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EP 32: Ian Ambrosio, Global Talent & People Ops Manager at Sendle

Podcast Transcript

James Mackey  0:00  
Hello, and welcome to Talent Acquisition Trends and Strategy. I'm your host, James Mackey. And today we are joined by Ian Ambrosio. Ian, welcome to the show!

Ian Ambrosio  0:21  
Hey, James, thanks for having me. I'm really excited to be here.

James Mackey  0:25  
For sure. And could you tell everybody a little bit about yourself and what you're up to and kind of your point of impact and perspective, so we know where you're coming from? 

Ian Ambrosio  0:36  
I'm the Global Talent and People Ops Manager for an organization called Sendle. We're a shipping organization that's tailored toward small businesses that's 1% carbon neutral. I oversee all of our talent acquisition from a global perspective between the US and Australia, in addition to some of our people, and operations impacted our HR systems.

James Mackey  1:00  
Nice, very cool. How many employees are central? What's the growth? Size?

Ian Ambrosio  1:05  
We're right around that 200 number globally between Australia, the US, and also the Philippines.

James Mackey  1:12  
Nice! It looks like you're like a Series C Company. Saw the $35 million raise. That's awesome!

Ian Ambrosio  1:20  
Yeah, really exciting times over here at Sendle. We've got some exciting growth. And we just announced last week, we're expanding into Canada starting next week. So some exciting stuff is happening over here.

James Mackey  1:31  
Oh, that's really cool. So the expansion to Canada, is that more just in terms of servicing clients? Or are you actually going to start hiring in that market?

Ian Ambrosio  1:41  
Hiring not yet. Probably we'll see that starting next year, but mostly kind of our first 100 customers so far.

James Mackey  1:50  
Nice. Very cool. Well, I'm pumped to speak with you today about all things, talent acquisition. To start, I would love to talk a little bit more about your background. I know, you started your career at TEKsystems on the agency side. And I would love to hear from you about some of the nuanced differences between your agency experience moving into corporate. 

What were some of the, you know, kind of key takeaways and lightbulb moments of making that transition? And I just would love to hear a little bit about your experience doing that.

Ian Ambrosio  2:23  
Yeah, of course. So I started with TEKsystems, around the 2018 timeframe, I'm a little, not too sure about the years, but I will say the agency's start is kind of where I needed to be to get my bearings. I hadn't been in recruitment before, so I wasn't too familiar with it. So I will say I'm thankful for starting at an agency because they gave me the landscape, the understanding of what recruitment is, how to have conversations, and how to really sell a job essentially being that kind of sales aspect of recruiting. 

So I started there. And I mean, throughout my time there, I really started to realize, you know, it felt too transactional. While I was thankful for the opportunity to learn how to sell a job, it started to become only selling a job and not about the person. And my initial drive into recruitment was I want to help people, and I want to help them find a career and find something they love. So it started to feel really transactional. And I just decided, you know, what I want to do is to try to make that move over to the corporate side, and really bring people into my organization and be passionate about a company that I'm selling for instead of representing 5,10 companies and then saying, Oh, they don't have this standard. It doesn't fit here. Let's submit them here. That was the mentality I was getting during our time at TEKsystems. It just wasn't for me, and I was really about the people element. 

So I made that transition to corporate and look back, I've been mostly in the startup mentality for corporate, my background hasn't really been with large corporations from a corporate recruiter perspective, more of that startup, scrambling this maybe I'm not just recruiting, which is where that people ops portion of my background comes in, and why I'm now in the people ops function to because gives me a chance to learn a bit about that HR side and that's an investment in your employees and really, creating a culture essentially. 

So I moved into corporate love, never looking back at this point, and I've gotten a chance now to really broaden my skill set just outside recruiting. I think it's beneficial for any sort of recruiting professional to maybe jump over the bridge a little bit into the HR side, and learn a little bit about the HR policies process. It's made me a better recruiter for sure.

James Mackey  5:04  
For sure, as I noticed that you actually just got promoted. Not only continuing with talent, but also kind of overseeing or contributing to people operations as well. So what kind of work are you doing on the HR people upside at this point?

Ian Ambrosio  5:24  
Yeah, a lot of the HR people outside, I mean, a portion of it is a lot of our system management. So I've learned a lot about our HRs system, I'm not just on the ATS anymore. I'm also on the HR side of working with individuals. I mean, either like pay benefits, so learning a lot about the benefits side of the business. But another piece of it is our employer branding and a lot of our EVP. So our employee value proposition and not looking at it just from an external talent perspective, but from an internal perspective as well. And looking into why our employees stay here at Sendle and what is keeping them at Sendle and creating that positive environment. So people are happy to work for Sendle. 

