How I Manage: Sakshi Jawa, Tiki’s Chief People Officer
Known as a land of opportunity for domestic and foreign companies, particularly those operating in the field of e-commerce, Vietnam is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. With its youthful population and high smartphone penetration rates, Vietnam’s e-commerce market is one of the region’s strongest.
Tiki, an all-in-one commerce ecosystem in Vietnam and one of the key industry players, currently employs over 4500+ employees who are attracted to Tiki’s fun, dynamic and innovative work culture, as well as professional growth opportunities that come with the company’s rapid expansion.
The woman making this growth possible is Sakshi Jawa, Tiki’s Chief People Officer. Having joined the company one and a half years ago, Sakshi Jawa has been instrumental in driving change in people-related policies.
With years of international experience working for major global brands, such as Citibank, Prudential, Amazon and Coupang, what made Sakshi decide to move to Vietnam and join Tiki? What is it about her managing style that makes Tiki thrive as a modern-day corporation? Vietcetera sat down with Sakshi Jawa to hear her story to learn about her management style, Tiki’s corporate culture and the company identity.
What made you decide to join Tiki Corporation?
I used to live and work in Vietnam in 2010, and I enjoyed every bit of the experience. Vietnam is a developing country and its technology market has the potential to grow exponentially. With the fast-growing tech industry, the country is emerging as an innovation and tech hub. I am spurred by the market’s robust growth.
I specialize in HR, particularly in the Tech/E-commerce business. I believe that any HR professional should be able to understand the kind of business they are going to contribute to. Tiki reaching out to me seemed like the best option I had at the time, but being in a booming market is also an important factor to my decision. Tiki was able to offer both, so I decided to join the corporation.
What is your management style? How do you manage your team?
I don’t think micromanagement is efficient. I don’t do daily checks on my team members. When it comes to HR, my management style is quantitative. Every member of my team has their goals, which have been assigned to them at the beginning of the year. Considering that our business is dynamic and moves fast, these goals may go through changes and how the year progresses. I ask them to report where they are, and what’s next. I do this exercise once individually and once with all my direct reports once a month. When I hire my team, I assume that they have the capability and the maturity to deliver on these goals, so I do not get involved in their day to day work unless they come and ask for my opinion.
Although I do value their past experience, the bigger thing I care about is whether they have the ability to achieve mutual goals. I’m trying to build a culture where my team is responsible for what they have to deliver, and move away from “clock in” and “clock out” time. We’re still on that journey, and it will take time for me to ingrain that culture.
Moreover, I am a numbers-driven person. I don’t make a decision based on feelings or because “I feel like it”. I want a decision that is driven by the right set of data. I myself do that and I expect the whole team to do that as well.
Could you describe what role HR plays at Tiki?
Tiki is owning one of Vietnam’s most trusted e-commerce platforms. As the business is expanding at a rapid pace, it is HR’s responsibility to have the right processes to manage the employee scale, whether it is in terms of hiring, employee engagement, or HR processes.
With every new hire comes more administration, and as the company grows in size, HR needs to find new ways to manage the scale efficiently. Tiki used to manage data in a series of clunky spreadsheets, an approach that required a huge amount of manual intervention, which was prone to human error. Eventually, new technical solutions emerged, making day-to-day processes run smoothly, reducing the error rate of manual mistakes, simplifying calculations and designing predictions.
How would you describe the working environment at Tiki?
The Tiki team is relatively young, with an average age being around 27-28 years. We want to create a healthy environment where people feel inspired and motivated, contributing to long-term stability and success for themselves and the company.
One of the biggest strengths we have as an organization is the ability to collaborate, to work together. Team-oriented people tend to thrive in an open-office model, where everyone works together for a common goal.
What are the qualities that you seek in an ideal leader?
When we’re hiring a leader in a high-growth company, and it’s not just about Tiki, it’s about every tech company that I’ve either worked or consulted for, the questions are: “What kind of challenges are we facing while hiring a leader?” and “If we made a wrong hire, what can we learn from it?”.
