Next up in our spotlight series is Hale Ahangi, People Operations Lead! A cornerstone to our People team, Hale shares why making employees feel welcome, safe, and worthy is key to her work here at Pinwheel.
What is your job title?
People Operations Lead
What are some of your key objectives right now?
Pinwheel is in a critical phase where we are executing on very ambitious goals and our team has to grow quickly. The People team is preparing for the growth by making sure our foundations of People processes are strong. This results in three main objectives:
- Investing in supporting our managers: We know that one of the most critical relationships people have at work is with their managers. We want to make sure that with our expected growth, our managers feel confident to drive highly engaged and performing teams.
- Defining career development at Pinwheel: We know that career development means something different to everyone, and we’re enabling each unique path. Our goal is to ensure the team feels like they are continuously growing and are able to make the impact they’re seeking in their role.
- Improving the Pinwheelie experience: By addressing the entire employee lifecycle, we’re thinking about how we can support the org with everything from onboarding, feedback and recognition, as well as building a culture deeply intentional about equity and inclusion.
What drew you to your field?
For me, it’s been about wanting to reinvent workplaces and applying my creativity to solve interesting problems. But the reason this matters to me is largely due to my family and their experiences.
Growing up in Sweden within an Iranian household and then moving to the US, I was pushed to think a lot about how different people have entirely different experiences in their lives and workplaces depending on who they are and what they look like. When we moved to California, my now second-time immigrant parents worked multiple shifts and jobs to make ends meet — and oftentimes I went with them to work. It was hard not to see my parents at home. But when I did, they were incredibly exhausted, defeated, and always second guessing their skill sets and whether they belonged. I witnessed a lot of unhealthy, unsafe, and unfair workplaces condoning predatory and discriminatory situations. Those were the toughest and seemingly never ending years for all of us. At the time, I didn’t know how to help them except by translating the little English I knew.
Outside my family I encountered business owners and managers who were simply overwhelmed, in need of core skills and, most importantly, processes to boost their confidence in making equitable decisions. While I didn’t realize it at the time, when I was twelve I wrote my first employee handbook for a family business — that’s when I realized something could be done to help. Anyone who is in People Operations knows that the field is not particularly glamorous, but the common thread is that we like to solve puzzles and are incredibly invested in building better workplaces.
What have been your favorite things about working at a startup?
I love the opportunity to reinvent and be creatively challenged. What works at one org may not work in the other depending on leadership philosophies, business contexts, the team, and their core aspirations. It’s amazing to see companies and teams develop and to be part of everyone's growth journey.
What sets Pinwheel apart from other places you've worked?
There are three factors that come to mind:
- We fully believe in our product and it moves us. It’s invaluable to be building a product that is bigger than ourselves, and our mission is rooted in a genuine feeling to embody the change that we want to see in the world.
- We’re bold and courageous. There’s a lot moving against us in pursuing our mission, but when we’re met with challenges we sprint towards it faster. I love our core value of “don’t limbo, hurdle”— it describes this identity really well.
- Team-first mentality. When we come across fun puzzles to solve, our response is to become one unit and the force behind us is absolutely electrifying. We're kind, heart-forward, supportive of each other, and committed to moving towards the journey ahead of us as a team. And we have a ton of fun!
What's the most gratifying part of your job?
It’s really amazing to watch people master their developmental goals.
What do you like to do when you aren't working?
So many things! I love illustrating, going on nature walks, calling my family, hosting friends and family, dancing, listening to music, biking, watching films, and playing games.
Favorite Slack channel?
I promise she has nothing to do with this — and she would probably be embarrassed that I’ve chosen this at all — but my favorite channel is my DM with my manager Tess Bloch! It’s a really nice space where we support each other, talk about new ideas, share photos, and laugh a lot. I feel grateful to have a partner that I connect with so well and with so much openness. And seriously — I find her absolutely hilarious!