How the right company values can help you switch career

Karl Graham, a junior administrator in e-commerce at Workhuman, discusses how his employer helped him to switch career paths.

Karl Graham has travelled an unusual career path. He studied mechanical engineering and journalism, before joining Workhuman and moving into the e-commerce team, where he is now a junior administrator.

Here, he discusses the challenge of finding a career path that made him happy, the lessons he learned along the way, and what he loves most about his new role.

‘Don’t think that you have to have this wealth of experience behind you to be successful’
– KARL GRAHAM

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What first stirred your interest in a career in e-commerce?

I first joined Workhuman in an accounts payable role. However, as I began to learn more and more about the operations side of things and the overall business model, I began to take an interest in the e-commerce team.

There are many similarities between both roles. Each role is of course based around financial numbers, but an even more common similarity is the fact that both roles revolve hugely around cross-collaboration between teams internally as well as external vendors.

When I began to research a future career in e-commerce, I placed a huge emphasis on creating human connections in order to ensure this was the right career move for me. I reached out to a number of team members to gain a greater understanding for the various roles and the structure of the team.

What experiences led you to the role you now have?

I have achieved two college qualifications but neither actually provided me with substantial experience in the field of e-commerce. Nonetheless, both taught me valuable lessons for working life in general.

I studied mechanical engineering from the age of 17, which helped me become more outgoing and provided me with a level of understanding for computer programming that helps in my current role. My degree in journalism has also provided me with more skills that will always be beneficial, such as being able to communicate effectively.

Although these skills help me with my role in e-commerce, I did a lot of research before deciding it was the next move for me. I was using the company’s learning portals to look up courses and was trying to get tips from others already on the team about what courses they thought would help prepare me for a future role in e-commerce. When a role opened up on the the team, I was delighted to be able to get started on my future career goals.

What were the biggest surprises or challenges you encountered on your career path and how did you deal with them?

I think I’ve experienced many challenges throughout my working life so far. The biggest one, and I think a lot of people experience this, was probably trying to figure out what career path is going to actually make me happy.

I have chopped and changed over the years in an attempt to find this path and I am happy that I have finally landed on the right one. I am looking forward to continuous learning and progression within the e-commerce team.

What do you enjoy about your job?

What I enjoy the most about my job is the cross-collaboration between teams that happens on a daily basis. It allows me to learn about other departments in the company and how they all work together to make a successful business.

Understanding the impact you have on the company’s own goals and strategies is something that is placed at the core of everything we do, which is hugely rewarding. So much so that we have regular town halls hosted by various departments and, currently, our CEO is hosting weekly calls to update us on the business activities for the week, as well as putting a spotlight on the various business units.

Something I also enjoy about the job is how fast paced it is. E-commerce is going to become a vital part in the success of the business, so to be part of that alongside a young, ambitious team is very exciting. The company is also going through a real growth spurt at the moment with more and more companies now seeing the benefits of gratitude in the workplace, especially during these unique times.

What aspects of your personality do you feel make you suited to this job?

Attention to detail is essential in my role as there are so many elements that must be aligned with the organisation’s values in order to be successful. Effective communication is also important as the majority of our processes involve collaboration with other departments in order to complete them efficiently.

How did Workhuman support you on your career path, if at all?

The company could not have been more supportive when I made my intention that I was interested in applying for a position in a different department known.

A switch like this was not something I had experienced before so having that support meant a great deal to me. This wasn’t a surprise to me, though, because you only have to look at the company’s onboarding process to see how much they value their employees and are human-centric.

As for my team, the amount of support that is always on hand is incredible. Whether it’s revisiting certain training that I needed a refresher on or jumping in to lend a land when the workload was increasing, I’ve never felt that I couldn’t approach someone for help. As I’m sure is the case in many companies, the outbreak of Covid-19 has only served to increase that level of support.

What advice would you give to those considering a career in e-commerce, or just starting out in one?

My advice would be to just go for it. I have never been afraid to take that leap of faith and try something new, and I think everyone has that ability inside them. That being said, I would recommend doing your research beforehand. There are so many useful resources online or I would advise reaching out to somebody already in the field to find out more information and answer any questions you may have.

There are also real opportunities to grow so if you enjoy working on the technical side of e-commerce, enjoy collaborating on projects or want to be at the centre of helping a business to grow, then I’d recommend people give it a go.

If communication is an area of improvement for you, there are plenty of courses that can help you change that, as well as tutorials on negotiation skills or basic computer programming skills to get you started.

And remember, don’t think that you have to have this wealth of experience behind you to be successful. A grasp of the basic skills along with a determination and interest to learn on the job can help you go a long way.