What Does it Mean to Scale?

I've been thinking a lot about the definition of 'scaling' - but what does it really mean? 

Of course, the definition of scaling will vary from person to person, depending on the size and growth of their existing company. The challenges that a company (and individual) face at a 30 to 100 person company, are very different from a 300 to 1000 sized company, or 1000 to 10,000+. In the last 2 years, I have been privileged (and challenged) with the task of growing our existing organization, tripling the size of our global footprint, doubling the size of our US operations alone. While I'm by no means in anyway an expert and kudos to the countless industry pundits who may be better able to attest to this, I wanted to share a bit more about my personal experience: the more human side of emotions that often get overlooked and silenced due to the fear of vulnerability.

Lesson 1: Scaling means learning to make room for collaboration
I've observed that it's very common nature for employees to feel territorial once a new member joins the team. I have literally heard folks describe the feeling as 'CYA' (cover your ass), "pissing on your territory," or "carving out your space." With employee growth comes natural competition. Will the new hire take over my job and replace me? Will he/she outperform me and set the bar to a higher standard? From my realization, these negative cues and anxieties are oftentimes unconscious insecurities of my own, overall distracting me from doing my best work. Thus, learning when and where to shut that voice down (or use it as motivation) is crucial. Instead of viewing team growth as competition, think of it as another pair of hands there to help with the heavy lifting; another colleague to bounce ideas off of and share best practices with; a potential new 'work bff' who is in the trenches with you that you can complain to and confide in.  It's incredible how much more efficient we can become as both individuals and teams when we learn how to properly collaborate with others. Yet, reaching that awareness ('new colleague isn't a treat') is often challenging because it requires utmost consciousness, of being able to dig beneath the emotions and pin exactly where that emotion stems from: fear.  

Lesson 2: Scaling means knowing where and when to let your ego down
In viewing growth from an HR and org development perspective, I've been able to see the manager planning and org designs that happen on the backend, which isn't always favorable to the employee. Sometimes managers are looking for new hires because their direct reports have either simply outgrown their roles, hit a plateau, or don't have the right skillsets needed to bring the organization to the next level. Sometimes the hiring manager made a mistake and misinterpreted what he/she thought they initially needed at that time, and since then, responsibilities have changed. Other times, I've seen employees simply burnout from exhaustion and frustration, unable to further perform at his/her peak, given rocket speed is very difficult to sustain over a prolonged period.  It's generally a cumulation of several factors that lead to either the 'A students' perceived to be performing at a B level, and/or employee not being a good fit, whether it be burnout, changing responsibilities, poor internal development or culture clashes with the org. And though top performers never want to admit why (or when) it's not working out, I want to say that it's okay, and it's all human nature to feel defensive, and find other outlets to blame. In an ever changing organization, it shouldn't be such a stigma to admit that sometimes we might not have all the answers nor have the best skillset, and that there are people who might be a better fit at that point in time; in fact, these are the times the organization (and our mental health) needs our utmost honesty. Instead of being combative, defensive and bitter, employees facing those negative emotions/thoughts first need to get over those feelings and set aside their pride to understand it's not entirely due to a fault of their own.  More importantly, once acknowledging the issue, the employee should re-channel their energy and focus on leveraging their individual strengths, highlighting areas where they can contribute to the greater organization.

Lesson 3: Scaling means continually improving
With scaling comes new challenges, where both hard and soft skills can be learned. At first glance, it seems hard skills are more obviously acquired, such as learning X new technical skill/capability, growing deeper domain expertise, or enlarging network connections, etc. We often forget, or oversee, the softer (introspective) skills that can be acquired, which are equally as crucial to enduring through periods of growth. Whenever I speak with a frustrated employee who is on the brink of resigning, I try to remind them that there's still a lot to be learned during times of trial and suffering, like learning how to be more persistent, patient, tenacious, gritty; learning to take a step back to view the bigger picture/lesson to be learned; learning how to trust your judgement and fight your own battles.  Scaling requires growth from a number avenues, oftentimes the frustrating points are the biggest learning opportunities. A lot of times, we put too much emphasis on accomplishments as an end result, and while those are important, we need to remember what we learned and picked up along the journey, both technically and internally. 

Lesson 4: Learn to embrace it
Scaling is exhausting. It comes with an endless checklist of tasks to complete, projects to launch, and processes to continually improve on. In addition to all the other emotions (Lessons 1-3 above), there's just so much going on, so much to prioritize and juggle. When does it stop, and how can I be a normal person again? For me, I've learned there are going to be periods of calm, periods of non-stop firefighting, periods of confidence, and periods of 'I'm absolutely terrible at this.' And it doesn't ever really stop, unless you allow it to. While I'm by no means a model citizen about this work-life balance and managing/controlling my emotions entirely (I still need to hold myself accountable), the biggest realization was understanding that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint; work will always be there; be patient with thyself, roll with it; (insert next cliche here). In true growth phases, it probably won't ever slow down or hit "steady state", and thus those expectations need to be managed accordingly. For me personally, once (and only until) I realized that it's not going to stop/slow down until I personally let it, was I able to better allow myself to breathe. So, take that vacation that you deserve but have been putting off and fully unplug, because those holidays are critical to letting you reenergize and continue running the long race. 

In general, I wish that organizations would take the time to stop and address these phases and emotions more openly.  Most often we're so busy scaling an organization and constantly firefighting, we forget to take a step back and think about the bigger picture - what's the root cause of the uneasiness I feel in this ever-changing organization? How can I use and control those feelings to make me the best employee I can be? 

If this article resonates with you, I'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment or message me directly. 

 

 

A New Year of Growth

Maybe I'm cliche for thinking about self improvement and setting new goals at the beginning of the year. Or, maybe it's the Virgo perfectionist in me that's always never satisfied.  Either way, here's a public affidavit of what I wish to achieve and work on for 2018. Scary to lay it all out there, but here goes. 

