Softcom’s Weyinmi Barber is making HR desirable one startup at a time


Learning HR is something you have to undertake for yourself. It is not something you can learn from a book. There are certificates available, but they are most useful once you've been in the field for some time and have a good idea of the areas in which you wish to specialize.

Weyinmi Barber is the Senior Vice President of People & Culture at Softcom.

The fact that some jobs or industries that were highly sought after ten to fifteen years ago no longer occupy that position is a well-known irony in the labor market. Other jobs or industries, on the other hand, have had to simply evolve in order to stay relevant. While the outlook is not good for those jobs, there is a possibility that in a few years time, even those jobs that are currently highly regarded will begin to struggle with their relevance.

However, despite the fact that it has been through every change that the labor market has been through, the role of human resources (HR) continues to be one of the most undervalued in businesses. It would be wonderful if we could immediately go into the reasons why this is the case, but we shall get there shortly.

I met with Weyinmi Barber, the Senior Vice President of People and Culture at Softcom, also known as the head of HR, on a sunny afternoon in July at the company's headquarters in Ikeja. I was keen to get her opinion on why startups do not pay attention to HR despite the suggested importance of the topic when we were preparing for our chat, and I asked her about it while we were preparing. And her response was not too dissimilar to my speculation.

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People don't truly appreciate how significant it is to them. When a business reaches a particular level, the company will typically experience an HR crisis, at which point the company will begin searching for HR professionals. This is the typical pattern that occurs with startups.

Having a conversation with Weyinmi BarberIn conversation with Weyinmi Barber. SVP, People and Culture, Softcom at the Softcom Head office, Ikeja, Lagos

As a result of our conversation, which lasted for an hour, I was able to draw the conclusion that it is critical to have a human resources department for a variety of reasons, including the facilitation of hiring the appropriate personnel, the establishment of a clear recruitment procedure, and everything else.

It is reasonable to assume that Weyinmi Barber is enthusiastic about human resources (HR), and she is on a mission to change people's perceptions of the field in order to make it more appealing. If you're anything like me, you'll realize that she's been giving off the 'people' vibe for a considerable amount of time after you find out about her peculiarities dating back to her childhood.

Finding a way that works for you

Weyinmi Barber posing for a picture with the Softcom logo behind herWeyinmi Barber. SVP, People and Culture, Softcom

Weyinmi, who was born in Warri and currently resides in Delta State, Nigeria, fondly recalls her youth, during which she spent a significant amount of time playing outside with other children. She recalled how her favorite time was the twilight, just before sunset, recalling the adrenaline rushes she experienced as parents called out to their children at the end of the day.

There is more to Weyinmi than what we see now, and a significant part of that is due to the influence that her parents had on her.

Weyinmi's pursuit of information to sate her insatiable curiosity led her to literature, and she endeavored to find connections between what she read and the world around her. As a direct result of this, she was able to expand her vocabulary and feel comfortable reading lengthy materials in school. She surprised everyone by developing a lively and creative personality, as evidenced by the many questions she asked and the variety of crafts she attempted.

Weyinmi is very careful not to credit all of her accomplishment to her own efforts alone.

She grew up in a household where both of her parents placed a high priority on education.

They took note of everything she enjoyed doing and were prepared to offer their assistance to her in whatsoever career path she decided to pursue. We couldn't help but grin as we recalled how, at various junctures in her life, she tried her hand at making professional decisions based on what she had learned about herself. During one point in time, it was writing, and during another point in time, it was fashion management, but later on in university, it was management consulting.

Weyinmi made the decision to pursue a degree in information resources management at Babcock University during a period of time when the information technology (IT) industry was not very well liked. She ultimately graduated as the top student of the year.

However, after she graduated, she did not have the finest experience working as an information management analyst in the real world. In retrospect, things may have turned out differently had she been familiar with the more respectable aspects of the IT sector.

"I worked in information technology for the first two years of my career, but I didn't particularly enjoy it. I was recently informed that I did not receive sufficient exposure to technology, particularly the software side of things.

When I started working in information technology more than 10 years ago, it did not automatically mean that I was involved in software engineering or app development, as is frequently the case today. Weyinmi was not interested in any of the available opportunities because they were primarily administrative or technical support related. After some time had passed, she made the decision to pursue a master's degree. As a result of her outstanding performance during her undergraduate studies, she was awarded a scholarship to attend the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom to study management and business excellence.

