People & Culture
Added Oct 30, 2020

Q & A with Jessica Irvin: Head of People & Operations

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Jessica is our Head of People & Operations and passionate about making Vortexa a great place to work. Jessica is normally the interviewer but this time we wanted to turn that around and hear her thoughts on where we are today on the people & culture front and what’s next for Vortexa.

Emma, our Senior Communications Executive, kindly stepped into the interviewer’s hot seat...


What inspired you to join Vortexa?

Lots, but I’ll narrow it down to the main three things...

Firstly, the opportunity to be a part of a global industry’s transition 

The oil and gas industry touches everyone’s life in some way, from the more obvious ways like the fuel you put in your car to the less known like being part of what makes up your surfboard and aspirin and it’s at this really pivotal moment of transition and transformation which Vortexa is at the heart of. Being able to be a part of that is an incredible opportunity.

The people

Vortexa had already built an incredible team of 20 highly talented and friendly people when I was interviewing and I knew immediately Vortexa was somewhere I’d be at home - surrounded by team members who are extremely passionate about what they do and are amazingly friendly.

And of course last but not least the role itself

The role did, and still does offer an amazing opportunity to help Vortexa on its scaling journey and be at the heart of that. In the broad scope of my role I’ve not only been able to help us triple in the last 20 months but also help the team with everything from articulating the Vortexa Values, to key system roll-outs like our HR System, to cultural initiatives like our Weekly Knowledge Sharing Sessions, to new processes like our onboarding journey.

How would you describe the culture at Vortexa?

Great question; I’m a big believer in the often carted out Peter Drucker quote that ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and I could bore you senseless on the culture we’ve built here but I’m cognisant this is supposed to be a succinct and clarifying read and not a long and arduous one so I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible and focus on the key elements:

We celebrate togetherness and inclusivity. We all share the strong belief that our differences are our greatest strength. The genuine feeling of inclusiveness here has very much stemmed from us being a hugely international team (by background not office location) from the very beginning with a shared set of values, which I’ll build on below.

''...whether it’s a quick walk around your nearest park or supper with the family, it’s really important to have a marker each day that means you’ve logged off mentally as well as shut your laptop down.''

We are guided by a Pioneering Spirit. We’re doing something that hasn’t been done before from a technology and data perspective which is a huge motivator for nearly all our new joiners but it’s also a key motivator for all of us within our roles. What ever your role, every day at Vortexa brings something new to discover, create and bring personal impact to and relishing that is something that is very much a marker of a Vortexa team member.

We talk a lot, all the time. The Executive team are big proponents of being open and honest with everyone, and on a regular basis. We meet as a company every Friday for knowledge sharing sessions led by team members across the business but these sessions also see functional and company-wide updates shared by the leadership team which means everyone stays informed. 

We stay constantly curious and ask lots of questions. You build a truly trusting culture if you encourage everyone, whatever their level, to ask a lot of questions and share their views.

We also ask our team, a lot, what they think is going well and what they think could be done better. We do this via surveys but also face to face - a mix of qualitative and qualitative feedback and data is key. A lot of companies are quite scared to do this but when your team sees that you listen, take on board when things could be done better and most importantly act on the feedback you build a culture of trust - which is so important for any organisation.

Finally, we really love what we do. Whether you’re speaking to a Full Stack Engineer at Vortexa, or a UX/UI Designer or a Market Analyst people are genuinely passionate about their subject matter and their role. This makes for a really motivating atmosphere as everyone is thriving but also striving to deliver something great and that they’re proud of.

What do you think are the top motivations for new joiners coming to Vortexa? 

The vision and opportunity we have and the complexity of the problems we’re trying to solve are both immense and I think big drivers for all new joiners. In addition, we’re really lucky to have a culture that people want to be a part of - usually gained from referrals from existing team members, our blog posts like this one and of course from what they’ve read on Glassdoor alongside our rating.

How would you describe day-to-day life at Vortexa?

Fast-paced, collaborative, varied - no day is ever the same, with an overarching focus on achieving as much as we can for our clients, partners and team members each day.

In my role I spend most of my day interacting with members of our teams across the business and working with my team to figure out how we keep improving on the people front, from candidate experience to  employee engagement to remote onboarding and lots more.

What would you say makes Vortexa a unique place to work? 

Our people, our culture and the opportunity we have ahead of us. It’s very rare to be able to join a startup that is at the heart of an industry’s transition that you know will impact the life of every person on the planet.

What tips and tricks would you have for establishing a work-life balance?

It’s been so interesting how this topic has risen to the top of agendas recently and that COVID has accelerated this even further.

Firstly, and most key, I think knowing what a work-life balance means to you, as it’s totally different for everyone. For some people it’s coming in at 10am and working very late, for others it’s ensuring they take a long walk every lunch break. 

In terms of other ticks and tips that I’ve found these to always be helpful:

Something that marks the end of your working day. Whilst we’re all working remotely it’s more important than ever to have that division between our work and home life. So whether it’s a quick walk around your nearest park or supper with the family, it’s really important to have a marker each day that means you’ve logged off mentally as well as shut your laptop down.

''...whether you’re speaking to a Full Stack Engineer at Vortexa, or a UX/UI Designer or a Market Analyst people are genuinely passionate about their subject matter and their role.''

Time for you, that’s away from a screen. Whether it’s listening to an audiobook whilst cooking, going for a run or just enjoying a bubble bath it’s really important to have some time dedicated for you, and away from a screen. It helps you forget about work and helps your mind reset. Time away from work and a screen also often put things in perspective and you find yourself returning to a work problem you may have been struggling with with a sharper and more open mind ready to solve it.

Have your boundaries and stick to them, consistently. Whether it’s leaving work by a certain time every night so you can get home to cook with your partner or having your lunch break away from your desk, remember what matters to you and stick to it. I have to admit this is one I try to do but fail at most days.

How would you describe the structure and hierarchy at Vortexa?

Stage appropriate - we are still a team of under seventy-five at the time of writing this, (although with lots of new joiners in the coming weeks and months) and we’ve tried to keep stage appropriate with just a layer of team leads before you reach the executive team. 

''...I knew immediately Vortexa was somewhere I’d be at home - surrounded by team members who are extremely passionate about what they do and are amazingly friendly.''

We have a structure that’s as flat as possible but most importantly all members of our team know what they’re accountable for, what they need to deliver and when. Alongside this regular, open and trusting communication is supremely vital to us continuing to collaborate so well and create and build amazing products and client relationships at pace.

Where do you predict Vortexa will be in five years’ time?

A much larger scale of what we do today, with the core elements still there - supporting our valued clients, helping the industry with its continued transition and building a happy team and inspiring place to work.

Describe your working life at Vortexa in three words! 

Impactful, collaborative, driven! 

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