career discovery

Career Passion: A True Calling in HR

150 150 Shortlist

Learn how Odyssey Capital’s HR Manager left a career in fashion to find her true passion

Meet Vivienne Mukoko, Odyssey Capital Ltd.’s Human Resources Manager. Odyssey Capital is  a client-centric microfinance institution.  They extend credit to borrowers in order to buy consumer goods and appliances. Speaking with Vivienne it’s easy to hear the excitement in her voice.  She speaks passionately about her job and its importance to overall company growth. She explains just how strategic her role because  “HR is basically the person that makes sure we have the right people in the right departments. We ensure these people are equipped to add the right value to their department and overall to the organization. So without HR, the organization is not worthwhile.” In those words it is easy to uncover the passion she has in her work. However, Vivienne carved a non-traditional path to get to this point. This is how Vivienne left her career in fashion to find her true calling in Human Resources.

It’s easy to be taken aback when Vivienne explains how much she liked working in the fashion industry, and yet, it wasn’t a career she wanted to continue to pursue.  “I think it was coming to a realization. I loved fashion, I loved sketching and stitching. Loved it but wasn’t passionate about it. It wasn’t my calling, even though I enjoyed it.” The differentiation can be confusing at first, but it’s clear that she felt driven to HR. She saw the opportunity to provide the greatest benefit to company strategy: “I thought about it and decided I wanted to be in a position where I add that kind of value. Not just to one department, but to all departments.”

Discovering new career opportunities

A common theme in speaking with versatile professionals is their curiosity drives them to think more deeply about their career path. This is certainly the case for Vivienne, as she describes her professional journey that led her to where she is today: “My journey has been an interesting one. I studied fashion, I enjoyed it of course, but it wasn’t for me. I started at a textile company and I used to design for them. The job was great, but I wasn’t passionate about it. In the process of my management training, I went through an induction process with the HR department and realized, ‘Goodness! HR is not just about pushing papers!’ It piqued my interest and I started researching what it entailed and if it was something I wanted to engage in.”

Vivienne completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Apparel and Fashion Design, so it wasn’t just a matter of choosing to suddenly switch to Human Resources. She had to determine what she would need to do to pivot to a vastly different career. “When I had enough information, I decided I wanted to study HR. I moved to Nairobi and got my higher diploma in HR. Then I had the opportunity to work for Deloitte. I started my HR career there, first as an HR Assistant and then grew to HR Associate. My experience there was mainly recruitment. I loved recruitment, I had a lot of fun focusing on recruitment.”

Vivienne then used this opportunity to move across industries to land where she is now:  “I slowly transitioned to different industries, from finance to diplomatic corps to security and finally back to finance here at Odyssey Capital.” Vivienne attributes this range of experiences with helping to unlock a critical step in her professional development: identifying and utilizing mentors.

The importance of mentorship & professional networks

Vivienne credits her first mentor for giving her a glimpse into how vital his role was to the company: “The head of HR in that company was very informative. He would engage me in understanding the strategic aspects of HR, not just the daily filing. I asked a lot of questions about HR and he told me a lot.” This first experience with a mentor encouraged Vivienne to continue to seek out peer leaders who could direct her learning. She says that it’s crucial to seek out the right people to help guide your learning and that it’s particularly important to find advisors who have the drive to push you further: “The mentor I have now has been influential in the growth I have had in the past year.”

In addition to mentorship, Mukoko’s hunger to excel and improve in her position has led her to identify professional networks and forums: “I try to learn not only from my experience but from other HR professionals as well. That’s why I’m in HR forum groups, I try to interact with different HR professionals. You’ll find people have very different experiences, and sometimes you’ll think you won’t find yourself in a situation, but one day you do!” Vivienne also notes the importance of being present and finding yourself in different environments in order to succeed. “Being exposed to different situations and finding yourself trying to adapt to every single one is exciting. A lot of what I’ve learned and use currently is based on those experiences.”

Uncovering Talent

One of the most gratifying aspects of Vivienne’s job is the opportunity to recognize and cultivate talent to succeed beyond their current ability. She explains that as “being able to, more or less, develop talent. You have a talented individual, you identify specific gaps, and you think about how to make this person a more improved version of themself. What kind of value can I add to this person that can  grow them further than they already are? If you can tap into that level where you can quickly identify and advise accordingly to guide that person in that particular direction, it’s such a big difference in such a small way.”

Her passion in her work shows most clearly when she talks about unlocking professional potential:  “It’s very little input in terms of all facets of HR, if I can find a way to embody all these aspects and tap into the people I support, in this particular way, that’s what makes me wake up in the morning realizing I need to be better at structuring Learning & Development that is meaningful, identifying talent needs that bridge this gap. That’s where I get the passion to wake up every morning and go to work.” Vivienne’s drive to support the development of her colleagues is one of the many reasons why Odyssey is growing so quickly!

