All posts in Ooqio Spotlight

Ooqio Spotlight: Improving Technology Adoption with Advaiya

Technology changes at lightning speed. We all know the feeling of finally mastering one platform, only to learn that it’s now outdated and it’s time to switch to something new. So frustrating!

This is where Advaiya comes in. Led by president and CTO Dharmesh Godha, Advaiya develops the vision and architecture to bring new technology solutions to businesses to improve their productivity, customer experiences, and bottom lines. We spoke with Godha for this week’s Ooqio Spotlight.

dharmesh-godhaWhy is technology adoption so important for businesses?

The most important thing is that it optimizes your business processes. If you don’t adopt new industry techniques and platforms, whether that means moving your infrastructure to the cloud or updating to a more advanced platform in your field, you’ll be working in a wasteful manner. You’ll be spending time and money on things you no longer have to do, because technology can do for you.

If we can convince people—and if people can prove to themselves—that this new technology is going to help save time, money and unnecessary steps, they will be convinced to adopt it.

Why do so many businesses and teams fight technology adoption? What are their biggest roadblocks?

The foremost reason is that it’s new. They have to learn something new, they have to provide training for everyone to learn it, and that’s going to take time. They think it’s going to change everything about the way they work. It’s our job to build the technology so it fits right in with their day to day life. It’s made for them. We prefer to refer to it not as something “new,” but something that will “enable” them.

The next roadblock is that they don’t believe in the value. They think the solution worked for someone else for some particular reason, but it won’t work for them. “We’re different and it won’t work here,” that sort of thing.

Finally, when we talk about changing the technology paradigm, people have some reluctance, for example they doubt the capabilities of the cloud, the security of the cloud. Those are the biggest objections we face from users.

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And how do you overcome those? What programs have you designed for this?

At Advaiya, we try to create a solution in a way that it gets integrated behind the scenes. We tell the users, ‘you don’t have to change the way you’re working, we change the technology to make it work for you.’

As an example, many businesses use Outlook to send email. It’s easy, they’re used to it, and everyone likes it. No one wants to change to a new system. So, maybe we take the functionality they need, like the ability to look up more information about a company or person, and integrate it directly with Outlook. Instead of switching back and forth between their email and another program, we make it so all they do is right-click and the information they need is right there.

Another example is for project managers. Every project manager has a certain software they like to work with to track all the various tasks in a project. But not everyone on the team is good about going in and updating their piece of the project, checking off their tasks.

We can make it so that if we see a developer is done working on module X in his interface, we automatically update the project’s status for the project manager and mark it as complete. The developer doesn’t have to do anything.

In this way, we’re spoon-feeding them the new technology in small chunks, so to speak. They don’t have to change to a whole new program, just a new feature in a program they already know. When we do this with a new piece of technology, people adopt more easily. Whenever possible, we don’t change the platform they’re used to.

I’m a big fan of laying out a roadmap for deployment and showing the users the value of each small step as we go along. We don’t want to implement it all at once and give it to them. We do a phased approach, so people see just small changes and automatically see the value of those changes. Slowly, over time, people get much friendlier with the new technology.

You have to have a cutting-edge team to be able to do this. What tools do you use to make sure your own talent is the best for the job?

One thing we do is always assess a candidate’s aptitude to learning. We have to keep our skill stes fresh every day, so they need to be able to keep up. I look for how much a particular person learns new things—what is his aptitude to change. In our work, it has to be pretty high.

Then, we assess whether they’re working with the user in mind. As we discussed earlier, with technology adoption everything has to be designed to be friendly to the user, to make it easiest for him. So those are the two big things we look for—learning-centric and audience-centric candidates.

Dharmesh Godha has more than 15 years of experience in various technology platforms, solution design, and project implementation. To learn more about Advaiya, visit Advaiya.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Analyzing The Seattle Tech Market with Seattle Search Group

Seattle search group

Seattle is booming—and that means the tech industry is more competitive than ever. For a glimpse into the state of the marketplace, we turned to John Herd, owner of staffing and recruiting firm Seattle Search Group for this week’s Ooqio Spotlight.

john-herdThere are many recruiting firms in the Seattle area. How do you set yourself apart?

First and foremost, our recruiters are highly experienced and have solid long-term relationships with people in their network. We don’t have a single membership to a job board. We’re not just scanning online job sites and pulling candidates off of it. We’re figuring out exactly how to meet our clients’ needs, identifying a person that will be a great fit for those needs, and approaching that person. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and it’s all about relationships

What are your favorite tools for staying on top of the best talent?

