The role of technical recruiters w/Sean Huynh - cofounder of devTalent [Video]

For this, the second podcast in our 'Gathering' series exploring the world of People & Culture in organisations, we sit down with the cofounder of devTalent - a Toronto based firm expert in helping companies find the best software development and tech sales people.

    Spend time with this conversation - here's the full transcript

    Teams and team function

    Qasim Virjee 0:14
    Welcome back to the second episode of gathering from start well, today we are in studio with none other than start with customer, and founder, co founder, co founder and CEO, COO and CEO of DEV talent, which is a Toronto based company we're going to dive into, we'll hear a lot more from Sean. When, when, when, when, when it's like when with an H when love that winning or always winning. From dev talent. Exactly. Shawn, firstly, thank you for taking time to join me on studio. I know you're in a team session all day upstairs.

    Sean Huynh 0:51
    Yeah, thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

    Qasim Virjee 0:52
    Let's jump into it. So a little bit of background on this podcast on the conference that we're hosting in April, is really just to say that people who support teams in organizations, whether they fall, you know, into some sort of corporate HR structure, or their EAS or anyone else who shares that responsibility with their team of kind of being a support for that team. We're trying to provide unique perspectives, tools and tips and tricks for those people. And I thought it was really, I think it should be pretty interesting to explore kind of your take on really teams and how teams function in whatever lens, we want to spin this. But But I think to start things off, at least for our audience, who come from that world, let's break down what dev talent is. And we're where I got founder from what was the impetus for what you do? And give me some color on what you guys actually are set out to achieve?

    Scaling technology companies and culture

    Sean Huynh 1:58
    Yeah, for sure, customers. So first of all, thanks for having me. Appreciate it. Pleasure. So very simply dev towns, a recruitment agency. There, the reason we started our business was my partner, Chris, he was actually a customer of mine. And so I was working at a company where we did iOS and Android development, okay. And he was an engineering manager, he was working at one of the big banks at the time. And so we were supplying him with iOS and Android developers and our company, were using recruiters to help us find that talent that we'd be sending to the bank. Okay. And what we both found and and Chris, in his career as well, he went on, from there to go on to become a director of engineering for a couple startups. We both found that a lot of the recruiting agencies we were working with, they were great at selling, like the opportunity and selling companies, but they lacked kind of technical background to really, truly understand the best fit the best fit, right? So, you know, sometimes they send us profiles, and it'd be like a wild miss. And, you know, they just don't have that technical kind of background. Right. So we're like, we want to be a technical recruitment agency, with a technical background. And that was kind of our thing. And so it was middle 2020. Like, right, when the pandemic was going on. both Chris and I had been laid off from our respective

    Qasim Virjee 3:32
    jobs. Yeah, cast aside, it had been downsized.

    Sean Huynh 3:36
    We just at the time, I think we're both at the same kind of point in our lives and our careers. And we're like, you know what, let's, let's give it a go. And I said, I wanted a technical partner to make it happen. I mean, I'm more of a sales guy. He was the technical guy. And it just, it made sense. So we started the business in around June ish, 2020. And we got some customers. And at first we started, pretty much focused primarily on software engineering roles. So like software developers, mobile developers, QA, DevOps people. Then we got into more product management and like product design, so it was like, a very natural progression. Sure. And the same clients were basically asking for those roles exactly as And now and now we're doing some more tech sales roles. So tech sales, account management, Solutions Engineer, so we're, we're kind of widening our scope. But yeah, that's that's a nutshell deaf town.

    Qasim Virjee 4:30
    So your core customers it typically like, Are they are they software companies, companies that rely on software? Sell software, SAS based companies, for the most part?

    Sean Huynh 4:40
    Yeah, I would say the majority of our client base will, at least our first two years was that in the past six to eight months, we've seen ourselves go more upmarket into some more enterprise type clients, in particular and telco. But I would say the majority of Business has been you know those series A through E, high growth SaaS startups.

