A Day in the Life of... Tracey Knowles
Tracey Knowledge, our Chief People Officer, is this week's 'day in the life of' spotlight. Read below to get a look inside her daily routine at Wirex, and understand how she got into this exciting career path.
How long have you been with Wirex?
Why did you join Wirex?
I am genuinely interested in what the FinTech industry has to offer, and I feel like its such an exciting time to be involved in this industry. Wirex is different and has a lot to offer – it is large enough to have all the opportunities and development that people need and want, yet small enough to have the excitement and feel of a rapidly expanding start-up! I guess its that mid-size company offering which I think is the ideal time to join a business like this. There’s lots of work that has already been done, but huge potential to make your mark on things going forward! Win, win!
What is your background?
My first job after college was in sales, which I loved! Mainly because I love talking to new people and I find humans truly fascinating! I was oddly very good at sales and then cut my teeth in recruitment which is literally still my favourite part of HR to this day! Since 2005 I’ve been working in the recruitment, talent and the wider human resources arena. My career developed quickly because I have worked for some wonderful companies and have had some fantastic mentors and bosses along the way.
What is your job now and how long have you been doing this job?
I’m currently the Chief People Officer in Wirex and I lead the People function globally. Prior to this, I have spent the last 10 years in Head of HR roles in scaling tech companies.
When you left School or University what did you want to be when you grew up?
Now there’s a question… I got my first job at 12-13 years old, washing up in my local pub, waitressing and babysitting for the neighbours kids and have worked ever since. I honestly had no clue what I wanted to do, but it ranged from being a Vet (I was brought up on a farm), a police officer and a social worker… there’s a definite theme of caring and looking after people/things!! I was 19 when I got my first sales job and I found my passion for business and HR and haven’t looked back since. I didn’t got to University straight after school/college – I studied once I found my niche.
What industry's does your job apply to?
The beauty about HR is that all businesses of a certain size and across all industries need it; whether its in-house or outsourced, businesses have a requirement for HR professionals to help them hire, organise, train and manage their teams. HR is made up of many specialisms, so there is a huge amount of variety and choice in the field.
What kind of education and/or training did your career require?
I personally did not start to train in my profession until I was settled in my career and then did my professional qualifications part-time of an evening, whilst working full-time in HR. Whilst I value professional qualifications and education, HR is not one of those fields you learn from a textbook or certification. The real depth of experience comes from being on the job. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) is the main professional body to accredit and award professional human resources (HR) qualifications. The CIPD's qualifications are the recognised professional standard for HR and training specialists working across the UK's public, private and charity sectors and is a great place to start if you want information about what certifications are open to you.
How do you become a HR professional?
There are many professions which transfer to HR and vice versa, so there really is no one route into HR. However, broadly speaking, having a genuine interest in business and a real passion for making a difference in developing, motivating and influencing people will quickly help you establish yourself in HR. Hardwork, passion, courage and determination is required (by the lorry load!). The CIPD is the main professional body for HR and People development which is most widely known in the UK – you can start with a short course, or full qualification – these can be done at your own pace too. Most employers today will support professional qualifications, and HR is one of those which I believe is best studied on a more vocational training basis.
What skills are required in your daily work?
You need a good balance of technical and soft skills. A good understanding of employment law is a must, but putting this to one side, you will need excellent communication skills, the ability to manage conflict whilst remaining independent and non-judgmental, emotional intelligence is key, along with a positive attitude and personal resilience. I also think authenticity is important, but I think this is born from being comfortable and enjoying what you do. Empathy will be required as it will sit at the heart of most things you work on. Sprinkle in some patience and determination, and I think you’re pretty much there!
Please describe a typical day of work:
I get asked this a lot and honestly, there really isn’t a typical day. Each day will bring something different and plenty of variety. In smaller/mid-size companies you will likely be a generalist (i.e. get involved in all areas of HR), which is why I specifically choose to work in this size of company like Wirex. In larger companies, there is the opportunity to specialize a little more. Despite the best planning in the world, HR can be a lucky dip most days! Each day will normally involve HR analytics reporting, helping employees with OKR planning or performance reviews, interviewing new potential candidates for open positions, working with the wider HR and Talent team to service a whole host of business requirements. We are also heavily involved in payroll, benefits, culture and social initiatives, occupational health support and other employee relations work. So, like I say, every day is different and unpredictable, but that’s why I love it!
Do you mostly work alone or with others?
Pretty much you are always working with people. However, you will hear people say that HR is a lonely place, I think this relates to standalone and senior roles, as sometimes it can feel isolating, and that’s when building a network and joining forums will really help.
How has Wirex helped you get to develop your skills and career?
In just 6 months I have learned so much! A truly international and multi-cultural business brings so much opportunity and can open many doors. It’s such an exciting and forward-thinking industry and company to be part of. Learning how the business functions differently from region to region has been amazing. Employment frameworks differ vastly from location to location, so this has been brilliant to get to know better.
What do you wish you would have known about your job before starting?
It can be an emotional rollercoaster! People don’t always remember what you say, but they will always remember how you make them feel. Be kind!
What would you like to tell someone who’s interested in applying for a HR position to know?
Its more than just a job. To be good at HR you need to care and want to influence positive change. It’s a tough job and can be a thankless one at times, however, it is incredibly rewarding.
What career progression is there in your role and/or Wirex?
As I mentioned previously, the role of HR is diverse and therefore there are many opportunities to progress. HR is made up of many different areas; recruitment, reward and benefits, learning and development, compliance, employee relations. It is possible to be a generalist or a specialist depending on where your passions and strengths lie. Wirex is a mid-size company, which is growing rapidly and because of this there are many chances to influence change, make an impact and grow.
What do you love the most about your job at Wirex?
The people are awesome! The variety, pace and opportunity to feel the impact of your work on a daily basis is off the scale. Making a difference and seeing the impact of your work is incredibly rewarding. You really can make a positive contribution to peoples lives.
How would you describe working at Wirex?
Fast and exciting. Its constantly moving forward and I love this! The time goes so quickly – you will never clock watch!
If you could give one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Try to gain as much experience as you can across different industries and in different departments. HR need to understand all areas of the business, so building your commercial acumen and general business knowledge is key. Question everything! Most of all… enjoy what you do!