Name: Wilfrida Macharia

Current Job: People Operations Generalist @ Oyster

Current Location: Kenya 

What does a People Ops do?

As a People Operations Generalist at Oyster, I help new employees find their way into the company, I mostly focus on onboarding and getting them to settle into their jobs. I also set out to improve on the daily processes and systems that they will use so that they have an easier time at their workplace.

So People Ops focus is on system implementations, performance improvement, team engagements and time off, payments and making sure that any improvements that need to be done at the workplace are taken care of. In a nutshell, we are the ones responsible for making your life at the workplace better.

What are the biggest benefits of the remote workforce for companies that are recruiting remotely?

The most significant benefit is the diversity of talent. Remote work has exposed companies to a new talent pool without borders. It has allowed companies to hire from Africa which initially was very difficult to do. It has brought diversity to the workplace. 

Another benefit is that companies have managed to work on their hiring costs. We all know that jobs in Silicon Valley are competitive and overpriced sometimes and this is because there is a huge demand and limited talent. But now with remote jobs, the talent pool has expanded, and companies can scout the entire world and find the right people with the right budget. This has given companies more options depending on the budgets that they have.

Expound on the differences between the Talent Acquisition, People Ops and HR careers.

Talent Acquisition’s main role is to find the right fit for your company. They create the job profile, source the candidates, and do screening and interviewing. They will also ensure that your online employer branding is solid. People Operations will be focused on the day-to-day operations of the company. We look at things like do you have everything you need to execute your job when you get to work. Do you understand your role? Our main focus is to ensure that the day to day-to-day operations run smoothly and everyone is comfortable at work. HR will work on advisory matters. Ensuring that policies and systems that companies set are complying with the laws. They ensure that as much as companies are working to be efficient, they must also focus on people’s rights and what they are entitled to. One could set up a fancy policy on leave days but the HR will advise on how many leave days. They offer more of the legal soundness of making sure that everything companies are creating is for the benefit of everyone and keeps businesses in check and making sure they are compliant.

, Remote Work Cafe – With Wilfrida Macharia
Wilfrida Macharia – People Ops @ Oyster

What are some of the ‘must-have’ characteristics for remote job seekers?

The first one is resilience. One must know their worth, they must be resilient and patient to get the right job. Be very aware of the type of role you are looking for. Make sure your Cv is up to date and is matching what the companies are looking for. Be ready for the “NOs”. Before I got into Oyster I got 6 rejections. Some of the rejections are not at the beginning but in the final stages. You will go through all the screening, everyone is impressed and BOOM you get that email, unfortunately. Resilience is needed, if not, you start doubting yourself and asking yourself if you are good enough. Another one is discipline. When you get the job, most companies will not policy you.

You must have your objectives. You must learn how to set your schedule, and what time to wake up. You are working from home but you must know how to meet your deadlines. So, it’s a discipline in the sense that you are aware of your goals and what is needed. 

Another one is the boundary. Remote work comes with everyone assuming we are at the same timezone which is untrue. If your work hours are 9-5, then stick to that. You can make exceptions once in a while. But the rule should be that whatever schedule you set for yourself, then you should stick to it. Some companies will require you to work at different hours. They won’t give you the freedom of setting your 9-5 but might require you to work from 10 pm-3 am giving you a different schedule. Be very mindful of the boundaries that you set. Another one is you need to be constantly learning. Remote work is very competitive. Unlike previously when you were competing with people from a national level, you are now competing on an international level, Ivy league and years and years of experience, so you must be sharp on your skills. If you sleep on it you will be left behind and wake to find yourself irrelevant one day. It would be best if you were on top of your game.

What tools does your company use for day-to-day operations?

We use Slack as our main messaging tool. It’s our main tool to keep on track. It’s easy to use even when on the go. We also use Asana as our task management tool. To set milestones, deadlines, road maps and things like that.

We also use Loom. Loom allows us to work asynchronously. I can record a tutorial and share it with the team to understand the process, understand a system or even ask questions and we also use zoom, for obvious reasons. We also use HiBob. This is our HRIS platform that helps us to bring the best out of our employees. It’s our main source of truth on employees, data management with fun features like birthday announcements

Remote work can get very lonely, how do you ensure there’s a sense of teamwork among your employees?

Yes. It is very lonely. For me, I have a 10hr time difference with my line manager. I realized I can’t shoot him a message whenever I want. This made me realize I have to be more intentional. One must be intentional with their teammates whilst working remotely. At Oyster, we have a coffee buddy meet-up where you are randomly paired up with someone. You two meet up and just catch up. Most remote companies have things like the coffee doughnut that allows you to meet up but you must show up. 

Remote working is mostly up to you. If you do not engage, you will find yourself isolated. You must get out of your comfort zone. Outside work, find a community that works remotely. Initiatives like ToffeeTribe. Meet other people and build a community. With Remote work, everything comes from within, no one will force you to do anything. You must engage with others. Even introverts. Find things to do that will see you move away from your desk.

, Remote Work Cafe – With Wilfrida Macharia
Remote work cafe by ToffeeTribe

How does one ensure they have career growth while working remotely?

Career growth while working remotely is very intrinsically driven. One must know who they are in their career and where they want to be. Remote work is very competitive, you need to be always on top of your game, engage yourself with companies like ToffeeTribe that bring remote workers together who might end up encouraging you. Engage in short courses. You must be aware that you are competing with the world. One must map out. It’s very easy to get stuck while working remotely. One must aspire for more.

Remote companies also have initiatives like L&D programs that support their employees who are willing to learn. Ask within your companies what they have and how you could benefit from such initiatives.

What are some of the ways that you encourage your members to take care of their well-being?

Schedule your work and stick to it. Disable work notifications on your mobile. Set work boundaries. Find a community. Mental health right now is one of the major things one must fight for. Covid shook us into remembering your sanity and mental health need to be a constant priority. Communities will ground you. Go and engage. Try volunteering. Lastly, remember to take your time off. Yes, you are working from home, but it is important to be at home and not working. Take your leave days. Use your leave days! Travel.

Do you have any expansion plans for the African continent?

At Oyster, we are in about 20 countries in Africa. So, yes, we are expanding in Africa. We have the largest teams of Oysters in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Africa is an emerging market with exemplary talent.

Any encouraging words to remote job seekers?

It’s a new world of opportunity with remote work and with anything new, there are so many uncharted ways to succeed. You will need to put in the effort in making sure Your profile stands out and speaks of your achievement in a metric way. You will need to be intentional about the companies you apply to and make sure you do enough background research e.g. Glassdoor reviews sometimes give you a sense of a company’s culture and their response to critical feedback. Remember, the world is your oyster so don’t limit yourself with any boundaries, go for the opportunities that excite you!

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