Notey Akpotive is a certified Human Resources professional with over 7 years of experience across industries, including healthcare, oil and gas, and power at General Electric. In this interview, she shares about her professional experience, writing, travelling, relocating to Canada, new experiences and other interests beyond HR management. Enjoy reading!
Please tell us about yourself – what you do, your educational and career background, and your special interests.
My name is Notey Akpotive and I help people shape their careers. I have a bachelor’s degree in English and a Professional of HR International (PHRi) Certificate from HRCI, USA. I love writing and travelling amongst other interests.
How and why did you choose a career in Human Resources?
The journey began when I was studying at the University of Lagos. One of those days in my first year, I walked past a group of young people who were dancing to coordinated steps and when I enquired, they told me they were members of AIESEC. AIESEC is the largest student organization working with young people across the world to develop their leadership skills and travel the world. I joined them in my second year and worked in their Talent Development function. I was later elected Vice President in my final year at the University. My tenure as VP, Talent Development was the best and worst 12 months of my life. I laughed, I cried, and we successfully organized a 3-day recruiting event for team members at Sea School, Apapa. That spiked my love for Human Resources and the rest, like they say, is history.
What were your roles in GE and your most significant accomplishments?
My role at GE began as a recruiting coordinator, then I was promoted into the role of Talent Acquisition Specialist, and through an Accelerator (leadership program), I was hired as a Human Resources Business Partner (called an EHRM in GE speak) and I supported all the GE Nigeria businesses between 2015 and 2017 when I left. I started out supporting Oil & Gas, then I proceeded to the rest of Nigeria (Power, Healthcare, Shared Services, etc). I did this for Senior Manager positions and below. I recorded several accomplishments over the years, however, I was always happiest when I was providing a solution to employee issues, especially ones that had been neglected or wrongly handled. I enjoyed cultivating genuine professional relationships with employees.
What are some of the most important roles and responsibilities of an HR Manager; which personal characteristics make one a good HR manager?
The HR Manager should know and promote their talent. S/he must not be afraid of learning how to use data to make organizational decisions. You must be an advocate of your employees and your employer. As an HR manager, you’ve got to be ethical and fair to set the standards for the organization. You’ve got to be open minded and accessible, yet firm where it is required. Your clients and customers need to trust that you will be there to support them through the myriads of challenges they go through in their employee life cycle.
How do you find and identify talented people for your organization, and what are some of the most important lessons you have learnt in your career so far?
You assess talents from three broad perspectives- technical abilities, soft skills and culture fit. The technical side is often a no-brainer and all organizations test on this. A number of organization erroneously pass up on testing for soft skills and culture fit and they thereby create an unfavourable environment for their employees and water down their culture. One important lesson I’ve learned in my career is being honest and giving insights as quickly as possible to employees and the employer. As culture shapers, we see and observe toxic behaviours in the workplace and we need to speak up and address them as they arise. If we let them fester, we still have to deal with them, but this time on a more critical scale.
What are some of the common mistakes applicants tend to make in applying for jobs – CV/resume, cover letter, interviews, etc.?
Some mistakes I’ve seen applicants make are around their CVs/resumes not being representative of the full scope of their abilities. Some candidates will send you half written CVs with grammatical errors expecting you to instantly recognize they are a fit for the job. Some other mistakes are around professionalism — candidates ask their parents or someone they know to influence the hiring process without trusting that their competencies would enable them to get the job. Some other times candidates lie/grossly exaggerate their achievements on their resume. All these behaviours create a negative perception in the mind of the recruiter/hiring manager and reduces one’s chances of getting their dream job.
Why is employee training important to an organization?
Training employees can be summed up in a write-up I read sometime back, and I paraphrase. A COO says to his CEO, “What if we train our employees and they leave?” The CEO responds, “What if we don’t train these same employees and they remain?” Employee training is critical for the survival of any organization. If you are training your employees on the technical aspects of the only, that’s the fastest way to create distrust and disengaged employees. Train for technical and soft skills.