1) I vow to work on quieting the 'little voice in my head'. For sake of clarity, I'm referring to the underlying message in Dan Harris' 10% Happier Book. This book was such a refreshing read for me, and super relatable; it's always assuring to know that I'm not alone in feeling this 'imposter syndrome' or 'insecure overachiever' - whatever you want to call it. Oftentimes, I might let small unrelated comments completely alter my confidence or perspective on things.  So, I wish to better embrace the fact that I am vulnerable (we all are) and not to turn insecurities into negativity, but into something that inspires and challenges me to think and act differently. As a first step, I will work on learning to nip these small degenerate thoughts, and keep looking forward.  

2) I vow to better balance my personal and professional life. I plan to do so by taking on more responsibilities. (You're probably thinking, What?!) This is how I came to this realization: as I'm preparing for my wedding in July, I'm on a more strict exercise plan (join Classpass btw, totally worth it). Through filling up my schedule with exercise classes, I realize I need to be even more efficient and conscious of time management. So in my head, I'm planning around what time I ultimately need to leave the office to get XYZ done. Same goes with having a dog (I'm on the market right now!), and if/when I plan to start a family.  Giving yourself hard deadlines of where / when you need to be somewhere forces you to plan around it and place it as a priority. It doesn't mean that I'm slacking at work; it just means that when I'm at work, I'm 120% more focused - working smarter and not harder. And while I am essentially taking on more responsibility, it's something that balances me out personally, which to me, is a win. 

3) Write more. As someone in HR, I'm guilty of taking care of my employees more than I take care of myself. Writing is one way for me to channel out my feelings and thoughts; it's also quite therapeutic for me to get back in tune with myself, so I'll try to write more often.  

How Business School Destroyed Me, How I Overcame, and How I Became Stronger

It's been about 7 months since I've finished business school and it's crazy to think how quickly the time passed. Sometimes I forget I even went through this experience. 

Reflecting back on my journey, it's been an incredible learning experience. I like to think of business school as a social experiment.  It's a test to reveal who you really are, especially when you have to re-invent yourself to an entirely new network of people. Never would you be paired up with 5 completely random strangers with the most different backgrounds and be forced to collaborate like your life depends on it.  In business school, you need to figure out whose on your side, who you're competing with, who is trying to subtly one-up you. You learn to deal with all sorts of personalities, be in awe at how smart some people are, and in awe at how some people could lack common sense. 

No one likes admitting these things, but for me, I struggled a lot.  I felt like misfit: I was a huge introvert in a sea of extroverts. Compared to my colleagues, it took me a longer amount of time to pick up the quantitative topics. Not only was I one of two HR people in the entire program, but I also lacked any sort of Finance/Business background (I studied International Studies in college). I didn't even know how to use Excel but my classmates could build fancy models in a matter of seconds using various shortcuts. I didn't have the traditional "cookie cutter MBA" background that most my colleagues had; I was a black sheep. And this showed when it came to grades an exams, where I would fall consistently below average.

At first it felt so unfair.  In my eyes, my colleagues had a running start, either through their profession and/or academic studies.  How do I even being competing with Investment Bankers, Accountants and Analysts when it comes to Finance? To compensate, I had to push myself even harder, so several times a week after work, I would drive to Google to study with my colleague. We would see the nightly cleaning staff, and sometimes we'd stay until about midnight. For a while, I saw my classmate more often than I saw my boyfriend (now fiancée). Despite my efforts, I was still under the curve, which destroyed my confidence.  Why was I doing this to myself? I was much happier (and more confident) prior to starting school. 

I don't recall exactly when my mindset changed, but it was probably midway through the program, when I switched jobs. I started to realize, learn and accept that everyone has their own strengths; you're dealt certain cards, so learn to play with what you have. Everyone has something to offer, and maybe mine wasn't purely academic: instead, I started counseling and helping my classmates with their job searches, interviews and resumes.  This was my forte and I loved it! My perspective about being the one of the few HR people shifted from a place of weakness, to a place of strength.  I no longer saw being a black sheep as a negative: instead, being one of the few HR professionals with an MBA made me stand out. Now, I look back and see that temporary suffering and hard work was worth it. 

So, if you can relate to my story in any way, I encourage you to challenge your perspective and see it from a different angle: work on your weaknesses, but don't forget to play to your strengths too. 

Finishing Business School

I'm happy to announce that as of December 2016, I've finished up business school.  The last 18 months at Duke's Fuqua School of Business has been a stressful, yet amazing journey. Since I was working full time while completing the program, my life has been non-stop go-go-go.  

There are so many words that I can use to describe it: exhilarating, intense, draining, intellectually stimulating. More in my next post. All in all, I'm grateful for the journey. Onto new beginnings!

20170203_232441 (1).jpg

This isn't the best photo, but I just got home, saw it on my doorstep, and had to take a photo :) 

 

What I Learned During My Job Search

As noted in my last post, I recently landed a new job.  As someone who has worked in Talent Acquisition for the past 4 years, it was an eye opening experience to go through such an extensive search as a candidate.  There were a few things that struck me during this process that I wanted to discuss. 

Subconscious and implicit biases suck

I felt subconscious and implicit biases from my interviewers on multiple occasions.   On two accounts, I received specific pushback that I "didn't have enough 'management' experience" or that they "wanted someone like me but in a couple years."  These types of remarks generally came from interviewers during our first phone conversation, which lead me to wonder: why even bother talking to me in the first place, if a decision was already made up before we had a chance to speak? Unfortunately, as sucky as it sounds, there's not a whole lot a candidate can do about it, aside from being prepared to push back from various angles; make sure to immediately fire back and rebut wherever the interviewer sees they fall short.  It's also a good reminder to candidates (as future employees and interviewers) to be aware of these gaps, and that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. 

The smartest person in the room

Though all companies say they wish to acquire the best talent,  sometimes this might not feel like the case. It's a subconscious bias that interviewers, colleagues, and even managers, may not want to hire someone who could over-shine or surpass them, as this makes them feel threatened. For clarity of thought, what I'm referring to is different from being over-qualified for a position.  It's a "culture-fit" feeling that may lead to rejecting perfectly qualified candidates for no apparent reason. I've seen this in organizations I've worked with, in my own interviewing process, and by interpreting interview feedback..  To overcome, candidates (and employees) should be careful to balance the perception they give off: be confident and modest, smart but not arrogant, assertive but agreeable. Having too many smart people in one room can lead to competition and threat, so candidates should be aware of the person they are interviewing with, keeping in mind their level and nature of their role. Be conscientious and mindful of the perception you give off. 

