reminds us not to worry if the pieces don’t all fall into place at once. Instead, focus on what brings you happiness and satisfaction, and the rest will find its way.
“I didn’t find my niche until well into my 20s and I think that’s 100% OK. Life experience helped me figure out what I did and did not enjoy in a job. Being fulfilled is more important than any pre-defined plan or career path.”