The telephone! We use our database and LinkedIn, but more than anything the telephone and email. We want those real conversations with our candidates, whether that’s a phone call, going to coffee, or going to lunch. Getting face-to-face time with them is the most important.

Seattle search group

How would you describe the current tech marketplace in Seattle?

The market is extremely hot and it looks like it’s going to stay that way for a while. I don’t see a slowdown happening anytime soon. There are dozens of cranes all over the city right now and it’s amazing how much is going on. Everyone is moving into the city, and it’s changed a lot.

Cloud computing is growing in a huge way, and everything is growing around that. The growth in technology spills over into real estate, construction, finance for that real estate, mortgage/escrow/title services, and so on.

Your firm specializes in direct hire, but also places candidates in temporary and contract-to-hire positions. Talk a little about why a candidate might seek out temporary work.

Short term contracts can be a great opportunity to get into a company. Companies can move around budgets a bit more easily for temporary gigs; for example, a full time role would come from the HR department’s budget, but for a temporary position they might be able to use the accounting department’s budget until they get the green light from HR.

A good candidate should be open to both direct hire and temp-to-perm. What’s right for you right now depends where you’re at in your life. If you’re looking to take some time off, maybe spend time with your kids for example, temporary can be great. But you have to protect your resume; if you’re going to be jumping from contract to contract for two or three years, you might get typecast by companies in the future. That’s definitely something to consider.

What are you looking forward to in Seattle in 2017?

I expect to see more of the same. We’re growing at a fast pace here in Seattle. It’s kind of out of control—in a good way! I imagine it’s going to stay that way, and we’re going to build out some great companies here.

As a company, we look forward to continued growth. Last year we added Portland Search Group to our roster, and we hope to build out offices in Denver and Southern California as well.

Seattle Search Group is a team of leading Seattle recruiters who specialize in recruiting and staffing for accounting, finance and technology on a direct hire, contract to hire, and temporary basis. For more information, visit SeattleSearchGroup.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Standing Out From the Tech Crowd with Viri Technology

How can a mobile app developer stand out in the crowded marketplace? How can a project manager ensure he doesn’t get lost in a sea of developer roles? To answer these questions and more, we turned to Chris Bloomquist, computer engineer and partner at Viri Technology.

Chris has a long history of serving clients like Expedia and the Walt Disney Internet Group, and knows what it takes to make a candidate shine.

Chris Bloomquist viri technologyTechnology job candidates aren’t always the most into networking. How can someone in this field stay on top of the best job opportunities, even if he or she’s not an aggressive networker?

It’s all about putting yourself out there, and not necessarily just from a social standpoint. For example, a person in technology might have a profile on GitHub. If so, it needs to be filled with up-to-date information and a modern portfolio. If it’s outdated, your GitHub profile can actually hurt your chances.

You can also put yourself out there by contributing to appropriate technology communities online. For example, a Python developer might go on a forum and answer questions people are asking about Python. Become viewed as an expert in whatever it is you do.

Finally, have a robust, accurate and current LinkedIn profile. Don’t just have a headshot and your job title; all of the fields should be completely filled out. It should be like a subset of your resume.

You can add up to 50 unique skills on LinkedIn, so you should max this out. If you’re currently job searching, have something on your profile like “currently seeking X opportunities in the Seattle area.” Advertise that you want to be found.

There are so many niche areas in the technology field. Someone who’s a master at software development might not necessarily excel at project management, and so on. How can a candidate make their particular skills shine?

If you’re good at what you do, you’re going to get spammed with opportunities that aren’t a good fit. It’s part of the process.

To combat this, unless you have an absolutely urgent need to get a job, I wouldn’t recommend posting your resume to national job boards like Monster or Dice. I would only use those to search and apply for jobs, not to advertise that you’re available.

Also, be a specialist. These days, to say that you’re a software engineer is almost irrelevant. It’s like saying “I’m a writer.” What kind of writer are you? What kind of software engineering do you do? You have to be uniquely narrow, for example, “I’m a C++ Linux software engineer with five years of experience working with large scale infrastructure.”

Broad is bad in technology. When a client comes to me, they’re looking for someone to get it EXACTLY right. Clients want specialists, so market yourself in your resume as being that exact fit.

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What are some of the most common mistakes candidates make that disqualify them from landing a great position?

It seems obvious, but make sure you know exactly what job you’re interviewing for.