    Qasim Virjee 5:04
    It's interesting. So let's talk about this idea of like, growth and scale, or I should say scale ups, right, like rapidly scaling technology companies, they have so much that they so much on their plate, like it's so funny, because we recently hosted a scale up conference for Georgia. And as you know, Georgia, they're like, they're like one of the largest Canadian in terms of the check size that they write largest Canadian venture capital firms. But they've been doing some interesting stuff to kind of de risk their investments, but also kind of offer value to the scale ups to de risk growth. Right. Yeah, to help them scale specifically. So they hosted the scale up conference at start wheeling in our hybrid event studio around the corner. Okay, great. And it's interesting, because some of the stuff that came to light during the sessions is that, you know, it almost seems easy to get the capital, when you need $100 million, you need $50 million. And you've got this like, you know, IP based product that is going to win global markets, right. But the now what question is really difficult. And then now what question office, or obviously involves people like, it's like, you've got to build a company and a company relies on people to do so many millions of things. And one of the notes, at least for this conversation, which I find interesting is that came out of that conference is, I didn't get a clear understanding from any of the attendees that I talked to, that the firstly appreciated the need to build a culture or develop a culture of their organization. And then to even if they did have any plan for how to sustain culture, and continue, you know, the early hiring culture that they might have had when they were scrappy, as they got more capital down the road. And as they grew from 10, to 50, to 100 to 200, staff would bound those staff to the same common purpose. Yeah. So it's really interesting. So these rapidly scaling customers that, you know, might be your customers. What are they looking for, aside from just filling roles? Like, have you guys been asked about this sort of function? Or are you looking to match people with organizations if you have a mandate for multiple roles to fill? To find anything like common ground between those people? Well,

    Hiring and culture fit in tech companies

    Sean Huynh 7:27
    it's interesting, right? Because there's always most companies have what's called culture fit. Interview. Right? And, you know, sometimes when people say, That's me, like, I typically don't try to ask, because I don't really know what that means. Right? And I think a lot of these are clients that are scaling up rapidly, right, you can be very selective. You know, when you're under 20, employees, you can be extremely selective in the types of talent that you want to bring in, right? Do I get along with you? Do we communicate? Well, like, do I think, you know, you'll be a good fit for us when we do our company off site? Like, are you gonna gel with other people in the team? Right, right. Are you in the same kind of like, demographic? Like, you know, people don't want to say that outwardly, but that's kind of what they're saying. Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 8:20
    they want to enjoy spending time working alongside their co workers. That's exactly right. But and trust in us another thing. But anyway, I won't take us on a tangent. Yeah, that's

    Sean Huynh 8:29
    yeah, that's another thing. But then, as you go from 20 employees to 50, to 200, to 250, to 500 to 1000. I think the mindset starts to change a little bit, right? And then the whole culture fit question becomes more challenging, right? Because let's, let's just go focus on software engineering. That's what we primarily do. Do you want a very good software engineer who knows how to code and is brilliant behind the keyboard, but maybe, doesn't really match the culture fit? piece, right? I think as you scale. Now, companies, they realize that that those perfect unicorns, those people that were like the perfect fit when you were 20 people, it's not the same as when you're 200, or 500, for sure.

    Qasim Virjee 9:22
    And you have to accessorize people. When you find strengths and people, you have to accessorize them with other people on the team that may not fit your functional expectations of what the team on paper should be. Especially when you're hunting for those people that can like really solve complex problems or have, you know, unique insight into whatever process and you see that in like deep science companies, it's been a historic thing, right? If you're hiring PhDs, they're domain experts. And, you know, one of our previous companies B works, which is like a kind of a think tank can solvency is partnered with Sidley and these other agencies owned by by a Japanese Consortium. They were residents here a number of years ago. And I remember conversations where they were saying that their whole knowledge base was developed out of, you know, the talent that they brought on. The company existed because of the brains inside of the heads of their staff. And so whenever they added someone, they were specifically adding unique talents. Yeah. And that was a really complex cultural fit question, because they had all these very differing types of people, the people came to the work, they didn't come to the workplace. But yet, this is an IRL life in 2017, you know, this was pre pandemic. So it was really interesting, because we housed for, you know, a year or whatever it was, we housed like, 30 of their, their team members. And they found and this is something that was actually on our last podcast, with, with a chap named Dion from Sunwing. He was talking about how people naturally find culture, or define culture together. It's not as quiet

    Sean Huynh 11:07
    time, it's suddenly actually I used to be one of my customers, too. Yeah. Oh, really? Yeah. Nice to spend quite a bit of time out in their office down by now or someone's cool company.

    Qasim Virjee 11:18
    Yeah. Small world, man. It's interesting, though, because like, culture does kind of exist amongst humanity, right? Whenever there's groups of people, they define their own culture. They might not consciously define it, but they find their groove, people find their groove. So yeah, I guess it's interesting to talk about how people are hiring to fit roles, that and what approach they take to filling that role? Well,

    Sean Huynh 11:46
    you know, it's on that topic, it's interesting, because we have a lot of startup client. And a lot of startup clients say, I want people with startup experience, because