Know your story, backwards and forwards

I can't emphasize this enough. The best candidates understand themselves, their background, and where they want to go in the future. They can connect the dots, and convey their story to the interviewer in a way that seamlessly connects their background to the new opportunity.  Candidates shouldn't be aimlessly firing away their resume to positions that are completely out of reach - recruiters and interviewers can see through this. So, when job searching, the more you convince yourself why the position is truly aligned with your interests, the less forced it feels, and the easier to sell yourself. Make sure to take a step back, and remind yourself of what you are chasing after; don't chase without first having a clear direction. 

Stay focused

One of the most challenging parts of being in an MBA program was the competition amongst my driven and ambitious classmates.  Throughout my program, I'd hear about colleagues who found amazing opportunities at amazing companies.  It was a delicate balance: you want to be supportive, yet at the same time, you feel this internal pressure inside.  After a while, I learned to tune this out and not let that competitive pressure get to me.  Remember: this is your personal journey, and everyone moves at their own pace when it comes to career and job searching. Put those blinders on, and stay focused. Rome wasn't built in a day, so take it step by step. 

Job Update: A New Chapter

These past few months has been crazy for me. In March,  I hit my 3 year mark at my current company, and that also marked the halfway point of completion for my MBA program. I knew that timing was much better for me to move and look around. I had my heart set on making a move sometime in Q2 2016, and I am happy and blessed to announce that I have found a new opportunity: I will be joining SoftBank Group International (SoftBank's Private Equity arm) starting early June in a People Operations role.  I chose SoftBank for a number of reasons, but one of the top reasons for joining was to work alongside and learn from an amazingly talented team.  

I write a lot about career exploration, job searching and interviewing, and often get approached by friends on advice about those topics because I work in HR, but to say the least, my own personal journey was a very stressful transitional period.  I internalized a lot of the feelings I was experiencing during my job search and kept quiet; I didn't want to share amongst friends and family because quite frankly, every hurdle and rejection I faced made me feel like an imposter. The fact that people look to me for advice on job stuff when I didn't quite have my own stuff together added even more pressure and stress. Aside from that, I had planned on leaving my job before the end of Q2, and combined with uncertainty of not having income, Bay Area's ridiculous cost of living, concerns about a global economic slowdown and having to pay for graduate school (one more payment left!), I was overwhelmed about how I would make ends meet. There was a lot going on in my mind, and I was juggling a lot on my plate.

When analyzing the data, in the last 3-4 months, I interacted with 30 companies on some level (initial phone call, recruiter screen, and/or email interactions). I went through 11 formal phone screens, and ended up landing 3 offers. I was fortunate to get a lot of initial traction and interest in my background, but I'm not going to flaunt and say this job search was easy because I did struggle, and yes I received a whole lot of rejections.  While I was getting a lot of interest, I'll be honest: you tell me what you think about my 30:3 conversion ratio (probably even higher than 30 because I received cold rejections too). During these conversation with various companies, I would get push back either about compensation expectations, not having enough management experience, because I wasn't what they were looking for or because companies simply "forgot" to respond back.  I heard all sorts of things. But, I kept chugging along, rejection after rejection, and things pulled through eventually. I knew job searching was partially a numbers game, partially luck and a matter of timing, patience, and perseverance. Yes, having an excellent resume and great experience is needed, but the stars must align in so many ways outside of just skill and talent. At the end of the day, I knew I shouldn't be making any hasty career decisions: I really needed this next job to not only be "MBA-level" but also push me further in my career so if I had to wait, I should wait.  And I'm so excited I found the perfect fit at SoftBank.

This was the most extensive job search I've ever conducted, and I'm so happy that it's over. I'll write a bit more about what I learned and interesting interview questions I was asked in the next post. 

Lessons Learned in Grad School Thus Far

I'm halfway done through my MBA program, which you probably saw from my earlier post. A lot of times people will ask me "what's been the most valuable or biggest thing you've learned from your MBA program thus far?" It's hard to pinpoint one thing, but I'll share with you a few really important points that I've come to realize, both personally and professionally. 

No more "Shooting from the Hip" decisions

I'm really grateful that business school has taught me how to become a more informed decision maker, whether it be in a personal or professional setting.  Before going to business school, I went more on "gut feeling," not necessarily considering and weighing the quantitative factors.  Though there's still room for improvement, I know my analytical reasoning and quantitative skills are getting better. I guess you can say that b-school transforms you into some numbers and data driven decision maker, as most of the classes are so numbers heavy. For someone like me who is pretty far removed from numbers in my professional life, it's a pretty great skill set to learn. 

Done is better than Perfect

As Sheryl Sandberg famously said her her book "Lean In," I never deeply understood what "done is better than perfect" meant until now.  I had a tendency to try to make sure everything is done perfectly, but after a couple of terms, I realized that not only is it impossible, but attempting to do so will also lead you to burnout. In my case, when you're trying to do your best academically, while trying to stay healthy / workout / well put together, be a good partner / friend / daughter / employee, keep your finances going and house clean and tidy (the list goes on) -- it's going to be impossible to do everything perfectly -- and that's OK.  I've learned to be comfortable with doing things at 80% but keeping everything well balanced.  There's no point in trying to stress at making the last 20% perfect if it's not going to add that much additional output.

Don't forget about the ones who support and love you

I'm a firm believer that success is never achieved alone. It takes a lot of help and support from those around you to get you where you are, no matter how small the action. I'm thankful to my employer for giving me the time off for my residencies, I'm thankful for my friends and family for understanding why I might not be able to see them as often, and I'm thankful for a supportive partner who is patient and gives me the time and encouragement I need to stay focused.   So, be appreciative to those who give you the opportunity and support you to achieve your goals. Remember that "success is never achieved alone. There may be one person in the spotlight, but dozens of people behind the scenes making it happen."

With that, I'm off to my next residency in India. Until then! 

