Today, Laura Johnson is joined by Anthony Enright, Head of People (ANZ) at Klarna.
Anthony kick-started his career in recruitment straight out of University, where he studied HR and Marketing. Since then, he has used his resilience, logic and genuine interest in people to navigate his way through the business world. Describing the peaks and troughs he has endured in his career so far, Anthony is open about his journey to discovering where he excels most within the HR space.
Anthony’s first job was a six month gig at a boutique recruitment agency which he candidly admits was not a role that played to his strengths. Acknowledging that sales was not the direction he saw himself going in, he transitioned into what he called a “half HR role”. In this role he was primarily responsible for administrative tasks from payroll to negotiating with contractors. This led him onto his first full HR role where he stayed for three years before moving onto Ansarada.
“And that’s where I would say my career started to go a little bit more rapidly scaling in that context.”
Working for Ansarada for six years, Anthony credits this period for teaching him a lot, allowing him to figure himself out and critique himself. When asked for his greatest career advice, he reflects on the leadership programme at Ansarada, highlighting the importance of “touching someone’s heart before asking for a hand”. This human aspect runs as a motif throughout the conversation, epitomised by the fact that Anthony did a psychology degree. Essentially, he explains that he loves to get the best out of people.
“The more value you can produce for other people, the more valuable that you’ve become in general.”
When discussing the value of mentorships, Anthony explains that helping people early and often is one of the best things you can do. As a coach at the Startmate Fellowship programme, Anthony is well-versed in mentoring and helping people along their journey of career development. His advice is to accept that a cookie-cutter approach won’t always work.
“Everybody’s going to have things that make them tick, and things that are going to go against their personal values, and being very clear or being able to articulate them is going to be helpful.”
To hear more from Anthony, including the lessons he has learnt through trial and error, listen to the latest episode of Strivin and Thrivin now!
Laura: I’m your host, Laura Johnson. And today I’m lucky enough to be joined by Anthony Enright.
To get us started. Can you tell us a little bit about your career background and your current role?
Anthony: My career has stemmed from cracking on with recruitment very early stage, straight out of uni. Like all good HR people should. So they say, and I did that for about six months, actually in, was working for a boutique recruitment agency and was horrible at it. I lasted six months. I thought it’s, and I’ll never forget the time when I got in the room with the director at the time, his name’s Simon, I still keep in touch with him to this day, that pulled me into a room and asked me how it’s going. And by the end of it thought, actually, it doesn’t feel like it’s gone that well. What do you think? And so actually maybe we should call it a day… So, I did that. That was with the intent of getting into HR though. And so I did an HR degree and I thought recruitment would be a really nice avenue to it.
And to be honest at the time, but it was mid GFC. So there wasn’t a whole lot of roles out there, but what it led me to was going to another recruitment agency at Pegasus, and that was in a contract or operations type role, more of an administration payroll, handle of the hundreds of contractors at their disposal, working for all their clients, and renew and negotiate on their behalf and all the rest of it. I would describe it as like a half HR role. And then that led me to like my full, fully fledged role in HR at InterSystems. That was a tech company in health tech headquartered out of Boston. So great spot because it meant I got an international exposure, and it was all around the world. I did that for about three years, was looking after from an HR point of view, Australia, Thailand, China, and Middle East at the time, and had a lot of fun doing that.
I ended up doing it for about three years, and then just felt a little bit stuck and stagnated, and probably missed out on an opportunity at the time. But that’s what sent me over to a place called Ansarada. And that’s where I would say my career started to go a little bit more rapidly scaling in that context, cause Ansarada was about 50 people at the time. I was the second HR person on the grounds and we were scaling that scene quite quickly across Australia, Europe and the Americas, which gave me a lot of exposure. Did that for six years stint actually. And I got a lot of experience out of that, taught me a lot of things that I imagine we’ll talk about in a minute, but once I felt like I had done everything I could there, I moved across to Kleiner and that’s where I’ve been for the last 11 months.
