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Office Hours: I’m the Director of People Ops at Mekonos. I’m Nupur Sinha. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m the Director of People Operations at Mekonos, a biotech startup building a solution that enables and accelerates precision medicine, synthetic biology and fundamental science.

Before Mekonos, I was an HR consultant, guiding clients in establishing or scaling HR in their organizations. During my career span, I have gained expertise in various aspects of HR and frequently liken my journey to a roller coaster ride!

During my downtime, I enjoy baking, reading, and going on road trips!

Ask me anything about employee recruitment and retention, compensation and benefits, project management, or anything else!

Thanks so much for joining us @nupursinha!Elphas – please ask @nupursinha your questions before Friday, June 30th. @nupursinha may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Nupur! it is wonderful to meet you and have you this week on our OH. Thank you for making the time! I am super curious to know how you personally ensure a culture of inclusion for other women on the team (not only to retain existing talent but also to hire new one) and what are your advice/recommendations to other leaders?
Hi @iynna! Wonderful to meet you as well, and thank you for having me here this week!This is such a great - and important - question! And honestly, I don't know if I have all the answers.I am a big believer in 'every small step in the right direction matters' rather than expecting perfection. As such, some of the things I try to demonstrate with my actions, not just for women, but any historically excluded group, are:(1) Making the space for different voices: Ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to speak, even if there are contradictory PoVs; respecting the space for those speaking, without interrupting and ensuring opinions aren't discounted due to biases.(2) Meeting people where they are: There's been a huge focus on work-life balance over the past couple years. Yet, what people forget is that different groups have different needs and have been differently impacted. Also, folks who identify with one group could have very different circumstances and understanding that intersectionality is critical. Since we're focusing on women here, I'll give an example of two mothers in the same team / organization, who had increased childbearing responsibilities during the first year of the pandemic. When the first return to office conversations started, one balked at the idea, the other jumped at the opportunity. On the surface however, the decision makers were looking at them as one entity, and hence would end up excluding at least one of them.(3) Not (always) taking feedback personally: I've been given contrary feedback on the same program or situation so many times! However, (a) if people are walking up to you and giving their feedback, accept it as a gift, then (b) choose what to do with that gift - open it immediately, store it in your cubby for later, pass it on immediately - all of those are actions. As hard as it is, the one thing I refuse to do, is believe its about me. I try my hardest to peel the layers to get to the core issue and only then, make a determination to move forward especially if there is a realization of an error. In doing this, I hope to lead by example.I'll also say we've been trying to include more platforms that provide us access to historically excluded groups - such as Elpha! Talent acquisition seems to be the most logical reason to do so, however, it has also expanded some learnings or given me ideas on how to approach a particular challenge. So my simple advice to others would be, always assume you can learn something, even by being a silent spectator!
Hey Nupur!Thanks for your time ! I have 2 questions. I currently work as an L&D program manager but have been really interested in landing a People Ops roles, any recommendations on where to start learning about trends in this space? Are there any open roles in the people ops space at your company?
Hey Nupur. Are y'all hiring?
Hi Nupur,As an HR, what are the best strategies for asking for better compensation at offer stage or salary raises at performance assessment stages .
Hi @priyankagagneja, thank you for your question!There are some similarities in how to approach compensation conversations at both these stages. The standard ones are:(1) Internal facing to you as a candidate / employee: Gather your information such as the organization's compensation philosophy, what is your own bottomline or non-negotiable?(2) What do you bring to the table: How your background and experience relate to what the organization needs. Data and quantification are your best tools here.(3) External facing for you: What is the organization's definition of 'market' and 'competition', what are the industry standards and trends,?Once you have all this, timing and context become different for each stage.For salary raises, either understand when the organization makes these decisions, so you can approach it in a timely manner with your managers and/or HR. If it isn't readily communicated anywhere, ask your manager in your 1:1s!For offers, there are differing views out there. The traditional view is to wait until the organization has expressed interest in you, but the more recent (and my) view is that it's too late at that point, and very rarely do things change. I believe the best time to have this conversation is in the first call with the organization. A lot of states already require that salary ranges be posted in job postings, so use this to your advantage if possible! The bottomline is to communicate your expectations clearly and articulately. If it does so happen that your expectations aren't in line with what the organization can offer, it's best for both parties to understand that from the outset.All of the above is more from the employee's perspective than HR (remember, HR folks are employees too!).From an HR perspective, I do encourage that folks understand their entire compensation package (including the intangible components) rather than focus on solely their base pay. There is again, no standard answer here, and everyone needs to make their own determination based on their situation and constraints. Maybe an organization's base pay is relatively low, but benefit plans are very generous or the base pay is really high but their culture is toxic. Which one would the candidate/employee choose? What is most important to them...and why? Understanding what your own needs are the first step in making this a successful process. Good luck!