 

 

Take Small Steps Toward a Big Career Change

This is taken from Harvard's "Management Tip of the Day" on March 22:

If you’d like to make a career transition but you’re worried about leaving a stable job, how do you take the leap? And how do you decide on your next move? Start by following your energy and interests. Pay attention to what engages and excites you. What stimulates your intellect? Once you know what you want to pursue, learn more about the work involved through research and networking. Instead of making a huge change all at once, try out the work in a low-risk way by taking on side projects or consulting. Remember that creating a fulfilling career is an ever-evolving process.

You can read the full article here. 

 

Grad School Progress Report - My time as a Duke CCMBA student

Hey there! I realized that it's been a ridiculously long time since I've written a post. But there's a good reason for that, of course.

For those who don't know, I'm currently in an executive MBA program at Duke University Fuqua School of Business.  I'm doing this program while I work full time. To say that I've been "busy" is a bit of an understatement.  The Duke Cross Continent Program that I'm enrolled in is a bit different from your traditional Executive MBA program: its an 18-month accelerated program designed for working professionals. It allows students to study remotely in a distance learning format, while kicking off each term by traveling to 4 international countries (China, Chile, India, Germany).  During our week-long international residences, we study with Fuqua faculty (who fly from Durham, NC).  Our schedules are jammed packed, consisting of mainly in-classroom learning, along with immersion activities and local corporate visits.  We start as early as 8am, and while class may run as late as 6pm, there are team case studies, homework, club events and social events to be completed after class.  In that short week, we are reunited with our cohort and experience the local customs and business traditions of that region.  When we return home for the remote portion of the course, we continue to study that region's economy and business culture. 

Most people ask me how my "vacation" was after I return back from an international residency, but little do they know really how much work, sleep deprivation, and effort goes into it.  After returning home, CCMBA's try to resume life as normal, squeezing time to watch 2-3 hours of lectures on the weekends, meetings with our team during the week, and finding time to complete numerous team projects, tests, and quizzes.  Personally, during the first couple terms, I've spent about 20-35 hours a week studying for the program, so between working a 40 hour job and juggling school, it's a lot of work. They say that the later half of the program gets better, but we shall see. 

I'm happy to say that I'm halfway through this program already! The last 9 months have gone by so quickly, and has already been such a enriching and transformational experience so far. It's inspiring to go through this program with my cohort, because I have some truly some amazing classmates who make juggling everything look so easy. Yet, never did I think  I would be this challenged academically, professionally, emotionally, socially, financially and mentally.  Doing this program has really pushed me to my limits - it's definitely the most challenging thing I've done in my life. I'm so grateful for the support of those around me: my significant other, family, friends, and of course my employer.  

I have only 9 more months, or 3 more terms, left until I'm done (finishing up in December 2016).  It baffles me how quickly the last 9 months have passed by, and how much stuff my brain has soaked in in such a short amount of time.  I'll write a bit more about lessons learned in a separate post, but I just wanted to leave it at this: even though it may seem like I'm overwhelmed and have taken on too much to handle, I secretly love every aspect about it.  So this is a reminder to me, because sometimes in the midst of stressing out over keeping my work, friends, family and partners happy or trying to pass my classes and stay financially afloat, I forget:

 

 

Check this out - re:Work by Google

I just heard about this from the StartUpHR community, and wanted to share! It's especially usefully for organizations that don't know where to start with their HR/People Operations.  The website provides guides on topics such as Hiring, Analytics, and Management- with detailed steps and relevant case studies. These are all based on hiring trends and findings from Google People Ops Team. 

https://rework.withgoogle.com/

 

 

HBR Management Tip of the Day: Show Trustworthiness in a Job Interview

I subscribe to Harvard Business Review's "Tips of the Day" and wanted to share / repost today's tip:

The most important thing to get across in an interview is not that you are smart and motivated – it’s that you are trustworthy. Trustworthiness is the fundamental trait that people automatically look for in others. To be seen as trustworthy, you need to demonstrate warmth and competence. Warmth signals that you have good intentions, and competence signals that you can act on those good intentions. If you follow the usual interview advice and only focus on highlighting your competence, the interviewer may end up a bit wary of you. One way to project warmth and competence is by asking your interviewer questions. For example, you might show interest by asking, “So how did you come to be [current role] at [company]?” or “What are you currently working on?” The answers might reveal similarities in your background, experience, or goals, and help you connect.
— Harvard Business Review, The Management Tip of the Day, 8/18/2015

You can read the full article here.

Awesome HR tools for small businesses

Some services are just not "small business friendly." They might lack strong customer support, might be too expensive, and might require employees with very specialized skill set to be able to operate the system.  Plus, old outdated software might make things more difficult, creating latency and reducing efficiency. Sometimes it's inevitable, especially when there are no other real winners out there, but this is why it's important to keep your eyes out for better solutions on the market. 

Because I'm a huge fan of getting things done right the first time, I wanted to write about a few of my favorite HR/Recruiting Software-As-A-Service (SAAS) solutions that will save you a ton of time (and headache) down the line.  New technologies always emerge (so I can't guarantee this list will still be up to date and current 10 years from now), but if you are starting a business now, or in the early stages, look into these SAAS services to get your business running to a good start. You'll be in good hands. 

Echosign (Adobe Document Cloud)

There are a ton of e-signing services out there (like DocuSign, Hellosign) but Echosign is my favorite pick.   Even though Echosign is a bit pricier than the others, it's an established product that is easy to use and intuitive - plus it's backed by Adobe, so you know that your documents are here to stay. I recommended Echosign over DocuSign, for this very reason, but I've heard great things about both (DocuSign gets a plus for integrating with Greenhouse).  

I recommended this product to my current company because we used to send our employment documents by paper, then mail them through FedEx, but I realized that 1) it was eating up a ton of costs and 2) it was not an efficient process. It also has an easy search feature, so even if you send 500 documents, it's easy to track of and store.  Echosign easily took care of a lot of our problems, and has made my life so much easier. 

