Deborah Okechukwu is the Head of People Operations at PiggyVest. For this month’s Lead Talks, she talks about the challenges of her role as well as how she spots and attracts talent.
Tell us about your journey in people operations? How did you get started?
My journey in people operations or human resources began with a passion for understanding and supporting the human side of organisations. I studied Industrial Relations and Human Resources Management, and for the last five to six years, I’ve only done HR jobs.
I currently lead the People Operations team at Piggytech.
What motivated you to pursue this career?
Two things: I wanted the opportunity to make a positive impact on employees’ lives and be able to contribute to the success of any organisation I find myself in.
What are some key challenges you face in your role?
People! [Laughs] My key challenges revolve around managing diverse employees’ needs and expectations and also fostering a positive work culture that aligns with the overall goals of the business.
How do you address these challenges?
Prioritising open communication and actively listening to employees concerns, as well as collaborating with the co-founders and managers, has helped address these challenges
How do you spot great talent and attract the right candidate(s) for roles?
PiggyTech has a very high employee value proposition, so once we have a job opening, we get as many as 2,000 applications.
We intentionally go through each CV to ensure that we get the best people with the right skills, experience, and fit for our organisational culture. We also network, attend industry events, and leverage online platforms.
What are three qualities every People Operations person should have?
The number one thing is empathy. Empathy allows us to understand and support employees’ needs. The second is adaptability. It helps us navigate the dynamic nature of organisational changes
Lastly, it is important to have strong interpersonal skills. It allows effective communication and helps the ideal People Operations person build relationships across all levels of the organisation.
What advice would you give to newbies in People Operations?
Seek mentors. Look for individuals who have experience in people operations or HR and can provide guidance. You can reach out to them with questions and share your concerns in a confidential and safe space. HR related workshops, webinars and events are great ways to network as well.
Remember to be proactive, persistent and respectful in your approach.
What would you say are the most important qualities or skills a successful team lead needs?
That would be strong communication skills and the ability to inspire and motivate team members. They should also have effective problem-solving and decision-making skills.
If you could switch roles with any team lead for a day, who would you choose?
[Laughs] Hmm. I’ll say Bukola Willoby, our Head of Customer Success.
Oh! Interesting. Why?
People Operations is the internal “customer success” of any organisation. In our case, our customers are our employees. Bukola is at the external end, solving our users’ problems. I’d like to see how engaging it is to solve the problems of our external stakeholders. That would be nice.