Technocrats in Civil Service – The Experience of an HR Manager

Course of Study: 

When we were much younger, there were many career dreams, aspirations, and pathways but as time went on, those aspirations became streamlined.  Sometimes, those fussy aspirations led us to our course of study in higher institutions of learning, but many never made a successful career with what they studied. 

In my early childhood, I nursed the ambition of becoming a Medical Doctor. In those days, there were few prestige-based professions such as Medical Doctors, Lawyer, Accountants, Engineers, etc. My main passion for wanting to study medicine then was to take care of PEOPLE. This aspiration started from my primary school days till secondary school. However, having taken JAMB for some years, I decided to pursue another totally different course of study – First degree in Agricultural Economics at the university, which I never explored as a profession.

Vital Lesson and Insight 1: 

My genuine expression for taking care of PEOPLE could only be interpreted with what was in vogue at that time (being a medical doctor), even though I was not a strong student in a few courses like Biology. Career Counselling is imperative for guiding you through your career decision and journey. Do not be “too big” to undertake career counselling when required. 

First Job:

During my undergraduate days, I developed a strong passion for leadership and people management. This was brought to the fore by the varied leadership opportunities and experiences I had while in school.  My first job opportunity after the first degree was to work on a farm which would have given me more money but didn’t resonate with my passion. I later got an opportunity to work in a consulting firm, not well paying but afforded me a new learning experience and exposure. In the firm, some of my teammates never liked to participate in conceptual and solution thinking task but preferred other operational tasks. I took up some of these “hard” tasks and in no time was made the team lead.

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Vital Lessons and Insights 2: 

  • As you navigate along your career journey, in as much as money is good, the experience is absolutely more important – it is the principal thing.
  • In your career, don’t settle for the less, differentiate yourself and go for the best – Take up difficult challenges, it is the way to the top.
  • The fastest way of gaining leadership is to solve problems.  

Moving On:

Having worked in 2 different consulting firms and acquired some experiences, it was time to make a move into much larger corporations and earn more money. The first opportunity was in a bank (which was later acquired). I was almost given an offer but was denied because I was older than the required age. I insisted not to cut down my age and lost the opportunity. Two opportunities later came simultaneously from another bank and a Multinational. The one from the bank was much higher in grade and pay than the Multinational. I decided to take up the multinational offer because it aligned with my passion. That of the bank was in Products and Services, which I could do but wasn’t passionate about. The one with multinational was in Human Resources Management. 

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While with the Multinational Organization, I took up different challenges and rose in ranks within time. I was involved in several projects that gave me vast experience and exposure, learnt from colleagues and built some good relationships across a spectrum of people. 

Vital Lessons and Insights 3:

  • Every challenge you face in life is a preparation for an opportunity. The challenges I faced and surmounted while in Consulting Firm was what gave me a great edge during the interview sessions in the Multinational Firm. 
  • Whatever takes you to the top is what will sustain you there. If I had lied with my age, I would have continued with the lie in the first bank and might ruin my career in the long run.
  • Your value system and work ethics are great assets to your career growth. Cultivate the right value system and work ethics.
  • Always consider the work environment where your talents and potential could thrive before taking a career decision (when there are options).
  • Your career decision should always align with your passion and goal in life. Your purpose, potential and priority are the vital ingredients for your success in life.
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Working in Government-Owned Company:

Prior to my working in a government-owned organization, I was recruited from the Multinational to join an upstream Oil and Gas Company as Head, Human Resources. Having had a brief stint in the Oil and Gas sector, I decided to work in a Government Owned Company (which is not a conventional civil service) to lead its human resources function. The summary of my experience working in a government establishment is that there is a huge operational difference between public and private organizations, and there are lots of opportunities to make the difference.

Below are some of the vital lessons and insights due to my interaction within the public sector:

  • Public servants (especially at senior levels) are very well knowledgeable, informed, exposed and well educated. Never look down on Civil Servants (at senior levels), they know their “onions”. However, it appears that this does not necessarily translate into high performance.
  • The “value system” and “culture” appears to be responsible for low productivity and performance. Influencing the “culture” is one of the main leadership hurdles in institutional reforms. 
  • The bureaucratic system of government has its own merit (for control purpose) but cannot drive and sustain cutting-edge innovations. 
  • Again, whatever takes you to the top (in government organizations) will sustain you there. Maintain the right value system and distinguish yourself, though it may take time, you will surely shine.
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