Hey Nupur! What strategies or initiatives have you found most effective in fostering DEI within the workplace, particularly in the biotech industry? Curious to hear any insights you have on this! Also bonus question, what has been your favourite road trip so far?
Hi there! Thank you for the question.If I'm being honest, unfortunately, I don't think there is a good answer.There are some initiatives that work across industries - such as expanding the talent pool to specifically reach historically excluded communities. The reality is that there is a lot of the focus on hiring diverse talent since it looks great for quotas and metrics, but there is far lesser focus and action (if any at all), in making the workplace accessible, equitable and inclusive.The acronym I personally like to focus on is EBID: Equity, Belonging, Inclusiveness, and Diversity. If teams do the first three right, the last will happen over time.The other issue is the environmental context, which we have much less control over. DEI and TA teams seem to be disproportionately impacted by layoffs across industries. If the very people charged with bringing in and retaining the historically excluded, are being let go, I have very little confidence in organizations actually fostering DEI. Then there is the fact that new legislation is passing in different states preventing such initiatives in educational and governmental institutions. It seems it is a matter of time employers are required to comply as well, although I do hope I am found wrong on this one.Favorite road trip is the much easier question to answer! The very favorite will need to be Glacier National Park. We drove round-trip from California, perfect weather (except one really windy night we thought our tent would fly away with us in it!), saw a lot of wildlife, and great hikes!
Hi Nupur! My background is in operations leadership (Director of Operations, Managing Director of Operations, General Manager, etc). Amongst many responsibilities as an operations leader, I was also responsible for various HR tasks (hiring, onboarding, offboarding, HRIS management, HR policy/handbook updates and implementation, etc). My goal now is to transition into the People Ops in my next role and hopefully grow into a Dir. of People Ops like yourslef. Is there a way for me to do make this pivot without starting in an entry-level people ops role? I have 12 years of career experience, 7 of those years in Director-level roles. Also, as a new mom in a two-income household, in a perfect world I wouldn't want to take an entry-level paying job, but I'm willing to take a step back for the right fit to grow my career in the direction I want to grow it. I'm confident that my ops background and HR experience will be an asset in a people ops role, but I also have the humility to know I have a lot to learn that is specific to a people ops role. Do you have any tips on pivoting from ops leadership >> people ops? Is a certification the best route, or perhaps looking at smaller companies? Open to any advice :) Thanks!!
Hi @kellysnyder, and thank you for the question!First, congratulations on having accomplished so much!To answer your questions, I believe startups are likely going to be your best bet! It is so common to wear multiple hats in a startup, that your background is going to be your biggest advantage. My recommendation would be to look for two things when you're' searching (primarily based on your want to pivot, but club these with any non-negotiable baselines you may have as an individual as well):(1) What is the company signaling or proud of? Are they making bold statements but not backing up with specifics? Are they looking for people to conform to them or or they willing to be challenged? Are they focusing on internal growth or are most of their folks being hired externally?(2) Are they willing to have conversations about tenure of their team, how many internal movements have happened over the past few years (take market conditions for the specific industry into account here) and how they've dealt with requests for non-traditional paths of staffing a role.The more positive information you receive about these questions, the more likely you'll be able to make the pivot with them.Good luck and feel free to message me if you want to have a further conversation!
This is so helpful, thank you Nupur!!
Hi Nupur! I'm curious, what are the top 3 issues with retention and why? How big of an impact are these issues? Thanks for your time!
Hi @trishleung, and thank you for asking the million-dollar question!Much like the compensation philosophies question above, this can vary across organizations based on a number of factors. However, my take is that whatever the issue, it (usually) all boils down to one critical factor - communication.Let me elaborate.One of the most common 'issues' is compensation - I can't remember the last time someone said they were satisfied with their base pay. If one digs a little deeper, I've found it usually turns out to be more of a lack in communication (from the organization) or a lack of understanding (by the employee) about how their pay was arrived at, or a combination of both. Even a simple statement like 'we pay at-market' can be interpreted in so many ways, that is needs to be broken down.A couple other common issues such as these that come to mind, are inadequate management and a perceived lack of development opportunities.The impact of each of these can be wide-ranging, and increases with inadequate or incorrect communication. In the interest of simplification here, I would say the impact can also be boiled down to one category - engagement. We owe it to our teams to constantly communicate how they are performing, how they are being paid, where the challenges are, where improvements may need to be made, understand where they may need more support, etc.. At the end of the day, if they aren't satisfied with the organization's messaging, they can choose to walk away and that usually is the organization's loss, not the employee's.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thorough reply. It's super helpful!
