Name: Christopher Karani
Current Profession: HR Consultant
What did you study in college/university? Was it what you wanted to study?
I always wanted to do computer science. I however ended up with two different courses; Social Sciences and IT. The latter was actually as a result of a mix-up that saw me take enough units to qualify for some sort of a minor degree. I have always been passionate about computers, analytics, programming, and things tech. I want to think that I’m a tech person; it was my first love. Actually, the kind of areas I am getting myself in, like people analytics, is tech-related, but more important, it’s addressing key Human Resource and organization challenges, like productivity and performance.
What was your first job? Any lessons to share from it?
I worked with the Red Cross. In campus, I was actively involved in clubs. During the last semester, they were looking for people to do volunteer work, so I got an opportunity to do volunteer work, with the Red Cross in China for 1 year and 3 months. I was involved in logistics, where I was in charge of dispatching resources to the people going out to the field. Gradually, I shifted to training of first aiders on ways of coping with the field stress. It is here that I first developed a passion for Human Resources and Training. When I finished the program, I came back looking for the one job I had some experience in and got one as a Training Specialist.
For the lessons: When you are young you shouldn’t overthink opportunities, and especially if there is a learning opportunity, just run with the one that comes along. There is freedom to experiment and learn. This particular job was not easy because it was mostly emotionally draining. This experience really taught me to be more appreciative of the things we take for granted like good weather and good health.
Is there too big or too small a job?
Not really, as long a job provides a learning opportunity, it is not small. My rationale for choosing between two job opportunities is a chance to learn. In most cases this is the option that is most uncomfortable, that pushes you out of your comfort zone, you will probably get stressed but at the end of it all, you will have gained way more in the long run.
Describe a normal working day for you?
The consulting environment is very different from an 8-5 job. In consulting you can only plan so much because you have to be more flexible to meet client needs. Unexpected calls and shifting of diaries is the norm. Generally, I wake up at 6am, take about an hour to do some reading, after that it is a mixture of responding to emails, going to meet clients. For consulting, procrastination will take you out of business. So it is about managing the time and seeing how you can get value for that particular time. Actually, Consulting is managing and getting value from the time you have.
What drives or motivates you?
There is nothing that goes beyond helping someone and seeing them being successful. I believe all the choices I have made career-wise have been bound by this belief. The decision to be in HR and focusing on talent is really to support people grow to in their careers and their livelihoods. This is also the mission of Workforce Africa.
Ever had a bad /good boss? Lessons learned or advice to offer?
At some point in my career, I got an assignment to work with a virtual boss who was in the UK. She really made me grow professionally and the reason she stood out was because of the personal connection. Genuinely interested in me as an individual which meant giving real feedback and having real concern for my growth. I’m deploying the same strategy with my team. You can actually gauge the performance of a company by the level of interaction between the senior management and the rest of the staff. If you believe in someone’s potential, they will go out of their way to prove you right. On the other hand, if you are alienating your team, not believing in them, comparing them against each other, and not considering their unique worth, then you have a recipe for disaster.
Your take on ethics and integrity? Is it important to you?
It’s everything! It’s a non-negotiable.
When you are not in your work element what do you do for fun?
I like the idea of experimenting with continental recipes. I am responsible for junk food in our house. Possibly one day I will monetize it with a catering truck. I’m also passionate about vehicle mechanics.
Best money advice you received or would give?
Very simple-don’t spend everything. If you have money easily accessible, there is always something to spend on. My dad taught me that “It’s not right for a man not to have a back pocket.” You have to have something set aside somewhere.
Most notable achievements?
Setting up Workforce Africa and seeing it progressing is something I’m happy about. It’s by no means there yet but its steps in the right direction. I believe it presents unlimited opportunities. I intend to use it as an opportunity to support people’s careers. Our mission is to tap on people’s potential and be a channel that provides decent jobs and sustainable livelihoods. We are aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals number 8.
Biggest challenge(s) faced and how you handled them?
With entrepreneurship, to avoid disagreements, contracts are a must before work commences.
The other lesson is to start out small, experiment, and learn. In project management, we have been deploying Sprint methodology as a way of piloting projects. It is a continuous improvement exercise that advocates for continuous experimentation and review. There is immeasurable value in continuous learning.
Is reading important to you? what are you currently reading?
Very important. I am reading the Culture Code by Daniel Coyle, it focuses on how teams work. I also listen to audios a lot.
Who do you look up to for inspiration? / Most influential people in your life?
My inspiration keeps changing, currently, it’s my former boss Raquel Suarez; she has a fantastic work ethic, able to have a very rich life for both family and work. Easily connecting with people and had a way of telling you exactly what she meant without feeling disrespected. And we still check up on each other.
My dad has also been very influential. He is a man of few words but he is a focused man, laser attention to what he is doing and I believe maintained good relationships. He can have a real conversation without sugar-coating anything. I admire his problem resolution methodology.
What is common between Raquel and my dad, is they are upfront about what they stand for and maintain it without being arrogant and carry with themselves little emotional baggage.
Employment or entrepreneurship?
If I was offering this advice to someone who has not worked or without experience, start with employment to learn from a diverse range of people with the experience, connections, and expertise. (How do you sustain a business? How do you do cash flow management? How do you develop a brand? How do you develop a network of people who can assist you?) – there are people with these answers out there.
Your take on Leadership?
Leadership is a genuine concern for people. It is highly likely you will be effective if you care. Caring also means telling people the hard realities. Leadership is much more than your own well-being, It’s external, larger ideals.
Final words to young and upcoming professionals
Always learn something new. Be open-minded like a child. At the end of the day, this really is what you own.