" It was a tremendous blessing for me to attend a school that had a career center. You could go there and talk to people, get advice about what kind of professional route you should follow based on your personality, temperament, and strengths, and it would be an option for you. Human Resources was one of the professions that I considered pursuing at one point.

Weyinmi Barber smilingWeyinmi Barber. SVP, People and Culture, Softcom

Weyinmi had no idea that her discipline was so different from her natural tendencies until she came to this realization. She made a mental note to look for a job in HR whenever she started looking for work again, and her first job after returning to Nigeria was at Oando Plc, a global company that operates in the oil and gas industry.

Because Weyinmi is motivated by the desire to make an impact, she has developed the ability to let time run its natural course. She is constantly reminded of a quote attributed to Warren Buffet, which states, "You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant," and it serves as her guiding principle.

It's important to me to be linked with things that are productive, successful, and of high quality. That is the primary motivation behind my work ethic.

However, switching industries was not as simple as turning the page to a new paragraph or skimming through an old one.

Weyinmi's decision to leave information analysis and pursue a career in human resources was a challenge, and she felt that she was already behind her contemporaries when she made the switch after only two years. It may seem like ample time to gain expertise in a profession.

" I really put myself into it because I had that sense of 'I need to catch up,' and I didn't want to fall behind. I really need to study as much as I possibly can as quickly as I possibly can so that I may begin to see the kind of advancement in my profession that I want to see. Because of this, I made it a priority to improve myself in a very deliberate manner.

As a consequence of this, she decided to take certain risks in order to ensure that her development was consistent. One of these risks was that she turned down a senior post in another department in order to spend more time where she was in order to develop her expertise.

In the span of eight years, she had held a variety of HR-related positions, including those of support, analyst, business partner, and compensation and benefits specialist. After that, however, she decided that she was ready for another adventure, this time in a different field of work.

I'm in the process of creating my career as an HR leader in the tech startup environment, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it. I was really fortunate to have made a conscious decision to pursue a line of work that I believed would be a good fit for me. And the last two years have been spent working in human resources for software startups.

Uncharted territory in the realm of HR

Weyinmi Barber having a bonding session with Softcom employeesWeyinmi Barber having a chat with other Softcom employees (Softcomers)

Weyinmi joined Softcom in 2020 and helped establish an organizational framework for the technology company. This accomplishment is one of the high points that Weyinmi regards to have occurred in her career to this point. She has a strong conviction that working in the field of information technology is where she should spend the majority of her professional life, and she plans to do so.

" I've really appreciated the challenge, I really enjoy being among people who are into technology, I really enjoy the talks, the excitement, and most of all, I really enjoy that sense of being connected to a mission. I haven't come across anything like it in any other sector."

The remarkable contrast between the corporate sector and the startup space is something that Weyinmi is happy to point out. After working in the oil and gas industry for eight years, you might have expected her to have encountered everything there is to encounter, but that wasn't the case.

" I worked in human resources for a number of years, but the IT industry is very different. Many of the things that are thought to be best practices in human resources are effective in other fields; however, they are not effective in the startup area. Therefore, you will need to approach things in a new manner.

She constructed a scenario to convey the lesson, and in it, she specifically noted how "people difficulties" are different from other problems.

In many of the more traditional business sectors, such as banking and consulting, there is typically a correlation between your level of expertise and the number of years you have been in the industry. "That doesn't work in the tech space, especially for engineers, because someone who has really developed themselves in two years might be writing better code than someone who has been doing it for six years," she explained. In other words, someone who has really developed themselves in two years might be able to write better code than someone who has been doing it for six years.

 5 1094Weyinmi Barber. SVP, People and Culture, Softcom

Weyinmi has maintained herself relevant by enrolling in several professional courses over the years in order to stay up with the requirements of the industry. But that's not the end of it.

" Stakeholder management was something that I really needed to educate myself on. What I was able to pick up on is the importance of hearing all sides of a story.

She went on to say that because of this, she now has a greater understanding of human behavior and is able to make better decisions, particularly in arbitration situations.

For her, achieving satisfaction can take many forms, but one of her favorites is witnessing the successful application of her ideas in the actual world.

