Brad Bierman is the Manager of Security Engineering at Arctic Wolf Networks. As a technical security consultant with a lot of depth in the industry, Brad is now responsible for a team of 11 security engineers at this California and Waterloo-based startup. We caught up with Brad recently to hear about their growth and the ever-evolving security industry...which is top of mind for everyone these days!
In recent conversations, I've discussed organizational values and their affect on growth in tech. Does a focus on values improve or impede growth? Many companies, both in Canada and the US, are being torn between being values-focus (respectful, kind and trusting) and being delivery-focused (fast, effective). In the eyes of many, these are at opposite ends of a spectrum. But is that really the case?
We Canadians have a reputation for being nice - polite to a fault. This reputation has become a strength. In markets where customer and employee experience are critical, our inclusive and caring nature is starting to set our tech companies apart.
We know that the success of a tech company is tied directly to the ability to attract and engage the best people. We've seen this time and again as we've worked with multiple companies to build their executive teams. Talented people all want to be part of a winning team that is moving quickly down the path of success but they also really want to be respected.
Great people know how to get results, and they’d rather deliver those results for a company that shows them respect. The most talented people we talk to want to work with leaders who create an environment where it is safe to innovate and learn - where they are trusted and given both autonomy and direction.
A values-based organization is most likely to attract the best people. When inspired with the right mission, great people will care about customer and will deliver great solutions with speed and efficiency.
Last week, the Kitchener-Waterloo tech community was excited to welcome the Netflix HR Guru Patty McCord. As keynote speaker at Communitech's Tech Leadership Conference, Patty's talk was crammed with authenticity, humour and incredibly valuable lessons. Among many gems, her thoughts on retention really hit home.
While most tech companies point to employee retention as a measure of successful HR and leadership, Patty dismissed this notion entirely. She sought to make Netflix a great company to be from.
"Most tech companies have a four-year vesting schedule and try to use options as ‘golden handcuffs; to aid retention, but we never thought that made sense. If you see a better opportunity elsewhere, you should be allowed to take what you’ve earned and leave. If you no longer want to work with us, we don’t want to hold you hostage."
Tech companies evolve, and as they grow they hire people who believe in the mission, and who are great at the things that need to be done. At the same time, talented people move into roles where they get to accomplish important things. The move to where they are valued and where they get to use their strengths. As long as these objectives are being met, everything is great - but as soon as a company can't utilize your best talents, it's time to move on!
The growth of a company is a journey, and so is every individual's career.
Expecting that the changing needs of your business will align perfectly with the evolving strengths and career goals of any one individual is unrealistic. At various points along the way you need people with different strengths. You need innovators, builders, tactical execution experts, change leaders, and people who can scale-up process and operations. These are often very different humans.
Yet leaders can take it personally when an employee leaves to pursue the next evolution on their path. Even when that next step doesn't exist in their company or if they as managers have failed to discuss future plans. Many people feel stuck in companies that can no longer utilize their best abilities. When employees feel under-utilized they becoming disengaged - without realizing that it is ok, and not disloyal, to seek growth and fulfillment in another setting.
An employment relationship isn't like a marriage - where ideally the two parties grow and evolve in tandem. A business will grow and an employee will also grow but not always in the same trajectory. Unlike a marriage, it is ok to just be good at the first 2 years, and then move on.
So how does a company manage this? How can employers encourage people to follow their path without the trauma of turnover that disrupts the business?
The answer is in conversations that are transparent, honest and safe.
Imagine if your managers and teammates could talk openly about their career ambitions and their strengths, and the needs of the business. If each employee knew that their best talents were needed and valued, and that their career goals would be fulfilled - of course they'd stay. And the employer would have the ability to tap into their employees strengths to help grow the business.
