My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series document people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially into technology.
Emmanuel Faith is a man of many abilities. He is an advocate for SDG 5 and a TEDx speaker. He describes himself as a retired poet with a few collections to his name. Professionally, he has gone through the finance and tax industry and currently works in the field of human resource management. For nearly two years, he has been leading the people and the culture of sage cowrie (YC 18) – a booming fintech company in Africa.
how it started
When applying to Obafemi Awolowo University (OUA), Emmanuel Faith planned to graduate in accounting in four years. But that did not happen, as he repeatedly got the correct subject combination wrong at the Post UTME stage. At the third trial, he realized his mistake but found himself with the risky choice of accepting the offer to study economics or wait another year. He chose the former and graduated in 2018.
As an economics graduate, he explained that the chances of pursuing a career in finance were over 70%. Luckily, he found an alternative soon enough when he realized he had financial apathy. As an undergraduate, Faith threw herself and was involved in many activities and competitions.
“I didn’t like my study program, so I was always everywhere. I did a Business Plan Challenge in my senior year. The winner gets an internship opportunity. I won the challenge and got the opportunity to work at Meristem. I joined their investment research team, analyzed Nigerian stocks, gave stock recommendations and wrote research reports. The internship made me realize that I was not going to do finance,” he said.
During her undergraduate studies, Faith also worked as a campus ambassador for Unilever and worked directly with the brand team in the HR department. “I’ve done several campaigns and being there has sparked my interest in HR. But I haven’t figured it all out yet,” he revealed.
Subsequently, he secured a graduate trainee position in 2018 with Tax Aide Professional Services in another competition which he won before leaving school. “And that’s how I started my career in taxation. I was in charge of corporate tax, value added tax, personal income tax and payroll administration,” he said. As he would find out later, payroll was in HR, and that was the moment of light for me,” he said.
Although he worked in the tax field, Faith knew what he wanted, so he started a professional course. Contrary to Tax Aide’s expectation of completing the Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria (CITN) course, Faith completed a Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria (CIPM) course for HR. “I started writing to the CIPM, sharing HR tips on Linkedin, deliberately connecting with HR people and applying for HR jobs as well,” he explained.
Eventually, in March 2019, he received a job offer for General Electric (GE) as a Trade Finance Process Analyst. Although the role was not what he wanted, he felt that the multinational status of the company would strengthen his Curriculum Vitae (CV). By then he had completed two stages of the CIPM and was on the third.
Surprisingly, before Faith left GE in August 2020, he had flipped between two roles, as he later worked in the HR department as a support staff. “At GE, they wanted to do employee engagement, and they needed someone who had HR knowledge and could write for HR communications. About three people referred me. And that launched my entry into the HR at GE,” he said.
With the CIPM in the bag, he took the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) exam because he wanted a global perspective of how HR was practiced. He also took courses on Udemy and refresher courses from Segun Akinode.
Although Faith doesn’t like mentorship, he believes you can’t shift the importance of people when building a career. He admires the tastes of Yemi Faseun, Taiwo Dayo – Abatan, Ijeoma Nkwontaand Samuel Akinloto. He even went the extra mile with some of the books he read. For example, he recalled how he read a documented story of 55 HR professionals and sent a request and message to 50 of the 55 professionals on Linkedin.
“I did a Linkedin bounty and told these people I was looking to have a conversation with HR professionals. I messaged about 10 people over four Saturdays. Some didn’t acknowledge it that several months later, others not. There was also a time in my life when I read HR articles for 90 days. You have to keep building yourself while waiting for that opportunity. You have to be ready when the opportunity arises. keep on investing and the opportunity will come,” he advised.
How are you
His role at GE was helpful and broadened his horizons, having worked with different departments and people on the continent. In October 2020, Faith moved to Cowry Wise. In his first 60 days, he piloted the greatest talent expansion, increasing Cowry Wise’s talent strength by 81%. After 250 days of work, it recorded a retention rate of 94%, which is 13% higher than the fintech industry average.
“It’s exciting to work as a Human Resources Manager at Cowry Wise. We’re building an amazing culture. We were ranked as the number one employer brand last year. We create an exciting environment for people to work effectively I am learning to manage my multiple stakeholders. We have one of the best retention rates in Nigeria when it comes to fintech,” he explained.
He has facilitated employability sessions with over 50,000 undergraduates and recent graduates from different universities and organizations across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and countries like Ghana and South Africa. Faith is also the initiator of Bookathon, a group of over 200 members committed to reading at least 5 books per month, aimed at fostering their personal development.
Learning and God factor.
For Faith, the God factor is constant, and this he finds evident in not having a conventional career progression. He further indicated that a career is a marathon and not a sprint. So don’t be in a hurry. “Even in the HR space, there are landmines that I haven’t explored,” he said. He urges people to “be open to learning. I learn from every single person in the room. Be a sponge and absorb as much knowledge as possible. You may be gaining knowledge now that you will only need years later,”