HR Career in IT – how to start and develop?

  • Scope:
  • Culture and People
Date: September 22, 2022 Author: 9 min read

“I think my career path was shaped by changes at Tooploox. It’s a bit as if my career grew alongside our growth as an organization. I started my work here as an inexperienced employee at the very beginning of my career path and I already knew I wanted to work in IT. But the key was that Tooploox seemed like a place where I could find new friends.”

Joanna Reszewska works at Tooploox as Head of People, which may be incomprehensible. Let’s use the name of the position Joanna uses when she wants to explain what her job is to her grandma. In that instance she says that she is the chief of HR, which we can associate with hiring and pay raises, but the reality is more complicated, which you will discover in reading this article. 

Joanna wasn’t always Head of People. Her HR career development wasn’t so straightforward. At Tooploox, we don’t consider any career path linearly and prefer to adjust positions to people, instead of ramming people into inflexible positions. 

For Joanna, who joined Tooploox as Office Support and from that developed her career in the HR, her path was dictated by many decisions on what she likes to take care of and what most fascinates her. 

We don’t know exactly how Joanna’s career in human resources management will develop, but we know for sure that walking the path of this profession was a good choice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of human resources specialists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. What’s more, the U.S. News & World Report ranked HR specialists on the list of Best Business Jobs in America. 

Something else we know for sure is that we wish Joanna a great and satisfactory career, and now we invite you to read the story of Joanna’s career. 

How did your journey with Tooploox begin?

I was in the first year of my studies and I thought I had plenty of free time for work. I found a job offer for an Office Assistant at Tooploox and decided to apply. I remember it looked like a place where I could find new friends – the thing which caught my attention the most was a tool, made by Tooploox engineers, to play League of Legends. I’m a gamer, so I was excited by the thought that in this place there must be gamers too. I was so stressed before the interview that I memorized the whole job offer, letter by letter, and what’s more, I came to the wrong office. Twice. 

The following day, I received a call that they wanted me to start immediately. And this year I will celebrate my sixth anniversary working for Tooploox.

What were your duties at that time?

My first responsibilities at Tooploox were strictly related to being an assistant office manager. I took care of ordering office supplies, benefits, and onboarding. I would be the first person in the office and would prepare the office for the work day – cleaning mugs and boards, checking the chromeboxes and other devices. 

As I did this, I began to learn more about technical tools, and soon I became knowledgeable enough to be called admin support. Besides that, I participated in the recruitment process for an office manager for our Warsaw office. From this time onwards, more and more recruitment tasks came through my desk. 

Why recruitment? Where did it come from?

First of all, I was studying psychology, and this field is tightly aligned with recruitment. But besides that, I had already done some tasks related to recruitment during my earlier internship, so I had some experience. 

At Tooploox, during my first months, there was an allocation gap and we needed somebody to support recruitment processes. Fortunately, I appeared and really liked these tasks. I find the work to be very interesting, mostly because of the sheer amount of information about IT I could glean during talks with candidates. I built, from scratch, the whole Computer Vision and C++ team. 

But I didn’t stop with recruitment. It is quite natural that if you recruit someone, you become their first touchpoint in other topics, such as salary increases and organizing feedback sessions. At that time, salary increases were the sole responsibility of the founders, but Tooploox was growing fast, and they had more and more duties, so there was space for me to take over this topic.

This growth also caused an increase in demand for feedback sessions, and Tooploox didn’t have anybody who could take care of them from the HR field. So again, it naturally made space for me and my professional growth. It is kind of a pattern in my professional journey that I take care of areas where I see the biggest gaps.

Could you please tell me more about this “pattern,” as you call it?

I used to take on things that were needed but which, for some reason, nobody wanted to do. I think there’s something exciting in tasks no one takes care of. First, you always know you are needed because you are the only one who takes care of that task. The second thing is that you can take full ownership and develop the work in a way you choose and, through this, also develop your own skills. 

Often these tasks can be divided into two types, and both can help you advance your expertise. The first is the “no one has ever done it in Tooploox before” type, where you can learn a lot. The second are the small and repetitive tasks, but the great thing then is that you can learn how to automate them! 

So do you feel your career path was created by accident, comprised of tasks “someone needs to take care of”?

It’s not like I did things only because no one else wanted to; I chose the things that helped me to develop myself and my skill set. 

I think my career path was shaped by the changes at Tooploox. It’s a bit as if I developed my career alongside our growth as an organization. I started my work here as an inexperienced employee at the very beginning of my career path, but I already knew I wanted to work in IT. I not only find this field interesting but also it fascinates me to listen to developers and see their eyes shine when they talk about their work – it’s a really great feeling when you see that someone is so into his job and talks about it with passion. 

I knew I didn’t need to be a developer to work in IT, but, at that time, I didn’t know what role would be the best for me. 

I didn’t come to Tooploox to develop my career down a narrow path. I came here because I recognized it as a friendly organization and I stayed because every week, every month, and every year new tasks came to me. And responsibilities and new topics came because we were developing as a company and discovering new fields or facing new challenges.

And what about things you don’t want to take care of any more?

