PHD Australia’s people and development director speaks to LBB’s Natasha Patel about ‘falling into’ her role in the creative industry and the changes she’s implemented for the benefit of others
For many of us, turning 21 signifies a big step in our lives. Aside from the inevitable parties and celebrations, it is a time when most of those who have chosen to pursue a university degree graduate and step out into the big wide world. Manon Pietra’s 21st birthday saw her land in Sydney alone and marked the start of her new life on the other side of the globe from her home in France in what she calls “a pretty bold move”.
Prior to this Manon had lived in France her whole life and cites the culture of the country as heavily influencing her personality and outlook. “The education system in France is highly structured, and a lot is expected from children in terms of academic achievement, which has definitely permeated my approach in adult life,” she says. “I’m a real perfectionist and I never give up!”
A can-do attitude has followed Manon not only through education but in her career too, starting with her first job as an events manager. This role taught Manon how to manage difficult people and, as someone who is in charge of people and development, learning this and other lessons early on has no doubt been beneficial. She adds: “There were so many lessons I learnt early on in my career, but the most powerful was that you’re a leader if you want to be. I quickly learnt that if you wanted a seat at the table you must lean in and make the leap. Also, if something is worth worrying about, it’s worth doing something about.”
Manon undertook a Master’s in Human Resources and Industrial Relations at the University of Sydney and after working in corporate HR teams landed a role in the creative industry “accidentally”.
“You hear people say, “I fell into it”; well, that was true for me too. I didn’t think it would be possible – an HR role in a fun, creative, dynamic workplace – but after a few years in super corporate HR, I landed at PHD and thought, ‘Finally, I’ve found my people’.”
Her journey as people and development director at PHD has been an exciting one especially for someone whose drive comes from working on projects that challenge and redefine her career. “My favourite aspect of my people-focused role is the tangible difference I can help make to someone’s experience at work. What I love the most is being the architect of these hundreds of pivotal moments in peoples’ working lives.”
A passion to make a difference to someone’s working experiences propelled Manon to become a part of the Mentally Healthy Change Group
, which is a group of volunteers from across the industry who try to change the way mental health is viewed and support those who are suffering. However, Manon took this one step further and after realising that most organisations may want to do the right thing in regard to mental health but don’t have the correct resources, she led the creation of the Mentally Healthy Minimum Standards. The set of “simple best practice guidelines for organisations” to implement to support their staff has seen over 40 companies in the industry sign up.
Alongside doing this Manon is a key member of PHD’s APAC team and is on hand to help with improvements to the hiring and onboarding process, growing and retaining talent at a regional level, and working across different cultures and businesses. However the past few months and the effects of Covid-19 have, in her words, “tested and challenged me personally”.
“My ability to support and nurture our people at PHD without having any definitive answers has been tough. Working in such isolation can be lonely no matter what role you are in, so it’s really important to stay connected and be intentional about connecting with people across different organisations and industries.”
But despite being on a “journey of mixed emotions” during lockdown, Manon credits her colleagues at PHD for being pillars of support and adds “despite these challenging times, we have kept our culture alive and helped each other stay positive.”
Outside of work Manon is a keen yogi and found that the closure of her local yoga studio during lockdown threw her off balance, not only because of the physical benefits that come with practice, but also the mental ones too. “I find that yoga practices learnt on the mat can be applied in working life too”.
It seems that work is never far from her mind, whether in the yoga studio or when she relaxes with a podcast. “It’s a great medium to consume information and to focus my auditory senses which helps me take in and retain information.” And for someone who is “intuitive and conceptual in the way I process and retain information, objective and logical in how I make decisions and super organised”, this, and the fact that she is a “card-carrying member of the perfectionist club” is the perfect way to describe Manon’s personality and outlook on life.