    Qasim Virjee 11:59
    the does that mean like to the to ask? I know, it's kind of like, there's this bro culture, you know, frat boys shit, right? Yeah. And I could see that because I come from start. Well, my company is called Start. Well, yeah. But you know, we, yeah, I mean, I've been an investor. I've started startups, and I know the whole tech ecosystem intimately. So I understand that perspective of like, yeah, we want to like play ping pong together, right. But also, is it? Or is it more a functional expectation of agility? And like, not being rigid? Well,

    Hiring biases in tech industry

    Sean Huynh 12:32
    I think it's, it's more of a ladder, to be honest. But I think it's let's say this software engineers, that, let's say work at certain enterprises, this causes banks in general. Yep. Right. The impression of some of those developers whether this fair or not, I personally don't think this is fair. But the impression sometimes from certain startups is that if you work at a bank, the pace is too slow. And you will not be able to adapt to the pace that we work at. Which I can understand a little bit, though I don't, I wouldn't say I necessarily agree with right, completely. Yeah. But I think that's part of the like, as companies mature, I think, you know, when you're, you only have eight engineers on your team, then cool, you just go to the all the hottest startups and you grab those people. But when you need to hire 100 engineers to say, I'm not gonna hire anyone who works at, you know, any of the big banks, I think that's, you know, racism,

    Qasim Virjee 13:47
    racism, classism, in a sense, because there's an assumption of this is biased assumption of, yeah, I mean, maybe cultural fit, but also of like, you're saying, like, 10 xers don't work at the bank, right? It's like, this is joke that people have often or I was maybe talking about the people, you know, when we're talking about like, a political macro economic question of the world, you know, and shooting this shit once in a while. It always comes up people. I've heard this multiple times from different people. And it's a topic I really like, which is it seems like the secret services of the world's you know, in the the agents that we love to watch on television and in movies, all the spies or the James Bond guys kind of died out since the 80s. And it might have been an HR problem. Maybe, you know, everyone private contractor, right? This is the kind of inside joke in Washington is that like, everyone made more money in the private sector and the and it wasn't sexy to be, you know, in that line of business anymore. And then the political arena in the world is like less back and efficient because of this, but so it's kind of interesting is like, there's also that question of leave us Why the employers want to hire a certain type of person, maybe that certain type of person is also looking for a certain type of employment. Very true. So let's talk about this. Then if you're specialized in sourcing. I know you're you're branching out, like you said, and project managers and other people that fill roles within these rapidly scaling organizations, and probably like tech enabled enterprise, right? Yeah. What are you seeing from talent?

    Tech industry trends and candidate preferences

    Sean Huynh 15:29
    And words,

    Qasim Virjee 15:30
    in terms of like, what people are looking for are people primarily who you place with jobs looking for salary bonus, you know, like monetization recompense? And then workplace flexibility? Or like, what are the what are the hit list of things people are looking for? Typically, that you deal with? Yeah,

    Sean Huynh 15:47
    for for software engineers, in particular? I mean, for everybody. I think compensation is usually going to be near the top. Right. Not always at the very top. But it's usually within, you know, your top three things that you care about. And

    Qasim Virjee 16:03
    how's that normally packaged in terms of what people are looking for? From your angle? Is that just salary?

    Sean Huynh 16:09
    I would say more salary? I would say, especially so we have a lot of clients in the United States, hiring developers in Canada, right. And especially our Silicon Valley clients. They, they talk and they value that the equity component of their offers, like Aesop's and stock options. Yeah, much more than are candidates, like insurance candidates who are negotiating their offers. Yeah, the Canadian candidates, they're negotiating offers a US companies, I would say, the majority of them are negotiating for higher salary, or higher, like, sign on bonus, like cash on bonus, as opposed to more stock.

    Qasim Virjee 16:50
    They want the money now, and they want to rely on that money. Because they don't know if they're gonna be there for four years.

    Sean Huynh 16:57
    I mean, that makes sense. The honest truth. Yeah, a lot of a lot of these stock options best over four years. You go on LinkedIn right now. And you look at how the average tenure for software developer spoiler alert, it's not four years,

    Qasim Virjee 17:11
    six months? No, it's crazy, though, like it would no matter what role even that we are, you know, that we would have opened up start well, right. Not necessarily. Unfortunately, I'm not in the position to pay the salaries to compete with, you know, the best funded scale apps out there. However, you know, it's a different kind of workplace, right? Regardless, the point I'm making is living in Toronto, specifically, and looking at the resumes I get, oh, I

    Sean Huynh 17:39
    never finished my Oh, yeah, continue. So it's called career growth. Yeah. And then, and then the technical problems.