Greenhouse ATS 

For companies that need a database to keep track of their candidates, Greenhouse is a clear winner, especially for small businesses. Other Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to choose from include Jobvite, Resumator, and Lever, but in my experience, Greenhouse beats them all because of their elegant design and ease of use, plus robust set of features. Some of my favorite features of GH include their email templates (which makes using TextExpander obsolete), and their scheduling email feature (comparable to Boomerang). Plus, GH is absolutely fantastic when it comes to data reporting and analytics, making pipelining and reporting very transparent. Overall, I've been able to save so much extra time because GH helps takes care of a lot of administrative tasks. 

My company had been using Jobvite for a while, and I was afraid to make the switch (because going through data migration and the initial set up sounded like a nuisance), but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. GH has a very impressive and responsive customer care team, so support was never an issue.  Implementation was actually quite easy so if you've been thinking about making a change, don't let this deter you. 

Zenpayroll

Zenpayroll is an up and coming payroll provider, perfect for small companies. They have impeccable design and an easy to use interface, plus an  affordable business model. I haven't used ZP on the business side, but I have used it when being paid out as a 1099 contractor. I really enjoyed having direct access to my online account, paystubs and W2 information - yay for being ecofriendly! 

Our company currently uses ADP Workforce Now and may consider switching in the future (ZenPayroll also integrates with Zenefits, so that's a plus). From a price point standpoint, ZP would save us more money.  The real advantage though is having an intuitive interface (so we could troubleshoot our own issues) and having access to a support team that is easily available (our accountant always has to call when there are issues). I'm sure that our employees would also enjoy having all access to their payroll information as well. 

Zenefits 

Zenefits has been getting a ton of hype lately, but a lot of people seem to be confused about what service it really is. To summarize, Zenefits at the core is an insurance broker (they tie to all of the big carriers like BlueShield, Kaiser, Delta Dental, etc). They are a "free" service to businesses because Zenefits makes money from the health care carriers directly from new employee enrollments (so you don't actually pay anything upfront). They have other bells and whistles tied in their service, like employee onboarding, payroll, time off requests, and employee files. Even if you don't provide insurance for your employees, I believe you can still use Zenefits for employee files, on-boarding and PTO, but it might not be as helpful.

We recently switched to Zenefits and so far feedback has been positive. Implementation took about 2.5 months, so for a while we were in limbo.  There are still a few bugs and features we'd like to see, but their support team is really great and thorough, so I really can't complain. We had a lot of issues with our old insurance broker (mainly about enrollment and lack of transparency), so we hope that this will solve issues moving forward. 

Summary

These are my top picks for any HR/recruiting function that I personally recommend.  If you are thinking about scaling your HR division, or just researching, make sure to check these tools out!  They offer very affordable solutions, especially for small businesses looking to be lean with their HR/recruiting costs.  If I had to start from scratch, I'd make sure to get these set up from the get-go. 

 

 

 

 

It's all about TIMING - Recruitment Timeline Overview

The economy has been improving in the last few years, which means that the job market has been getting better.  Even though companies may be looking to hire continuously, the truth is, there are better times to make a move than others. Recruitment is very strategic and rhythmic; job seekers should also take this into consideration and be sure to follow the flow. I'll talk about what the timeline looks like from the recruiting perspective. 


Q1 (January - March)

Q1 is always a big quarter, especially in recruiting industry level candidates. This past Q1, I personally had about 7 friends interview, get job offers, and make the move (about half of them ended up moving up to the Bay Area).  

Industry candidates: Q1 is a great time to kick off your job search because companies often forecast at the beginning of the year, and designate headcount for the remainder of the year. Recruitment efforts are at full blast, so take advantage of this! 

New grads & interns: if you haven't started on your search for a summer internship, you better get on it fast! This is also a busy season for intern recruitment, since most companies will finalize their interns by the end of this quarter (latest), though the strongest interns will have something lined up already at the end of the previous year. New grads should get on it as well (see Q4 section). 

International candidates: If you are an international candidate and want to move to the US, you should be in your interviewing process in the early part of the year (because all paperwork needs to be submitted by April 1st). Some companies have long, extensive interviewing processes, so get started early (see Q4 section). If the company is nimble and can move fast, they should be able to get things done in Q1. 

Note: I've found that if you are relocating, rent does tend to spike up around this time (especially in Bay Area). Just something to keep in mind. Actually, 3 out of the 4 companies that I've worked at all started in Q1! 


Q2 (April - June)

For industry candidates,  Q2 is still a busy season for hiring. I find that the beginning of Q2 is just as busy recruitment wise, but most candidates who are looking to move usually would have accepted something by the end of the quarter. It does tend to slow down a bit during the summer, as employees start taking vacations and perhaps leaving earlier in the day. 

New graduates: New grad recruiting starts to slow down drastically around summertime. Most new grad hires should have been placed by May (latest), and the team is gearing for new hire orientations to start in the summer. In recruiting, there also seems to be a stigma that new grads who don't have jobs lined up after graduation are not as strong, so that's also something to consider! 

Intern candidates:  Internship placements should have been finalized and made by April already, and the HR/Recruiting team should be focused on the program management of these interns. 


Q3 (July - September)

Q3 is an important quarter for university recruiting and new grads. Recruiters normally need to start career fair planning this quarter (for example, which colleges to go to, arrange logistics, order swag, get prepared for the sudden uptick in candidates). For companies like Google, Q3 is the time where interns go through conversion interviews from their previous internships to see whether they will get a return offer. 

New grad candidates: If you are a senior and graduating next year, make sure to attend the career fairs in the fall! Take the time to polish up your resume and interviewing skills sometime in the summer, but definitely make sure you are ready before the career fairs. Be sure to add in your most recent internship experience into your resume (hopefully you gained some experience during the summer). This also applies to interns. 


Q4 (October - December)

The beginning of the quarter tends to be pretty busy (especially for University recruiters), but as the year comes to a close, recruitment tends to slow down during the holidays (Thanksgiving and onward). 

New grad candidates: Focus on your full time job search NOW. A lot of students may think that they have a lot of time and think "why should I interview now when I'm graduating in 9 months? Keep in mind that large companies have general recruitment windows, and the strongest new graduates would have done a majority of their interviews in September/October/November, receiving offers before the end of the year.  Some will continue interviewing in January/February, but I've seen the best candidates usually make their decision before the year end.  This is important to note because if you are a new grad and late to the game, the company may no longer have headcount. 

