Sharif-Paul Hamuda, 29, from Hunton Bridge, near Watford, is a new Site Director for three call centre operations for outsourced customer relations firm Sitel in Watford, Hemel Hempstead, and Bletchley, Northants. He manages 350 people, in the past having even managed some of his previous bosses.
When Sharif-Paul Hamuda left University, his dream was to go into the entertainment business – 10 years on, he has ended up in a different career with unexpected benefits, but not quite in the way he had expected.
“After graduation, I took a job I thought would last a few months in a call centre operated by a company called Sitel which is hired by other companies to run their customer service functions.”
“Like many of my friends from this area, I’d worked with Sitel before to earn a bit of money straight after Sixth Form before I studied at London Metropolitan University in 2000. I did a music production course as that’s what I wanted to do at the time. I had my own event organisation and promotion business while I was at University – essentially working as a DJ in the evenings.”
But Mr Hamuda’s experiences in his “stopgap” job at Sitel surprised him. “We took calls from clients booking their holidays. I realised that the work I was doing with some of our very well-known client’s outsourced call centre team was part of the entertainment business.”
Mr Hamuda was soon promoted to the back office function of twoprominent onsite solutions teams in the Watford site office, handling customer complaints as part of the Guest Care Team. In contrast to the negative public image of such roles, he thrived in his new role.
“I realised that it’s quite a challenge to deal with people who are upset and turn around the call from a negative to a positive. It’s a buzzactually to leave people happy by exercising your persuasion skills. It’s a different skill to DJing obviously, but handling a call in a professional and skilful way is another way to put a smile on people’s faces and it’s no less effective than being a good entertainer.”
Mr Hamuda was promoted to Team Manager on both onsite accounts within 18 months and in 2003, he was shortlisted for a Sitel UK and Ireland Achiever Award.
“Awards and honours are a key part of what we do at Sitel,” Mr Hamuda says. “The people in this industry have to stay very motivated every minute – there’s no downtime. We are more measured and analysed than practically any other industry because we have to prove to our clients that we can do the job more efficiently and skilfully than they can do it themselves, so a good employer will spend a lot of time ensuring their staff are happy and rewarded for good work. It will be noticed! I have been on the other side of the fence as one of the troops so I understand that as a manager.
“For me, outsourced call centre work as a career gets a bad press – how many people can say their boss notices their good work on a daily basis or even knows what they are doing half the time? We monitor and measure our people constantly to achieve our KPIs – Key Performance Indicators.”
Mr Hamuda’s next job within Sitel saw him promoted to his first analyst role, and getting intimately involved with analysis of KPIs as a Project Analyst with a key recreation business at Sitel’s Kingston-Upon-Thames site.
The next promotion came within a year, as Operations Manager on blue chip accounts. Two years later, in February 2008, Mr Hamuda was promoted again to Senior Operations Manager looking after the entire Watford site while he was mentored by his boss to become Site Director there. This most recent promotion came this summer (2010).
“KPIs sound dry, but they really drive me. It’s the attention to detail thing I think – it’s a bit like being in music production, where I worked with a software system called Cubase: imagine a screen with lots of different lines with lots of types of beats and samples on it. Instead of the sounds, I now work with data in complex multiple lines of spreadsheets. I have to analyse that data such as call arrival patterns, scheduling and shifts – just like
I used to assess and organise the sounds.”
“Then there’s the fun bit – creatively coming up with ways to make the data better by moving the information around – just like you create a track on Cubase.”
“For me, this job is even more challenging and creative than music production because I work with people to help make their jobs more efficient; and deliver the best possible service to our clients and their customers.”
“That involves persuasion and knowledge of the job of course – and people skills. I worked at every level of the company now, and it’s a good feeling that I know my work inside out and back to front. All in all, I think we have a pretty harmonic company!”
So what next for a man who hasworked his way up in 10 years from taking calls to managing 350 people on several blue chip client accounts worth millions?
“This role will last for some time,” says Mr Hamuda. “The next step
I imagine will involve some sort of regional role. I am quite ambitious so I would hope to continue moving up the ranks.”