What are your thoughts about employee motivation? What role does it play in the workplace and in what ways can organizations and leaders motivate their teams?
Employee, and even employer, motivation is important for any company. It is like the canvas where if you have the right formula and right amount of painting components, you will emerge with a masterpiece. Employee motivation is one of those things you never score yourself 100% on because there is always room for improvement. The starting point for any workplace is showing respect for their employees. Say thank you when they do well and mean it; celebrate mistakes, take learnings, and direct energy to fixing issues as well as ensuring the same mistake is not repeated again and again. It is truly very easy to recognize an organization where people are valued. When you walk in, you instantly sense it.
What are some of your reflections/thoughts on working in the same organisation for more than 5 years? How would you advise younger professionals?
Working at GE for 5 years as a full-time employee, and for 18 months before that as a contractor just sort of happened. In total, I worked almost 7 years at GE. I stayed because I kept learning, I kept adding value, and that value also resulted in more work, more responsibilities, and being promoted to the next level. If I didn’t think there were opportunities for me to grow at GE, I would have left earlier. I think every employee should do what they believe works best for them and for their career. They should not respond out of fear for their future or because the last career article they have read has advised them to change jobs every 3 years. A lot of it boils down to finding enjoyment in the work you do, adding value there, and being financially compensated adequately for the job you do. That can happen with staying with one company for many years, or moving to other companies in the same sector or in different sectors.
What are some of the key certifications anyone looking to build a career in HR should plan to attempt? Why and how are these professional certifications and memberships relevant?
There’s the Chartered Institute of Personnel Management (CIPM) in Nigeria, there’s the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) in the US and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) in the UK. There’s also the HR Professional Association (HRPA) Ontario, Canada and it’s equivalent in other Provinces in Canada for a lot of Nigerian folks moving this way. All these organizations have various certifications interested parties can apply to be part of. Within the HR field, all these certifications constitute a strong foundation for an HR professional, but nothing trumps experience.
You recently relocated to Canada and took on new interests. What inspired this move? What has the experience been like so far and how would you advise readers looking to relocate elsewhere for work and study?
For the cliche reason of ‘a better life’ 😀 Opportunities to excel further in my career, to go back to school, and enjoy the benefits of a world class education; to challenge my world view; to re-examine myself, my identity and my goals. So far, so good. One of my biggest lessons here has been learning new life tools to thrive here. The lifestyle is very different from Nigeria, and in order to bloom, you must be highly adaptable.
It has been a very humbling and enriching experience. Anything you have to do that will stretch you and take you out of your comfort zone will also help you grow. You must grow through the good and bad days, whether you like it or not. Before my move to Canada, I said I was going treat the entire experience as an adventure, and it sure has been one. I’m thankful because I am learning every day, and spending time growing my network here.W
In spite of hectic days and busy schedules, what do you do for fun and relaxation? What else are you passionate about?
I’m such an artsy person, so my interests outside work are around music, dance, stage plays, spoken word poetry, books, art shows and food. All these things relax me. I’m also passionate about travelling and I blog at www.noteyscribbles.wordpress.com.
What are your middle and long-term career goals?
Generally, I am working towards achieving greater strides in my career and more balance in the other aspects of my life: spirituality, finances, family, health and recreation. My mid-term goals are to continue to build expertise in People and Culture matters and harnessing my strengths in facilitating and being a catalyst for positive change in organisations and the society. Long term, I need to be more financially secure and lead a balanced family life. Today, I am building solid foundations for my long-term goals.W
Tell us something about yourself…something we won’t find on your blog and on social media!
I love plantain; I really, really do! In all shapes and forms — ripe, unripe, boiled, fried, dried, cooked in pepper soup. Plantain is a staple food in the South-South region of Nigeria where I am from and I have so many happy memories stemming from eating plantain. Plantain truly makes everything better!
Any other thing you would like to add/share with us?
Own your truth and speak it as often as you can. This way you find your place in this world and you are not ashamed to be your true and authentic self.
Let us know what you think in the comment section!