If you are interviewing with multiple companies, recruiters may try to press you for a decision sooner than you are ready to commit. Check to see if your school has a recruitment policy to push back for more time (for example, MIT's policy states that employers cannot impose exploding offers).

Intern candidates: Interns should also start their search in Q4 as well. Interns usually have the end of Q4 and beginning of Q1 to do their interviews for an internship. 

International candidates: Q4 is a busy time for international recruitment as well, as companies with longer interviewing processes should start their interviewing process early. 


Of course, this could vary from company to company, but this is just the general flow! These are just timeframes for the ups and downs of the recruitment season. If the economy is doing well and strong, industry recruitment should be going strong at all times of the year. Hopefully this is helpful and will give you a better understanding of how timing plays a crucial role in the recruitment process.

"The Start-up of You" - Book thoughts and summary

A few weeks ago I mentioned I was reading Reid Hoffman's "The Start-up of You."  I just finished the book, and wanted to jot down and share a few of my impressions and lessons learned. 

If you can't tell from my earlier post, I'm a huge fan of the book. It gave me the push to create this site, and to be more active in networking (I started looking more into those networking apps like Glassbreakers and Weave). I'm going to highlight a few of the important points in the book that really stuck with me.


Don't be like Detroit

Towards the beginning of the book, Reid writes about Detroit and the once powerful automotive industry. He describes how Detroit used to be like the old version of  Silicon Valley in the mid 20th century with the rise of local start-ups like Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The city was once known for it's entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, attracting people all over the nation to move there. But down the line, those automotive companies became stagnant, as they "clung stubbornly to their decades-old practice" (p.15) and started losing to the competition. They didn't invest in lean manufacturing, didn't create more fuel efficient vehicles, and weren't able to keep competitive with international Japanese companies. Fast forward a couple decades - we all know what happened to Detroit: the government had to bail out GM, and the city now has one of the highest crime rates in the nation. 

The moment you being to take success for granted is the moment a competitor lunges for your jugular.
— page 15

After reading this story, it really gave me that push because we are all at risk of becoming the next Detroit (or getting phased out / passed over by a more qualified, accomplished candidate).  So, in order to prevent something like that from happening to your career, Reid makes suggestions like ABZ Planning, creating a personal brand, and strengthening your network. 

Plan A, Plan B, and Plan Z

This is the idea is that wherever we are in our professional journey, we should always have a Plan A, Plan B, and Plan Z (or ABZ Planning). What we are currently doing is our plan A. Where we want to be is our Plan B. Our Plan Z is our "safety net"  - something that we should always feel comfortable falling back on incase the other 2 plans fall through. In our careers, we should always be adapting, evolving and growing (permanent beta, as he calls it), so ABZ Planning is crucial. 

While you’ll always be tinkering and adjusting your Plan A, should you decide you need to make a bigger change, that’s when you pivot to Plan B. Pivoting isn’t throwing a dart on the map and then going there. It’s changing direction or changing your path to get somewhere based on what you’ve learned along the way. Once you’ve pivoted and are on a new track, that becomes your new Plan A.
— page 68

Build and maintain a professional network

We all know the importance of networking, and the book will drill this into your head of why we should (or need to) network.  This goes beyond just expanding your first-degree networks; Reid highlights that we should be leveraging our network's network (2nd and 3rd degree contacts), because that opens our exposure to exponentially more people, opportunities and varying perspectives (or what he calls network intelligence and network literacy). Basically, you can't always do it on your own - you need the help, guidance, and knowledge of others. We should continue to invest and maintain these relationships over time (he gave suggestions on how to keep in touch and gave the reader networking homework). 


I could probably keep writing (and make this an actual book report), but I'll leave it at that. My suggestion is to read the book - it's a super easy read and will really light that fire. Enjoy!

My Thoughts on a Graduate Degree

I just read an article from 20SomethingFinance and really wanted to respond back. As I was typing up my response, my comment started getting too long, so I decided to create a blog post instead. The topic is about whether graduate degrees are worth the money.

From the recruiting and hiring perspective, here is how the employer perceives graduate education. 

  • Specialized degrees (like PhDs) will narrow you down, and sometimes will work in your disadvantage. Most graduate degrees (minus law and medicine) will lead you to a very general path, where you'll find your coworkers probably don't have a grad degree. I used to hire for Google, and whenever candidates coming from elite universities like Stanford, Berkeley, or MIT couldn't find job within the company, it was discouraging. Imagine spending 7 years of intensive academics/research and not being able to find a fit at your dream company. That being said, when you specialize and want to work in industry (versus in research/academia), be prepared to work on something that's outside of your dissertation. The lucky ones may find something within their realm of research, but that's typically a minority (I'm just setting expectations here).
  • Having a graduate degree on your resume does not necessarily mean more money. A graduate degree without the right experience means almost nothing. If you have a masters, but have no internships or work experience, you are just as entry level as someone with a Bachelors. 
  • You can't bank on a graduate education to open up doors for you.  Recruiters and employers aren't necessarily going to jump to hire you simply because you have a masters. 
  • You don't need to go to business school to learn to start a business. If you want to start a business, the best way to learn is to just do it.

Alright, so it sounds like I just went on a rant of why going back to school is a bad idea. If it's such a bad idea, then why am I going back to school? Why am I willing to invest 140K (sigh, I know) in getting an MBA? 

Graduate school is a huge investment. For me personally, I know that if I'm going to spend THAT much money, then I'll need to miiiiiiiilk it as much as I can. Meaning, I better utilize all the resources that Duke will give me to the absolutely core. I'm willing to make this financial investment for a few reasons: grad school is going to give me a whole new level of intellectual capital that no one can take away from me. I might be able to self study basic business concepts on my own (which would forever), but in school, my learning curve is exponentially accelerated.  More importantly, you go to graduate school for the social capital and experience. A graduate program allows you to diversify your network and perspective, along with give you access to people of the same intellectual and socioeconomic status. Bigger networks means access to more opportunity (but of course you'll still need to put in the work). 

