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Career Skills & Transitions with James Humpherson, General Manager at Humanitix

career skills & transitions



What's your career story been so far?


James Humpherson: So that's a bloody good question. Career journey so far. I studied finance and economics at UNSW. And the reasons why I studied finance and economics was effectively, I thought I could learn how to build a business and invest my money by studying both of those things.

And the reality is actually you learn none of those things while really studying those. I then, I finished, wrapped up and ended up working for a really small retail FX firm. I was a market analyst and I was advising clients on the retail side on trading, like leveraged financial products or currencies, commodities, indices, and was pretty jaded by that experience.

So I quit. Broke up with my girlfriend, kind of threw, threw it all up into the air and then backpacked a ton and then came back and actually found Humanitix early days. So that was back in the start of 2017. So since then just been on the Humanitix train yeah, kind of working my way up through the organization.



What ingredients, sort of skills or maybe qualities or mindsets that you brought, do you think made you successful?


James Humpherson: I think I always thought that I could mess up my entire life and just try a bunch of different stuff until I was 30, and I could then always just go back and try and work a random corporate job using my degrees and then just build a financial base and kind of truly kickstart my life.

And so I think I've always had an attitude or an aptitude for risk and I'm also hyper competitive. So always wanted to be like the hardest worker in the room. And I think that was kind of facilitated in the early days through sports, but then transitioned through into academics and then the other aspects of life.

And so, yeah, I think particularly on that journey through backpacking through South America for six months, you get quite humbled. Yeah, a lot of self reflection and you also just recognize how little that you do know; then come in from a place of humility and an eagerness to then learn and absorb as much as possible, but you know, really put your money where your mouth is in terms of working hard.


Harry Hamilton: Yeah, I I know you're one of the hardest workers in the room, that's for sure. The next thing I want to jump into is I know you've sort of had a few interesting transitions. You mentioned a few of them there...


What's been your biggest career transition and what helped you through?


James Humpherson: the biggest career transition would have just been that initial role that I was working in FX and finance and then transitioning into the Tech social enterprise space, which I don't actually think is a space. I think it's just Humanitix at the moment, that's a tech social enterprise.

But yeah, I know I only had one friend that had some exposure to the startup space. And he was also quite interested in social enterprise models, and he actually gifted me Chapter One, which is a book written by Daniel Flynn, Founder of Thank You. It was really like those conversations and constant check ins, which made me feel and reflect like I wasn't crazy for wanting to actually search for something outside of a traditional career path and vocation. And so, those conversations then opened up my network, I started learning more about the space and meeting with others that were setting up startups or scale ups.

And it's slowly that exposure kind of allowed me to, I guess, start to refine what it was that I was actually seeking.


Harry Hamilton: Nice. You mentioned learning there, I'm going to make the guess that you've had to do quite a lot of learning and probably unlearning as you've taken those different roles.


What is your approach to learning new skills at work?


James Humpherson: I think I've gotten smarter as the years have gone on. I think at the beginning, just like a ton of trial and error. And then having that, you know, the constant feedback loop of giving something a crack and not working, reflecting, and then iterating and then giving it another shot.

I think now, I just think I lean on resources. Right. So I try and find people that have done It. Either exactly what you're trying to learn, or close to, and then building the framework or the roadmap around that. Because, I mean, a blank canvas,


it's incredibly hard to paint a masterpiece when you've given a blank canvas, but if you've given a rough outline, that's a hell of a lot easier.


Harry Hamilton: completely agree. I think it's such a superpower or such a hack to just be good at finding people who have done similar things before and just go and speak to them and get 30 minutes of their time. It's incredible.


James Humpherson100%. Yeah.


Harry Hamilton: For anyone who's not done that before, what is your approach?

Do you just cold message people? Do you try and look for a friend and make a connection? How do you make that happen?


James Humpherson: All of the above, right? Like if you, if you're early on in a new career, like, I leveraged relationships that my dad had, given his professional network, similarly, mutual friends, like friends of siblings that then have random connections.

Also just LinkedIn, if you have a good enough reason to be reaching out and you're asking questions that are also perhaps like, only that individual could answer and you couldn't just do your own Google search for it, I think those kind of like interesting questions, people will give you the time of day to either catch up via Google Meet or a Zoom or even a quick coffee in person if you're in the area.


Harry Hamilton: Yeah, I've always found that it's sort of always genuinely surprising how much people want to help you if you just ask.


James Humpherson: absolutely.


Harry Hamilton: If we go a little bit broader here, if you reflect back over the last couple of years,


What's the best piece of advice, career advice, life advice you've received?


James Humpherson: I've had incredible exposure to some pretty incredible people. Josh and Adam are my two co founders and I've been working with them for almost seven years now. I think one of the things that the skill set that's required within, I guess, an early stage startup is very different to a scale up or an established organization or business.

And I think to begin with, when I first started on the Humanitix journey. Feeling like you had to like wait to be given permission to do something. And what they instilled within me is like, there's like a Yiddish word called chutzpah, which is like being like audacious and just like being unapologetically brave and bold and just going for the ask.

And so I think given that there is such an impactful mission behind Humanitix,


you should never be afraid to go in for the ask. I think that's been like really cultivated in me to actually create the opportunities going for the ask.


And then that's just  led to so many what you would perceive to be like moonshots, but actually like far more of them actually pay off than than your initial perception on how leveraged that opportunity is. The payoffs are really incredible.


Harry Hamilton: My follow up question, I suspect you might've just touched on it, but

Is there something you wish you knew when you were first starting out that you've since learned?


James Humpherson: Yeah, I think, you don't know what you don't know, right?

So when I was early days in my career, my exposure to the startup space or the tech space was just really non existent, although you'd heard whispers and you've listened to a few podcasts, you know, that seems like fundamentally pretty cool. So I think. Yeah, having a better awareness of there are so many alternate career paths outside of heading into investment banking or consulting or becoming a lawyer or a doctor or heading into marketing, like there's so many other ways that you can truly be successful, but finding obviously what works for you and what's aligned with value system and what's driving you. So I think like having, I guess like more advice that like,


yep, you're on the right path, just keep seeking and trying different things until you refine what it is that you're actually looking for.


Harry Hamilton: Completely, completely agree. All right.

That's a pretty awesome note to end us on, but I'm going to ask just one more question. You mentioned podcasts there.


Are there any podcasts, books, articles, resources, people that you just constantly come back to or would recommend to everyone to check out?


James Humpherson: Yeah, I mean, tons. I think the one podcast that I've been listening to since I was like, I mean, I bought the four hour work week when I was like 18 years old and I was like, wow, how incredible would it be if I only had to work four hours a week and that's not the actual premise of the book but Tim Ferriss's content is incredibly varied and I think a lot of the content that he touches on, it comes down to, like lifestyle design, like what is the actual life you want to be building? And I think although it's not specifically career oriented, it kind of feeds into the same thing.

And so I think listening to his podcast specifically has given me access to other really beautiful and incredible minds that are dealing with significant problems and solving those problems and, trying to build lives of purpose and meaning and all that kind of cool stuff.

So I think that's been the honeypot for me in terms of being able to expand out your skill set and your learnings as well. 


Harry Hamilton: Amazing. I'm totally there with you with Tim Ferriss. James, this has been awesome. Thank you so much, man. I really, really appreciate it. 


James Humpherson: Hey, my pleasure, matey.



This interview transcript has been edited for length and clarity.



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