I’m in a hybrid role. I’m Head of People from an APAC point of view or an agency point of view at the moment, and that’s been fun. We started at about the employee number 25 here in this region. And we’re up to about 17 in the last 10 or 11 months. So it’s been a really fun ride and it started off with very rural greenfields, not a lot going on, and I’ve been really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve so far. The other part of my role is, as Kleiner is expanding into other markets, I’m part of a SWAT team that helps that market grow from the very early stages of the business setup to, okay, how do we scale this team? Figure out the business objectives and how do we put in place a great people, people strategy in place so that we can help that team grow to wherever the desired growth is.
So, that’s where I’m at. I’ve got a business on the side that I co-founded with a friend of mine and somebody who I’ve worked with at Ansarada. That was about a year ago when we started that. And that’s been chugging along nicely and starting to get some traction, that’s in the branded merchandise space. And the other part is just a little bit about me. I’ve got a kid, her name is Charlotte, she’s one and a half thereabouts. I’ve got a wife about five years, and we’re building our little family as we go. So yeah, that’s a bit about me and where I’m at at the moment.
Laura: Nice and new house in a few months, right?
Anthony: New house. It’s a, we bit the bullet, we’ve been looking for years and we finally said enough is enough. I lie, we just got lucky. So, got lucky and kind of, yeah, enough was enough. So, we are moving in about six weeks time, we’re really looking forward to it.
Laura: That’s super exciting. Going back to, why did you study HR at uni? What made you want to do that?
Anthony: At the time, I’m quite logical with my thought and like a little bit intentional, more intentional than that average bear. So, I did quite well in business studies at school, at high school. And I also loved the concept of marketing and did quite well in that space as well. So, recruitment and marketing were two big things for me going through year 11 and 12, aside from wanting to be a firefighter, but maybe leave that story for another time.
And I’ve got an opportunity to go do a Business and Commerce degree, did it as a double major in HR and marketing and thought, I’ll give myself the option of either one of them by the end of it, depending on which ones I like or which ones I’m better at. And I ended up going down the HR route mainly because of the recruitment element and the idea of being able to find people their dream jobs, and help them succeed in life, and their career in general.
And I thought, actually, that’s the right avenue to choose from the outset. I also, maybe this is a little bit not lucky, but maybe it was a little bit forced upon me, but the marketing internships that I sort of dabbled in after the degree were, funnily enough, all about not a lot of like a strategic chunky work, it was more okay, go and pack these boxes, go and we’ve got this campaign, we’ve got this event coming up and we’ve got to pull together all these packs. And I found myself just inundated in, oh my God, like hundreds of packs, that I’m literally is this what I want to be doing as a market CA and I just thought the HR route from that as well.
Laura: I get that.
Anthony: And funnily enough, I’m now currently co-founded the business in the space of getting together.
Laura: You’re back packing boxes. I love that.
Anthony: Yeah. Full circle, that one.
Laura: Right. But I guess then, all right you didn’t have a great experience in marketing internships, but it also doesn’t sound like your first job in recruitment was exactly like, “Oh, I found my fit. This is it”. So what made you kind of, if the first one didn’t turn out, what made you want to go at it again?
Anthony: I think, one, I was very raw, straight out of uni and I feel like it was more of a sales gig than it was an actual HR gig. Not a reflection of the agency that I was working at, but more of a reflection of the industry I’d say. And what I found myself in was having lots of great conversations with business owners and I.T. I was doing health help desk and desktop support at the time. I found myself in great conversations with people, and simply not able to either get the job on, and not able to then go and do the crazy work in the background to find the right candidate for it.
So, at the time I would, on reflecting, I would say it was quite raw. I didn’t really know what agency recruitment was like in the backgrounds. Since then, I do recruitment as part of my job, not my full job, but I appreciate what recruiters do because I wouldn’t be able to do it day in, day out. And I would say that not being able to speak with conviction at the time when I was at Precision Sourcing, to my background experience and being able to speak to that level of credibility, I think didn’t do me very good justice.