Overall, my advice to those deciding whether or not further their education is to really understand why they want the degree, and what they want to with it afterwards. Are you interested in getting a masters in say, history, because you just really love the subject, or because you want to make a life long career with that knowledge? Can you get your "dream job" without having that degree? Talk with people who are older and more experienced who have your dream job to get their perspective. Don't go to grad school because you want to make your parents happy, or because you think it's "the right thing to do." Do it because you absolutely know and believe that having that higher degree will lead you to the path you want. 

What I'm reading: The Start-Up of You by Reid Hoffman

Every once in a while, I come across a REALLY good book that changes my perspective on life, and for a lack of better words, kicks me in the butt and whips me into shape. "The Start-up of You" by Reid Hoffman is one of those books. To be honest, I'm not even finished with the book yet because Reid Hoffman was so compelling that I stopped mid-way to create this website (it was one of the things he talked about). No kidding.

For those who don't know, Reid Hoffman is most famously known as the co-founder of LinkedIn. He's a entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and overall badass in the tech industry. Naturally, his book is about career advice, branding, and social networking in the modern day era.  Though I hadn't heard about it before, I thought it sounded interesting and picked it up because I was curious about what he had to say. I was blown away at how thorough and in depth his career recommendations are. At the end of every chapter, he gives you homework to complete (so I guess you can say that creating this website is an assignment of his). 

I'll need to write more about lessons learned, but I'll save that for another post after I'm done reading. For now, I think everyone should try to grab a copy of the book, or at least visit The Start-up of You website to learn more about this movement. Trust, I've been thinking about launching this site for a while (but been lazy/procrastinated), so if this book can be that catalyst for me to take the next step, it won't disappoint. 

Incase you are curious, the other books that have also kicked me in the butt (and might also give you that push) are: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, and The Defining Decade  by Meg Jay

3 New Job Searching Tools To Check Out

Internet has changed the way the world communicates and connects. This is especially true in how companies recruit and where candidates find jobs, as new tools are constantly being rolled out to attract new demographics. Since I love sourcing and discovering new technologies, I wanted to share with you a few cutting edge career tools for the modern day techie. 

Weave App

     

 

 

This is a Tinder-like approach to local networking that I found out through AngelList. Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating to LinkedIn InMail someone, so this app takes away the fear factor.  Weave allows you to easily connect with other (local) professionals, as easily as swiping right. I've had this app for about a week, and had a few professional matches, but so far conversations have been pretty sparse, as people's engagement level will differ from person to person. I did get connected with an entrepreneur and we are scheduled to chat more next week. I'm impressed that the app maintains it's professionalism, as I was hesitant some might use it for dating purposes.   Note, the app crashes a lot. Nonetheless, still an app worthwhile to check out. 

Jobr

     

 

 

Jobr is another Tinder-like approach for job postings. The pros: it's mobile, easy to swipe through, and can expose you to jobs you haven't heard about. You can also customize what you are looking for based on position, salary, and location. The cons: the UI is a bit lacking, as the resume and job descriptions usually get jumbled into one giant paragraph. Another con is that it's tends to pull jobs from ZipRecruiter and other large job search engines, so you'll definitely need to filter through carefully. Conceptually it sounds great, but it still has some ways for improvement; if their team can nail down the design and attract strong companies on the platform, it is sure to be a winner.

Glassbreakers

     

 

 

For all you women out there looking to network with other professional women, this is the perfect site for you. The site is marketed to foster a female community that embraces mentorship and support. I signed up last week after hearing about it from a friend, and was just approved for membership today. Overall, I'm very impressed, as I was matched up with someone with a very similar background as mine, and we are coordinating a time to meet next week over coffee. Algorithm on fleek.

Recruiter Tips: Things a Candidate Should Know

Being a job candidate is hard. Lots of uncertainty, waiting around, overanalyzing what's going on, etc. I've helped coach and counsel many of my friends who are in their job search, and found a few common themes I wanted to share. From the perspective of a recruiter, here are things all candidates should know:

1) We are rooting for you. Believe it or not, we want you to pass the interviews and get the offer. Even though it may seem like the recruiter is working against you (by leaving you in the dark/not getting back to you), get that out of your head --  we want you to succeed! (in all honestly, sometimes this is partly for selfish reasons, like wanting to close the requisition and move on).

2) We don't mind if you follow up with us. In fact, we prefer it! Even though it may seem like you are pestering us, please don't hesitate to follow up if you haven't heard from us in a while (use this sparingly, of course).  Sometimes we make mistakes and things fall through the cracks (aka we forgot), so it's good when candidates send us a reminder.

3) Sorry, but we can't give you feedback. Even though we wish we could, we just cannot mainly because of legal reasons.  We can't tell you want to improve on, nor tell you exactly why we rejected you (it's frustrating, I know). But sometimes we do, and when that happens, it's probably because we really like you as a person (otherwise, why would we bend the rules?).

Another update -- three of my friends that I've been coaching at the beginning of this year received job offers in Q1!! :) I've walked through this process with them from the beginning (pretty much felt like I was interviewing), so it's really rewarding that they've finally received their offers, and will be making the move in the next month or so. I'll write more about this later!!

New Year, New You!

At the beginning of every year, it's common to have new years resolutions and new goals. New Year, New You. But why are new goals and aspirations typically set only at the beginning of the year? For example, why is my gym is insanely packed this month (grr for stealing my parking) as compared to previous months?  Call me crazy, but we should be goal setting at all times of the year; we should not make excuses or procrastinate when to start. It's common for people to re-evaluate their careers at the beginning of the year (or Q1 in general). How do I know? Because as a recruiter, Q1 is often one of the busiest times of the year; annual strategy plans are introduced, headcount opens up, new requisitions are opened, and recruiters get flooded with candidate inquires now more than ever.  I personally have about 5 friends who are either in the midst of finding a new job and/or seriously considering a career change. As their friend in HR/Recruiting, I oftentimes get asked for advice on how to approach a job change.

If you are looking for a career change or new job this year, here are a few of my suggestions on where to start:

1) Deep soul search. Job searching = soul searching. Think of it this way: we spend a majority of our time in the office. Multiply that over a course of a life time. In retrospect, think of all the hours you have spent at the office -- that's a lot of sacrifice! So when you are job searching, find something you would enjoy. Ask yourself the "why" behind what you are doing, or what you want to accomplish. Do you find passion in your work? What is the big picture of how you will contribute back to society? Where do you want to be in the next 5, 10, 15 years, and how does your next role help you to get there? These are all questions you should be thinking about on the high level when considering a switch.

