Klara Owens was about to completely step out of the corporate world when Reward Gateway got in touch. With a mission to make the world a better place to work, it was such an antithesis to her own experience that it felt to Klara like it must be a practical joke. When she discovered it was legit, she pulled out of training to become a teacher and began changing lives in a different way — starting with her own.
Disillusioned and ready to quit
Klara’s career rise was meteoric straight out of college. She moved up quickly and immersed herself in the business-world hustle. Having said she never wanted to work just for the money, she soon found herself working 70-hour weeks with no life outside work and very little fulfilment.
She finished number one account manager in the company she was working for, then quit to travel around South America for eight months. When she returned, she went into a people management role.
“I like to work and I’m a really driven person, but I don’t want to live to work, and I want to feel like I’m doing something good. I thought people management would be the right step. I’d be able to give back and find the fulfilment I was looking for. But it turned out to be nothing like I was expecting. It was some of the most difficult months of my life in a difficult environment. It made me rethink my career overall. The business world makes it tough to remember we are all human. Fast paced, pressure, unreasonable expectations, it’s no wonder you get burnt out and don’t love what you do. I was so discouraged by so many companies who pledge to care about their people and have a great environment, but very rarely practiced what they preached.”
Feeling completely disillusioned, Klara thought she would follow in her parents footsteps and applied for teacher training, ready to start a new life and career. Then, a recruiter at Reward Gateway reached out on LinkedIn. Klara thought,
“This one sounds different! Their mission is to make the world a better place to work. I was ready to escape the business world because no one cares about people, but at Reward Gateway their whole mission is to help employers care about their employees, and literally make the world a better place.”
Having never thought about the different applications for her account management skills, Klara had now found a product she was passionate about. Success was inevitable!
Finding your passion
Klara has always wanted to do something she really cared about and has finally found it with Reward Gateway. Her tips for pursuing your passion are:
- Identify what you’re passionate about in your work. “Even when people are miserable in their roles, something brought them there in the beginning. What brings you joy? What is it you like about what you do or your industry?”
- Look for ways to grow those passions. “Think about what steps you can take to develop your skills or get in a position where you’re learning and growing. People often get stuck thinking they can’t change their day to day. But if you explore the position you’re in and start to do things outside your role, then you can start figuring out growth opportunities and your passion.”
- Take a leap of faith. “I’m a firm believer in ‘that which we manifest is before us’. If you do the right things, the right opportunity will come. Opportunity is when luck meets preparation. You have to be able to embrace change and take a chance to open the door to the new possibilities.”
How to check what it’s really like
One of the things that so disillusioned Klara was knowing that so many companies say all the right things but don’t really care about their employees. But she shares, “my experience at Reward Gateway has been incredible”.
Her top two suggestions for assessing a company’s culture before you join are:
- Do your research. “It’s so easy to look the part. They always have a webpage that talks about their values and the employees. Dig deeper than that. Get to know your manager, your team, and the ins and outs of the company as much as you can.”
- Use your interview. “Ask the hard questions in your interview. 2020 has really brought this surplus of interview questions [about their COVID response, internal communications, D&I initiatives, activism], as these are the telling moments in how a company responds. A lot of people go into interviews thinking too much about their responses as an interviewee, know your worth, and interview the interviewer. It is equally important to make sure the company is a right fit for you as it is that you are a right fit for them.”
When company culture meets the zeitgeist
As a person of color, Reward Gateway’s response to the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing Black Lives Matter protests provided some very personally felt insight into the culture of the company. Klara shared that the initial response was not fast enough, nor what the racial minority at Reward Gateway needed. So, she spoke up.
“A week after George Floyd was murdered, I voiced my concerns and said we should be doing more. It’s our job to lead this conversation. It’s impacting me, our clients and employees. Because of how comfortable my manager had made me feel, and how genuinely good I know the people I’m surrounded by are, I felt comfortable to speak up.”
The CEO responded directly to her concerns and immediately started making changes. They released an external statement making it clear he stood with the BLM movement and created a diversity network group. The Reward Gateway Foundation is going to be funding organizations that support racial equality in the workplace, and more.
“It was important for me to hear that my life matters to my employer. It was also a huge career moment. Never in my life have I been comfortable to speak up on something like this. Clearly, they have done something right for me to feel seen, safe to call them out, and know that something positive would come from that. The fact I can feel comfortable being in my skin, literally, and not have to go to work and wonder if my leadership team supports me and is standing with me on this makes it so much easier, and is a really big breath of fresh air. It makes me so proud that we’re leaning into that discomfort and making changes that impact so many people personally.”
“It’s crazy to look back on where I was a year ago and the year we’ve all been through. I had so much hope, and all these stories about how things will be, and this opportunity has exceeded every expectation that I had, despite a global pandemic and the craziness 2020 has brought us. I finally feel like I’m in a place where my skills, my passion and my purpose align. I didn’t think I would ever get here, so now I’m like, I’ve got to stay here forever!”