If you’re job searching, you’ve probably applied for 25, 50, or however many similar jobs. But when you talk with a company for the first time, you need to go in like they’re the best damn company in the world and the job is the best thing since sliced bread.

Be prepared to say things like “I like this position for these three reasons. I’ve read such-and-such about your company, and this is why I’m interested.” Come prepared to play ball.

People sometimes give excuses for not preparing properly, like “I’m only semi interested in the job.” Well, first of all, why are you wasting your time? And second, you never really know until the conversation happens. You can only reject an offer you get. You want that opportunity to decide!

Finally, do your homework when applying. Have the job description next to your resume and tailor your resume to match the skills they’re looking for. Talk about your job experience in a story format that’s interesting.

Have three to five open-ended questions about the position prepared. If you want to know something, ask! Remember, you are as interested in qualifying them as they are in qualifying you. If you get the job, you’re going to spend more time with these people than your family and friends, so don’t you want to make sure it’s a good fit?

As we look to the close of 2016 and the year ahead, what are you looking forward to?

My firm and I have been asked to lead a series of panelists for Seattle Startup Week November 14-18. I’m leading three different panels on what startup culture looks like, with panelists from Fortune 500 companies that are trying to breed startup culture, people from human resources departments and more. I’m excited to emcee those.

We’re also expanding. We just hired a very senior level technical recruiter, have moved offices to accommodate our expansion, and are looking onward and upward for 2017.

Viri Technology is an IT recruiting firm made up of a team of highly experienced technology industry professionals. For more information, visit ViriTechnology.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Building a Recruiting Pipeline with Hansell Tierney

From banking to recruiting to launching her own firm, Jill Hansell McCune has had an extensive and highly successful career. Now, as one half of the founding team at Seattle’s Hansell Tierney, she helps companies build a recruiting pipeline that will keep them on a long-term path to great hires.

Jill HansellYou started your career in a much different field—banking, where you had some, er, interesting experiences.

I was a recent college graduate and went into a banking management trainee program. This was during a period where banks were getting robbed all the time. Well, I was working in lots of different banks as part of my trainee program, and I got robbed by the same guy twice in a few weeks’ time.

At the time, there was a policy in place where if you were held up at gunpoint, you were mandated to take a certain amount of time off. I used that time off to look for a new job!

Who could blame you? So, from there you found your way to the world of recruiting.

Right! I got a job in recruiting and had a great mentor. Back then you worked on commission, so you had to be on the phone making calls, finding clients, finding candidates and matching them up. It was a great way to learn the ropes.

After a couple years doing that I heard about an opportunity with FDSI Consulting, and I pursued that. We were just starting to get into the field of IT. I saw the margins in that business, which were much greater than in engineering and architecture where my previous experience was. So I got the opportunity to work in that field. My current business partner was my boss at the time!

Eventually the two of you would go on to launch your own firm, which this month is celebrating its 15th year in business. That’s pretty impressive!

Well, when we started, we couldn’t really get any worse! We had both taken some time off, and many of our previous contacts had moved on to other things. We just had to keep making calls and asking for referrals and tapping our networks to make it work.

At times we considered taking loans to accelerate our growth, but looking back we’re very glad we bootstrapped it. We run strictly on cash, and that has allowed us to make very good investments.

So let’s talk about your expertise. You specialize in helping companies form a “recruiting pipeline.” What does that mean?

We’re a small firm and we partner very closely with our clients. We understand what their needs are not just today, but what they’ll be a year from now. So we’re not just recruiting for their current openings, we’re recruiting for what they’ll have open 12 months down the road.

For example, we recently sat down with our clients and talked about fiscal year 2017. What projects are they going to have? What types of people are they going to need?

We need to be making those connections now, so that when the position is ready to be filled it’s not a complete cold call. We’ve already been talking with the right people for the job. Many times we already know that there’s a 90% chance person X is going to get the job, because we know they’re the perfect fit.

That’s what we mean by the recruiting pipeline.

recruiting-pipeline

And what about your own company as you look ahead to 2017? What are you excited to work on?

We joke that we don’t toot our own horn enough. There’s a lot that we do that we never really tell people about, like some of our philanthropy or projects our core team works on.

We’re excited to tell people more about those things and show why we truly love what we do; we have fun at it. There’s nothing more rewarding than telling someone they got the job.

Also, new tools are coming out all the time. For example, the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal—what will it mean? Seattle is a really exciting place to be right now with new companies moving in and a continued focus on education. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation just gave a $210 million gift to the University of Washington, and I’m sure we’ll see some incredible things stem from that contribution.

