Monica Frieslich’s HR journey of compassion and growth


Monica Frieslich, head of people business partnering and development at Yoco, has a remarkable HR career.

Born and raised in the vibrant city of Cape Town, Monica Frieslich brings a rich cultural tapestry and a deep appreciation for the value of family and community into her professional life.

“I love this city, and I’m very fortunate to have a strong network of support through my family and friends here. Family holds a special place in my heart, and I’m blessed to share my life with an incredible husband and two active teenage boys who keep me happily occupied.”

This strong family connection, she says, has instilled in her a profound understanding of the importance of work-life balance and the impact it has on employees.

Journey into HR

Monica explains that her educational journey at the University of Cape Town led her to pursue a bachelor of social science, with a focus on organisational psychology, human resource management, and labour law. “This academic foundation paved the way for my career which spans over 18 years, during which I’ve worked at four distinct companies. In addition, I’ve had the rewarding experience of providing consulting services to startups of varying sizes.”

She further explains that she has a deep-seated fascination for psychology, particularly in the context of how individuals collaborate effectively within group dynamics.

“After graduating I had so much passion for reshaping the way companies and leaders think about HR. I was determined to challenge traditional HR practices and advocate for a more strategic approach, where HR becomes an integral part of a company’s people capability, driving essential business success transformations.”

More than just a profession

Early in her career, Monica worked at a higher education and further education training (HET/FET) college, where she collaborated closely with CEOs and COOs to develop tailored training materials for leaders and HR professionals.

“I then embraced a fresh challenge by joining a professional services company where I had the task of building the HR function from the ground up. These invaluable experiences provided me with a robust foundational understanding of all facets of HR.

A pivotal turning point occurred when she joined Jumo, a dynamic tech startup. Over seven years, she played a key role in scaling the business, establishing the HR department, and creating a strategic people business partnering function. “The insights and skills honed during my time at Jumo are particularly pertinent to my current role at Yoco, as they equip me to guide companies through the various stages of growth and maturation.”

She bottles down her career highlights to revolve around two core passions. “First and foremost, I really enjoy establishing people functions from the ground up. While this can often be quite challenging, the excitement of creating something new is truly invigorating. Each time I’ve undertaken this task, it has demanded a deep understanding of the specific business’s culture and requirements, resulting in significant personal growth and learning experiences.”

The second source of motivation, she adds, lies in the art of crafting lean, high-performing teams. “This is where my love of strategic people business partnering came from. The journey of nurturing and developing teams demands considerable time and commitment, but witnessing individuals and teams unlock their full potential is a defining highlight of my professional journey.”

However, no career is without its challenges. Monica has faced formidable obstacles, including guiding organisations through significant changes and disruptions.

“One of the most prominent challenges has been guiding organisations through the substantial changes and disruptions they’ve encountered. This has encompassed supporting individuals and teams in adapting to the intricacies of remote work, as well as assisting companies in the challenging process of downsizing, while preserving a human-centred approach.”

Among the most emotionally taxing challenges has been overseeing retrenchments, she adds. “These are undoubtedly among the most arduous tasks for individuals, companies, and people teams. They push one’s limits and reveal the true essence of character, culture, and leadership revealing who you truly are and what you stand for.”

Monica says it is during these challenging times that she remembers her core principles, “I have always emphasised the importance of taking a compassionate and people-centred approach to assist them, while simultaneously achieving essential business objectives. It is what I believe in.”



Related articles