Meet the Team - Q&A with our Operations Manager, Maria Khoury

Posted on 31 August 2021 Read time 4 mins
Author Paige King

Hi Maria, happy one year Tillo-versary. You’ve had such a huge impact on the business it feels like you’ve been with us for much longer...


Thank you! It’s totally flown by if I’m honest. We move so fast at Tillo, it’s like there are many seasons in one day. 

We’ve had to deal with a lot of COVID-19 curveballs during the past year. We were in and out of lockdowns and having to adapt the way we work together, whilst also ensuring our customers can achieve the full potential of their loyalty and incentive programmes (no matter what the current situation is). It’s been a continuous challenge. 

We’ve learned though that with every challenge there’s been opportunities too, and we’ve loved working through those with our customers and helping them adapt their gifting strategy, and learning new ways to communicate with them.

Ok, so we all have a fair bit of Zoom fatigue now, but I think a lot of people will agree that it’s been nice getting to know our customers and partners in a different and more relaxed way. I’m looking forward to being able to meet our customers face to face as more opportunities to do so arise.


It must have been strange joining a new company during a pandemic. How did you find it? 


Perhaps the most surreal aspect that so many of us had to deal with was the merging of the office with home. When I joined, my dining table was suddenly transformed into my workplace, with all of these new faces to meet virtually. I got used to it surprisingly quickly though.

I also felt really supported from the get-go. I was lucky enough to be onboarded by our Chief Technical Officer, Martyn, who created an onboarding plan for me which was easy to follow remotely and he was always on hand to answer any questions or patiently explain the logistics of how it all works here. That’s true of everyone here though really, there’s never a question to big or small, and I felt like everyone always made time in their busy days to ensure I got the help I needed. 


You manage the Operations Team at Tillo. Can you give us an overview of what your Team is responsible for? 

So, Operations is mainly responsible for two key areas; the first is onboarding new customers onto the Tillo network, whether that's retailers, partners, or new suppliers, the second area we’re responsible for is client services. That’s essentially the ongoing support that our partners or retailers may need, whether it's about redemption issues, setting up new promotional campaigns, or API issues. We’ve got an incredible Dev team at hand to help us troubleshoot anything that gets too technical. I’ve never worked with a Tech Team more happy to speak to customers than the team here at Tillo!

Because the Tillo platform plugs into so many different APIs direct to brands, and to different third party processors, there’s a fairly complex network going on behind the scenes to keep everything our Tillo Customers see in their Tillo Hub up and running. A big part of the Ops team is to help manage all the different relationships between retailers and partners, and understand the intricacies of them all to make sure the experience our clients receive is a seamless one.

I feel really fortunate to be working with a group of such talented and kind people who really care about making sure each customer gets the best possible experience. Shoutout to Steven Naessens (who some customers have accused of being an AI robot because he’s just so quick to respond), John Tasker, and Samantha Broomfield!  


During the last year Tillo has more than doubled in size. What’s the biggest challenge Tillo’s rapid growth has presented and how have you overcome it? 

I think perhaps the biggest challenge we’ve all had to face is learning to let go as we grow. Once you’ve been responsible for a certain area of the business, and you’ve learnt how to do absolutely everything, it can be hard to step back and hand it off to someone else, but it’s absolutely essential. Not only do you have to let things go, you have to build processes, share knowledge, and train your team to be leaders that can help you scale the business. There’s an article by Molly Graham which was recommended to us at one of the Tech Nation Upscale conferences, who describes this really well.


As of a few weeks ago, you qualified as a mental health first aider with MHFA England. Why was it important to you to undergo the training? Would you recommend it to other managers? 


Working in a fast-growing start up can be a real rush (to me, it's the most exciting kind of business to be in), but it can also be a high-pressure environment. There’s definitely a fine line between pressure that’s invigorating and stress, so I wanted to do the Mental Health First Aid training to make sure I was best placed to support my team’s wellbeing and spot the signs of stress early. I’d definitely recommend the training. I’ve gained a better understanding of the types of mental health difficulties people face and the best way to offer support - I’m really thankful that Tillo funded the qualification.


In addition to the demands of managing the Operations Team, you’re also one of Tillo's most committed volunteers. What do you like most about volunteering?

I think the thing I like most about the telephone befriending I do with the OnHand app is the opportunity it gives me to step outside of my own life for a while, and it puts the craziness of work in perspective. No matter how busy your day is, if you can spare just 30 minutes or an hour it will make all the difference - both to you and to the person who’s got a friendly ear that’s going to listen to them. OnHand themselves are great at supporting their volunteers, so you’re not alone if you ever find yourself wondering how best to support someone you’ve been connected with.


What are your plans for the Ops Team in the next 12 months? Are there any upcoming projects in the pipeline that you’re excited about?


As I’ve already touched upon, Tillo is growing rapidly and adding lots of new products to our offering. We’ve actually been working hard behind the scenes on one product in particular that I’m incredibly excited about, but I can’t reveal what it is just yet. 

A lot of what the Operations team will be doing over the next 12 months is formalising everything we do and making sure we have an up-to-date Tillo operating model. In other words, as Tillo scales up we’re working on ensuring we’ll always have consistency across the company. No matter how big Tillo gets, we want every customer to feel like they do now, talking to named individuals with a really personal touch.


Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us Maria, and for all of your hard work this year. You’ve been a constant source of positivity and support since joining Tillo, and we feel very lucky to have you. Here’s to another excellent year 🎉

If you'd like to find out more about how Tillo helps retailers and partners harness the power of gift cards, click below 👇


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