And I actually remember having a conversation with Jane, at the time, I was working with her and she was a little bit more experienced than I was. She said Anthony you’d be way better in an internal HR gig. Then, obviously she could see the pain in my eye as I was going about my day to day. So anyway, that’s what led me into the HR route after doing recruitment agency for about six months. And I was still quite passionate about it, because I knew that there was a space for me in HR and recruitment. It just wasn’t from an agency side.
Laura: Makes sense. I guess, so from an HR and your job now, like what do you think is the best bit about HR or what makes you want to stay in that space?
Anthony: Well, a couple of things I’d say, one is, I love just solving problems, but I don’t necessarily want to limit that or scope it to people problems. But the reality is that a business in itself is just a series of ongoing problems and decisions that it needs to make. And once a business gets a certain size, the problems don’t just become about customers and products, it becomes about how people are working with each other. And I’ve always had a really strong belief that it’s, for me, HR is less about the, it’s less about it’s. This is just as important from a vibe, from an experience point of view, from fancy fun things, engagement in general, are all really important aspects to it. But what specifically draws me to it is how do we solve problems in a way that helps people succeed and helps bring the best out, and amplify their experiences.
Because the more that we can be doing that, the faster that the business will go and the smarter its decisions will be, because the people are making it with that in mind. So, that’s what draws me to it and excites me about it. And like I said, a lot of the time for me, that’s about who are we hiring? Why are we hiring that skill set expertise and how do we fit them in the business and help them leverage all the great things in the business to be able to do what they do best? But sometimes it goes outside of that. And I’ve been an HR business partner for many years in sales and go to market teams. And sometimes it’s skirts on the border of actually we’ve got customer problems, and how do we solve it through our people? And that means I get to play in that space of problem solving as well.
And anyway, it’s just very broad and I like the generalist aspect of what I do. I have had some thoughts in the past. I did a psychology degree because I thought I’ll get deep into the world of psychology, become an organisational psychologist. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the TV series Billions, but Wendy on that, she’s like a performance coach. And I thought actually that like, maybe it’s a made up thing in businesses or maybe there’s actual roles like that, that exists that like literally speak to people every day and figure out how to get the best out of them. And I thought, actually, I’m really, I’d be really passionate about doing that. And so I went down that route and I still feel like I do that with business leaders at the moment, but I don’t have a fancy towards any very specific part of HR yet, which means that I like being there generalist in that space. Anyway, that’s what stays, that’s what keeps me there.
Laura: I love that. It’s a great summary. And then I guess just like going back to lessons learned, because you said sort of, Ansarada had a huge growth when you were there, obviously going from second person in and then massively growing the team. And what do you think have been the biggest lessons that you’ve learnt along the way?
Anthony: That’s a great question. I think if I go back to that recruitment experience, and I go back to some of the conversations I have with people along the way, if you’re sticking around in a job or in an environment that isn’t bringing the best out of you, and isn’t amplifying your experience, and maybe this has to do with your strengths, maybe this has to do with your ambition, combination of… Is that, don’t actually stick around. Is that find something that you’re really good at and do it really well and people will see value in that. So, that’s probably one of the biggest lessons that I learnt early on, is that be, like, for me personally, be very comfortable with the fact that I don’t have that sales skill and element to it. And as much as I try to do that, I will only ever be probably average on this, I really go double down on it.
So, find the things that I’m really good at, and be conscious of it, and be reflective of it. And for me, I think that’s helped me find sweet spots in businesses, but it’s also helped me stay in lanes that helped me let other people work to their best. And so that’s been fun. The other one for me is the Ansarada, in particular, that had like a whirlwind effect, because in the six years I was there, I got to do things from Greenfields, like build learning and development strategy, build performance measurement frameworks, build teams, specifically.