We’re also at the point where we’re seeing interns we recruited going out into the real job market for the first time and it’s excited to help them take the next step in their career.

Jill Hansell McCune is co-founder and managing partner at Hansell Tierney. For more information, visit HansellTierney.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Preparing for your Next Best Career Move with Allen Partners

How do you get a foot back in the door if you’ve left the workforce? What about when you’re unexpectedly out of a job? To answer these questions and more, we sat down with Debbie Oberbillig, founder of Allen Partners Recruiting and Staffing, in this week’s Ooqio Spotlight.

Debbie Oberbillig Allen Partners

You say the best time to find a great opportunity is when you have a job. Why is that? And what should you do if you’re not currently working?

It’s not fair, but it is a very real thing that people who are already employed are viewed as “hotter commodities,” so to speak. If you’re not currently working, there’s a natural response for people to wonder why.

If you have a good reason for being unemployed, you might put it directly in your cover letter. For example, “recently relocated and seeking new opportunities” or “returning to work after a family leave.”

The other thing you can do is to look for contract-to-hire roles. If you want to start working again, it’s a great way back in and it also helps build your resume.

Many times companies don’t have authorization to hire a full-time employee yet, but they anticipate they’re going to get it soon. In these cases, they’ll look for contract workers to fill that role in the interim. It’s perfect for someone who’s not working because they get that exposure and a foot in the door, and it also makes them more marketable because they’re working.

Some people might shy away from contract work because they view it as temporary, but you’re saying that’s often not the case.

Right. It turns into a permanent position more often than people would expect. Another thing people are surprised by is the power of their own network. A lot of times people feel funny about asking around, putting out feelers for new opportunities, but so many times that’s how new doors are opened.

You don’t have do it in a desperate way. You can be diplomatic about it and say “hey, I’m in a flexible situation and I’m open to new opportunities. Do you happen to know of anything that might be a good fit?” If you show eagerness for new opportunities, people tend to send them your way.

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You believe it’s best to work with a talent adviser before you need one. How does that work?

Unemployment in Seattle is under about 3% for a degreed candidate. So, qualified candidates are getting offers all the time. But if you’re working, it’s hard to respond to those inquiries because how often can you leave work for a “coffee meeting” or a “dentist appointment?”

By working with a talent firm, the person can learn more about what opportunities are out there in terms of salary, benefits, etc. We say we offer “employment intelligence” because we know what’s going on in the marketplace. We know a LOT about the companies in and around Seattle.

So, let’s say we know a company has a reputation for its employees working long hours. We’re working with a candidate who just had a baby and is looking for a little more work-life balance. We can advise them on how to respond to an inquiry from that company, because we know from experience that it might not be the best match.

We can also give a candidate advice like “stay at your current job a little longer” or “hone in on skills X, Y and Z” to make themselves even more marketable when they do start interviewing.

What type of criteria might a candidate give you when deciding what they want in a new position? Do they say “I want to make this much money” and you go out looking for it?

Well, no, and let me talk a bit about that. If a candidate is only driven by money, the problem is that they’ll likely stay at their current job despite any opportunities we find for them. Here’s why.

We’ll go through this long process of finding a good fit, they’ll go through the interview process and receive an offer, and then they’ll go to their current boss and try to resign, but they’ll receive a counter offer matching the new salary. If money is the only motivator, it’s much more convenient to just stay in that same position and that whole process was for nothing.

If a candidate is looking to make more money, I’ll often coach them on exactly how to go about asking for more from their current employer. If they’re truly ready to make a move, there will be underlying factors other than money like opportunities for advancement, company culture, etc.

What are your favorite tools for helping make a perfect job match? Is it an innate skill? Is there a certain software you rely on?

It’s a little bit of a secret sauce made up of all of the above: intuition, experience and the right tools.

Each company has its own culture, and I’d say that’s really important. I personally might really like a company, but it’s all about whether the candidate will feel the same way. You can’t just read a job description and decide whether or not a position is right, because that description was made up by HR and not in the actual environment in which the person will be working.

It’s most important to get the candidate and the employer together, face to face, to experience the environment and the chemistry firsthand. I can’t stress the importance of this enough.

Debbie Oberbillig grew up in the business working in her family’s recruiting company prior to joining a national firm. She started Allen Partners in 2003. For more information about Debbie and her company, visit AllenPartners.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Job Searching (and Resigning) from Upper Management with Strategic Resources

How do you go about finding the next right step for your career when you’re already in a high-profile position? And when you do—how do you break the news you’re leaving? For this intel and more, we turn to Ted Warren, founder of Seattle recruiting firm Strategic Resources.

ted-warrenI see that you’re celebrating 20 years in business. Congratulations! Can you talk a bit about what has changed most in your field over the last two decades?

