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What I learned in People Operations at Thoughtworks

As someone with several years of experience in Human Resources, my job at Thoughtworks was quite different from the usual. For instance, we don’t like to call it “Human Resources”, because we don’t see people as resources. We simply call it ‘People Operations’. It took me some time to adapt to this unique and fast-paced environment, and I’ve learned a lot here that I’d like to share with you in the six thoughts below:

#1 Second language: Depending on the language you speak you'll need to know another language. As a native Portuguese speaker, the English language was a necessity for my growth in the company. Most of the systems were in English, likewise for email communication and a large portion of my onboarding team was non Brazilians, so without a second language, I couldn’t have managed.

#2 Personal schedule: You won't know what that is anymore. If you’re used to scheduling your day: agendas, post-its, kanbans etc. in such a way that at the start of your day you have everything set for what you're going to do during the course of the day, it is very likely that in at least 3 of the 5 days of your week, your schedule will change, and not because you want it to, but due to what bubbles up during the course of the day. Don't despair! Focus on what will have more impact in the company, and then do the rest, one task at a time.

#3 Payroll: If you think you're a Payroll Specialist - again, you're wrong! After working with the Payroll of a sales company, where I had to learn about commissions and the different payout mechanisms, I thought that I knew everything. Once more, new things came up, like mobility - at Thoughtworks, we often move consultants around the globe to work on specific projects in other countries.  Working on a payroll with expats and a bunch of employees who work in a country other than their home country can be a nightmare. But I can’t complain, after this I can just say: "I'm ready for the next challenge."

#4 Employees: A peculiar thing with a company like Thoughtworks is that the average age of employees is younger (mostly generation-Y) than in other organisations, and you’ll need to reconstruct all the people skills that you’ve learned in your career or at college, etc. This kind of audience makes you challenge yourself, because it’s never a simple conversation that ends when you say: “The company policy is this and the law tells me to do it.”  You’ll need to back your points with reason and logic, because the Y generation asks you so many pertinent questions that you’ll start asking yourself:  “Is this really correct? Is this topic really worth following? Am I doing the best thing?” I love that it challenges my thoughts.

#5 Teamwork: Maybe from your experience People Operations is an isolated function, but at Thoughtworks you can’t go long without working with someone else. You may think you can do everything on your own and get the glory later, but to actually go somewhere you’ll need help. Keep that in mind.

#6 Business: You need to understand the company that you work for, be a true ‘people worker’. Your job is to drive the company in the direction of achieving their goals related to the people.

Summing it up, it doesn't matter if you are an IT Consultant or an Operations Executive, working at Thoughtworks is a unique experience to put your creativity into practice, innovate the way you do your day-to-day tasks and work in an agile way, collaborating, experimenting and always improving along the way.

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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