It's fun for me to come up with new approaches to solving difficulties. After that, you put the initiative into action, you observe that it is successful, and you ask for people's opinions on the matter. It's incredibly fulfilling to do so."

Getting a handle on human resources

During the past ten years, Weyinmi has gained experience in a variety of HR-related fields, including talent acquisition and recruitment, learning and development, compensation and benefits, and HR business partnership, among others, all of which have contributed to an increase in her level of expertise.

It wasn't like I was always doing the same thing thanks to the many various responsibilities that were available to me. That allowed me to take the time to figure out which area of human resources (HR) I want to concentrate on.

Because Weyinmi was required to work for an average of two years in each of these departments, she is confident about her place in the organization.

At the end of the day, I came to the conclusion that the facet of human resources management that I like the most was organizational design. That's where you come up with HR strategies and initiatives to try to solve people problems, whether it's building a career framework or developing a talent management framework and applying it to your organization. "That's where you come up with HR strategies and come up with initiatives to try and solve people problems."

Weyinmi Barber chatting with Softcom Chief Operating OfficerWeyinmi Barber chatting with Softcom COO, Adetoyosi Elegbede

To provide some background, the responsibility of an HR professional in an organization, when a specific people-related issue arises, is to devise a strategy to manage the issue in a way that can be applied to similar situations in the future. Because no two businesses are exactly alike, the expert needs to devise unique solutions that are tailored specifically to the company in order to get the best possible results.

Weyinmi is pleased with herself for having contributed to the positive morale of the 15-year-old Softcom staff. The technology company is the parent company of several different startups, some of which include Eyowo, Kwiksell, Useform, and Usepass.

It was a great honor for me to design and develop Softwork's initial career framework. Now, every Softcomer is aware of their current band level, as well as the level that comes after it, the level that comes after that, what they need to do to advance to the next level, and when promotions take place throughout the year. "That was the foundation on which we constructed our policy," she said.

Due to the ease with which individuals switch professions, she is doing everything in her power to match the singularity of the startup space.

They come in as one thing, and then six months later they are doing something else; therefore, you need to figure out a manner that they can grow.

During the course of our conversation, Weyinmi organized the information that those who are interested in a career in human resources should be aware of according to where they are in their professional lives.

If you are currently enrolled in school or have recently graduated, you should seek for opportunities to do internships in the human resources departments of businesses operating in a variety of industries. This will assist you in determining the type of HR that best suits your needs.

If you currently have a job, you can let the folks in your human resources department and your line manager know that you are interested in other opportunities by having a dialogue with them. If there is a chance for you to move into the HR team, you should [seize it] when you see it. If you move to another organization in search of employment, you run the risk of being turned down for the position since, on paper, you do not have the necessary amount of experience.

She also discussed the expectations that should be held by a professional while joining a team.

In most cases, if you are the first human resources professional to join a startup, you will be literally walking into a storm. The only exception to this is if you are fortunate enough to have a founder or co-founder who has experience in a variety of settings and who recognizes that HR is an important need from the very beginning of the company. It is not uncommon for the leaders of an organization to not realize they require an HR team until a crisis occurs.

Weyinmi highlighted the importance of acquiring soft skills such as communication, stakeholder management, knowledge of behavioral science, and solid presenting abilities when one is contemplating a career in human resources. And depending on the field of specialization, it is essential to become proficient in the use of spreadsheets, as well as numbers, project management, and administrative duties.

In her opening statement about what it's like to work in human resources, she said,

Being an HR professional can often feel very solitary and disconnected from the outside world. People virtually view you as the company's law enforcement, and they forget that you're also an employee with a career to develop, objectives, and dreams of your own to pursue. It's not fun when other people act differently around you while you're around them.

The events that take place throughout Weyinmi's typical workday are dictated by the goings-on at the company. When conducting an employee review, your responsibilities will be different than when conducting recruitment.

She is a strong advocate for the hybrid work style and how it may be beneficial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

I find that setting alarms and reminders for the strangest things helps me be more productive. It enables me to get more done as a result. Knowing what time of day you function best during allows you to schedule critical work for that time of day, which is another factor that contributes to increased productivity.

Weyinmi describes herself as a "adrenaline junkie" at times and has stated that bungee jumping and sky diving are both on her list of things to do in the future.

Put a reminder on your calendar for the next segment.