Manraj has worked hard to discover what he wants - and that is reflected in his job satisfaction and wide range of responsibilities in both his personal and professional life.
He’s not just the EMEA Head of Finance & Transformation at Starbucks, but an avid volunteer on the front lines of humanitarian need and the Mayor of London’s Cultural Adviser.
“I didn't take the traditional route,” Manraj says, as rather than go straight into university, he took time to see the world.
He knew he wanted to work in finance when he returned, so that’s the career he pursued. After working in the Home Office and FCO as an analyst, he transitioned to FP&A and business partnering for large corporates such as EY. He then worked in an internal global transformation role for Ashurst, before moving into management consulting transformation for KPMG. After a short stint at Havas, he ended up at Starbucks.
Throughout this career, Manraj has developed a criteria of what he looks for when choosing a role.
That includes the ability to grow both personally and professionally and to move the business forward.
“All of these factors really culminate in my job satisfaction.”
Manraj also highly values a commitment to D&I (diversity and inclusion), as he is a long-term Cultural Adviser to the Mayor of London and has built a number of D&I networks during his career across organisations.
This is partly why he joined Starbucks, which he says “really has humanity at its core.”
He explained more about the culture there, including the way they avoid the ‘ivory tower issue’ of “advising how things should work on the ground, but not being close to the complexities”: all partners spend three days in store immersion being trained as a barista and serving customers.
This leads to “great latte art” in the office, but more importantly is part of the equality-driven culture at Starbucks: “we're not called employees, we’re partners, as we're all equal”.
There are a number of networks at Starbucks to celebrate background differences, for members to both connect with each other and educate the rest of the organisation.
“It's good business to be able to work together better and more effectively through greater understanding and collaboration.”
Along with D&I, Manraj also has an interest in transformation - but not everyone does. “You can't avoid transformation, change is inevitable,” he explains.
“It’s about having an eagerness to be part of the future.”
Manraj says it’s good to truly understand what a change involves, and how it could benefit you. He also believes the journey itself, as opposed to just the outcome, is important for individual growth.
“The journey of change helps individuals and the business understand where they want to go. You can take that transformation journey experience and apply it to creative problem solving for the business or for other problems that may arise. It's very valuable.”
You can have all the best tools in the world. But if people don't go for it, adopt it or understand it, then it won't work. That’s why Manraj believes community is a vital element to transformation.
“If you embed a new tool, there's a great opportunity to build a community around it.”
Manraj is also involved with a humanitarian aid disaster relief charity called Khalsa Aid, having improved their finance processes as well as being an advisor on innovation and scaling their back office capability to match their scale of global operations.
He’s also been on the front line for nine disaster relief missions, including the Haiti earthquakes, across Europe during the Syrian refugee crisis 2015 and spending time on the Iraq Syria border.
Manraj’s transformation experience was put to use when he was in a refugee camp in Iraq doing Eid clothes distribution for 2500 children.
“We were operating quite slowly, only distributing to 80 people in a day. Then we were going through 550 people.”
How did they do this? Manraj sat down in a camp with a laptop on the floor of a tent, built some code and improved logic for the process on an Excel spreadsheet.
“Community volunteering, D&I, professional skill sets, transformational finance - there’s intersections between them all”, he says.
"Nina Simone's 'I'm Feeling Good'."
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