Learn how Odyssey Capital’s HR Manager left a career in fashion to find her true passion
Meet Vivienne Mukoko, Odyssey Capital Ltd.’s Human Resources Manager. Odyssey Capital is a client-centric microfinance institution. They extend credit to borrowers in order to buy consumer goods and appliances. Speaking with Vivienne it’s easy to hear the excitement in her voice. She speaks passionately about her job and its importance to overall company growth. She explains just how strategic her role because “HR is basically the person that makes sure we have the right people in the right departments. We ensure these people are equipped to add the right value to their department and overall to the organization. So without HR, the organization is not worthwhile.” In those words it is easy to uncover the passion she has in her work. However, Vivienne carved a non-traditional path to get to this point. This is how Vivienne left her career in fashion to find her true calling in Human Resources.
It’s easy to be taken aback when Vivienne explains how much she liked working in the fashion industry, and yet, it wasn’t a career she wanted to continue to pursue. “I think it was coming to a realization. I loved fashion, I loved sketching and stitching. Loved it but wasn’t passionate about it. It wasn’t my calling, even though I enjoyed it.” The differentiation can be confusing at first, but it’s clear that she felt driven to HR. She saw the opportunity to provide the greatest benefit to company strategy: “I thought about it and decided I wanted to be in a position where I add that kind of value. Not just to one department, but to all departments.”
Discovering new career opportunities
A common theme in speaking with versatile professionals is their curiosity drives them to think more deeply about their career path. This is certainly the case for Vivienne, as she describes her professional journey that led her to where she is today: “My journey has been an interesting one. I studied fashion, I enjoyed it of course, but it wasn’t for me. I started at a textile company and I used to design for them. The job was great, but I wasn’t passionate about it. In the process of my management training, I went through an induction process with the HR department and realized, ‘Goodness! HR is not just about pushing papers!’ It piqued my interest and I started researching what it entailed and if it was something I wanted to engage in.”
Vivienne completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Apparel and Fashion Design, so it wasn’t just a matter of choosing to suddenly switch to Human Resources. She had to determine what she would need to do to pivot to a vastly different career. “When I had enough information, I decided I wanted to study HR. I moved to Nairobi and got my higher diploma in HR. Then I had the opportunity to work for Deloitte. I started my HR career there, first as an HR Assistant and then grew to HR Associate. My experience there was mainly recruitment. I loved recruitment, I had a lot of fun focusing on recruitment.”
Vivienne then used this opportunity to move across industries to land where she is now: “I slowly transitioned to different industries, from finance to diplomatic corps to security and finally back to finance here at Odyssey Capital.” Vivienne attributes this range of experiences with helping to unlock a critical step in her professional development: identifying and utilizing mentors.
The importance of mentorship & professional networks
Vivienne credits her first mentor for giving her a glimpse into how vital his role was to the company: “The head of HR in that company was very informative. He would engage me in understanding the strategic aspects of HR, not just the daily filing. I asked a lot of questions about HR and he told me a lot.” This first experience with a mentor encouraged Vivienne to continue to seek out peer leaders who could direct her learning. She says that it’s crucial to seek out the right people to help guide your learning and that it’s particularly important to find advisors who have the drive to push you further: “The mentor I have now has been influential in the growth I have had in the past year.”
In addition to mentorship, Mukoko’s hunger to excel and improve in her position has led her to identify professional networks and forums: “I try to learn not only from my experience but from other HR professionals as well. That’s why I’m in HR forum groups, I try to interact with different HR professionals. You’ll find people have very different experiences, and sometimes you’ll think you won’t find yourself in a situation, but one day you do!” Vivienne also notes the importance of being present and finding yourself in different environments in order to succeed. “Being exposed to different situations and finding yourself trying to adapt to every single one is exciting. A lot of what I’ve learned and use currently is based on those experiences.”
One of the most gratifying aspects of Vivienne’s job is the opportunity to recognize and cultivate talent to succeed beyond their current ability. She explains that as “being able to, more or less, develop talent. You have a talented individual, you identify specific gaps, and you think about how to make this person a more improved version of themself. What kind of value can I add to this person that can grow them further than they already are? If you can tap into that level where you can quickly identify and advise accordingly to guide that person in that particular direction, it’s such a big difference in such a small way.”
Her passion in her work shows most clearly when she talks about unlocking professional potential: “It’s very little input in terms of all facets of HR, if I can find a way to embody all these aspects and tap into the people I support, in this particular way, that’s what makes me wake up in the morning realizing I need to be better at structuring Learning & Development that is meaningful, identifying talent needs that bridge this gap. That’s where I get the passion to wake up every morning and go to work.” Vivienne’s drive to support the development of her colleagues is one of the many reasons why Odyssey is growing so quickly!
If you share the same passion for extending credit access to small and middle-income earners and think you might be a good fit, Odyssey is hiring! As a client of Shortlist, check our open jobs to see if Odyssey Capital is hiring!