Change and transformation are constant, says Microsoft SA CHRO Sameera Mohamed

The energetic leader believes in the value of showing up in the moment.

When CHRO SA spoke with Sameera Mohamed, HR director of Microsoft South Africa, she was in the company offices, which had just opened officially after two years.

“It is really great to be back at the office again. Returning to the office officially feels like returning to a time capsule. I still have stuff on my wall that I had written down in February 2020,” she said.

She added, “It’s beautiful to be back. I am just as excited to see all the canteen staff as I am to see my colleagues and to have coffee face to face again. There is a different energy to being in the office and it is nice to feel engaged in person during the day. We have adopted a hybrid approach at Microsoft and so it is great to have the option to come into the office, but also have the freedom to work from home.”

Sameera, who took the HR director role on 1 July 2021, has been at Microsoft for 14 years.

“People say that you become stale if you stay too long in one organisation but that is not the case for me. I challenge that belief as I have proven one can evolve in an organisation to have long fulfilling careers. The magic of Microsoft is the continued evolution and transformation. I have had the opportunity to watch the evolution of leaders and teams and walk the culture and transformation journey with the company. This has helped me grow as much as I have been part of the organisation’s growth,” she explained.

The HR operating model at Microsoft is truly world class and is embedded in connection and collaboration across various teams and centres of excellence spanning the globe. Another key differentiator is the ability to enable HR strategy at scale, ensuring world class people practices across 180,000 employees in 190 countries.

“We all know how important tech is and how important it has become in people’s lives now that we are living within the pandemic, and this model has ensured we are truly able to maintain great employee experiences for our people,” she explains.

Interestingly, HR has always been Sameera’s career discipline of choice. After spending six years at university and armed with degrees in industrial and clinical psychology, and an honours degree in human resources, Sameera “did what any HR person does” and went into recruitment. That, however, was short-lived as she successfully applied for an HR internship at Microsoft and “never left”.

The married mother of two girls is today able to look back at her career and the multinational and comment on how the little things add up over time and the value of showing up in the moment.

One of the key pieces of advice she has for anyone, is to value your network and relationships. “The network of managers, mentors, coaches and leaders played a key role in shaping my journey that has led me here today. Your personal network is equally important. My parents and my husband have played a key role, with their support, their encouragement, and their motivation,” she says.

Sameera also credits the company’s culture. “It is one of belonging and inclusion, so you show up as you are – completely and at any moment in time. So, you are able to have a long-lasting dynamic career as the leadership at Microsoft allows you to be who you are and my job as HR director is to ensure that those things remain intact,” she says.

This may explain why free thinking gets a lot of Sameera’s energy. “My family keeps me constantly busy and they are organically part of Microsoft too. I spend time with my daughters learning something new together with them. They’re at that critical age, where they are exploring their passions and what excites them, and I am enjoying learning and exploring with them,” she says.

She adds, “Being a thought leader is also where I get a lot of my energy. The world is changing so much and all the time, just look at what the pandemic has done to our world. Change and transformation are the only constants and so innovation, planning and agility are critical to remaining ahead.”