When Dave Glass asked Karin to take Electrum’s reins while he takes sabbatical, she thought he was joking. But, as you’ll read in this month’s post, she’s loving the job.
You joined Electrum in February 2018. What attracted you to the company?
After working in academia and at a global Fintech firm, I wanted to work more closely with customers. Big corporations and small companies both have pros and cons – and I think one should work in both in one’s career. But in a smaller company you have more influence over things that matter – you have more ‘skin in the game’, as Dave would say.
What have you been doing at Electrum until the point when you stepped in for Dave?
I’ve been project managing the Pick n Pay account and inter-helping my way into anything I can.
Ah, ‘inter-helping’ – apparently that’s a term coined just for you. What’s that all about?
It’s a mix of helping and interfering, as a friend and colleague once explained to me when he identified me as an inter-helper. As a serial inter-helper, I’ve always liked getting involved in things that aren’t core to my daily tasks but that interest me. Of course, it’s important to get the balance right! In essence, it’s volunteered collaboration, which has always been a part of Electrum culture. But I’ve noticed that its less formal name gives other people permission to object when helping veers into interfering.
How did you react when Dave told you he was going on sabbatical?
I thought he was joking the first time he said he was thinking about it and that he wanted me to stand in for him for three months, so I just brushed it aside! The next time he asked, I realised: this man is serious. And then I thought, well if he thinks I can do it, how much damage can I do in three months? And then it became six months – but I’d already said yes. It’s been an amazing vote of confidence.
What’s it like being in the driver’s seat?
It’s week four, so maybe it’s the honeymoon period, but I’m really enjoying it! There’s a lot of accountability and responsibility to the job, but I’m not stressed out at all. I was actually puzzled, at first, why I wasn’t stressed out. But I realised it’s because there are people around me I trust to fill in gaps, and to point out my gaps. Dave has been very deliberate in giving up the space for six months – it’s an opportunity for everyone in the company to expand their influence and responsibility.
What big things are in the pipeline for Electrum this year?
Ask me in March! We’ve got our big company strategy getaway in February, where the whole company decides the strategy for the year together. A lot of that strategy is built around the principles in ‘Scaling Up’. The level of collaboration is quite different from how a lot of companies operate. In fact, when I started at Electrum, I found there was a distinct lack of meetings… until my first Electrum getaway. And then I understood: ‘Ah, this is why.’ Instead of having regular meetings about strategic issues, everybody goes away – you get out of your workspace and you make decisions. It works really well.
What are your thoughts about company leaders taking sabbaticals?
It makes total sense that Dave is doing it, because it takes an incredible amount of emotional energy to be a founder of a company and to make it work. I have a lot of respect for Dave for making the decision and sticking with it. It’s important to slow down and reflect, and I’m expecting that when he comes back, there’ll be lots of ideas.
What would you do on a six-month sabbatical?
It’s not something I’ve thought about, but I could see myself in Spain for six months. There’s something about Spanish food that fascinates me – I think it has the same depth as Italian food. I’d love to get to know the culture, and the only way to do that is to be there, right?