    Qasim Virjee 17:47
    So people are more interested in career growth and being in a place that's going to be like, massaging their brain and enabling them to learn and to grow, then possibly a pay day down in the future,

    Sean Huynh 18:00
    I would even say, like, the technical challenges that they're going to be solving is a big one. Right? I think, if a lot of times, engineers come to us, because they feel like, stagnant. They don't feel like they're growing. They don't feel like their skills are evolving, or they don't like maybe they've been working on a product for two years. And they're in maintenance mode. And they they've solved the big problem. Yep. And they delivered, right. So I think that's really what really drives a lot of engineers they get, that's what gets them out of bed. But then, of course, you got to pay them to write, I

    Qasim Virjee 18:37
    ran a team once. And I won't talk about what company this was, okay, but I ran this team that had maybe about it was like 10 grand or 30 devs. And they were like communicating over email. And I was like, What the hell? Don't you have a codebase that you're, you're checking in and out over using SVN? Like, what's happening here? And how are you communicating? And then we implemented git lab. And it was like, the were like, so leveled up in their competency. And, you know, I was thinking that these guys originally is oh, man, this is a deep layer team, we're gonna fire all these guys and replace them, because they were so not motivated by even how they were communicating that their collective output was very low. And then, you know, tweaking some things, gave them the tools they needed to, like, move faster, and also to use for peer to peer mentorship. Like they learn from each other better with better tools. So it's really, really interesting to see that. So that's also brings me to a point about community and the question of like, culturally, what do you think? I know it could be like role dependent. So maybe you can answer to a couple different roles that are in your niche that you're you're placing people for what kind of cultural fit are people looking for, if at all?

    Sean Huynh 19:54
    Um, I mean, a lot of our clients have something called the Um, no jerk or no asshole policy. Okay, right. And so, you know, some software engineers are incredibly brilliant, but they can come off.

    Qasim Virjee 20:10
    Wait, how did these people poo? If they have no asshole? They sorry, that's a dad joke that's like, no at the same time, a swear word. So that was good, thank you.

    Sean Huynh 20:23
    They may come off arrogant a little bit. And I think some some clients, they may embrace that, where they're like, oh, you know, this, this developer, this engineer really knows what they're talking about. But other companies are like, This person may come in and clash or, you know, like, we have a really good like friendly kind of culture and collaborative and this person is coming off a little bit abrasive. So I would say that candidates that fail, like, usually, this is how interviews go, yeah, you talk with like an internal recruiter for 30 minutes about the role and about your comp expectations, then you may have like a take home assignment, or like a coding test, you have to do to show that you can actually like write code, then there's maybe like a longer, maybe two hour kind of like systems design or a deeper dive panel style interview, like technical interview, sure, can maybe discuss your code or project that you did, or just to take a deeper dive. And that

    Qasim Virjee 21:21
    would be with people at their organization, usually,

    Hiring and retaining top tech talent

    Sean Huynh 21:23
    usually, like, you know, like your architect, your peers, developer, maybe your engineering manager, whomever. Then the last one is the culture fit. Okay, the last one, the last one is the culture interview. And this is maybe with like a VP or like, you know, a C level, or maybe even an engineer manager again, I mean, somebody, right? And I would say like, over 90% of the people, when they get to the culture fit stage, they're gonna get an offer. Right? Just by making it just by making it there. You've like, checked all the technical boxes. And now just like Don't fuck it up kind of thing. Yeah. Right. But some people do. Some people dropped the ball at that stage. Yeah. And the feedback we get sometimes, and it's, it can be very vague, because, you know, clients, they don't always want to be completely transparent. Sure. Like, you know, you

    Qasim Virjee 22:15
    because there may be some Yeah, or there may be some religious or

    Sean Huynh 22:19
    personal clashes. But I think a lot of it is there's there's two reasons why I think people have been rejected culture fit stage primarily. One is the whole, they came off as like a jerk. Right. And the client is uncomfortable, because they feel like there's some arrogance there. The second is, they maybe lack a commitment to the long term vision of the company, right. And salespeople, like, I'm a sales guy, salespeople are really good at this. Right? Like, we'll come in, and we'll, we'll get excited about your company and your vision, and we'll get you excited about it. And, you know, you're gonna walk out be like, Yeah, that guy, Sean, like, he's gonna hire him, because he's gonna help me take my

    Qasim Virjee 23:09
    team player, and he's gonna do this go, Yeah, I can relax, I'll go to a golf. Yeah. And not worry about anything, Sean's