I remember when the time came that I didn’t see myself in the junior office support role anymore, and I wanted to grow in another direction. For Tooploox, it was obvious they needed to find someone to take over my previous tasks. 

I am also supported by my team – thanks to their support I was able to hand over a lot of the topics that landed on my plate over the years. Now, as I am leading the Culture&People team, I don’t have many operational tasks and can focus on the bigger picture. 

So it’s not like someone forced you to be at Tooploox?

No, someone would rather need to force me to leave Tooploox :D. It’s hard for me to imagine a company in which I would feel better than I do at Tooploox and in which I would have more exciting challenges. I’ve been in the Head of People position for nearly two years. I had to rebuild the whole team from scratch, and now I strive to create the best environment for growth for them. I find this role very rewarding – in a different way than before. I rarely get the opportunity to feel excitement after seeing an accepted job offer or successful salary negotiations. I rather  feel pride in a member of my team when they overcome a problem that was once blocking them completely.

Responsibility for a whole team is not easy to bear, it requires constant focus, and a lot of work on your own biases, behaviors and emotions. Still, it is effort that I am happy to spend. And I am happy to have been entrusted with such a role. 

What exactly is an “environment for growth”?

First of all, availability of taking on tasks. In big, hierarchical companies, you are not in a sandbox, where you decide what you want to do, but you work on a conveyor belt. I find Tooploox to be a very flexible company – you can take care of various tasks, often not requiring approval, there are no “stop” signs, as signs rather say “let’s talk about it.” 

The second thing is that this company trusts you and believes in your potential. I experienced this support and trust myself at Tooploox. From day one, I could take care of tasks I didn’t have much experience with or tasks for which I was the only one responsible. I always had people in my team from whom I could learn a great deal. Tooploox is also open for external support – integrating workshops and experts from different fields. 

I believe that we all learn the most when we leave our comfort zone, and to do this, we need to know our job position is stable and will not be threatened if we make a mistake. I think Tooploox understands that people are only humans and mistakes happen – and this doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t care about mistakes, but rather instead of looking for a scapegoat, it promotes an atmosphere of support and help with handling situations as they arise. 

One more important thing in terms of the environment for growth is time. It’s hard to learn when you have too many responsibilities and tasks. My leaders at Tooploox always paid attention to my work time – when I had too much on my mind, they tried to help me and rearrange tasks. 

How has your role changed at Tooploox? What’s your responsibility now?

I told my grandma that I’m the chief of HR. But the proper name for my role is LeadLink of the Culture and People circle. Culture and People is the department responsible for many human resource-related topics. 

We take care not only of HR but also keep our eye on many issues, which we often share with other circles. So Culture and People circle members also take care of onboarding, benefits, mentoring, internal events, wellbeing projects, and employer branding. 

As a leader, my job is to keep in touch with every team member and offer them support when needed. I also spend a lot of time working with the leaders of other circles and the founders on how Tooploox can be a better employer and in which direction we should develop as a company. And still, I take care of some operational tasks like salary increase processes and can act as a recruiter when my team needs me to return to this role. 

What does your path look like outside the company? I know you defended your master’s thesis recently. Does Tooploox have an impact on your educational choices? 

When I started work at Tooploox, I was studying full-time, but after some time I decided to switch to external studies. My decision was driven by how much I enjoyed my work at Tooploox and how interesting it was for me, so I wanted to be more engaged in it. 

I chose a specialization in Business Psychology, but this wasn’t because of Tooploox; I have always been fascinated by the field. But when I decided on which courses I wanted to attend, I chose two I thought might be helpful for my work at Tooploox. Also, my master thesis runs tightly alongside my work. I wrote on the subject of salary increases so that I could use my many Tooploox experiences. 

I think it was a great opportunity to get to study psychology and work in HR simultaneously. Thanks to this, I could apply everything I learned at the university to real life in real time.

You have worked at Tooploox for six years. How has this company changed in your eyes?

We’ve just crossed a threshold when Tooploox  has been with me longer than without me because this year the company is celebrating its 10th birthday.

Sometimes I think that Tooploox makes 180 degree changes, but then I go to one of our company parties and feel our unique atmosphere. I feel that this is the same company I started working with – sometimes we do things spontaneously, approach challenging topics with fresh eyes, and everyone in and the company itself are all very open. 

Do you think you have an impact on how the company looks?

It is still hard for me to admit that I’m an important person in Tooploox’s history, but someone told me that this company wouldn’t be the same without me, and a lot of elements of Tooploox are impacted by my actions. 

I don’t know exactly which actions this person had in mind, but I know for sure that the people I hired built this company as it is right now – they pay attention to how other employees feel and take care of each other. 

I guess this is a similar feeling to what designers and developers have when the product they worked so hard to build goes live. I don’t work on products; I work with people and watch them – when they feel good here, developing themselves and their skills, supporting the company’s growth, sometimes becoming leaders – it leaves me with a sense of  satisfaction. 

You’ve come a long way. What else do you want to do?

I think I’m in the first half of my way to the top – so many topics and challenges are still before me. Some are already familiar to me and some are still hidden in the future. What I know for sure is that I won’t take care of them on my own; I will invite members of my team to take care of these topics and support them.

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