Without a doubt, the biggest change that has affected us is technology—the different ways we’re able to (and need to) communicate.

The people haven’t changed; they’re still looking to improve their circumstances, they want better opportunities, and our job is to identify those and appeal to them. That element is the same. But how we find and communicate with those people is what has changed. It has both simplified things and complicated things.

You specialize in recruiting upper and mid-level management professionals. What does a typical search look like, and what are the most important considerations in the process?

We work with a lot of established clients—people who use us over the course of their entire career. They’ll get in touch with us and tell us about their needs, and it’s our job to go out and find companies who have needs that sync well with the client’s.

Our job is to dive into the real issues that will make this person successful within a company: what will they be expected to accomplish in the first 30 days? The first 6 months? A year?

It’s not necessarily about the length of their experience or the skills on their resume, but their recent performance. Equally important in the long run is their fit with the company’s culture, existing management team and hiring authorities. Chemistry is the ultimate part of the hiring decision.

Resigning from a job

One of the things that caught our eye was your resource for giving your resignation from a job. It’s never a fun process, yet it’s something we’ll all go through. Talk us through the right way to do it.

Well, first of all, the person needs to be confident in his or her decision to leave. If they’re really good, there’s a strong likelihood that they’ll be given a counter offer. We want to be absolutely sure we have a position lined up that’s the right fit for them, because we anticipate that counter offer.

Once that’s off the table, we have a step by step roadmap we give our clients to follow. Resigning isn’t easy because it often involves a person you’ve known for a long time, one that you may even be friends with. We often suggest they have that road map in hand when they go to resign so they can express their thoughts succinctly.

Essentially, it can go one of three ways.

First, it’s “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” This one is the easiest to deal with because though it’s negative, it’s a clean break and you can walk out the door.

The second option is the guilt trip. “How could you do this to us? We can’t afford to lose you!” Though it sounds like they really value you, in this case the company is only thinking about its own best interests. Losing you is an inconvenience. It will probably cost them money to find your replacement. They’re not looking for a new opportunity that will meet your needs; they just don’t want you to go anywhere.

Finally, there is the ideal scenario. This happens when you’re with a very supportive supervisor, someone who is almost like a mentor to you. They realize there may be better opportunities for you elsewhere, and they wish you the best. Obviously, this is the scenario we want to work toward.

You can watch Strategic Resources’ video on resignation prep here.

So, if someone is currently employed but is toying with the idea of looking elsewhere, how should they go about it?

If you’re in a mid- to senior-level position, you have to be very careful. I always suggest to people, DO NOT APPLY ONLINE. You never know who is going to see that or where it might end up. Plus, the realistic chance that anything will come of an online application is very small anyway. Rarely does the right person even see your resume.

For the person you’re talking about, my best advice is to get them off the job boards. Their roles are too public, too critical to let people know they might be looking.

Then, I suggest finding an executive search professional who is particularly knowledgeable in their industry and who can tap into their own network on your behalf. Picking that right search professional is very important. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this field who are not looking out for the candidate’s best interest.

90% of the people we place are currently employed when we work with them, so we need to protect their employment first. We have a lot of confidential conversations. We have to be able identify their skills and performance without revealing who the individual is.

Some recruiters will share this confidential information indiscriminately, and that’s both unprofessional and unethical. When you’re choosing a search professional, you need to make sure that’s not going to happen. You’ve got to interview and screen them just like an employer will interview and screen you.

As we head into the last quarter of 2017, what new or different technology are you excited about? What would you like to see?

Applicant tracking systems are getting better and better, that’s for sure. If there was a magic way to know the technology we use to communicate with somebody—phone, email, whatever—was actually being seen and reacted to, that I would love.

Today people are overwhelmed. They’re flooded with communications on all different platforms. We’re excited about anything that can help us get through that clutter.

Social media keeps us in front of people, but ultimately we still have to get that one-on-one time with the persons. The methods to reach people are many, but that end goal is the same: a conversation.

Ted Warren founded Strategic Resources in 1996 and works daily with decision makers to help them identify and recruit top tier talent for their organizations. To learn more about his company, visit StrategicResources.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Finding Top UX Talent with Bestica

The world of design and development is changing, and so is the need for staffing in these fields. Harvinder Singh set out to connect the most qualified UX talent with the best companies, and Bestica was born. Today, we talk with Singh about commercial versus government projects and how new companies can best manage their IT needs.