    Sean Huynh 23:16
    gonna take care of it, he'll take care of you. Right. But then sometimes engineers, they know, engineers are great engineers, sometimes not the best salespeople, right? And sell themselves, they maybe don't show as much enthusiasm in the vision, the long term vision of the company. And then sometimes I get hire managers come back to you know, we rejected that candidate, because we don't think that candidate will still be here in 18 months, or 12 months, we get the impression that this is just, you know, somewhere, they're gonna come, they're gonna write some code, and then in a year, they're gonna be gone. But the reality is, even if I sell you on, like, this is the world now people are going to companies for a year and a half, two years, three years, and then they feel like they've kind of plateaued a little bit. And then they're looking for the new challenge. And that's not a bad thing. Right. So

    Qasim Virjee 24:11
    what how do you flip that back? If you had to and communicate a suggestion to team leads on the hiring side? In terms of kind of like managing attrition? Like what is just simply a question of realigning their their expectations to be not, you know, emotionally disturbed by George leaving his tenure at the company early? Or is it more about something that they can do and do you have tips for for people in terms of managing attrition?

    Sean Huynh 24:42
    Well, here's, here's what I'd say. Go back to George us, George. Okay, George. George. George is a rockstar, right? He smashes all the technical interviews. Do you want George who's going to give you 98% output for 12 months? Or do you want Jane? Who did? Okay, who's a very nice person to give you 60%? output for two years? What would you prefer? Right? And that's the honest question you have to ask. Right? Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 25:15
    I've been in that situation. And I get it. It's interesting, right? Because it also is like, I think that's a big element of planning and strategizing around culture as well. That's just one example of kind of this, like commitment question balanced against, you know, worst possible expected, you know, efficiency and output question. And then there's a bunch of other ones that people can consider. But yeah, the idea of kind of saying, how do you consider each candidate for their relative merits, as opposed to like just ticking a box? Right? I think that's a big lesson is that when people are trying to fit, you know, their hires into specific boxes? I mean, we're talking about people, right. So especially creatively minded individuals who are solving complex logic problems, they're not necessarily going to want to ever fit into a box, even if they're doing very functional work. So I guess the The answer lies in this idea of kind of think about who that person is, and how they could fit when you're doing interviews. Because they might not be they might be totally different than the next candidate. But each one could be valuable for different reasons.

    Sean Huynh 26:32
    Yeah, and I understand like, as a recruitment agency, you want value out of the fee that you're going to pay down, right. So I totally respect that. Like, you don't want to pay down a huge fee. And then this person within six months is on to the next thing, right? I don't want that either for our clients, because that's not good business for us. Right. And to be frank, I think we did the numbers the other day, less than 1% of the placements we made with our clients have left within the first six months. So we've had a very good success rate with placing developers who have stayed, you know, a year, year and a half, sometimes

    Hiring and managing distributed teams during the pandemic

    Qasim Virjee 27:12
    even longer. And that's even during the pandemic in these tough times. That's during

    Sean Huynh 27:15
    tough times. Right? So I think it's like, you know, you getting you keeping a great engineer on your team, I think has a lot to do with your company and your team and your product. Almost moreso than it has to do with the engineer. Right? Like if you deliver if you give them exciting work, if you give them great challenges. If you keep them engaged, then they'll stay. Right. But if not, like it's not just me in their inbox, man.

    Qasim Virjee 27:51
    So let's hear if you have any I know the company was born in the pandemic, and pretty much your experience has been dealing with placing people in companies during this crazy time. I use the word hybridized. I hate that word. So it's not even a word. English professor,

    Sean Huynh 28:10
    did you make that up for

    Qasim Virjee 28:12
    maybe, but yeah, it's the word that keeps coming up in every single conversation I have these days, whether it's about real estate technology, social concerns, cultural fit, Team stuff, every client of ours is kind of like talking about Hybrid Hybrid things hybrid, but just simply mixing teams that work in person with each other. And then, you know, remote or distributed teams that are kind of people at their terminals at home. It's a tough time to be managing any team because of the increased the rapid adoption, I would say, of this distribution of workforce. And what I've seen amongst software companies particular, it particularly and even as a landlord, right, we saw this whenever in abandoned offices in 2020, that have taken two years to figure out how they can bring people together in real life and what that looks like we're having tons of conversations with tons of awesome, you know, clients and companies to figure out that story. Because most companies don't even have the internal capability to rationalize the situation that they're in. It's very difficult. But anyway, the point is, that is hiring has been complicated by dealing with managing distribution as well. Are any of your clients that you talk to kind of facing this two sided problem where they might be now hiring remote? Right, so people calling up for Canadian talent from the States? They might never even meet that talented person. How is that attitude to hiring might how might it have changed because of this distribution? And also, how are they thinking of kind of the next step of managing distributed team? Is it a case where If they're planning, you know, points in the future to bring team, like, have all team sessions in the, you know, at the beach once a year, or I don't know, what are you? What are you feeling out from your clients on that side? Yeah, so