So looking a lot into our ENPS and kind of seeing just the overall health and well-being of employees at the company. So instead of me just being the talent expert now a little bit of a people person to where it's just having regular check-ins with the team and just saying, Hey, how's it going? And really creating more relationships that aren't just so how can I help you find that employee for your team? More just about how you like Sendle?

James Mackey  6:55  
For sure, for sure, is one of them. I'm just curious to get your thoughts on this. Is one of your initial projects going to be optimizing onboarding? Because now you're seeing the full kind of journey from candidate to employee. So what's that transition looked like as you're kind of expanding your perspective and looking at more of the onboarding side, now, are there any kind of lightbulb moments or priorities that you're setting when it comes to onboarding?

Ian Ambrosio  7:19  
100% onboarding and recruiting. Before I jumped into this role, it was very much All right, I've done my part, now handed off to our director of people, and they take it from there. Now I get to walk across that bridge candidate. It's more of a seamless handover, essentially, because learning the benefits side, which is why I think is important, the recruiter allows me to start that conversation. So when they get to, let's say, the people person or whoever really handles the bulk of the onboarding, they're only coming to them with questions, that individual doesn't now need to walk them through our benefits, walk them through all of the perks of the organization instead, I can do that now. 

So, instead of having another person enter the conversation, a new challenger is approached instead, now I get to take on a lot of that, and then can be that one job, even through onboarding. So they're working with me up until the first day, and now they get to start working with their team. So it really creates this seamless transition where not just the person that sent them an offer and got them hired, I'm also the person now they can go to for questions about benefits, or how to log into a system. So it helps build that relationship even further.

James Mackey  8:50  
For sure. I think one thing that a lot of companies can do better, quite honestly, is just writing process documents that are accessible to both HR and talent. So that both sides can see the processes of the other. 

So for instance, talent acquisition could just log in to some kind of Google doc even that just explains all the stuff that HR would explain to candidates once the offer comes across. Because who knows, if you're in a conversation with a candidate, it's better to just say like, yeah, I have that information versus oh, what we'll reach out to you later, just maybe not a huge deal. But I think there could probably be a better knowledge share between people ops, onboarding, and talent acquisition generally, particularly for this kind of growth stage.  I think that's an area for improvement for a lot of organizations, quite honestly. It's a good point you made.

Ian Ambrosio  9:39  
Yeah. And that's something we're doing over here.  We have a Google Doc, so exactly what you said that's how we're doing it and it's a living document. I mean, things change, but really taking that time to have a jar drift a little into the talent acquisition team. So there's kind of a blend that or I think it really just improves the overall candidate experience.

James Mackey  10:04  
Yeah, I love that. I love that. So, curious about your thoughts.  In recent years, we're continuing to see a trend of tenures declining, right? People are transitioning to new opportunities more and more frequently, there's less of this sense of loyalty and more of a sense of How can I get the most out of life, personally and professionally?'' And it's becoming a little bit more commonly accepted, they're less fearful that it's going to be held against them. 

I'm curious to get your take on what some kind of old-school philosophy would consider like job hopping, and tenure declining. What are your thoughts on that trend that we're seeing right now?

Ian Ambrosio  10:56  
Yeah, I think it's important to, of course, recognize the past two years, and what the past two years have brought. And even right now, with all of the reductions in force happening, I mean, left and right. It's all over LinkedIn, I hashtag layoff and people that unfortunately lost their jobs. And I think when it comes to that piece of when you look at someone's resume, and you see, maybe six months here, a year here, six months there, I personally, for me, I don't even pay attention to dates anymore. I, from my recruiting perspective, I'm very much interested in the words and everyone has a story. And I kind of reflect it back to myself. 

I mean, if you take a look at my LinkedIn, it looks like I've job-hopped, just based on how many organizations I've been within the last couple of years. But I'm extremely appreciative of course, of the organization I'm with now, that essentially took a chance. I think everyone has a story. Everyone has a reason. It's things like dates for how long someone has been in a certain organization, I don't think should ever rule someone out during an initial resume screening. I think it's worth 15-minute conversation, I mean, what's 15 minutes just to say, walk me through your backgrounds, and just allow them to tell their story and get their side of it? 

Because a lot of people have reasons. I mean, not everyone is going to post or list on their resume. Oh, I was a part of a reduction in force. So it just looks like, oh, they left when, after I have a conversation with them. Instead, they tell me Yeah, the company went bankrupt. And then I get the full story. 

