Meet Peak: Sophie, People ManagerBy Jon Taylor on February 6, 2020
Welcome to Meet Peak, a new blog series dedicated to what makes Peak the company we are – our people!
Each month, we’ll get to know a different member of the team, learn about their day-to-day role and understand why they chose a career at Peak. Up first, it’s Sophie from our People team…
Hey Sophie. Tell us a bit about what you do here at Peak
Hi! I’m a People Manager, so this encompasses quite a few things, particularly areas like recruitment and HR. One side of it is making sure we’re meeting all the relevant rules and regulations, but the other (more exciting!) side is focusing on staff wellbeing and culture. I’d say culture is the biggest focus in my role, and making sure the culture we created in the early days as a business continues to develop as we grow.
You’ve worked here since the early days, right?
Yep, I think it’s around three and a half years now. I was originally hired as an Office Manager/PA – my first day was actually our very first day in Jactin House, our old office space in Ancoats.
How different were things back then?
Well, for one we were a lot closer to Rudy’s [ed: pizza restaurant, one of Sophie’s faves – more on that later]. Obviously things were different because there were only around 20 of us, compared to the 100+ that work for the company today! That’s what I mean by ensuring that the culture continues to grow and that our values remain at the forefront of everything we do as we continue to scale, which isn’t easy for a lot of businesses.
When you say culture, what do you mean?
I think every business has a culture. Even if they think they don’t, that’s a culture in itself. It’s unique so is quite hard to describe, but I think for me it’s everything; how we operate as a business, how we deal with our employees, the environment we provide, making sure everyone has an equal voice and ensuring that we’re thinking about our staff’s wellbeing outside of work, as well as when they’re here during the day.
So what have you done to ensure that the Peak culture is protected as we scale and grow the team?
We’ve had to make sure that we’re not compromising on our company values, so we’ve put in place more structure around our processes. Obviously transitioning from a startup to a larger business means that it’s not scalable to have every ‘Peak OG’ in every job interview, so we’ve had to think about how we could empower those who haven’t been here since the very beginning to be able to understand, protect and develop the culture as we hire more people. We want our values to be woven into everything we do, so that people who work here aren’t just coming for the job, but that they’re fully bought into our culture and ‘get’ what Peak is about.
What advice would you give to those other startups making the same transition?
I think a big thing is being aware of it, and not taking culture for granted and just assuming it’ll stay as it is – because it definitely won’t. It hasn’t stayed the same here, but it’s evolved in the way that we wanted because we took those necessary steps. At Peak we have quarterly events – they’re a good chance to celebrate our hard work and blow off some steam – and I was always worried that they wouldn’t be the same as we got bigger and bigger. And, if I’m being honest, they’re not – but it’s not a bad thing as I had first feared. For example, last summer we took the UK team on a team-building day to Edale, hiring out an entire hostel just for us, which wouldn’t have been feasible in the past. The culture and that Peak spirit are still amazing, it’s just a different kind of amazing compared to when there were just a handful of us in the room!
What’s a typical day at Peak like for you?
2020 is another big year for us in terms of our hiring plan, and I’m responsible for our team onboarding process for new starters. Back in the day, this was just me remembering stuff I needed to tell new joiners, but now there’s a lot more to it and more processes in place. So, today we’ve welcomed Tim who’s a new starter in the data science team, and I’ve been making sure he has everything he needs and that he’s set up for success at Peak. I’m also busy planning our end of quarter event – which I can’t tell you about just yet, sorry! – and I’ve had a few first screening calls for a couple of roles we’re currently advertising for.
Sounds good – what if today was a Saturday?
Ah, my Saturdays are more hectic than my workdays! I have two young children, so my weekends are all about them. My son plays football and my daughter goes to gymnastics, so my Saturday is concentrated around them. Obviously I work full-time, so I like to dedicate my weekends to my kids.
Understandable! What about other hobbies?
I think anyone with children recognises that they quickly become your only hobbies! But, other than those two, I do still enjoy socialising when I get the chance – trying new places to eat is a big thing for me and my friends, and I’d say that’s the thing I enjoy doing the most in my spare time.
In that case, quickfire question – top five restaurants in Manchester?
Oooh…tough! Rudy’s, Yard and Coop, Almost Famous, My Thai, Dishoom. There you go!
We’re certainly spoilt for choice in Manchester! Do you think being in the city centre is a big plus for people who work here?
Absolutely, I love it. Manchester is obviously massive in terms of its tech community, but from my point of view, having worked on the outskirts in previous roles, it’s so much better. It’s amazing to be so connected and I think that’s something the team values. We have a big focus on sustainability and doing our bit for the environment at Peak, so having so many public transport links on our doorstep is a big plus; we offer season ticket loans and a cycle to work scheme, too. What I love is that I get time back at the weekend – if I need to run into town for an errand, I can just do it on my lunch break, rather than come into town specifically on a Saturday or Sunday.
You mentioned your previous job – tell us about what you did before Peak
I went to Manchester Metropolitan University and studied Primary Education. But a few years in, I realised that teaching wasn’t for me. I had a few jobs after uni, and then got a job at the NHS as a PA. I loved it there, and after my maternity leave, I moved into a new role at an NHS sexual assault referral centre.
Wow – how was that? Tough?
Yeah, it was. It was a great job, and very rewarding – I take my hat off to everyone working there, because you’re giving people hope who desperately need it. But, obviously it was a very taxing role from an emotional point of view. In the end, I couldn’t really get a work/life balance there – I was bringing the problems home with me, and with two young children it was just too much. I needed a job that I loved, found rewarding, but one that also allowed me to come home and spend quality time with my family.
And, luckily for us, you found Peak!
Yep! Richard [Potter, Peak CEO] has children himself and understands the importance of putting family first. That was a big driver for me in coming here. The flexibility is great – I can come in later if I have to drop the kids off in the morning, or come in early and leave a bit earlier to get that extra time in the evening with them.
Right, a bit more about you. We’re a tech company, so what’s the one bit of tech you couldn’t live without?
Argh, I’m ashamed by this…but it’d be my phone. That weekly screen time report is a killer! Unfortunately I’m definitely a bit of a serial Instagram scroller…
Ah, who isn’t these days? OK, let’s end with a fun fact – tell us something about yourself that people might not know
Hmm, probably that I’m good at football! I played seriously until I was about 16, and I represented Tameside at the Manchester Youth Games back in the day!
Awesome. We’ll stick you down for the next game of Peak 5-a-side then! Thanks for chatting to us, Sophie!