Change is the end result of all true learning

I’m deeply motivated by environments that embrace change, encourage growth and development, and aren’t afraid to fail. It’s only under those conditions that true learning happens.

Introduction

I love working in operations because it’s incredibly solutions-oriented: there’s always room for processes to improve, for people to get more effective and empowered, for space to be made to focus on the things that really matter. I love working with people because there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone grow and develop and playing a part in that, people are the foundation of every organisation, and happy and motivated employees are the real drivers of any success. I love working remotely because it denotes an almost absolute freedom, where work is part of my life but my life isn’t part of my work, and where achieving results matters the most and trust is almost a given. All of my interests, strengths and experience intersect in the Human Resources Operations Magician role at Automattic.

Most of my experience has been in management and in support. Some of it has been remote and some of it has been in-office. In all cases, I’ve found myself drawn to operational tasks because I find the idea of taking something that’s kind of working (or not working so well) and making it better a lot of fun and very rewarding. In my current job, I’ve consciously worked on creating the best possible work environment for my team and for my department, so I became responsible for many of the projects that grew out of that. Most of them had huge crossover with HR – I created a career paths framework, set up a structure for salary negotiations based on performance and impact, and developed concepts for learning and development. These changes have led to huge strides in the culture and operations of the department and I learned so much from that experience that I want to do more of it. Switching to HR feels like a very natural step for me and focusing specifically on operations is where my biggest strengths lie.

I’m attracted to Automattic specifically because I want to work for a company that has a real and positive impact in the world, that has actual principles and values and really stands by them, and that embraces the change that comes with trying to drive the future.

Questions

How do you define supporting a team?

There are many ways to support a team but for me, it’s about removing roadblocks at its core and doing that effectively has quite a lot of prerequisites. It starts with building a really deep understanding of the team and how it works, and then figuring out why some things are working well, and why some things might not be. That means looking at all of the elements that tie into how the team works, which could be anything from culture to performance to tooling to processes to communication and so on. Once that understanding is there, the focus switches to coming up with solutions and just trying things out, while continously listening to and iterating based on feedback from the team itself

In terms of mindset, I think it’s important to approach it from a kind of “servant leader” perspective and really focusing on the team and their needs. From my experience so far, prioritising the relational aspects like trust-building and being very open to candid feedback is also a significant requirement for having a successful operations position or team.

What's your favourite HR tool and why?

It isn’t specifically targeted at HR but my favourite tool that I’ve used for personnel management so far is Airtable, which I like to describe as a spreadsheet on steroids. It’s a few steps removed from being a proper database, which I tend to find quite bloated. My favourite thing about it is that it’s incredibly versatile: it has a ton of different views so it can be used for task management purposes similar to Trello or for project management where it has convenient features like timelines or purely to store personnel data. It’s also very easy to tailor which information is visible and available for whom, something I find pretty essential when it comes to performance tracking or feedback documentation.

We’re having a company wide meeting online (not in person). How do you plan it and what do you do to be as inclusive as possible?

I’d start by defining the purpose of the meeting and then decide on a setup based on that. If decisions will be made, it becomes much more important to have an asynchronous avenue available for people who won’t be able to make it. If it’s for a discussion, setting up two or more meetings that cover a broader timezone spectrum could be ideal. If it’s for an announcement or just to share information, ensuring that the meeting is fully documented as soon as possible afterwards and that (or a transcript) gets sent out to everyone could be enough. Or all of the above!

I’d err towards text-based first, because that’s going to be much more accessible and require a lot less bandwidth than voice or video. Meetings in chat with more than maybe 50 people tend to make it quite difficult for everyone to participate, so my preference would always be to at least start with async or leave room for it afterwards. The rest is quite typical for any event or meeting: inform everyone as early in advance as possible so they can make plans, share an agenda, the person moderating the meeting should be careful not to move on too quickly and give people time to speak up, use features like Slack’s reactions for a quick and easy way to “read the room,” and, of course, document everything.

Tell us about a time when you had to juggle multiple responsibilities. What was the situation and how did you approach your workload?

This is my day-to-day situation in my current job and has been for the last eight months. I’m responsible for a number of ongoing projects (e.g. career paths or our internal knowledgebase), some ephemeral ones (usually based on quarterly goals), and then I tend to pick up new tasks and projects that we didn’t plan for (e.g. someone mentions to me in passing that the process we have for performance reviews isn’t ideal or aligned).

I depend very heavily on checklists, which I really think are quite magical considering how simple and yet effective they are. I tend to use them to:

  1. Clearly define the priorities of my tasks, usually based on a mix of how high or low impact and how high or low effort something is,
  2. Set deadlines for myself or my team that we can hold ourselves accountable to, and
  3. Always have an overview of exactly how much I need to do, so if the workload ever gets too high, I can cull, hand off tasks or delegate.

Testimonials

Nouran has the ability to be highly ambitious with her work and goals while also staying grounded and keeping the people at the forefront of her efforts. She is awesome to work with, and I struggle to think of someone who is more driven to produce work to the highest quality and is able to achieve this consistently.
Ryan Anderson
Team Lead
Working with Nouran is a great experience. She's very good at managing difficult situations, she can always keep the overview even in really complex projects and she's very straightforward and results-oriented. She's also been a great help for me when it comes to improving my communication style.
Jakob Flesch
Team Lead
Nouran started as my direct Team Lead at a really challenging time, and it was great to see her develop each member of the team on an individual basis, as well as the team as a whole. She's always open-minded and enthusiastic, and manages to convince you to try things out that you might be a little scared of.
Markus Daams
Supporter