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How Faith Transitioned Into HR From Economics

Every week, we talk to Nigerians around the world about money and how they make it.

This week features Faith, an HR personnel, creative writer and poet. We talk about his affinity for people, books and writing. He also lets us in on how he transitioned into HR from a background in Economics.

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Please introduce yourself

My name is Emmanuel Faith. I make people happy and help them be productive. It is what Nigerians call HR, and I currently lead the people and culture at Cowrywse. I am in my late 20s and love to have fun, but my definition of fun slightly differs from others. Sometimes, it could be watching shows on Netflix or reading. I like good food too. I think I will just stop there. LOL

What does your job entail?

So, my job title says Lead People and Culture, so that’s what I do at Cowrywise. As I said, I make people happy and productive. I majorly spearhead people and processes that align with business goals and objectives.

You appear to be a Multipotentialist. So, how did you know that HR was what you wanted to do as a career?

That is an intriguing question. Interestingly, one of my colleagues asked this today, and I asked him to go to LinkedIn. LOL

I have a background in Economics from the Obafemi Awolowo University. Now, if you study Economics in my school, there is a high chance you will pursue a career in finance. It has always been that way to have many of the graduates working in big finance firms or oil and gas companies.

I probably was going to follow that path. I interned with Meristem, Afrivest, and attempted to intern in Accenture, but, in my final year, I discovered that I do not have a very good relationship with numbers, which of course, affects my finance too. As of now, one of my screens has numbers, and I am already developing a slight headache. 

Oh, I feel you!

Right? So, I discovered that I probably would not go into finance. Now, when I say I am not good with finance, it does not mean I don’t know numbers. I do. It is just that analysing it gives me a headache, so I decided to explore other things. 

I joined the Tax club and won a competition that gave me an internship opportunity as a bonus that I could access after I graduated. I started out interning with a tax firm, where I worked on payroll management; one of the subsets of Human Resources (HR). Then, I made a conscious effort to find out what being an HR personnel entails, because people had said to me “ you like managing people, you are good with people relations”. I think basically, that’s how my journey into the HR field began.

I volunteered with Aramide Abe, God bless her wherever she is right now. She managed a community called Naija Startups and I worked as her recruitment assistant, which was how I started my HR practice, full-time.

I handled the recruitment for all the startups in her community, amongst other tasks, you can imagine how hectic that was. Afterwards, I started writing certifications and worked at General Electric, and here I am today.

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That was quite the journey. Asides HR, what other interests do you have?

I read a lot and love to discuss books. I like to uphold and spread the reading culture. Between 2018 and 2020, I read 300 books, that’s 100 books every year, and since then, I’ve read one book per week.

So, I read about 4 to 5 books per month. In 2021, I tried to do 60, and in 2022, since I read a book per week, I have read about 18 to 21 books this year.

Wow! Interesting.

Beyond reading, I especially enjoy discussing African books. I think Africa has amazing writers, so, if you don’t read African books, you should start. 

I have a blossoming relationship with a publishing house; Ouida Lagos/Ouida stores where I buy half of my books, the other half, I get at Roving Heights. I’m waiting for Roving Heights to sign me. 

Roving Heights, If you read this interview, come and sign me! LOL

I believe everyone should imbibe a reading culture. Of course, you don’t have to read 100 books per year, but reading is one of the best forms of acquiring knowledge. Whether you listen to podcasts or watch YouTube videos, you should read at least 1 or 2 books per month.

I’ve never said this in an interview before, but I think reading can help you curb bad habits. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been caught between “Hey, guys, let’s go to Cubana” and “Let me sit down and finish this book”, and when I choose to finish the book, I save about ₦13,000, I would have blown at Cubana, lmao. I should write about this. If you’re addicted to anything, just try to substitute it for reading, you’d see how refreshing it is.

I’m also a creative writer and a poet. I have 5 published works; 3 career-centered E-booksLagos Doesn’t Sleep, and December Blues. I have another free E-book I co-authored with my brother titled, Adulting in Nigeria

How do you balance all of these?

I get this question a lot. I can’t tell you that I have an exact hack. On my desk is a beautiful book, The Beautiful Side of the Moon by Leye Adenle; which was given to me by Ouida Books, and I have this Harvard business review on managing people. What this means is, that when I’m working and feel stuck, I take a pause and read a chapter.

For Poetry, it just comes. For instance, the last piece I wrote was for a friend who travelled to Puerto Rico. I wrote the poem in five minutes.

I’m not exactly a “structure” person, I’ve tried it and decided to just flow with spontaneity. But, because I’ve read James Clear’s Atomic Habits, I think I have created systems around me to ensure that I accomplish some goals.