    Remote work and team building in a post-pandemic world

    Sean Huynh 30:11
    there's one client in particular, they're probably our largest client. They're a San Francisco based startup. SAS company. And when they engaged us, the company was maybe under 200, employees, somewhere in there, maybe 150. They had maybe engineering team of 30, or 40, all in the Bay Area. And they came to us and like, you know, we want to hire in Toronto, we want to create an engineering hub. And the reason I wanted to do that was their plan was to open up the office as soon as the pandemic was over. Right, right. So, so sure, no problem. You know, we recruited and they hired 1020 30, I don't know where it's at now, it's probably in the 50 ish range, if not more, right now, I'd say before, it was like less than 1% of their engineering team was in Canada now. It's probably maybe not 50, but close to 50, maybe at least 40 45%, maybe 50%. And, and, you know, we had a big piece of that. So the, the cool thing about it is, they originally told us, Hey, we're gonna build this office and get people in, we're gonna collaborate, and we're gonna work together. But when they came back around, and all the pandemic sort of restrictions were lifted. Yeah. They asked the team, hey, do you want an office? And seems like, no, yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 31:41
    I don't want to come into office. This whole time I've been with this company. I've been like, you know,

    Sean Huynh 31:46
    I don't want to spend time commuting. I don't like I don't, it doesn't need that. Like, we've we've built a great company, and team and culture. And so they pivoted, like To their credit, they didn't just dig their heels in and said, Well, too bad. Here's the office go in there. But they did was they started doing like off sites. And they would do them. I'm not sure if it's like quarterly, but they would, you know, over a span of like a week, the team from San Francisco would fly in POB. In hotels, then they'd be they'd be doing like long days, you know, they'd be in LA. And they'd be gone until 8pm kind of thing, like, for three or four days. And it was it was really valuable. People got together, they had a great time, they worked their butts off. And they were able to build the culture. It's

    Qasim Virjee 32:35
    funny, because this is what I was telling you, you know, before the cameras started rolling is that this is the primary function of start well, now in Toronto, right? Yeah, we're facilitating not sorry, I should use the right semantics. We're not facilitators of sessions. But our existence enables teams to come together for these full day sessions. And we're seeing this happen every single day we go like, you know, five to 20 different teams a day. Coming together here and people flying in especially Yeah, now that we're post pandemic, everyone's airport friendly. flying in from all over the place, finding Toronto to be a really interesting kind of North American and northeast hub. More than New York, compared to some people that I know in this space in, particularly in co working. We're finding people meeting in Toronto, we have a shortage of hotel beds in the city, that's for sure. We saw that this summer. And then with things like elevate was it elevate festival, a couple of these big like conferences and festivals when they happen in Toronto. There's no hotels, and we had like we lost tons of bookings or TIFF. I lost I lost about $100,000 in bookings, which for me is a lot. Yeah. Just because of TIF because no one could get rooms sucks. Yeah. Yeah, that's crazy. So now we got to build a hotel. Exactly.

    Sean Huynh 33:55
    2023 sleep on this table again? Yeah,

    Qasim Virjee 33:59
    I could just roll out mattresses on the floor. But yeah, it's become our bread and butter. Because this is the I believe strongly that this is the new way of in real life is that, you know, you don't need this place that's on lock 24/7 for teams to possibly use to find efficiencies they can't have, wherever they're working. You got to enable as an employer, you got to enable your team to find whatever they need as a place of work. So part of some company's expectations that everyone works at home, you know, and should kind of be comfortable doing that. Maybe a little bit like, you know, bias and takedown because I know there's Obex gains to that, you know, and work life balance is a big question. And you know whether people feel shackled because they're at home. In the dev world, it's a bit different. I've talked to a lot of developers who are like, as long as they can afford and the economics makes sense to have that space to do their work. They're way more efficient at their work. And they like that efficiency. They enjoy it. So to each their own, but when people need to come together to either, like, socially reset, which is what we're finding is a major function of these off sites, is everyone coming together in real life to actually get to know each other? Yeah, even though they talk all day long, and they message each other, and make those offsites, particularly in new experiences, you know. So we have a lot of teams that will like, come together at start, well, the book or multi day session, but then they plan these really cool things. Like, they'll go somewhere wicked for lunch. Then the next day, they'll go to like, climb the CN Tower together or go to the museum. That's where we did scavenger hunts around the city,

