Alumni Q&A: Birgit, Self-leadership coach & company culture consultant

Wise alum Birgit

Wise alumni

Wise really built up my confidence. The freedom and responsibility given to me allowed me to test myself and see what I’m capable of. I’m very grateful for the different opportunities I had in the company, as they helped me discover what I want to do long-term in my career.

Firstly, I realised that I love to work one-on-one with people, to help them grow, and understand themselves better. Secondly, seeing what a great company culture looks like, how it’s built, and how it can empower people was eye-opening for me. Every organisation has a culture, but not many are consciously shaping theirs to maximise engagement and productivity. This gave me the idea that I could use the experience I got from Wise to help other companies as well.

Current role: Self-leadership coach, people development & company culture consultant

When did you join Wise and how long did you work here?

I joined in 2015 and worked at Wise for 3 years. 

Why did you join Wise?

I was looking to move from recruitment into a role in people development. I had a friend who worked at Wise at the time, and what got me interested was seeing the passion in her eyes when she spoke about her work. She talked about interesting challenges, fantastic people and a mission to make a difference in the world. I wanted to see what it was all about!

The application process confirmed all of the above. Everyone I met during the interviews was smart but also humble, including Taavet (one of the founders) who I met in my final interview. I got the sense that I’d be working in an environment where I could learn and grow quickly.

What did you do at Wise?

I started as an Onboarding Coordinator, organising and developing onboarding sessions for new employees. About 80% of my time went into that, and the rest of my time involved supporting people development initiatives, like organising trainings for leaders or running our employee engagement survey. After a few years I stepped into a team lead role myself, and my focus shifted towards helping team leads to grow.

During my last 3 months, I stepped away from the team lead role and invested all of my time into coaching product managers and team leads. I had already realised that I deeply enjoy working one-on-one with people, so I completed a coach training program in early 2018. I’m grateful that in the last months at Wise, I had the opportunity to practice these skills extensively.

What did you like the most about working here?

Feeling trusted and having the freedom to detect a problem, pick it up and fix it myself. Nobody tells you what to do and that’s very empowering, plus the ability to lead projects really gave me a lot of confidence and reduced my fear of the unknown. That’s what helped me to start my journey as an entrepreneur too. I think everyone at Wise has to develop an entrepreneurial mindset – you get used to taking so much responsibility and take a lot of steps into the unknown.

What does your business do?

My mission is to help people and businesses to live up to their potential. I do this through two roles. As a coach, I work one-on-one with young specialists and leaders, who want to do outstanding work, while staying true to themselves. I help them with various questions/challenges related to their work and career, things like figuring out their next career move (what do they really want to do, as well as having the courage to take that step), building self-confidence in their current role, or navigating challenging relationships in the workplace.

I also work with companies who believe that delivering outstanding results starts from building a great organization, and having highly engaged employees. I help them build structures that support people development and company culture. A good salary alone isn’t enough to attract talent anymore – people are looking for meaningful work, opportunities to grow, and freedom to execute their ideas. If we look at studies, like the one by Gallup, that measure how many people are engaged in their work, the numbers show that there’s still plenty of room for improvement in this area.

What has it been like to be an entrepreneur?

I love the freedom that comes with being my own “boss” – the ability to choose what I want to do, when, where and with whom. I feel that I’m doing what I really love, and it has an impact on people’s lives. That’s a truly great feeling to wake up to every day! 

I don’t have a team around me, and there have been times when I’ve really missed the fun and support that comes from that. But, just like Wise was born because two friends had a problem that they wanted to solve, a great initiative also came from this challenge. Along with a few other ex-colleagues who are building their own businesses, we have a weekly co-working time. We come together, work on our businesses, bounce ideas and catch up. The amazing network of people that I got from working at Wise continues to be a source of great support and inspiration.

Any tips for those thinking about starting their own business?

Trust your gut, and know that you can figure out your own way of doing things. When I first started I was overwhelmed with information about having to be super visible online, and doing digital marketing. I didn’t want to spend time on marketing, I just wanted to coach. Over time, I realised that I don’t have to do it like many others. So far, I’ve relied almost fully on word-of-mouth to get new clients, and it’s worked well for me. 

Secondly, make sure that starting your own business is a conscious, well thought through decision. Take time to reflect on your “why” for doing it, your expectations and fears, what can go wrong and how you can prevent it from happening. This way you’re better prepared for the ride, and you know what to do in case you hit some road bumps on the way (which most likely, you will :)).