Harvinder Singh BesticaYou specialize in UI/UX staffing. We know from experience it’s not easy to find good talent in that arena. How do make sure your candidates are top-notch?

We’ve been in this business more than ten years, and our recruiters have an expert understanding of designer portfolios. First, we make sure to drill down very deep with the client to find out exactly what they’re looking for, in specific detail.

For example, in our intake process we might discover they need someone with domain expertise in the banking industry, someone with a lot of research and usability experience, but design experience is secondary for this job. We use this highly detailed requirement profile to guide our search.

Then, we analyze a candidate’s portfolio very closely to see if it reflects experience with very complex design, or very complex research, and so on. It must be represented in their portfolio. A lot of times designers say they’ve done a specific type of job, but we need to see it executed.

Sometimes, they might not be able to share these projects in their portfolio based on an open contract or non-disclosure agreement. In that case, we’ll give them a specific design exercise to assess their skills. They might need to display creativity or problem solving, for example. We’ll use the design exercise to qualify their skill set.

Your firm works with many government agencies and branches of the military. What special considerations go into these jobs?

It’s a totally separate line of business. For the government, we typically offer IT consulting and contracting, where they have a program going on and they bring us in to support those programs.

It’s very different from the commercial UX side of what we do. Governmental agencies might not be as discerning on the design or UX side of things, but the people themselves are of utmost importance. We need to locate someone who’s already experienced working on that particular program, someone who meets the strict security requirements, someone who’s used to working with government requirements, that sort of thing.

Government programs tend to be much more sustained. The governmental line of work is more difficult to get into, but the projects are longer in nature. The opposite is true on the commercial side. It’s easier to get into but the contracts are typically shorter—maybe six months or a couple years versus a five or six year contract on a government job.

If a company is small to mid-size and is struggling to manage their IT needs, what’s your recommendation?

cloud-computing-2

For a company with, say, 10 to 20 employees, I would suggest they go to the cloud. The cloud has countless project management apps, sales apps, Office suite, so many different things.

Small companies no longer need to invest in IT infrastructure like they used to. You can take advantage of cloud-based apps for $10/month and dramatically reduce your IT infrastructure expenses.

If you do maintain in house infrastructure, it will go down at some point anyway, so we always advise taking the cloud route when you’re still growing.

As 2016 winds down, what are you excited about or looking forward to in 2017?

We’re looking deeply into the cloud ourselves. We’re looking to implement accountability and task management systems within our organization, so that we can expand our user experience and government contracting markets. We’re bringing additional recruiters and developers onboard to help us grow in both of those markets.

Harvinder Singh founded Bestica in 2005 to meet the growing need for user experience design from businesses and organizations around the world. To learn more, visit Bestica.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Optimizing Employee Feedback with Fast Mirror

When it comes to receiving feedback, no two employees are alike. Some crave professional development and seek out critiques, while others prefer to fly under the radar and have no problem receiving zero feedback for years on end.

It makes sense, then, that a smart employer won’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to facilitating feedback. That’s the subject of our discussion with John Azzara, founder of employee development platform Fast Mirror.

Tell us more about how this tool came about.  

In my consulting experience both internally and externally with my own firm, I saw that feedback and development was an ongoing pain point for companies, both on the HR side as well for employees. On the employee side, there are people who want to get feedback and work on their development, and then there are people that don’t want any part of that.

As an employer, the people you really want to use your development funding on are the people that want to know how they’re doing, that crave professional development. HR often has just a small amount of the resources truly required to provide those employees with meaningful development that translates to observable skill improvement. The companies that do have the resources face a huge administrative burden in running such programs.

Fast Mirror addresses all of these challenges by providing employees with the ability to take their development activity into their own hands.

So in layman’s terms, what exactly does that mean?

Let’s say you’re an employee with a lot of potential to move up in the organization. You work in a company where there’s not a lot of resources or budget dedicated to your professional development. Or maybe there are such resources, but your direct manager does not support your development efforts as much as you need. What do you do? You’re stuck.

Fast Mirror solves that problem for you by allowing you to independently solicit feedback and create an action plan for developing the skills you want to focus on. You own the entire process.

Fast Mirror allows employees to quickly launch a feedback survey with full control over what questions are asked and who is asked. Feedback is purely behavioral–no numbers–so it’s easy to figure out what it means and what kinds of actions people are talking about.