    Remote work, productivity, and company culture

    Sean Huynh 35:42
    we did so. So it's a good segue. Right? Yeah. So it's interesting, I keep asking my team. What do you what do you think about the office day? They love it? You know, we had, I think, maybe not last month too much before we came in here. Everyone had a little bit of a lighter morning. And I said to him, he was gonna go wrong. And we just said, Sure. And we just grabbed cotton, the cars got movers whenever they were wrong, and walked around and just, you know, enjoyed it. Yeah, hung out for for a couple hours. And it's stuff like that, that you just can't do when everyone's online at home. Right. Yeah. And, and I say to the team, how does this affect productivity? Right? And the team says, you know, in terms of like, because they view productivity almost differently, right? Because they're like, Well, did I get enough messages out? Did I reach out to enough developers today? Did I have enough like screening calls? And when you look at it purely from those metrics? Sure, we probably don't do as many screening calls on Office days than we would on the other, you know, 19 business days that were at home. But what you gain is like, building that company culture. Yeah. Right. And I also find that if you're, if you're trying to have like harder conversations, or like coaching conversations, it's, it's easier, I think, more effective to have them in person first, because you may not be able to get all the visuals, even though you might want someone in body

    Qasim Virjee 37:16
    language is everything right? Yeah. That's why That's why like, literally, I don't know, when I made this decision. But I decided at some point, the pandemic is over for me, which meant, you know, just as you just ended it, I ended it in terms of mindset, right, in terms of the like, the Response Paradigm.

    Sean Huynh 37:33
    So you that guy just walk around with no masks, everyone else wearing a mask, because you're like, I remember I was in the Eaton center, or some Mall. And this couple, they were they were both unmasked. Yeah. And it was funny, they weren't just unmasked, they were peacocking around the mall, chest out, like, walking, feeling, just like, you know, kind of like looking at everybody else wearing their masks, like, look at you. It's like, you know, you guys are all sheep wearing your masks. And so that was that,

    Qasim Virjee 38:03
    you know, man, oh, my wife, my wife's a doctor. So you know, I'm very, I'm both scolded and kept in line and, and brought up to speed on all the science. So I'm down with people playing it safe. But on screen, we almost had more body language for a little while there, compared to in real life, because when you're talking to someone, okay, you can hear me on the mic for all our audio listeners, I was covering my mouth as if you have a mask on. But you you do that and you lose so much sensory data, right? Yeah, you can't see a lot of our a lot of the majority I would think of us hearing is liberating, you know, for people and you see this with seniors, right, as soon as their hearings gone. They find it difficult to just engage with people. Anyway. So that's an interesting observation. But yeah, I made the decision in my mind that the the pandemic was over which which meant for me that I really enjoy communicating with people in person. And for the content that start well produces, the pandemic was over meaning I had found it this, this content series in like April 2020, called a new normal and a new normal was, I think, 12 or 13 episode series, interviewing entrepreneurs, either in person outside, or via everyone's favorite crappy video conferencing tools zoom, to be able to get their takes on how their businesses are doing and how are they managing as entrepreneurs as business leaders through the pandemic. But I ended that series for me saying that, you know, the pandemic was over was saying, I'm ending that series and I'm going back to real content by having people in the studio now I only will do in person stuff in the studio. I don't do any remote content. And a big part of that is body language. That's why we you know, have invested in multicam tech neurology and like all this stuff to relate as an experience for our viewers, our audience that brings them into the room. Yeah, you know, and the cinematics are missing from the box perspective on that webcam?

    Remote team building and culture

    Sean Huynh 40:14
    Well, you know, the funny thing about Zoom is when I go into Zoom meeting, I always turn my camera on. That's just me. I don't mandate, people turn their camera on i a lot of meetings. I'll tell you I go in, I might be the only person on my camera. I personally do it. I don't know why I do to be honest. But I do it. Because I just I'm used to doing it. And I feel like, because I'm usually leading the meeting, that it increases some type of engagement. I don't know if it does or not. And to be frank, if you have your camera off, I don't really care. Yeah, right. I like it. When people turn their camera on. It's nice to see them. Yeah. But I don't know. Like, if you're in the meeting, and you're lying down, or maybe you didn't do your hair in the morning, or you know what you're eating something like, that's totally fine. Right. But I think going back, like bring this full circle. Yeah. As you're building a culture, building a culture only remotely, is very difficult. Right. And I think when we started coming here about a year ago, just once a month, you could sense a change in like, how the team interacted with each other, you could see that to two of my employees would have like kind of a break off conversation over in the light, you know, they'd be chillin on the couch talking about whatever, you know, like what they did in the weekend. And you know, like those little sidebar conversations, they create, like that connection. And then I think it makes you more invested in the other person's success, because now you know them a little bit more, right, it makes you root for them a bit more. You want to see them win. Right? I think that's the main takeaway, right? And so, yes, you can do this virtually. But I think not having that in person presents at all. I think definitely. It's hard. It's hard. It's also hard for the people because they feel isolated.