So I don't think about job hopping. I mean, even before these past two years, when I first got into recruiting, when I would review resumes, especially given my agency time, my leaders would always say, Oh, their job hoppers skip over them. But even before all of this, I still always thought, can I just talk to him for 15 minutes? Maybe they have some solid reasoning. I mean, what if they had an illness in the family? I mean, the people element really should be involved with a lot of this stigma around job hopping, short tenures, and such because life happens. I don't think it should be a screening element or a partner's reading element at all.

James Mackey  13:39  
Yeah, honestly, there are VPS that won't talk to somebody simply due to dates. It's the most annoying Hiring Manager profile that I've worked with, and it's happening less and less overall, but it's still just, like, so frustrating. It's the same ones that are like, you have to have a degree from, you know, a fancy school or whatever else. 

I mean, you want people that are coming to your organization from different perspectives, and different life experiences. That's a culture ad, right? To have more from different backgrounds and experiences. I think too, some of it, I guess, could depend on their point of impact and role with the company. So for most positions, you can make a significant impact, move the company in the right direction, and with a tenure of six months to 12 months. There might be some like, Okay, if you're coming on as an enterprise account executive and deal lengths are 18 months, then it's harder to gauge success if they've kind of jumped around six months to a year at several jobs. So I get that there are exceptions. But, as a rule of thumb, the only question that really matters when it comes to their past performance is Was the company better off as a result of them being there? Were they able to achieve the outcomes that they were accountable for? Are they adaptable? Could they ramp quickly? Those are the things that matter to me. 

So I do agree with you, I think it's Let's not fight the trend, let's not try to swim up current, let's just accept that this is becoming more and more the preference of top talent, and we can try to fight it and lose. Or we can lean into it and figure out how we accelerate onboarding and ramp to enable people to start adding value faster? And pretty much nobody's asking that question.

Ian Ambrosio  15:29  
Yeah, I think you make a great point, just about certain organizations or certain roles, that maybe there's a long lead time on measuring success. I didn't even really think about this. But when you look at a startup company, I mean,  in my existing role, I'm only five months in, but I have accomplished so much and have had a large impact on the organization, but it's only five months. 

So I think it really depends on the organization. I mean, if it's this larger corporation, this large Microsoft, Google, there's typically red tape and a lot of areas of this organization. So it is more difficult to measure success if it's only been six months or three months at that company. So I would want to dive into it a little further, but I would never just say, Oh, they only worked at Google for six months, I don't want to talk to him, I want to talk to the person, I want to give this person a chance. But it definitely depends on the company as well. 

I mean, all startup companies, especially coming from mostly startup backgrounds, three months might as well feel like a year, just what you can do due to the scrappiness of working with collaborative teams, and small teams, and what you can accomplish is pretty remarkable. So that also is a point to consider as well.

James Mackey  16:53  
For sure. That's actually a really good point. And I had heard that before, but it's not part of my typical kind of like approach to explaining this. And you're right, though, it's a huge determining factor. There's some point where you kind of hit this late growth stage of 500 to 1000 employees, where you start to have more traditional executives in place that put in processes, that are preparing for a very late stage exit or potentially an IPO. That slows down your ability to make big changes quickly. And you're right, I think it takes longer to prove out, you know, your value to organizations as you start to hit maybe that 6, 700 employee number and above. So you're right, that's a huge driver. 

I mean, I have friends that are working for those late growth stage companies and they talk about when they worked in smaller orgs. Sometimes they were able to get a turnaround much faster, but they're like, you know, six months and they're like, Oh, I would have loved to have this done. But I'm trying to coordinate with, you know, my peers when I'm working cross-functionally with others on different teams, and we had to get buy-in and alignment. And they're doing it this way. And I want to do it this way. And, there's a lot of that type of stuff going on at large organizations. 

So you're right, it does vary, too. And I don't think some of these hiring managers, some of these VPS that are being hypercritical on tenure, I don't think they're considering that either. I think that they would look at, you know, nine months tenure of somebody who was at Google the same as they would look at nine months tenure as a startup without thinking about that nuance or context.

Ian Ambrosio  18:31  

James Mackey  18:33  
This such a bias and blindspots

Ian Ambrosio  18:37  
100% i 100%. Agree. Hiring managers, what I've noticed over the years, it's very much about one of the bullet points on the resume. And it's always less looking into where's the person coming from and that people element. Which goes back to once again, why I think it's really important for recruiting professionals to dive into that people's side a little bit. Because you start to just really understand people and where they're coming from. Because these are people's lives when it comes to recruiting, that's what we're working with here. So it's not always just what's on the resume.

