Career x Major Insights - Christine Luo
by Daisy Choi
Human Resources (HR) is a widely studied major within the business school and is regarded as a crucial skill needed within an organisation. Daisy Choi chats with People Partner at Airtasker, Christine Luo about her journey into a career in HR.
Tell us about yourself
Hi my name is Christine and I’m currently a People Partner at Airtasker. I studied a Bachelor of Commerce at UNSW, majoring in HR Management and Financial Economics and I also did a Diploma in Chinese studies. A fun fact about me - I’m terrible with numbers, but need a written response for something? I’m your girl! I’ve always had an interest in people, and I’m really keen to share my insights with you today. Fair warning - be prepared for some real talk because I ain’t sugar coating any of this. I caveat this is my own personal experience and I’ve got some strong views on how my uni career has gotten me to where I am now.
Is there a characteristic of yours that you believe made you a more competitive candidate for your roles?
I think we all have our own skill sets and characteristics that set us apart from each other. However, I think the most important thing you can do for yourself is to look for an organisation which has a culture and values that are aligned to yours; it’s just as important for the employer to assess you and whether you’re a cultural fit, as it is for you to assess them. For this reason, everything that makes up you would add to your competitive edge.
That being said, having a tertiary qualification is a must-have so please finish your degree.
What was the most interesting/useful part of your major in your opinion?
This is a great question. I’ll split my response up into two parts.
In terms of interest, I’d say HRM and Financial Economics was a bit of an uncommon combination to have. I think I was the only person that I knew from my cohort who had this specific pairing, as most of my peers did the typical accounting/finance majors.
What roles have you taken on, and what have they entailed?
My first role after graduating was as a Recruitment Consultant at a recruitment agency. To my dismay, this role was primarily a commission-based sales position. The role did not give me the impact and growth opportunities that I wanted. A few months into this role, I realised that this environment was not a place I’d thrive in and that I wanted to work for an organisation that truly cared about their people.
I moved into an internal HR role, a People Operations Associate position at Airtasker. On a high level, the role of a People Operations Associate is to improve the day to day tangible employee experience. This would mean supporting new starter onboarding, designing and running company events, celebrations and rituals, as well as other admin and system support responsibilities with the People Ops team.
About a year ago, I moved into a People Partner position. The role of a People Partner is to consult with and support managers in the creation and maintenance of high performing teams. We do this by leveraging employee experience drivers that best suit each individual team’s context. Currently, I am working with the senior managers from our global customer support team to instill a high performance culture by solving problems together, coaching managers, managing and supporting the adoption of change in teams - just to name a few of my responsibilities. I’m dealing with different challenges every day!
What may be some common misconceptions about these roles that people might be unaware of?
HR is fun, highly impactful and has its own seat at the table! Throughout uni, I struggled with wanting to follow the status quo of working in a large corporation in an accounting or finance role, with wanting to follow my own interests and building a career in HR. I had heard throughout my uni career that HR is just a back office role, it’s boring, and organisations do not value the team’s work. I’m not going to deny that in some organisations, this is probably a normal perception of HR.
However, in my experience and from my network within the HR tech startup space, none of the above is true. There is always a people-voice at the senior executive level and at the forefront of every product decision. This is because at the end of the day, every decision is ultimately a people decision. You’re able to have a tangible impact in your work every day as you work alongside your customers. Finally, there’s so many opportunities for learning and growth; it’s just a matter of whether you’re able to absorb it all.
I think what’s been important to ensuring all this is true, is that the company culture is right. At Airtasker, we have a value called People Matter and I’m delighted to say that we actually put our money where our mouths are. I think this is extremely important for an HR professional as a custodian of the employee experience.
How did you maintain a high standard of academics despite so much work, extracurriculars and a social life?
Oh - I did not. I wasn’t an academically stellar student, and I’m hoping this gives some form of relief to those who may be struggling like the way I did at uni. If there’s one thing you take from this article is that: it is ok.
It really depends what industry you want to go into. Some have higher barriers to entry and demand for top academics due to the competitive nature of the roles, but I’d say most don’t as the responsibilities can be learnt on the job. To be honest, most employers don’t even look at your degree and WAM.
If you’re interested in working in HR for a tech startup (which I highly encourage if you’d like to work in HR), the key to success is ensuring you have strong fundamental skills and you’re aligned with their culture and values.