Hi Nupur! I'm currently an HR Consultant looking to transition into the realm of "People Ops" roles. How much functional HR experience did you feel you needed prior to the transition, and did you pursue any certifications such as SHRM or PHR?
Hi @rachelreiss, thank you for the question!I didn't necessarily feel I need a certain amount of functional HR experience to transition into a People Ops role nor was I targeting just People Ops role. For me, it was more important to be in a role where I could still learn something, while leveraging my experience. My approach was to find roles which looked interesting, research the company a little more and if it piqued my interest enough, apply. If I was invited for an interview, I would draw parallels into approximately how much experience I had with specific requirements of the role, even if it was in a consulting capacity.Regarding certifications, I've had them for 10-11 years, so it wasn't to do with the transition one way or another. I don't believe having a certification or lack of one impacts the candidate's capabilities, and as long as you're able to communicate that, pursuing a certification should be your choice.
Hi Nupur! Thank you for your time. From your perspective and experience, how can a Project Manager best show their value and worth, especially when discussing and negotiating a raise? Being a team member that is seen as a "swiss army knife", a PM isn't always the most accounted for when it comes to increase in revenue because a good majority of their work goes on behind the scenes. I appreciate your help!
Hi @sarasoph! Thank you for your question!The best way would be to quantify your efforts. What I mean by that is to separate efforts from outcomes, and then quantify those outcomes. It's not about how many of your projects were successful and why, and more about where it led to a tangible outcome for the organization. So if I say I finished a project early, that is good to know. However, if I say I finished a project 4% ahead of schedule which led to a faster deployment of solution for the customer, which in turn led to a higher NPS score / expanded projects / more revenue by $/%, that is what will grab and hold people's attention, making it easier to make your case. In addition, utilize any market data you may have access to to help make your point as well, and be cognizant of the parameters you use to look this up (for example, if you work at a 10-person, Series B startup and use a Public company for comparison, its not an apples to apples comparison and will lead to a quicker turndown of your request). Some free and fairly decent places to get this information are Glassdoor and Levels.fyi.Another idea that I've often pushed my managers to think about is whether they understand what their team members are doing and how it relates to the team / company success? If not, it's a missed opportunity for everyone. If you have a manager invested in your success, ask them this question, and follow-up every few weeks to see if there is a different answer or a perspective has changed, so you can add it to your negotiating toolbox.Lastly, this applies to a lot more professions than we think! So lean on others in non-PM roles for ideas on how to approach the conversation as well!
Great to meet you, Nupur, and thanks so much for taking the time this week! How have you found compensation philosophies (including promotion cycles, merit-based bonuses, cost of living increases, etc.) differ among the different companies/clients you've worked with? Are there certain trends that are more common with certain organizations than with others?
Hi @MichelleFuentes, nice to meet you as well and thank you for your question!The quick answer is that is varies widely based on matrix of factors such as industry, company size, company stage, culture, future plans, location(s), and of course, financial considerations to name a few. There are a few trends that are easy to identify, while others take time to emerge. And to complicate it all, philosophies can (and frankly, should) change over the lifetime of an organization.Here are some of the most common trends:(1) Public & Non-profit sector: These organizations typically have rigid salary bands based on qualifications and job levels, and operate under budget constraints. Hence, they often have a conservative approach to compensation compared to the private & for-profit sector.(2) Startups: Have a higher or equal emphasis on stock options as part of the philosophy as a means to align individual interests with the company's anticipated success. Often, there isn't a very well defined compensation philosophy beyond this, although that is beginning to change for the better in recent years, with the focus on pay parity and transparency.(3) Established organizations: These tend to be similar to the non-profit and public sector in the sense of typically having established philosophies and approaches that are communicated and available to all. However, there is a lower emphasis on stock equity and a higher focus on variable pay based on performance across levels.As with everything, there are exceptions within these categories as well.
Love this break down! I feel like I've often seen it divided as non-profit and for-profit, but it's so important to remember that there's a lot of variability in the latter, like you explained with startups vs established companies! Definitely given me more to think about💡 Thanks so much!!
Hi Nupur! Thanks for your time! Are there any experiences or lessons learned from your HR consulting days that have had a significant impact on your approach to HR in your current role?
Hi, and thank you for the question!From my perspective, HR consulting is honestly not all that different from being in-house, except for the number of customers you have to cater to. Understanding the business, developing relationships across stakeholders, trying to analyze problems to customize solutions and/or drive change / improvement, measuring the impact of work and ensuring one stays current is the same in both cases.If anything, my consulting stint drove home the fact that the challenges are the same across different industries, and it just varies based on factors that are out of most people's control.
@nupursinha, thank you so much for your perspective. It is valuable to know the transferability of consulting skills to industry... same challenges, different players :)