Tahnee Claeys – Head of Operations at Mad Paws

Posted October 24, 2017, by Jenny Sakr
Tahnee Claeys – Head of Operations at Mad Paws

Hailing from Belgium, Tahnee took a leap of faith when she left her role at business giant ExxonMobil, to move to Australia and work for a small startup, Mad Paws. 

How long have you been in business and operations?

Mad Paws was founded in Aug 2017 and went live in Oct 2014. My career started in 2012 when I started with ExxonMobil as a business analyst. I have five years' of experience in business and 1.5 years of experience in Operations.

What did you study?

Commercial engineering with a major in Finance and a minor in International Business

What did you want to be when you were younger?

A princess ?
I never had a concrete career path in mind; I just wanted to do something that would make me happy and where I could contribute/teach/pass on knowledge to others.

When did you first know you wanted to work in business and operations?

During my studies at uni I already realised that business would become my field of expertise, hence all the choices I made to follow that study path. I never thought specifically about operations, but I am someone who really enjoys wearing different hats and working on different projects, hence the choice to go for an operations role within a start-up. I was never the person with just one skill or ambition, hence I knew I would never become a lawyer or a doctor; I wanted to become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades.

Explain a typical day at work

Now there’s a paradox: in my job there is no ‘typical day’ at work. In operations, and especially in a start-up, priorities change continuously, hence no day is the same. My day usually starts off assessing what has happened or changed between now and yesterday and how that impacts the overall operations of the business (and hence my priorities). After that, it’s a game of “how do I make my day longer than 24 hours to make all of this happen.” 

What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career?

After 3.5 years of intense ambition and hard work, I ended up with a severe depression and work-related burnout. Not only did this impact my career, but my entire personal life (relationship, friends, family). At the time, it was still considered taboo and I received very mixed reactions from people as they had no clue what was happening to me (neither did I by the way). I struggled for 7 months to find my life balance, recalibrate and decide what I wanted my life (including my work-life) to look like in the future.
It was the darkest, most difficult period in my entire life and was something I was ashamed of for a very long time.
If you ask someone, “what is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you in your career”, I’m guessing this is not the typical answer you’d expect. What I went through is nothing I would ever wish anyone else to have to go through, but at the same time it was the greatest growth period I’ve had in my life and in hindsight, it brought me exactly to where I am today, both in life and career-wise. I am grateful for everything I learned during that dark period, as it hugely changed my perspective and view on life and work. If I hadn’t gone through it, I would probably still be stuck in my “golden cage” and would’ve lost way more along the way!

Name the best and worst parts of your job

That’s a difficult question. The best parts are sometimes the worst parts and vice versa.
For example the continuous change and shift in priorities: being the structured perfectionist that I am, dealing with this continuous change has been extremely challenging and not at all a walk in the park, but at the same time the best part of it is the freedom I have in my work and feeling empowered that I get to be the “composer” of my work/role.
Apart from that, managing my team and seeing them grow both personally and professionally gives me wings and reminds me that I am doing the right thing.

What’s the most important career tip someone has given you?

Pick your battles and always ask yourself, is this something that will still be important five years from now.

What do you wish someone had told you before starting in this career?

How hard people management is and how this is the ultimate key to success (if you want to be a good leader)!

Name a career highlight

Quitting my job (man that’s scary!) and moving to the other side of the world all by myself to become Head of Ops for Mad Paws (I’m originally from Belgium). Also, moving from one of the world’s largest corporations to a small start-up was a pretty big step too.

What’s next for you?

Becoming COO of Mad Paws before I turn 30 (I’m currently 29). No idea what life after Mad Paws will look like. Ideally, I’d like to take 6-12 months and travel the world (this has always been my biggest dream).

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Jenny Sakr
Jenny Sakr

Jenny found her way with words while interning during uni, since, she's produced articles on it all – from hair and beauty to homewares, travel, career advice and study tips. On a weekend you're most likely to find her lining up for a table at the latest cafe or restaurant.

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