#Authority – Leah Lakay

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What’s your role within Ernst & Young? We have your designation, as the HR Business Partner (HRBP), but could you highlight what it is that a Business Partner does different to a HR Manager or Officer? Is there a vast technical difference?
An HRBP (Human Resource Business Partner) is senior to an HR Officer and in some instances is similar to an HR Manager. The scope is quite broad, more especially in larger organisations. The role is more strategic in nature and exists where an organization has an HR call center or shared services that attends to admin related HR including payroll.

We’ve picked up that you have solid leadership exposure in the HR. Could you tell us what you think your superiors may have recognized within you & your work? How do you think others could project the same level of competence in their own roles?
I take full ownership in implementing HR solutions and often come up with creative ideas. I am trusted to deliver and I am good at getting results through others and good at coaching others. It is important to always focus on the strategic goals and ensure that your efforts are aligned and help achieve organisational goals. I am action oriented and I think this has been the most recognizable trait to my superiors.

What do you enjoy the most about your role? What gets you out of bed pertaining to your Career?
I would say solving HR related problems, engaging with my key stakeholders and achieving what we set out to achieve. Being a positive influence and adopting the attitude that no challenge is too big to solve. This is why I love what I do for a living.

It must take a great deal of discipline to maintain a solid work ethic. Can you tell us what are key characteristics that you possess, that have allowed you to command respect and #authority in your role?
Being present, being positive and treating others with respect at all times. Being responsive, enthusiastic and solution focused has really gone a long way for me. Also being self- driven and reliable is important in my line of work.

What do you dislike the most about your work? Which KPI do you dread the most?
Admin and duplication of processes would be one of those things I could do without, even though I see how they happen. The single KPI that is a challenge is meeting EE targets as this does not depend on me, but on the larger community.

Can you tell us a bit about your initial career ambitions when you first left high school? Did you have alternative plans or has this always been the route you knew you’d be in?
I wanted to be a Doctor, however this was not financially viable as I needed to earn and sustain myself. The result of that was that I ended up doing a nursing degree so I would earn while I worked and studied. HR came by chance when one of the Dr’s recommended that I study it since my role as a team leader involved HR related tasks. I resigned the next year after being accepted at Wits Business School.

A great deal of emphasis is placed upon attaining formal qualifications in today’s career market. Can you tell us what your views are? Has a solid education background been an element of advantage in your own career?
Formal training is essential and serves as a foundation to build a career on. It helped me facilitate an understanding of the role requirements and gave me the confidence to execute. In my view it would definitely be an advantage, especially if you are changing a career.

Are you pursuing any studies at the moment and why?
I am currently completing my MBA dissertation and I believe in life-long learning and investment in personal development. I enjoy learning.

Where are you from originally, born & raised? Where did you grow up and what school did you attend?
I was born and raised in Johannesburg, Eldorado park and attended local schools before attending convents from grade 8.

Who would you credit as a major influence in your career & work at EY? This doesn’t have to be someone from work.

None at EY I’m afraid. Julie Scott, an amazing boss whom I reported to when I joined HR at Discovery Health. She gave me the benefit of the doubt, trusted me to deliver and coached me very well. She was very ethical, professional and very caring about people & employees. She expected high results and was quick to recognize a good effort. She also held people accountable. This was in 1999 and I have never forgotten everything she taught me. I cultivated an ability to lead from her.

What was your first job ever? The first job that earned you a Rand and can you tell us if there are any key lessons you learnt in your first job that you still keep with you today?
I started out as a crèche teacher and that only lasted a month. This helped me realise my passion.