Change ‘Keeps Me Moving Forward’: Exploring the Always-Evolving Career of a Technology Manager

Sponsored by Thomson Reuters

Heather Fry

Photo courtesy of Thomson Reuters.

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Fairygodboss
April 20, 2024 at 2:10PM UTC

“Since moving into management, change has been constant,” said Heather Fry, Technology Manager in Tax Compliance at Thomson Reuters. “Change excites, motivates, and sometimes challenges me — it keeps me moving forward.”

The chance to constantly grow and evolve has been key to Fry’s happiness and her ability to define her own career path.

“Early in my career at Thomson Reuters, my department didn’t go through a lot of change,” she recalls. “This is characteristic of our industry — tax compliance changes frequently, so we keep processes, structures, and even technology the same to counter balance.” In times like these, Thomson Reuters enabled Fry to grow in other ways due to the company’s ever-increasing career growth opportunities. “Thomson Reuters has evolved in countless ways and that evolution has afforded me opportunities to grow.” 

“I took advantage of their tuition reimbursement program and completed my MBA,” Fry tells us. She also used Thomson Reuters’ formal program for mentors and sponsorships. “I had a wonderful mentor in my first year as a manager,” Fry recalls. “She helped me see things differently, coached me on some critical conversations, and supported my needs and areas of growth.”

Here, Fry tells us more about this journey and how she has evolved in her career.

To start, can you tell us about your job?

When I transitioned to a Technology Manager at Thomson Reuters, my role was to support one segment of Tax Compliance with Software Engineers in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was also a Scrum Master helping to build a beta product being tested through customers through several small scrum teams. In the last three and a half years, my role grew globally, allowing me to partner with technology teams in India, Australia, Eastern Europe, Canada, and, most recently, Mexico. This year, my responsibilities grew significantly in the Compliance area so much that I needed to step away from my Scrum work. 

My position has a lot of flexibility and has been evolving since the day I accepted it. I love this about my role, and I can flex my time where it’s needed most based on the time of year. Outside of supporting my team of engineers, I spend time assisting our UltraTax CS product backlogs, helping global engineering teams and working on special projects.

What were your initial thoughts when you learned you were moving into a leadership role?

Thankful, excited, and nervous! I had moments of doubt, but, overall, I was eager and ready for management. I joined a newly formed technology team made up of all-female managers. In technology, it was unique that an entire male-dominated department was being led by all-female managers. I had this group of women to support, challenge, and inspire me during my first year as a manager. 

What opportunities did Thomson Reuters provide that ultimately helped you land your role?

I didn’t have a traditional, linear path to the manager role with clearly defined, sequential steps. Instead, I actively sought out any opportunity available, usually in addition to my full-time role. I partnered with our Sales Department to pitch UltraTax CS to new customers, I joined and then led our local volunteer group in Ann Arbor, and I helped with our campus recruiting. 

I loved meeting ‘new’ people at Thomson Reuters, even though most of them had been here longer than I was. My biggest break was when I volunteered to start developing OnvioTax. I had opportunities to learn Agile and Scrum, lead platform development teams, partner with global colleagues, develop my tech skills, and follow a transformative leader into management. 

I applied for positions I didn’t get. I used the feedback from these positions to work on my brand. I used the interviews to network and learn about Thomson Reuters. I used almost every career development tool that Thomson Reuters made available. I pushed myself because that was what I wanted; I was at a large enough organization with opportunities to refine and develop critical skills.

From your own dynamic management experience, what’s one management strategy you’ve used that you think has been particularly effective?

Listen more, and be an active listener. This is one area I must work on daily and outside of work too with my two little boys and husband. It’s very easy to be distracted, and active listening is not only respectful, but critical when working with your team.

What’s the No. 1 thing you hope your direct reports are getting out of working with you?

I hope my direct reports feel supported and valued. And I hope they feel this support outside of work as well — I care about their wellbeing. Since moving into management, I’ve been fortunate to coach and lead an incredible group of software engineers. They’re a big part of why UltraTax CS has been market-leading for decades. 

I developed my career by raising my hand, seeking out opportunities, and speaking up. When you transition to management and have a team to support, it's more important to pass on those opportunities, let them speak up and let them raise their hands. While I would never be passive; remembering to pause, think of the team, and encourage others is where my focus is now.

What is your No. 1 piece of advice for other women who are moving into or want to move into leadership?

Perception is reality — be aware of how you are perceived. I had the opportunity to attend LeadHership1, a female-focused leadership program, offered by Thomson Reuters. One of the exercises gathers feedback from colleagues, friends, and family on how they viewed me. It was sometimes uncomfortable getting feedback, but it’s critical to understand how you are being perceived and compare that with how you want to be perceived and who you want to be. 

Perceptions can change and people can change, but if you aren’t aware of how others perceive you, start seeking this information.

What’s been your most valuable career mistake?

Assuming a title earned respect or authority. Titles or promotions mean very little unless you have the respect and trust of those around you. A title gets you a seat at the table, but it takes time and effort to earn the respect of others. If you don’t have trust and respect, then it doesn’t matter what you say/what your title is — you have lost the ability to influence and lead.



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