Once they determine what area to focus on for development, a detailed, robust development plan will populate with just one click. The plan will clearly lay out what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and how to determine if those activities were successful.

It sounds like something every employee would want to use! But as we all know, launching new technology isn’t that simple. What challenges have you faced in bringing this product to market?

You would think that everybody would want to use it, but that is not the case. True development takes a lot of work and not everybody is willing to do it.

Not everybody wants feedback either, we don’t believe people should be forced to solicit feedback if they are not open to hearing it. So this is not the kind of product HR should offer to an entire organization for performance management or mandatory development for an entire population of leaders.

We get better results if the platform is targeted to a specific group within the organization that is genuinely motivated to develop such as high potentials, early-career employees, newly promoted leaders, anyone focused on developing themselves for future career growth.

We know there are obvious benefits for employees when they receive feedback. What are some of the benefits for an employer to use a tool like this?

Many companies are looking for ways to shift ownership of career development away from HR onto the employees, right where it should be. Fast Mirror allows that to happen.

It also reduces administrative burden on HR organizations that have traditionally managed feedback and development in-house and spent significant amounts of time monitoring completion rates, developmental progress, etc. So it frees up HR to work on development from a results perspective rather than compliance.

Fast Mirror was launched in February of 2016. For more information or to receive a demo of the program, visit Fast-Mirror.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Paving the Way for Financial Success with Financial Clarity Consulting

How do you know when your business needs a CFO? When is growing fast a bad thing for your operation? In our latest Ooqio Spotlight, we enlisted Stanislav Zinkov, Principal of Financial Clarity Consulting, to talk through these challenges.

You specialize in part-time CFO solutions. How can a CFO be part time?

Let’s say you’re a small or medium sized company with an annual revenue of between $1 million and $10 million. You have a need for financial expertise and have about 15 hours of work per week to be done.

Most companies will select one of two options: hire a full-time CFO, which leads to overpaying 25 hours every week and likely results in employee dissatisfaction because the work week will inevitably be filled with “other” tasks, or not hire anyone and as the company grows so does the size of the finance-related problems which are not addressed.

I offer a better option: I align with companies based on their needs. If they need 15 hours of expertise per week, that’s the amount of time I dedicate to serve a client and that’s all they pay for. This accomplishes two things. Companies have access to knowledge on demand, and the CFO becomes a variable expense which allows companies to scale up and down based on their immediate and long-term strategic objectives.

That makes sense. When you come in to work with a client, what are some things you typically do right off the bat?

More than half of companies at the time of bankruptcy are profitable. Proper cash flow management is the key. My first objective is to make sure the company will survive. I focus on compliance, processes and cash flow.

I once met with a CEO for the first time and saw that the company had not paid taxes in over a year. I told him to fire his CPA immediately. I serve as the second set of eyes to identify these glaring errors that happen when you don’t have a dedicated financial officer in place.

Another thing I do is to help companies identify how they measure success. It seems simple, but many people measure what they think is success when it really has no bearing on the company’s finances.

Here’s an example: I worked with a clinic that measured success based on the number of patient visits. They had a bonus structure in place for doctors who saw X amount of patients per week. Well, there was no system for identifying if these were cash patients, insurance patients, or anything about the nature of the visit.

Some doctors would invite patients for a complimentary appointment just so they could meet that bonus quota. Not only would the clinic collect no revenue from those visits, they also ended up paying more to those doctors, so this system for measuring success was costing them money. I worked closely with CEO to realign the company’s objectives and Key Performance Indicators, and rewrote the doctors’ compensation packages. In two years we successfully grew one clinic to a network of four — that’s a big win.

I could see how these are the kind of problems that start small, but get exponentially bigger as a company grows.

Exactly. This is where growing too fast can be a bad thing. Many CEOs think you have to be a Fortune 500 company or generating $50 million a year in revenue to require a CFO.

In reality, you need a CFO the minute you start to grow beyond just a handful of employees. Let’s say you have a practice of three doctors in one location. They can pretty much keep an eye on everything without having formal systems in place.

But once you double or triple the operation to a few more locations you’ve also duplicated problems. Things start to fall through the cracks, and the financial impact snowballs. Without systems in place, everyone is doing things their own way without regard to how it impacts the organization as a whole. I work with the CEO to provide the clarity that employees need to do their job well.

Clarity is a big selling point for you – it’s even included in the name of your business.

I call my company ‘Financial Clarity Consulting’ because clients need clarity. With uncertainty, you make decisions with a greater level of risk. You need clarity to make evidence-based decisions for your business.