2) Research! If you are not sure about what career path to take, do your homework: research positions that sound interesting and connect with people who are already in those roles. Sometimes reading job descriptions and articles online may not give you an accurate or whole picture. Find people you know and trust to give you a firsthand account. Ask friends of friends. If you can't think of any in your network, refer to LinkedIn.  Don't be shy when asking a stranger about their occupation -- people are more willing to help than you might think (in most cases, people love talking about themselves).

3) Networking. This pretty much goes without saying: you need to network as much as you can. Cast a wide network of people in different industries and occupations, as diversity may come in handy. Make sure to also maintain these relationships because you never know when your paths might cross in the future. Even if you are long-term planning and don't plan on making a move anytime soon, start developing your network now.

4) Stay active and assertive in your search. Many times, candidates will submit their resume through a job board, and simply wait around to hear back. Newsflash - this isn't the most effective way to find a job. Candidates need to be assertive and keep on top of their job search - exhaust all options! Have you tried getting a referral directly in the company? What about having a second degree connection submit your resume? Have you tried emailing the recruiter directly? What about the hiring manager? Unless you have received a direct rejection, you can keep trying. If you ever feel left out in the dark in your interviewing process, you should always ping your recruiter to see what's going on (trust, it's our job to make sure candidates are crystal clear in where they stand).

5) Stand out. If you land an interview, make sure to properly prepare. You need to research the company, thoroughly understand what they do, and have good questions lined up to ask your interviewer. Whenever candidates respond with "I don't know much about your company" or have boring generic questions, it's a huge turn off to the interviewer. They could probably find other candidates that are more enthusiastic. Find ways to differentiate yourself from other candidates by asking thought provoking/engaging questions, showing that you know wsup with the company/industry, and going in prepared (meaning, you know the numbers on the top of your head, you have work samples ready, etc).  As always, be polite and show proper business etiquette.

6) Stay Positive!  Job searching is nerve wrecking and it takes a toll on your state of mind.  It's dreadful to wait around in the dark and to not be sure where you stand in the process. Constantly worrying and stressing during your job search won't do you any good, so stop it. Remember that you only have control over certain things - so instead of worrying and sitting around waiting, be active and focus on the things you actually have control over. For example, you have the control over whether you wish to attend networking events or apply for more jobs. There are a ton of alternative ways ("back routes" as I like to call them) to get where you wish to be, so stay optimistic and keep trying.

 

 

Long-Term Unemployment Story: My Dad Finds a Job!

In 2013, the company that my dad worked for had gone through a merger. Earlier this year, his team went through a massive restructuring. Unfortunately, my dad was part of the workforce that was laid off. It's been a tough couple of years for him. Unlike current day Millennials (including myself) who hop around from job to job every year or so, my dad was part of the baby boomer generation who values stability and loyalty to an employer.  He had stayed at a company for roughly 25 years, and has worked for maybe a total of 4 companies in his whole career (I'm already at company #4 and I'm only 4.5 years out of school). Back in 2010, he went through a round of layoffs with that company, but was able to easily bounce back into the job market. This time around, it took him nearly 8 months to find something new.

Since I live in Northern California, and my family is in Southern California, I didn't realize the severity of my dad's unemployment situation until my mom and brother called to tell me. My dad has always been someone who prided himself in his work; he was a workhorse who stayed up late and focused a lot on his career. After a couple months of not being able to find something, he lost confidence and one could tell he was generally not happy.

It took a lot for us as a family to get him out of that slump. My mom, brother and I agreed to be more involved in his job search, and to be a better support network. I came up with the idea to start giving him "homework" about things to think about (aka soul search); he had a lot of free time now, so I wanted him to find his passion or find things that actually interest him. Over Thanksgiving break, we ended up practicing interview questions for about 3 hours.  I think it gave him more confidence going into the interview, and it definitely paid off, as he got the job. He's planning to start after the new year :)

I learned a lot about myself and about my dad during this whole process. There were definitely a lot of generational differences between what how my dad (baby boomers) and how I (Millennial) saw a career.

Here's what I learned:

1) Life is not all about work. This is always a good reminder to know that there's more to life than just working away and making money. No matter what generation you are in (Baby Boomer, Gen X or Gen Y), there's always more to life than working your life away.

2) Confidence is key. Over the years, I've learned that one must be able to convince yourself first before being able to convince others. Maybe this falls into the "fake it till you make it" category. Either way,a huge factor into why one might not get a job is their level of confidence and being able to communicate that to the interviewer. Oftentimes, candidates automatically weed themselves out by saying (or even thinking) stuff like "I'm not experienced enough," "I haven't done that in the past," "I'm too junior."  Whenever this happens, you fail to convince not only yourself, but also the interviewer that you are not a good fit for the job. Be confident, stop doubting yourself, and stop giving the interviewer reasons to reject you.

3) Take time to reflect and find your passion. Traditionally, people work to pay the bills, feed the family, pay off loans, etc. What's fascinating is that some people go through the motion and put in many years (or even decades) never figuring out what they truly want to do.  Even after they've found a way to make ends meet, they stick with their traditional corporate job.  They are not entirely unhappy but not passionate either, and never question what else they could do to merge their passions and career together; after all, we spend a majority of our lives working. This was exactly the case with my dad; even though he's saved up enough money to retire, he felt at a loss of what to do with his spare time.  I strongly urge everyone to take time to soul search occasionally and re-evaluate their career paths to see how they want to spend their time.

4) Keep pushing. Job searching is tedious. Rejection is difficult. Interviewing is hard. There are so many hardships in trying to find a job, but at the end of the day, you need to keep pushing. Push yourself to send just one more application each day. If you aren't reaching for it, someone else is. Remember that job searching is a numbers game; the more applications you send in and the more you network, the greater the chances you have of landing a job.

----

This wraps up my posts for 2014! Happy holidays to all my readers and thanks for reading! More tips to come in 2015.