    Qasim Virjee 42:17
    Right. And that's the opposite of what every employer should want. You know, you want your team members to feel like they're part of the team. They can communicate, they can work together, you can solve problems together. Right. Yeah, so very interesting. I think this is where things are going. I agree with you. I'm happy that your team is here, because I think it's it's been interesting through this time, because I think you were one of the earliest teams to start committing to this once a month

    Sean Huynh 42:42
    worry. I don't know, because we're like trailblazers. Yeah. You

    Qasim Virjee 42:45
    guys are definitely trailblazers. Absolutely. Nice. I like it. Yeah. And you're one of the early teams to commit to a big chunk of time, we had a few, that around the time that you guys got started with us, we're doing the similar kind of thing. But to be honest, like a couple of other examples, didn't end up working out. Because they didn't necessarily have common culture amongst their team. And then I think they ended up splintering off to like four different types of off sites. And it was just a team of 15 or 20. People. Yeah. But they ended up like some people wanted to meet in a coffee shop, some people wanted to meet in a hotel lobby. Some people didn't ever want to meet. And you know, so that's, but that's cool, too. Yeah,

    Sean Huynh 43:30
    I think you have to be open to that. Right? I think as, as the CEO of this company, I'd be lying if I didn't say, Yeah, I'd love it, if everyone just bought in, and was gung ho about, alright, like, you know, it's the first Thursday of the month, we're gonna go down and start, well, we're gonna have a great time, we're gonna go lunch and meet, maybe we'll do dinner after just not everyone's like that, I think you have to just be adaptable, right? Because some people work better. Like what I've told the team is, look, if you have a quota, and you have accountability to your number, if being at home, if even that one day, a month, it's better for you to be at home. And to just work, and you do not want to come in and kind of do more of like the social engagement with your teammates. I'm not going to like, hold that against you. I'm going to hope I'll be happy if you come. I'm not going to hold that against you. And I think having that openness, you know, we have over 90 Like almost 90% Like attendance rate, right? But every once awhile people don't come and it's fine. You know, just no worries.

    Qasim Virjee 44:38
    Yeah. I think having the ability for someone to participate and that being optional. Eventually lends to you know, if as long as it's not in the way of their life,

    Sean Huynh 44:48
    we get FOMO

    Qasim Virjee 44:49
    Yeah, right. What you guys got charcoal ice cream.

    Sean Huynh 44:53
    You went to the wrong what? Wrong. See dinosaur bones.

    Qasim Virjee 44:57
    I love that stuff. Man. My daughter and I go Oh, and she she particularly loves the mommies. Oh yeah, look at the mummy or is it the best Papa? Is he sleeping? Tell him to wake up. Tomorrow wake up? Oh, no, mommy, she loves it. It's so much fun. She's four and a half. That's why, you know, she was like 40. And I was saying that, well, there'll be a problem if my daughter was 40. But no, it was a pleasure talking about all these different aspects of kind of hiring for remote teams. And managing your own team as well, which I think was interesting. I'm glad that that came out in this conversation. And I, I hope that you know, our audience enjoys kind of hearing this perspective from the recruiter. perspective to on this. I know, a lot of our audience members are kind of internal at organizations, and, and trying to, you know, work through new realities. So, do you want to end with any particular advice or otherwise recommendations for people that might want to scratch your brain a bit more? Yeah.

    Sean Huynh 45:59
    I mean, around building culture and company culture, anything that you want? Yeah, I guess, you know, on that tangent, I would say, the one the biggest thing I've learned not only from, you know, our own experience, but also through our clients is now in this hybrid diarization Is that with the texture, hybridization, hybridized world hybridized worlds that we're living in, it's, it's giving people choice, right? And it's giving them options of, you know, if you want to work remote, only cool, if you want to get some of that on site. Great. But giving people the opportunity, I think when you only say we're only remote, or we're only on site, or this is mandatory that you have to do this, or you have to do that, that's what I think people become like, they get the wall up, or they get their back up a bit. And they're a little bit, you know, hesitant. Right. But when you give them options and without consequence, that you know, if you this is the type of experience that you want out of work, then, you know, experience it that way. But if this is not the type of experience you want to work, you've experienced a different way. That's okay. I think that's where companies really succeed. I like it. Thanks for taking time in no problem, Cass and thanks for having awesome have appreciate it. Alright, cheers. Appreciate it.

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