I’ve been in the recruiting industry for almost a decade now, which is hard to believe. I just started a new gig with a conversational AI startup called Aktify, and I’m really excited about the company, the product, and the people! My title is Talent Acquisition Manager, but right now I’m focused on hiring and building out the software engineering, data science, and product teams!
How big is it?
Right now, it’s just me handling recruiting. Once we go through our Series A funding in early 2022, I will likely be hiring a couple recruiters and a coordinator. Before Aktify, I was managing a team of three recruiters and a coordinator and it truly was the “dream team” (I miss you every day, Michael Coleman, Jared Bracken, Afton Despain, and Alana Palau.)
Where are your teammates located?
Currently, we are mostly split between Utah, Washington, and California (though we do have a few fully remote employees in other locations across the US). In my previous role, we were all located in Utah, but we were operating almost entirely remotely during the pandemic.
What does your team do? What are you responsible for?
We’re responsible for attracting and hiring talent for all departments within the organization - software engineering, finance, sales, professional services, marketing, people operations... everything!
Trust! Hands down...
Ultimately, trust comes down to accountability and accessibility. We have to be able to trust that each other is doing what it takes to get the job done, and we have to be able to trust that we’re going to be able to get a hold of each other if/when we need to.
There has to be an open and honest team culture, where everyone feels safe expressing how they’re feeling and when they need help. These past couple years have been rough for everyone. We’ve all experienced ups and downs, so we need to be honest with each other so we know how to best support each other.
Strong remote cultures are built on strong connections.
Strong connections are built with Hailey.
If you genuinely care about the people on your team, this should come pretty naturally.
Quick and efficient daily standups can be a really useful tool. I like to handle standups like scrum meetings, where we all go around and say what we did yesterday, what we’re planning on doing today, and what impediments we have. Once a week, we do a deep dive and go through what we’re working on more thoroughly. It’s a great way for everyone to know what each other is working on and learn from each others’ experiences.
Regular one on ones are important, so you know where your employees are with their work and what they might need help with. I like to start my one on ones by asking what they need. It’s a good time to ask what your employee likes about their job and what they might be frustrated with. This also allows time for you to talk about their career growth to make sure you are helping guide them down the right path and giving them opportunities accordingly.
I try really hard to check in with everyone at least once per day, even if it’s just sending a silly meme so they know I’m thinking of them. If you treat your employees like your friends, or even better - if your employees are your friends - they will let you know how happy and engaged they are.
We have to be able to trust that each other is doing what it takes to get the job done, and we have to be able to trust that we’re going to be able to get a hold of each other if/when we need to.
It’s so much harder to tell what everyone is working on and how everyone is doing when we’re remote. You miss out on a lot when you don’t get the small talk and silliness of in-office work life. You don’t get to find out what their weekend plans are during your walks to the break room. You can’t see each other’s faces or gauge their stress/burnout as easily. It’s not as easy to tell if they’re underworking or overworking. You have to put in more effort to get to know new employees and build that trust.
Simply put, it takes more work to build and maintain relationships at work when the entire team is remote.
We did a team scrum-style standup every single morning. It was a great way to align as a team, set expectations, and talk about anything we were struggling with. We legitimately missed seeing each other in person everyday, so it was a good excuse to just hang out as friends and get stoked for the day! We also met up outside of work occasionally, either at a restaurant with outdoor seating or a park.
We liked to go around and say our “highs and lows” of the week on Fridays, which was a great way to wrap up the week. We also played “We’re Not Really Strangers”. It’s a great game to answer questions that help us learn about each other on a deeper level, which is always fun!
Everyone loves ice breakers, right? My personal favorite was, “would you rather have shark heads for hands or have skittles pour out your mouth every time you open it?” Super professional and totally work appropriate...
I think tools like Slack can be a huge help with culture building. It’s a great product to use for quick communication to ensure everyone on the team feels included and cared for. We were all really good at checking in with each other on a daily, sometimes even hourly, basis.
The cool thing about culture is that it doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) come from the top-down. My team was really good at checking in on each other, and even checking in on me. I don’t think any of us would’ve made it through the pandemic if we didn’t have such an awesome and supportive team.
I do love me some leadership books! Some of my personal favorites are ‘Lean In’, ‘Dare to Lead’, ‘Good to Great’, and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’.
I also think it’s important, especially as a new leader, to seek out mentors and talk regularly with them about what challenges you’re facing, how they’ve handled these challenges in their careers, and how you can improve as a leader. I’m so lucky to have had some incredible mentors in my career like Travis Ruiz, Dave Latimer, Katy Wilkins, Lori Oakley, Chad Beals, Mike Sievert, Kim Wittman, and Daniela Jex. I truly don’t know where I would be without them!
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