Leaders are those who “lead” and guide other individuals, teams, or even the entire organization. As they are looked up to as role models, we want to ensure we choose the right people to take on this task, which is mutually important for their success as well as the company’s success.
The first thing I look for in a good leader is their adaptability. In an age of rapid growth, leaders are facing constant change and increasing complexity. To thrive as a leader requires an ability to adapt to changes and adjust to ambiguous situations. Adaptable leaders see change not as an obstacle but as an opportunity for phenomenal growth. At the same time, a high degree of decision-making skills is required to lead. We do not envision successful leaders appearing unclear and uncertain, even in ambiguous situations. Instead, they take full ownership of the decisions they take and lead their teams on that path.
Secondly, leaders acknowledge and own their failures. Leaders are not always being right. They make mistakes like everyone else—but often with greater consequences. As any great leader will tell you, they’ve made mistakes along the way. Successful leaders are not hesitant to share their failures and their learnings from those failures. In addition, leaders need to understand that they can’t be good at everything. There are certain areas where they need to rely on others. Being able to admit your shortcomings, and to hire people who are better than you at those skillsets is probably the most well-kept secret of all successful leaders.
Last but not least, humility and an ability to learn are other characteristics I want to see in a great leader. Great leaders continuously need to update their skills and knowledge. Learning is exciting and it keeps us humble. People appreciate my desire to learn from them and from my environment. It made me realize that, through expressing an interest to learn from others, I was making them feel important because I was treating them as such.
Given the number of staff in Tiki’s employment right now, how do you make sure that employees are happy and satisfied with their work?
A lot of times when we talk about employee engagement, we think of activities like parties and celebrations. But at the end of the day, when employees leave, they don’t leave because you do fewer parties or fewer celebrations. Obviously, people don’t choose to work at a company just because that company has more parties and celebrations than others. That’s not how employee engagement should be measured.
Instead, employee engagement is measured when employees are recognized for their work, when they get involved in projects and when they are given goals to shoot for. At Tiki, we have a robust employee management system, which helps managers and employees discuss performance and provide feedback. We also have a robust job rotation policy, which gives employees to learn new skills and experience a different side of the business. This year, we will also be focusing on classroom learning and build holistic L&D plans for employees and managers to enhance their skill set.
We’re also trying to communicate more with our employees. As we’re growing fast and continuously innovating, we want to ensure that everybody is on the same page. I think communication is key to success for any organization.
What do you find most difficult about your job?
Challenges come up every day. Things that you did perfectly yesterday may not look good today. As HR professionals, we need to drive our strategy complimentary to the business strategy. Sometimes, it is difficult to run at the same pace. Sometimes, unpredictable things fall in the way. Sometimes, employees are not onboard with the new changes. Continuously shifting gears, and making sure that my team also walks along, can be overwhelming.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone starting out in a managing position or a key role in your company?
Anyone who works in a tech company, not only Tiki, but anywhere in Southeast Asia, should remember these three things: be open to ambiguity, always hire people who can compensate for your weak spots, and are better than you, and always assume there is a lot more to learn than you already know.
What hiring trends do you expect to see in 2020 as a tech company?
Vietnam is like the Silicon Valley of Southeast Asia as the tech market is rapidly growing day-by-day. Even though talent comes to join the booming market of Vietnam, I still see a large number of them choosing Canada, Japan, and Germany instead. The so-called “brain drain” is getting worse. However, I’ve noticed that a lot of foreign tech companies have started targeting Vietnam as a talent pool and opening tech offices in Vietnam, and the country also provides numerous tech opportunities to new companies and startups. This means a lot more jobs being created, and a bigger war for talent.
Additionally, we now have more effective tools to hire and interview talents. For instance, if we want to hire 100-200 people at the same time, it’s impossible to do it manually. We need automated recruitment tools to speed up the process, such as AI for screening, and other recruiting software.