#Techjobs – A different kind of Grand Slam for a tennis player turned HR manager

Home Blends & Trends 21 January 2020

Several years ago, I never thought about Human Resources topics like hiring, training, or career management – I was actually still trying to find my own career! Today, I’m part of fifty-five’s HR team, a Data marketing and consulting company. So what kind of HR challenges come with this quickly-evolving industry, and what does my day-to-day look like in HR?

An unusual journey that began on the clay courts… 

After high school, like many students, I was a little unsure of what I wanted to do. I was pretty good at tennis, so it seemed like a good choice to get a degree in Sports Management. After organizing lots of sports tournaments, I realized I really liked event management. I got a Masters in Communication, and began the next step of my career: organizing fashion shows.

It was a real change from the world of sports! But the glitzy world of fashion turned out to be overly stressful, and it wasn’t a good fit for me. I wanted to change course and do something different. Once again I found myself heading back to school… this time to get a Masters in Human Resources!

You’re probably wondering why I chose Human Resources. After a thorough skills assessment and talking with people in HR, it seemed like a great fit. I was won over by the idea that I would get to work with lots of different people, be central to a company’s internal processes, and be on the other side of job interviews.

In May 2015, I did an internship in HR as part of my master’s program, at a young data consulting company that was growing quickly: fifty-five. I got to dive right into the marketing and tech ecosystem, which at first could seem a bit overwhelming, but I found it to be exciting and – most importantly – constantly evolving.

… and led to a role as part of the HR team at a successful start-up

HR departments are nothing if not paradoxical! Recruitment is fundamental to launching a company, yet HR departments are generally formed later in the process, once a company reaches critical mass. In a dynamic organization like fifty-five, where hiring top talent is key to success, HR’s responsibilities constantly growing, and go far beyond recruitment!


At fifty-five, there’s a huge variety of tasks that fall under the HR umbrella. They can be grouped into three main categories:

  • Hiring talent: HR managers are definitely “recruiters,” even if they do much more than just this. No matter the industry, HR professionals find and engage candidates that are good matches for available opportunities. This is no small challenge at a company like fifty-five, as we hire over 100 fresh faces  globally each year and are looking for the crème de la crème.
  • Being accessible: This means personally accompanying and counseling employees from the moment they arrive in the company, through each step of their career with us. In a smaller organization, you get to know everyone quickly on all levels of hierarchy – but you also get familiar with internal processes quickly. Which is a good thing, as these are vital to the role of HR managers!
  • Develop the department: Though there wasn’t a proper HR team when fifty-five was created in 2010, the need was definitely there. The company was already recruiting candidates, new employees were welcomed to their teams and trained, and review processes were being established. But these jobs were delegated across several existing teams, often unofficially. Today, all processes are managed and centralized under a structured HR team, which handles everything from recruitment to onboarding, including training, personal coaching, professional wellbeing, and annual reviews.


This job thus requires a varied skill set, including: the ability to multitask, organization, diplomacy, proactivity, and – perhaps most importantly – being a good listener. Unlike in big companies, where HR departments operate in silos, being the HR manager of a 250-person company means getting involved in all areas. No two days are the same!


Lastly, one of the most important characteristics of a good HR manager is having a deep understanding of the company’s business as well as the ecosystem in which it evolves. HR teams are primarily there to advance the company’s business interests and to assist with strategic decision-making. Understanding what the company does is key to recruiting the right people. It follows, then, that career paths and training within the company will also benefit from HR mastering this knowledge.

Key HR challenges in tech: attraction, loyalty!

In today’s marketing and tech ecosystem, the main challenges are to find, attract, keep, and continually train talents with the right skills. Because it is a fast-paced and constantly changing industry, experienced candidates are still quite rare… And in high demand!

This means that the first step is attracting these rare and sought-after candidates, followed by the challenge of retaining them once they’ve been found.


In this competitive environment, fifty-five stands out in several ways:

  • Corporate culture: Tech companies today rush to offer ping-pong tables, pinball, foosball, and even nap rooms in their offices. It’s a nice touch, but culture goes far beyond in-office perks. At fifty-five, culture is defined by three values: caring, excellence and sharing. These values are embodied in many ways throughout the company: nice and cosy offices (with a garden and sunny balconies) in the heart of Paris, company parties, and even a tech for good initiative.
  • Training: All employees, from interns to managers, benefit from personalized training programs throughout their time with the company. These programs give each employee the opportunity to enjoy 100 training hours from his or her first year. After an initial orientation week, necessary in such a complex ecosystem, training is adapted to each employee and his or her goals.
  • Mobility: In order to retain employees, fifty-five has a personalized support program for each employee after one year of seniority. This means that managers and HR are aware of individuals’ goals, and can better assist employees as they work towards them.

Growth opportunities come in many forms, including specific training, international relocation (20 in the past three years), or transitioning to a new role or team (e.g. shifting gears from being a consultant to a technical expert).


In short, HR professionals must be able to multitask, as well as being flexible and determined to support all employees as they develop within the company – whether it be giving administrative support, suggesting training opportunities, or managing career aspirations. It’s an exciting job, especially when it’s within a fast-growing company, and it’s multi-faceted, because every day is different. Working in HR is all about human relationships, and reaches its full potential when it helps employees to grow within the company. One thing hasn’t changed since my tennis days… Now, in HR, I still love to serve!

Would you like another cup of tea?