Employee Culture

Opportunities to Learn: Environment Manager Sophia Frayle opens up about how Hadrian has helped her pursue her new path in AI and Data Science

The Hadrian Team
The Hadrian Team

Originally a musical performer, Sophia Frayle made a drastic career change in 2019 when she started her Bachelor’s Degree in Artificial Intelligence at VU Amsterdam. Her path into Hadrian has not been a conventional one: originally applying for a hacker position, she eventually took on the role of Environment Manager. Despite this path not being typical, Frayle is enthused by Hadrian because of the opportunities it has given her to experiment and learn more about AI and data science. Here, Frayle opens up about what it means to be Environment Manager at Hadrian and the different ways her manager and community have encouraged her to challenge herself and develop within the digital security space.

I noticed that you’re currently doing a degree in Artificial Intelligence, is that what drew you towards working for Hadrian in the first place?

My story with Hadrian is a bit of a different one. I originally applied for the Hacker role. I’d gone back to school to get a degree in AI and I thought that it would be a good opportunity to grow and learn. When I interviewed for the position I realized it probably wasn’t the perfect fit for me due to the level of experience our current hackers have. However, my main interests are AI and data science so I wanted to stick around on the team to see what opportunities might be coming. I discussed it with the hiring team and we came to the decision that I would cover the position of Environment Manager, while continuing to explore the possibilities of data science and AI alongside Hadrian.

It takes a lot of courage to change career paths, and go back to school, but I’m sure it's also exciting to be entering such an expanding field. What’s that experience been like, and what drove you to change course?

The industry that I worked in before was the music industry. Even though the music industry may seem like a creative industry there’s not a lot of chance for your own creativity to show. Most of the time it’s someone else’s creativity that you’re making happen. When I began realizing that maybe I didn’t want to stay in the music industry I started considering what I wanted to do next. I realized that I was pretty good at the technical side of music, and my colleagues would always ask me for help with tech problems. When I was little I also used to love coding, so I began to look at different university programs that might give me a chance to go back to that. It was difficult but rewarding, and I’m almost done now (laughs).

Have you found that there have been opportunities to learn and play around with AI and data science alongside your regular duties?

My manager has been very open to it, and very understanding of that being where I want to take my career. We’ve had a lot of sit down conversations where we talk about the possibilities of me doing more data projects, and how I can get more involved in the business of AI which is where my passion lies. As well, talking to experts like Tijl and Wouter has been really great for developing my knowledge and interest in the subject.

While exploring AI and data science you have also taken on the role of Environment Manager. What does being Environment Manager at Hadrian entail?

Basically it means I take care of the Amsterdam office. I help with the management of the personnel, I make sure that the office is in a great state and everyone feels comfortable, especially now during COVID.

One of my current favorite parts of the Amsterdam office is the ‘clubhouse’ on top. It’s a lovely open space that feels more like working in a cafe rather than a cubicle situation. It’s spaces like that which make the environment welcoming to work in.

You mentioned COVID which must have been quite a hurdle in terms of managing the environment - what has that experience been like?

It’s been challenging. I think the fact that most people started at Hadrian with a remote mentality has been helpful and made it easier to transition.

In terms of managing COVID my main objective is to always listen to the employees. I always try to include them in the decision making. Especially when it comes to colleagues that I know are more nervous about COVID, I try to listen to feedback and come up with strategies that work for them.

Though we’ve since moved to a larger office when COVID started we had quite a small one which made it harder for people to feel comfortable with social distance. However, the team handled it very well. They were all very good at communicating online. When the new lockdown started we had to reduce the size to only four people in the office. The team really utilized our online booking system to log their availability, the time that they were spending in the office, and health checks. We haven’t had a COVID case yet.

Besides the obvious challenges such as COVID, what’s been the most exciting project that you’ve worked on since starting at Hadrian?

I’ve been helping with the onboarding process, which has been both exciting and challenging due to the rate at which Hadrian is hiring. Since we’re hiring really fast there can be a bit of a bump sometimes where resources aren’t always ready for new team members as quickly as they join. There’s processes like getting a travel card which may take a bit longer, especially when not everyone is living in Amsterdam. Overall, I think the process has become more streamlined over time. We have a new software platform where we can assign tasks, and draw out a roadmap for talent as they go through the onboarding process.

Have you felt that any part of your background in music has been useful in your role at Hadrian?

Absolutely. Musical theater is my main passion and what keeps me going. I think with performance comes a confidence regarding meeting and welcoming new people to the team. I used to be a very anxious person, so being in unknown situations was uncomfortable for me. Musical theater has massively changed that, and it helps me to make others in the office feel comfortable as well.

Overall, how have you seen Hadrian grow and change culturally since you started in December?

It feels like I’ve been working here a lot longer than only a few months just due to how fast-paced it’s been. The team grows every week which is very exciting because there’s always interesting people to meet and new projects to see. I think the culture has become more open. Hadrian started as this core group of the founders, and in the past two months it has branched out a lot. It’s been exciting to be a part of the development of an environment where everyone feels included in the team and decisions.

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