Tips for job seekers from Thomson Reuters VP of Innovation: Grow your innovative side

Posted May 08, 2018 by


Entry-level job seekers and employees can learn from Katherine Manuel, a seasoned expert in innovation, to become a more employable candidate or a more valuable employee. Manuel is Senior Vice President of Innovation at Thomson Reuters and she has passionate advice for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to break down hurdles and drive new business. If you are looking for innovative jobs or want to contribute more creatively to your organization, our interview with Manuel provides insight into the importance of being an intrapreneur.

(Interview has been edited slightly for length and flow.)

What are the qualities and competencies of an intrapreneur? 

Katherine Manuel: One of the most important things that I look for are people that ask great questions. I do a lot of mentoring at the company for people that are just starting out in their careers. And it’s amazing that what differentiates people is not necessarily their wealth of experience, but it’s really the way that they ask the questions and what questions they ask. It’s showing that they understand what a business ecosystem looks like, where customers come in, where products meet their needs, and where services around those products can really increase the value of a product. Even just understanding how they best think about their career and what their long-term goals are, even if they don’t have it all mapped out, which I’d never recommend people do. It’s the thoughtfulness of the questions that they ask less than having a mastery of a topic.

It’s recognizing what skill sets they have, what skill sets they want to have, but also what excites them when they’ve had a really great day. It’s really good questions and decent understanding of what gets them excited about what they do.

Where do you recruit for innovative entry-level candidates?

Manuel: A lot of times we look at certain schools that are close, location-wise. Over the last few years we have made a pretty strong effort to hone in on where we have offices. For most jobs, it can vary in terms of what the major is. It depends on what the person is looking to explore and what they’ve studied and how they’ve brought that to life. In our innovation labs and deep technology areas, there’s definitely an interest to have an engineering and computer science background. But in other areas we can be a little bit more broad around what we look for.

Why does Thomson Reuters need intrapreneurs?

Manuel: We did hundreds of acquisitions in many years. About four years ago, we changed our approach where we said we need to rely less on acquisition and more on understanding the products that we have that we’ve acquired that we’ve already built and bring those together. We want to create stronger suites of products and platforms and connect our content across our enterprise. So intrapreneurship is so important—we have to drive organic growth. It’s more important than ever that we drive growth, that we drive new thinking with the people that we have at the company with the products that we have and really invest in new ideas and people that are going to bring those new ideas to us within the company.

Innovative jobs can enable employees to pitch new ideasThomson Reuters has a Catalyst Fund, which is a seed fund to provide resources to employees, no matter what level they are, where they sit around the world, what function they’re in, they can come up with an innovative idea and pitch it to our CEO. [They need some level of executive sponsorship from somebody who says it’s good idea and is willing to put their name on it.] We meet with them about once a month and we have seen many intrapreneurs come through, seeking that investment money, getting that investment money, putting their time, blood, sweat and tears into their idea, and then being able to come back and show what they built, what they’ve created.

It’s not always products. Sometimes it’s new ways of approaching customers. It’s looking at content sets in a different way or how to go to market, thinking about the data that we have on customers in different ways. We’ve seen intrapreneurs come through that fund who get praised by our CEO, not always for a huge whopping success, but for just sharing the learning and what they tried. Maybe it didn’t work out how they had expected, but they get a lot of credit from our CEO. People have gotten new job opportunities from that.

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Examples of how innovative employees have grown at Thomson Reuters

Manuel: We have somebody that now heads up our innovation arm for our entire tax and accounting business and he had come through the Catalyst Fund twice. It was so clear to me that he was an incredible intrapreneur and so we want him to spend time in a role for a couple of years helping coach and support others and bring those ideas forward and think about how you can innovate the process of getting more ideas coming up through the pipeline.

We’ve had over a hundred ideas in the last four years. Our pipeline averages about 25 ideas that we fund per year, but then we also do a lot around tracking and supporting the ideas that have already been funded.

Also read: Communication skills factor into who gets promoted

How can creative candidates find the right role or company?

Job seekers should look for both innovative jobs and companiesManuel: I think you can do any role. The advice that I always give people that are looking for jobs is make sure that you’re interviewing the potential employer as much as they’re interviewing you, because to find a team and a manager that will support your creativity is incredibly important.  At Thomson Reuters we have an innovation culture. We create innovation challenges and we do something called “Dare to Disrupt,” where we open up the doors for everyone to do something different. If you are naturally creative, if you are naturally curious and want to do something innovative, people are going to want you to be a part. When you’re being interviewed, and the questions, “How can I innovate?” “Are you open to allowing people to try new things or do we do the same thing week after week after week?” You can ask questions of the hiring manager to see how supportive they are of people thinking differently and people pushing boundaries. You don’t have to be bold and audacious; that would turn people off. You can ask really smart questions about how you can adjust and change things.

To find a team and a manager that will support your creativity is incredibly important.

Challenges for intrapreneurs once you start at a new employer

Manuel: In a company that’s really large, there are still processes that have to be followed. New products have to go through scalability testing. They have to go through certain tests around sort of privacy controls. That’s one of the reasons why we have a very trusted company because we have a lot of rigor around our big product suite. If somebody says no, that just can’t work, a thoughtful manager will sit down and explain the rationale for why that idea can’t fly in this particular way. And the natural problem solvers can begin to understand those different tensions and potentially come up with new ideas to work around that. So not just taking no for an answer but beginning to find out why. Again, it all comes back to asking questions.

Rewarding innovation

Manuel: I feel very strongly that the intrinsic motivation around innovation, especially in a big corporation, is really the driving force. If we were to get into calibrating what the revenue stream looks like and who helped and who participated, it would end up taking away some of the cultural aspects of people just helping for the sake of helping one another and building a new product because it’s the right thing to do. So we don’t have really large incentives. In some of our big challenges we’ll give them minimal cash reward for coming up with the winning idea.

We also have something called an honor roll. We collect ideas of participating employees and on a quarterly basis we send the names of people that have been participating in these innovation efforts and we send it to the our CEO and our executive committee. We ask them to send a note or invite them to lunch or do something for these people because they are the ones that are driving the growth and making the change and acknowledge them.

Katherine Manuel, VP Of InnovationAbout Katherine Manuel: Senior Vice President of Innovation at Thomson Reuters, Katherine is a change-agent who enacts successful strategies and restructures to promote organic growth. She is a passionate coach and thought-partner for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs to drive new commercial models and break down hurdles. Katherine is a passionate advocate and sponsor for women in business – sharing what she has learned along her journey and forging a future path together.

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