How a mistake changed Chiamaka's journey from HR to operations

Although Chiamaka’s first love was in Human Resources, she later realised her true love was actually something else.

How a mistake changed Chiamaka's journey from HR to operations


Describe your journey into operations

Operations is something I found myself doing by mistake and also begrudgingly. Because I had studied Human Resources and at that time it was passion for me. But then I started working in the bank, and one thing about the bank is they can transfer you to different units. At the particular bank I was working in, I got transferred to another branch as an Assistant Branch Services Manager and my job role revolved around core operations. I was in charge of making sure the branch was operating efficiently.

I was also responsible for maintaining ATM and branch vault cash levels as well as supervising customer success representatives according to our SLAs. I think that’s really the first time that I felt like I owned my job, like this one is actually my responsibility, I wasn’t just contributing to something. If anything went wrong, it was on me.

But that wasn’t the career path you planned for yourself?

I started with Human Resources and then just ended up there. And now I’m glad I did because efficient operations makes the bedrock of any truly successful organisation. There was a time this year I temporarily doubled up as the business operations and people operations manager and I realised my passions had shifted from core HR to operations. This is funny because I had gotten accepted into a Human Resources Program in 2020, but COVID happened. So it’s quite interesting to see that only two years later, my passions have realigned.

So you can say that COVID was a blessing because imagine spending so much money doing your masters, and then you realise, ‘omg, I hate it.’

Temi, literally. This could have been me but God knows best.

Let’s talk about your journey into Brass.

What made you want to work at Brass since you worked in a bank before?

I wasn’t actually in the bank when I joined Brass. I was freelancing as a Business Consultant and helping small businesses set up and scale. I’m very big on skincare and self-care in general, so when a friend who owned a wellness company reached out for support, I obliged. I went ahead to consult for both her wellness company and her NGO with a view to improve their growth strategies, especially around brand awareness. While freelancing, I was looking for something more permanent, and a mentor of mine suggested moving into the Fintech space since I had experience in financial services. There was ongoing recruitment at Brass then, so I applied.

What’s your role at Brass?

It’s interesting because my role at Brass has evolved. Initially, I was brought on to perform core business operations functions. That meant that I was mainly handling all the operational aspects of managing Brass which is still largely under my purview. But now, I am evolving into the role of Chief of Staff to the CEO. Since this increase in responsibilities, I find that I’m doing more strategising and project management in addition to overseeing operations at Brass. This means I’m managing the CEO’s special projects which are usually focused on increasing Brass market share. I also lead a number of Brass partnership conversations as well as manage the teams roadmaps for projects across Brass. I spend most of my days managing timelines and communications that support the CEO’s vision.

How has your journey been since you joined Brass?

It’s been an exciting journey. I am constantly learning. I have had to grow and work outside my comfort zone, and I love it. Working closely with management, especially the CEO’s office, means the stakes are a lot higher and I am required to think like a CEO to align my priorities with the bottom line. I also like the trust Sola gives me to figure things out independently. I have grown, and although I know I get paid a salary, I feel a lot of ownership at Brass. The success of the company makes me happy. It makes me feel like we are doing something. It’s like calculating your work. Here is the evidence of the work you have done. It’s been an upward trajectory.

As an operator, a part of what you do is ensure that the wheels keep turning. How do you foster this in your daily routine?

Honestly, I try to make sure that I can find balance despite the chaos. I was stressed out in the first half of the year, mostly because I was burning the candle at two ends, the business operations manager and people operations lead. It forced me to realise how much I needed balance. So now, I try to quiet my mind and hear myself. I communicate around any capacity issues I may have and ensure that people know what I’m dealing with and how to manage the expectations. But then also, I have to constantly refer to notes and take notes to see what was said and agreed on and follow up, especially with external partnership conversations. Finally, I tend to use reminders. That’s how I make sure that I can stay on top of everything in my purview.

What sets Brass apart from all the other places you’ve worked?

The culture. The fact that it’s such an enabling environment. Brass will provide everything you need to do your best work. The tools, the skillset, and even the education that you need. We preach respect a lot, and I see it in every conversation. Mistakes are treated, first of all, in private and with possible solutions. Never condescending. It’s impressive when you compare it to other employers in the ecosystem.

Another thing is what we do and who we build for. The products are excellent, and everyone is extremely passionate about the work that we do here.

What pillar of Brass’s culture do you resonate with and why?

Respect and Transparency. Everyone respects each other, and there is a certain effort at transparency that you don’t get to experience elsewhere. You are transparent with your colleagues, and the management is also transparent. We have demo days at the end of every month, quarterly updates, etc. Although it’s not necessary for our bosses to be transparent, they take the time to explain where the business is at different times.

Describe what you do to a five year old.

I make sure the lights stay on at Brass.

How would you rate your current work-life balance out of ten?

I want to say 7, but to be honest, I’ll say 6.5 and mostly because I’ve had some personal work going on in my personal life these days. I do okay. I rest on the weekend, hang out with friends, go swimming etc and just generally ensure I lead a full and active life outside of work.

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