Every time I teach an HR or personal development course, I always refer to the time I first ventured into the HR space and how I read HR articles every day, for six months. I cannot quantify the knowledge I gained in that period.

That’s inspiring! What excites you about your job and what’s the most challenging part of it?

My favourite thing is listening to people. I feel like if I did not get into the HR field, I would be a counsellor or a psychologist

I enjoy listening to people talk, and I love people listening to me talk. So, I enjoy it when people reach out to me to discuss their general work challenges or with new teammates that are struggling to adapt, or when they want my insight on something.

Also, I am thrilled that as an HR person, I know a lot about the business. I remember when I worked at General Electric, I could speak extensively about renewable energy because I was working there. Now that I’m in the fintech space, I can speak a lot about fintech processes. I’ve had interviews where the candidates were surprised that I’m an HR person because I spoke tech during the interview.

For challenges, it’s not entirely pleasing that the management has to make final calls. There is a lot of great stuff I often feel like we could do and I’d be told we don’t have the resources for it. 

I also do not enjoy working on the payroll part. 

It has been a very insightful discussion about your career. Now, let’s talk finances. What do your money habits look like?

Father, I thank you for Cowrywise, I’m a spender! Really, though, I’m not exactly a wasteful or lousy spender. I save on the spot, I save about 10 to 20% immediately after I get my earnings, thanks to Cowrywise.

My tithes follow, then I pay a whole lot of black tax and the rest is mine. I am what you can call a skeptical investor, so, I don’t do high-risk investments, the most I do are low and middle-risk investments.

Was there anything that shaped how you view money?

I was born into poverty. I was born into the trenches. After I joined Cowrywise, my views about money changed. When you see people earn what you’re earning and you see what they’re saving, it inspires you to do better. Between January and September last year, I saved about 33% of my income and I did not die, that’s when I realised, “I can do this”.

Another thing that helped shape my perspective about money was reading Arese Ugwu’s Smart Money Woman, I think it’s one of the best finance books. I know it was written to help women be more financially intelligent, but it’s a book every career person in Lagos should read.

Also, this year, I read The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel and I urge everybody to read this book. It’s almost like you are reading an advanced level of Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It describes money from a psychological perspective. It helps you realise how many unnecessary expenses you have. You can buy the more affordable version of that thing you want to buy. Most times, the only reason why you would want to buy that very expensive version of that thing is to show off. 

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What is something you wish you did not have to spend on?

I honestly wish that I did not have to pay black tax. My friend said to me recently “with this money you are earning, you are a big boy in Lagos!”, and he is probably right, but by the time I pay bills and other stuff, a lot of my income is gone.

Another thing I wish I had more control over is my affinity to gift people things. There was a month I had spent about 10% of my income on gifts, I had to sit down with myself, and decided that was the end, no more gifts. I am too generous. Gifting is my love language, I like the joy of the recipient of the gifts.

Do you ever have to worry about money?

In 2020, yes. In 2021, slightly. This year, no. It is not like I have a lot of money, it is just that I am at that point where I know that I can never be out of a job. 

Ahan, MVP!

Do you get?! LOL. I know that I have that earning power because I have skills with which I can offer value. Money is a value exchange. Because the moment you can offer value, you are one step from making money. So, no, I do not have that money fear.

What would you consider a financial red flag?

Ah! People that like to party or club. Except your parents are affluent or you are earning like ₦3 million per month, I feel like if your default setting is “Omo, let’s go and blow this money!”, we have to check you.

Another red flag is if you are always trying to keep up with trends. People who always want the latest iPhones, MacBooks, designers, etc. 

Finally, what exciting thing are you working on?

I recently created a card game for book lovers. You know how you’ll go to these funny parties and they’re telling you to do ridiculous things, I attend a lot of hangouts and I’m always like “Can we play something else where I don’t have to kiss my partner?” 

So, I created something for book lovers, it is called Book Map Games, you can follow us on Instagram and Twitter at Book Map Games. The whole idea is to help you journey through books. It has exciting different sections. My favourite is ‘High School Literature’, Where we ask you about the authors of books.

Other sections include; African Literature, Male Authors, Female Authors, etc.

The idea for the game was inspired by a time I wanted to hang out with my friends who are book also lovers, I checked different stores and they didn’t have any book games. People said “You know what? Create this thing.” I knew it was going to be a big project, but I took a stab at it and it came to life!

You can get copies at Ouida Books, but we are still looking for more distributors.

Who knows, I might write a poetry collection by the end of the year. I’m also looking at writing something for Valentine’s next year.

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