Without a manager fearing that the employee will resign without notice, or the employee fearing for the near-term security of their job, everyone could work together to ensure that there was minimum disruption - to the business and to the individual's employment. There is a lot of anxiety around the "what if" possibility of an open conversation revealing that there may soon need to be a parting of the ways. This might seem like a big leap of trust, and perhaps unrealistic, but the alternative is surprise resignations, and unfulfilled, disengaged or insecure workers.
So take a small leap at least. To the leaders, talk to your people about their strengths, and how (or if) they can do what they are best at. Talk about career goals and whether you can offer growth in ways that matter. And to every employee, know what you are best at and identify the areas you want to grow - then talk to your leaders. Whether your paths align or not, everyone will more quickly and happily reach their destination.
Uber and their “culture of sexism” may be fading slowly from the front pages, but tech companies are scrambling to review their official practices and unofficial workplace norms. We see now that a single blog post or GlassDoor rating can cripple your company brand. It’s a scary time, but we are (finally) seeing some serious focus on the culture of our tech community.
Tom Kane joined Virtek in December as VP Global Sales. As an international sales leader with extensive experience in growing and mentoring teams, he was excited to apply his learnings to help Virtek continue to grow and compete on a global level. A few months into the new role, we caught up with Tom to hear about why he joined Virtek, why they are poised for global success and how to scale a sales organization.
Sean Erjavec is the new EVP Sales at Bridgit. As a scale-up sales leader with global experience, he is responsible for building a team to drive revenue growth for this exciting KW start-up. Now 3 months into his new role, we talked to him about why he made the move and his approach to sales leadership.
Recently a friend and local tech exec met with some top engineering students, and learned that as many as 60% had plans to accept jobs with tech companies in Silicon Valley. He asked a very interesting and complex question"What can we do to convince them to stay local and build a career here?"
You’ve figured out employer branding and have defined your ideal team.. But how do you get that message out to your dream candidates. They are not likely looking for a job, and if they are, the recruiting messages of hundreds of other growing tech companies just sounds like noise.How do you craft a message that is actually heard - and where do you tell the story?Step 1: Tell a Great the StoryStorytelling brings your brand to life and allows you to build meaningful relationships with future employees. Here are a couple of tips:Think about your WhoWhat drives your target employees? We know that what really drives engagement and love for a job is Autonomy, Purpose (Why) and Mastery (and here is a great video by Daniel Pink that drives this message home).Talk about the people behind the brand & their passion for impactWhile telling your company’s origin story (similar to a Superhero origin story) highlight the people behind the brand and why this mission is important to them. Share inspiring real life accounts that your future employees will connect with. (Read our blog post on developing a hero story - link)Build your brand personalityCreate a distinct tone of voice across all channels that separates you from your competitors and is easily recognizable. Think about your culture, your team, your workspace - does your tone and voice reflect this? Is it consistent with the what you project to customers?Step 2: Know Where the Story will be HeardDo you know the difference between employment branding and recruiting for a specific role?Recruiting for a role is typically reactive, you focus on tactics to find candidates for a specific profile. Great branding makes recruitment MUCH easier. Branding is about always recruiting - it is the overarching message to the your broad community of future hires. To the people you are targeting AND to those who influence them it says, “YOU WANT TO WORK HERE”To get that message heard, you need to think like your prospective employees. Find them in their natural habitat. Where are the top leaders, sales executives, developers and technical experts working, playing and spending time. What events do they attend? What websites do they frequent? What are they reading? Where do they drink coffee, play games, collaborate with peers on projects?Here are a couple of ideas on how and where to proactively engage prospective hires:
Webinars and meet-ups
Sponsor events relevant to your brand
Industry events and trade-shows
Community and volunteer events
Social media and targeted online communities
So go out there and tell your emotionally engaging, problem solving, impactful origin story! Find your tribe.Read More...
“For a brand to ring true, and have real authenticity to it, it must start from the inside of the company. It must be inextricably linked to the soul - the very DNA - of the company. The company must live and breathe its brand from the inside out.”
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