From meteorologist to HR executive, Kea Hammond revels in being the latter

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The chief people officer has a passion for teaching and developing people and leaving them in a better position.

Kea Hammond, chief people officer at +OneX believes that people are the ‘oxygen’ of the business.

Kea landed in HR by chance, as she had studied meteorology. “I thought I would be the next Simon Gear,” she jokes. After finishing her studies, Kea did an internship at the Chief Dawid Stuurman International Airport (formerly Port Elizabeth International Airport) airport. “I lived in Port Elizabeth [since renamed Gqeberha] for a while, however the South African Weather Service did not have any vacancies when I finished my studies.”

Kea then entered the steel industry where she worked as a sales consultant. “I went from weather forecasts to sales. While I was in PE, there was an IT distribution company that opened its branch there and I was hired as a salesperson. That is how my journey in IT started.”

Her journey into sales grew and she moved into product marketing. “I've always had a passion for working with people, helping people understand what is expected from them and what they should bring to the party,” Kea says.

Her move to HR was prompted by the passion she has always had for people. “My purpose in life is teaching and developing people. If I’m engaging with someone, I always want to leave them better than I found them,” says Kea.

At +OneX, Kea was part of the core team that conceptualised the One+X brand. “We wanted to be a new age systems integrator that would be different from other players in the market and have a real purpose of creating opportunities to improve people’s lives. For us, the biggest differentiator in achieving our purpose was going to be our focus on people and our clients,” says Kea.

Kea and her One+X team learnt early on that if they did not have the right people and culture that would attract the right talent and they didn’t take care of their people, the business would not be successful.

“When +OneX started, I was in a sales position because it was early days. I had to reinvent the wheel and learn new skills again. Six years ago, I was the brand executive at Cisco and I attended a global conference. I remember meeting Cisco’s chief people officer and I asked her what the chief people officer does. What stood out for me in her response was that it is taking the people strategy and aligning it with the business strategy with people at the centre. It was at this moment that I realised that with my business acumen and
the passion I have for people, that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a chief people officer,” Kea chuckles.

“At +OneX, we knew that we needed someone who would be at the forefront of ensuring that our people’s needs are met. The people strategy needs to be at the forefront of our decision-making and our client obsession, and by implanting programmes like mentoring, we are able to attract the best people,” Kea says.

As chief people officer, Kea collaborates with key stakeholders to formulate and implement policies and strategies that need to be followed. “We see HR differently at +OneX. For us, it’s more about human capital.”

In all the roles she has held, Kea says there have always been human connections that enabled her to step into her current role. “I was honoured and privileged to be offered the role. Irrespective of the title and the role, it’s really about being accountable for what you do, being a people and brand ambassador, and giving direction.”

Even with challenges along the way, Kea believes her passion for people is what has kept her going.

Kea is grateful to have had great leaders and mentors who pushed her to achieve her goals. “I remember before I joined +OneX, I was asked to MC for a sales conference and that was very daunting. I was told to do it because I have a way with people. My CEO said, ‘Kea, I want you to tell your story, because you have a powerful story to share that will inspire people.’”

At that event, Kea shared her story of how she was always a “doer” who was reactive and would hide behind a desk as if in a cocoon. That was until she got great leaders who pushed her to achieve more and realise her potential. “When you have people who support you and you do the work, you do well and grow. I ended that story by saying, ‘When you get back to the office, look out for the little cocoons with hidden talents, and find those leaders and mentors who will help you do better and be better.’”

She admits that with anything new, there are always challenges. “With my current role, I have great support internally and from the HR community. It always starts with what I don't know and what I need to learn. I have coaches and mentors and I reach out to understand how we can best achieve our objectives.

Kea is the second of four siblings. She is married and has a 13-year-old daughter. She enjoys sewing in her spare time, a hobby she inherited from her grandmother. She also loves cooking and entertaining family and close friends. “I go on hikes to connect with nature and I enjoy the outdoors and cycling.” She admits she only learnt to ride a bicycle at the age of 35.

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