And how do we design teams and figure out where, what roles or what new roles that we need, build out compensation benefits frameworks. So really the full kit, leadership development and training was a big one. And what I found was that being part of a business that’s introducing, and being part of the introduction of those things, and then a year or two later, not being afraid to rip it apart and pull it back together, in a way that makes sense for the new size and the new ambition for the business, is something that I would also lean on, is that you create something, it might only be relevant for six, 12 months.
If your business is scaling very quickly, is that yes, of course, you’re going to have, to have some foresight into, well, what will the business need in 12 months time, but also the balance between making it practical and usable now. So, there are a couple of things that come to mind immediately.
Laura: I think that was the joy of working in start-up. If you’ve got that mentality, right? Because I think it’s that you need to do something now, but you know, whatever you’re building now, probably isn’t going to be relevant in 12 months, because you’re growing so fast, and you have to be okay with it. And I think like for me, anyway, it took a little bit of time to get your head around that.
Because you put your heart and soul into something and you know, in 12 months time you’re going to completely outgrown it. But I think that mentality once you get used to is actually a really healthy thing, because you get to do these really amazing things, but then you get to look back at it and be like, okay, well that piece of work then meant we could do this piece. And it’s just like, I think it’s a different way of looking at things.
Anthony: Yeah. I agree. It’s one of those things when like, when you’re recruiting, especially it’s, you kind of look for people with certain years of experience or whatever. And I don’t really think of it as years of experience. I’ve kind of looked at it as how many cycles have you been through of that business’s growth. How many times have you seen whatever you delivered come to fruition and start producing results? And then how many times have you looked back on that, reflected on that, learnt, and then pulled it apart and put it back together, in a way better than what it was.
And there’s some beauty in that, you don’t need it all the time for every piece of work that you’re doing, but, and people are going to start somewhere. But I was lucky at Ansarada where we went through enough peaks and troughs to figure out actually there’s some beauty and me being able to pick apart my own work that I did, as opposed to somebody else’s that I need to tiptoe around as well. Which was helpful, it’s like when your critiquing your own work, I felt, I find it much easier than trying to figure out a way of critiquing someone’s else’s work without offending someone, but maybe that’s for another conversation too.
Laura: Okay, and then I guess as well say, they’re your lessons? Like what about like best and worst career advice you’ve had along the way?
Anthony: The best career advice probably comes more from the leadership program and leadership work that we did at Ansarada. And the reason why I say that is because we had quite a specific program in place. It was the first time I’d been through a program like that and really focused on developing myself from that perspective. And some of the advice that came through just resonated very strongly with me. So the idea of touching someone’s heart before asking for hands, and the concept of building trust and relationship, and nurturing that can take you places, and make life much easier for yourself.
The other specific servant based leadership and thinking in the context of the more value you can produce for other people, just the more valuable that you’ve become in general. And if that’s appreciated immediately or appreciated down the track, regardless of how they’ve, whatever they’ve interpreted that you’ve done, that you can know in your heart, that you’ve done things that are the right things to help other people along their journey as well. That in particular, has been impactful to me. The other aspects are from a career perspective, I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of years, because I’ve been much more proactive in trying to help other people. And before probably a couple of years ago, I would have said, “Oh, I’m not in a position to help people. I’m still leaning on a lot of other people to help me grow right now”.
But the whole concept of being able to pass that on to other people, you only actually have to know a little bit more about a particular subject than the other person to be able to help them. And that resonates with me strongly. So, being able to do that and doing it earlier and often is quite satisfying from a career point of view, knowing that you’re not just building yourself up, that you’re building a network of people around you. So, there are a couple, the other main one for me though, probably the biggest one is that, surround yourself with a group of people that you can lean on depending on the situation that you’re in. And that’s probably had the biggest impact on my career so far.