You also help CEOs make the right hires, which is something we’re focused on at Ooqio in a big way as well. Talk a little bit about that process.

The interesting thing about my position as a part-time CFO is that if I do my job well, I will eventually lose my position. So, I need to prepare a succession plan for my clients toward a full-time CFO, and help them find that perfect person.

Seattle is the most well-read city in the United States. There are a lot of educated people in this town, so it’s easy to find an expert in whatever you’re looking for. But being an expert is not enough to be the right hire; it’s about finding someone who fits your company culture.

If the CEO is not a frequent communicator, then we can’t hire someone who thrives on daily feedback, and so on. We know the technical skills the person must have, but it’s my job to help determine whether they’re going to fit in with the other department heads and employees effectively.

With clarity comes better decisions, both in your finances and your hiring.

Stanislov Zinkov draws on a 15-year background of finance and strategy experience to oversee financing and growth initiatives for a wide variety of clients. To learn more, visit FinancialClarityConsulting.com.

Ooqio Spotlight: Recruiting in an Applicant’s Market with Business Talent Solutions

Dana Clemens Business Talent SolutionsThis week’s Ooqio Spotlight subject is Dana Clemens, principal and senior recruiter of Seattle-based employment agency Business Talent Solutions. Clemens has more than two decades of experience in recruiting and corporate training and leads her highly skilled team to deliver expertly selected candidates to meet her clients’ needs.

In such a competitive marketplace, one of the biggest challenges for hiring managers is scooping up great candidates before they’re snagged by someone else. But you rarely have this problem. Why?

We move lightning fast. As soon as we get a standout resume, we’re on the phone with the candidate within the hour—24 hours max. I have 20 to 30 resumes on my desk right now and I’ll go through them immediately. That’s our bread and butter.

That obviously means you have a sixth sense for stellar candidates since you can pick them out so quickly. What makes a candidate stand out to you?

Longevity. We work exclusively with long-term candidates—people who are looking for a permanent job rather than a temporary position—so a stable track record is key.

It’s easy to spot someone who’s hopped around from job to job, spending six months here, three months there. We know immediately that’s not going to be a fit for us.

They also have to have the right types of backgrounds on their resume. Our primary areas of focus at Business Talent Solutions are operations, administrative and accounting positions. So, if the person’s resume is filled with work experience that doesn’t relate to our market, they might be great at what they do, but they’re not going to be a fit for our clients’ needs.

So it’s almost like matchmaking; a candidate not only has to be awesome at what they do, there’s also a set of expectations on the client’s side that they must meet.

Yes, our clients’ needs are front and center.

Our most important goal is to understand what they’re looking for, and it also goes the other way as well. We have to understand what the applicant wants out of a position, because the last thing we want is to send someone on an interview and he receives and offer and then turns it down. It has to be a perfect fit on both sides.

Business Talent Solutions team

The Business Talent Solutions team

Makes sense. Do you ever tell a client, “I’m sorry but we can’t help you.”?

Absolutely. Being selective is what allows us to excel at what we do.

We’ve been in this market for 20 years. We know it inside and out. It’s an applicant’s market, so companies have to move quickly if they want to hire the best.

If we know that a company has a notoriously slow hiring process—for example there are tons of hoops to jump through and processes involved—we must help educate our employers so that they do not lose good applicants unnecessarily.

Managing expectations is so important. It’s something we talk a lot about on a personal level when it comes to happiness at a job, like considering “what if’s.” What if I were offered twice my salary somewhere else. Would I go? That sort of thing.

We use a similar process for our passive candidates—those who aren’t actively job seeking, but are interested in opportunities for advancement.

We use a thorough screening process to assess their expectations: what would it take for them to stay in their current role? What are they looking for in a position elsewhere? Are they serious about potentially making a career move? All of these are important questions to ask.

So let’s talk about the future. What are you looking ahead to in 2017?

We’re excited about our online avenues, like our social media channels, SEO efforts for our website and our blog (which is awesome, by the way. Read it here). We’re putting out fresh content every two to three days and our audience is responding really well.

We’re also receiving a growing number of referrals via online channels like Facebook and Yelp, particularly among college graduates. It’s a wonderful review and referral tool for us, so we’re excited to seeing that grow.

You can visit the Business Talent Solutions blog here, and check them out on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The team at Business Talent Solutions has specialized in permanent direct hire placement for the Puget Sound region since the early 1990s. For more information, visit BusinessTalentSolutions.com.