If you share the same passion for extending credit access to small and middle-income earners and think you might be a good fit, Odyssey is hiring! As a client of Shortlist, check our open jobs to see if Odyssey Capital is hiring!

 

Benefits of an Open Office

800 533 Shortlist

We’re all familiar with working in an office where just going to work everyday feels like a big task. Coworkers rarely converse with one another and bosses sit in their offices behind closed doors. Your daily role is merely a function, and your strategic suggestions are met with a wave of the hand, that those kinds of decisions are above your pay grade. Now imagine the opposite. You walk into an office and employees are frequently working together, solving issues and challenges together in a cohesive way.

The leadership team of Momentum Credit, a microfinance lender to individuals and SMEs, has established an open office environment in order to encourage cross-departmental collaboration and knowledge sharing. Here’s some insight into what that looks like for their employees, as well as some ways in which this strategic decision has allowed Momentum to see rapid growth in its short company history.

open workplace

Momentum employees enjoy getting the opportunity to work alongside employees from different departments

No assigned seating

Wambui Kuria has been the Talent & Development Officer for Momentum for just a few months, but the homely atmosphere to the office makes her feel like she’s been here for years. “There’s something peaceful about this place. Honestly, people have a good feeling about it, even our clients, they say there’s a good feeling about Momentum.” This is in part due to the open seating arrangement that Momentum has implemented.

“It’s very interesting, we don’t have sitting positions. I don’t sit near my manager, I don’t just sit with people in HR, I sit with people in sales as well as Finance. We don’t have tags, you can sit in any desk, anywhere, at any time. It’s really open and friendly. When you’re around here, you can’t tell who is support staff and who the bosses are.” Furthermore, the openness of Momentum’s office is reflected in the leadership style of its management team.

The senior leadership of Momentum don’t just expect their employees to work in this way without leading by example: “Our managers are very open. I can walk into the CEO’s office and say to him, ‘come say hi to our visitors.’ It’s more like an American start-up, but the Kenyan way.” They have also formalized their interactions with all employees by instituting regular meetings with all staff members. “We designed a program where our CEO has to meet with everyone, every quarter. We call them 1-on-1’s. Like today, he’s meeting employees from different departments.”

Listening to & considering feedback

Management do not have these meetings simply as formalities, they take into account what their employees are suggesting. “What I like here is that leaders listen. Yeah they know much, but they actually listen to our ideas, what we say. They may not implement it, but they will certainly listen.” This critical linkage between theory and practice is vital to keeping employees bought in on the overall vision, and make for an environment where those not used to this style can adjust and succeed. “We think strategically about how things will affect performance. With people, it’s how your leadership is and how your structure is organized. With the proper leadership and structure, people will find themselves adapting well to it.”

Open office environment helps reduce turnover in salespeople

“Being in HR, just knowing the market for salespeople, their turnover in the market is around 60%. Here, we’re doing like 20%. It’s great. I don’t stress,” says Wambui. She explains that the open office extends to those traditionally seen only as out-of-office employees. “In some companies, salespeople are kind of disregarded, because they don’t have desks in the office. But if a salesperson comes here with a client, they’ll be given a room. So while they don’t usually stay here, they have a right to a room. You’ll find it very weird for normal insurance companies, or in the banking sector, it’s unique. For me it’s very different.”

She explains that for herself and other employees, there’s a bit of adjustment to this working style. “Now, if you look at most companies that do this model, you’ll find these the salespeople are rarely allowed in the office. You sell, tell your team leader whatever you’re selling, team leader will come and process. But I came here, and the shock was real, you see these people in the office, and you couldn’t even tell they were salespeople. Everyone respects them, we have a kitchen where you can take tea & bread in the morning. We all sit together. It’s a very kind place.”

microfinance offices

Karibu Momentum!

Winning Out Through Culture

Employees at Momentum clearly believe that these efforts are helping them build something special  “Once you’re here, there’s openness. If there’s a problem, we solve it quickly, there’s no bureaucracy, honestly. People here like to do things first. We are a team of dynamic people. I think our average age is 26. It’s a very dynamic office, and that whole culture translates to our clients. Our clients come here and they get surprised. It resonates with everyone. What we sell, is sold by more than 15 different companies as well. But why we sell well, is our people. In 2 years, we should win out.” Momentum may be a young company, but their growth trajectory is in part due to the culture that’s been developed among employees, allowing everyone to work together effectively.

As a client of Shortlist, we’re proud of the achievements Momentum have made in such a short time. If you think their working environment is a fit for you, check our open jobs to see if they’re hiring!