I’ve been quite intentional about building a network of probably four to five people at a time. And there’d been different people that are revolved through, but I’ve always had somebody on call to encourage me if I need it. I’ve had somebody on call to tell me that I’m being an absolute idiot on something and call me out on my bullshit. And then somebody who knows more about something than I do and that I can lean on if I just need little bit of inspiration for something. And then the other one, for me, there’s a few people that I lean on for this. And that’s people who can tell you something that you already know, but it’s just helpful to have that reassurance.
Anthony: And no matter how skilled you are, no matter how much experience that you’ve got, the added confidence that that can give you, or it gives me in general is really powerful. Helps me do things way faster, and not procrastinate, and be way more confident in my decisions. So there are a couple of absolute gems. To be honest, I haven’t really received that much bad career advice. I’ve not really come across somebody who, like, I’ve been really lucky in that way. I’ve not really come across somebody who doesn’t have my best interests at heart.
Maybe if I was to reflect on it a little bit more deeply, I’d say anyone who’s ever portrayed to me that I’ll actually slow down a little bit. You’re gone fast enough. You could be more conservative than what you’re being. I would say, actually, let people go as fast or as quickly as they possibly can. Don’t hold anybody back and don’t tell people that they can’t do things, because that’s just a projection of that other person’s perception onto another person that might limit their career in a bad way.
So, let people go as fast and as quickly as possible, let them make mistakes and the more autonomy and options that you can give to people during their career, the more that they can take ownership over it and feel more comfortable with it, whether they succeed or not. Because it’s been their decision, and they can’t blame anyone else for it. So, that’s probably just a piece that I’d reflect on.
Laura: I love that. That’s awesome advice. I guess, just digging into, I know you do quite a lot, you spend quite a lot of time mentoring people. In terms of like getting the most out of your mentor relationships. What do you think is the best way to do or what’s the best way for someone to prepare for a mentor session?
Anthony: Yeah, there’s two main things. Actually I’m part of the stop mate coaching, and I’ve been doing three, I’ve done three rounds of that. And the individuals that I’ve coached along the way have all been quite different. And from a mentor perspective or from a coach perspective, I would say. No, sorry, from a mentor perspective, I would say don’t presume to know the person, and what they actually need, and what you think they might need.
Probably goes back to my comment before of that person has their own experience in life. They’ve got their goals and ambitions, and they’ve got how they’ve developed along the way, is that they, there’s probably not. There’s going to be some cookie cutter approach that you can take, but be very open to listening to another person, and what their view of the world is so that you can just incorporate that into your own.
I would say that for anybody though, from the cookie cutter perspective, is that have a think, have a deep think, about what you value and what’s personally going to make you happy. And it sounds really generic, but everybody’s going to have things that make them tick, and things that are going to go against their personal values, and being very clear or being able to articulate them is going to be helpful, going into any conversation about, with somebody else about your career, and where you want to go. So, that can help.
The other one is that, don’t get so caught up into the end game. And that’s something that somebody, or actually a couple of times I’ve come across it is that I want to be here and I want to be here by this date. And I’m just going to be really urgent about getting there and probably going into more, what can you consciously do along the way that might get you there?
And if you get there, then that’s great. But if you don’t, then what it means is that you’ve done everything in your power to give it your best crack. If you don’t get it, it might be a reflection of a broken system or a broken process rather than you yourself. And I feel like that can be quite powerful when keeping people’s chin up.
Laura: I love that. I think that’s really awesome advice. Just looking at time, I’m going to ask you one last question and I’ll let you go. In terms of advice, who would you like to hear from on this Strivin & Thrivin podcast?
Anthony: Actually, one of the people that I have as one of the speed dial, and his name’s Will Block. I’m not sure if you’ve hit him up yet.
Laura: I haven’t.
Anthony: Very thoughtful person, very considered, not necessarily for me, because I hear from him every now and then, but I feel like he would bring a nice, just some really good general advice. So anyway, Will Block, I’d say.
Anthony: Big fan.