Reflecting on a year at iwoca

Niamh Keys, our Head of People Operations, reflects on her first year of working at iwoca and talks about what makes us different from other companies.

19 February 2020

I lead People Operations for iwoca. My team is responsible for ensuring that our employee and candidate experience is the best it can possibly be. I started my journey here in January 2019 and over the last year we have grown from just shy of 200 to well over 320 iwocans located in London, Frankfurt and Leeds. With that amount of growth now seems like a good time to document my experience so far and share some of my insights with new team members and potential future iwocans.

I think the best way to frame all of this for you is to describe how iwoca is different. To answer the question “What happens at iwoca that wouldn’t happen anywhere else?”

Feedback

Lots of companies talk about feedback but few actually deliver it. iwoca gives it in spades. We think feedback is so important we have a session dedicated to just that topic in our onboarding program. I get feedback from everyone. It can be jarring at first but then becomes like second nature. It’s the key thing driving my development and improving the service my team delivers. At iwoca, we know that the ‘sum of us is greater than one of us’ so we crave feedback knowing that it makes us smarter, better, faster and to quote Kanye, “stronger”.

Choice

One of my first tasks when I joined iwoca was to introduce a new suite of benefits. One of those benefits was a new private healthcare plan for our UK team. At the time I was implementing that benefit I was asked what I would offer in its place to those that didn’t want it. Honestly, my first thought was “nothing…. they have the option to take this if they want it.” I quickly learned that’s not how we operate. We look to accommodate everyone’s choices and opinions. I was reminded that some people would be very happy to stick with the (amazing) NHS and don’t want a private medical plan so how would we reward them differently? We now offer an enhanced pension contribution or a cash lump sum to those who don’t opt for the healthcare benefit. That flexibility doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s just a little illustration of how things are done here. Debate is encouraged and people are listened to.

Humility

It’s one of our core values, which I love. A lack of humility can be catastrophic to a business. Even the smartest people make mistakes, we all have failures, all ideas are flawed, all code can have bugs. While many people are naturally humble, this can be eroded over time, particularly as a result of past successes. It’s important that everyone, even the best of us, remain humble. Just because the last project was a success, it doesn’t guarantee that the next one will be.
At iwoca, we look for that humility in everyone we hire. We make sure to talk about our failures, accept our own mistakes and acknowledge our weaknesses knowing that (whilst it’s uncomfortable) it fuels our development.

Never lose sight of the fun

There’s a lot of hard work and challenges that come with scaling a business like iwoca. It’s why most of us joined in the first place: we want to accomplish something special. But with a journey like this there are bound to be tough times: long hours, failures and frustrations. What I love about iwoca is that even when we are up against it, we never lose sight of the fun. We make the time to enjoy ourselves and celebrate the wins. We have a laugh, we play pool and arrange movie nights. We take a week in the summer with our team and go on an ‘iwocan retreat’ to a villa in Spain where we escape the noise of the office and strategize for the next part of the year. We do the same in winter on the ski slopes. You won’t find another company that makes annual retreats such a core element of the employee experience.

It’s hard to encapsulate a culture like iwoca’s but hopefully I have given you a flavour for what life is like here. I can say with ‘hand on heart’ it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.

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Niamh is iwoca's Head of People Operations and makes sure that our employee and candidate experience is the best it can possibly be.

Article updated on: 20 February 2020

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