It was the summer of 2013 when I received a phone call out of the blue from the co-founder of a Silicon Valley digital agency who told me that I had made a memorable impression on him. He then probed into my motivations and philosophy to hiring and retaining talent. We immediately connected on the various creative ways you can spark a conversation with an engineer or a designer. Maybe someone who isn’t even looking for a job at the time, but that’s not the point. The point of this approach to a talent strategy is creating meaningful connections and interactions with some of the brightest minds in the Valley.
Connections and interactions that last.
Shortly after, our cofounder, Sumit and I decided to meet at a busy specialities coffee shop in Sunnyvale, which was the halfway point between us at the time. I instantly felt my compass align with the core values of YML. During the two hours that we sat and drank coffee, we discussed going the extra mile, challenging the status quo in order to achieve excellence, and most importantly, always putting the users, employees, and prospective candidates first. These values resonated with me because first and foremost, I felt they were genuine and from the heart, but also just as important, I saw this as the way of doing business in the future.
Fast forward five years and I’ve now been through three office moves and have personally established three offices in the U.S., scaling YML to more than 500 percent since I joined. I’ll never forget: our first office had a microwave on top of an overstuffed mini fridge and I took all of my calls from our server room.
Let’s just say, since then, some things have changed. Now in our current office, we have a smart fridge that plays my favorite Spotify playlist. When I make calls, I can choose from the 26 conference rooms available, and even book the room through the iPad app we developed during a Hackathon.
Because it took a lot of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice for us to get here (although definitely worth it!), I realized, along the way, a lot of important things when it comes to a talent strategy for hiring and cultural fit. For instance, all the blood, sweat, and tears required for the reality we enjoy today meant that we needed people who were right next to us, digging, grinding, and building. We needed people who were aligned with our compass and truly a self advocate on making a lasting impact.
Because the world is ever changing, we have to change directions more times than we can count sometimes. We have to be nimble and flexible, yet simultaneously, stay laser focused on our end destination. As a result, whoever can navigate that journey with us ends up being a great hire.
Throughout the years, I’ve noticed a pattern those great hires tend to possess:
1. They see the future. It’s a mindset, a feeling. An underlying curiosity to validate success and dig for the true reason why. A desire to research past failures, current successes, and future ideas in their respective discipline. You can only see the future if you truly understand the past–and this is even more true in technology.
2. They are long-term thinkers. They possess the unique ability to efficiently break down goals into a series of short term executions. We are an agency where top notch global brands come to us for our thought process, so we can’t have short-term thinkers or those moving from job to job. We need forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, creative, strategic thinkers who are driven by impact. Those who have a driven mindset, who know what direction they’re heading in, but are also fluid in their conversation and thought-process. They are game changers and prove by results. Someone who wants to be part of something bigger than themselves and genuinely want those around them to succeed, because they consider themselves part of a team, part of something living, breathing, and growing.
3. They are positive, honest, and have grit. Some call it the inner courage to be the best version of yourself and to believe that hard work, clarity, and determination will get you there. Grit is a desire to outlast and overcome perhaps the scariest competition: yourself. It is about being dedicated to what you set out to accomplish and never settling for less. It’s about taking ownership in order to make things happen. I have always believed that positive thinking leads to positive results and visa versa; because positivity is about believing in yourself and those around you. And that is powerful thinking!
4. They love to play, color, tinker…and most of all, learn. At YML, a successful hire constantly challenges and listens to themselves in order to push forward. Trying new things, constantly taking in new information because you have a yearning to learn and experiment in foreign areas is a must. Here, we color outside the lines a bit and tinker until we get to an “aha!” moment. We believe this is how you create and build greatness.
The bottom line is, talent strategy is about creating an everlasting message for prospective employees and show the world your brand’s vision. Set company values that will attract the right talent you seek and lead by example. Show the world you believe in your “product, people, and process,” as Marcus Lemonis says repeatedly on his CNBC show The Profit. Always be on the lookout for your next great hire and never, ever, turn down a coffee meeting as who knows what the future holds. And last but not least, always trust your inner compass.