James Mackey  19:19  
No, for sure. And a lot of the best people I've worked with have, I don't know if you want to call it non-traditional, I don't know if that's the right phrase, but they have things on their profile that maybe they're not like 100% aligned if you're going to be hypercritical, but they're incredibly strong performers, right? Like I haven't seen a correlation. 

And then also like sometimes people have been at organizations too long. And I guess more people have thought of this before but, you know, what if they were just kind of stagnant for several years, like what good is that? How is that a value? Like you want people that are constantly growing and evolving and learning new skill sets and developing new perspectives and having new conversations with new people and that is a healthy motion that brings a lot of insight to your company, right? 

Being able to work with somebody, that's okay. I've been in five different environments. I know what works and what doesn't work. And now I can, you know, optimize our environment, based on the things that I've learned, right? I mean, who's gonna have more knowledge? Right? One person that worked for, you know, for three to five companies over the past five years, or one person that worked for one company? 

Both I guess could be, it could be either, but I would say, in general, probably the person that's worked in different environments is likely to have learned more in general. I mean, I'd say that's a generalization. I know the opposite can be true, too. Right? Like, I've been at SecureVision for seven years. And I've learned a lot, right? Like, there are obviously exceptions. But I mean, it just makes sense to me, right? Like, let's stop obsessing about how long someone's going to stay here and start obsessing on how we can increase their impact faster, right? And overall, like that, should that should always be the metric we're looking at.

Ian Ambrosio  21:06  
100% 100% agree with that. I mean, it makes total sense to me. And that's why, for me, I want to provide both of those candidates to the hiring manager for them to talk to both, right? And then we weigh the pros and cons. Like, see, this person knows a lot too, despite being a quote-unquote job hopper, but they're potentially at the same level or above the other individual. It's always subjective. And it just requires that conversation.

James Mackey  21:33  
For sure. Yeah, absolutely. But you said it best. Like it shouldn't be like a pre-screening criteria that determine whether or not somebody gets an interview. That is just clearly not the way to do it.  

And talking about other trends that we've seen over the past few years. You made an interesting point in the prep call with Nick, prior to the podcast, "Gone are the days of here's a list of questions or grilling candidates on screening calls, and we're kind of in this new era of having more balanced conversations with candidates". Talk to us about your thoughts on that and how you implement that on a day to day.

Ian Ambrosio  22:12  
Yeah, I think when it comes to doing an interview, especially from where I come from in recruiting, I'm that first initial call on that preliminary call. I'm not an expert on the skill sets, or if I'm hiring for a data analyst. I don't work in sequel daily, I don't work in Tableau daily. So I do not have a technical skill set. So I don't want to be having a preliminary call just asking questions that mean nothing to me, because I have no idea. I would rather have that higher new draft that calls so when it comes to me doing interviews, how I approach it, and how I approach every single interview I do after we have an introduction, I give my spiel on my company, I ask them, Tell me your story. Word for word, I always say tell me your story. 

I want to have them walk me through it. I mean, where they're coming from, how they got to where they got to today because it tells me a lot. I mean, it tells me how they present themselves, how they communicate. And at the same time, I'm also getting an overview of their backgrounds, maybe some of the tools or skills they've worked with over the years. 

There's a lot that can come from that. I think it's really nice to have open-ended questions that allow you to really then get this full picture of the candidate. And then I can dive into maybe some more just like targeted questions, but I am able to refer back to the things they told me. So creates a conversation type of mentality. where instead of me just asking a list of questions, I can then refer back to the story. They just told me, because that's out on the table. Now I can use that whole story. They said to then ask those questions. So it flows like a conversation yet it's still on the interview at the same time.

James Mackey  24:15  
For sure, for sure. Yes, I think that's definitely super important. And I think too, when you have a more natural conversation, right, and you're transparent, and you're sharing insights and answering their questions, allowing them to tell their story, and it just creates a more honest, open dialogue as well. 

Ian Ambrosio  24:34  
What I would add to that is, another part of interviews I do is for me, at least Gone are the days of me cold calling a candidate and just saying, Hey, do you have time to chat? And the reason is that yes, I can approach that with the same conversation perspective as well. But I'm not going to get I feel as if I'm not going to get the best out of that candidate. I mean, they weren't prepared. I mean, I'm just calling them out of the blue. 

So I think that conversation piece works also, scheduling interviews, like getting some time on my calendar, there are so many important tools these days like Calendly is what I use for all of my scheduling, it allows this experience for the candidate to pick a time that works for them. And it allows them to give their best interview in this place along with that conversation piece. Because if it's just a list of questions, and I'm just questioning them, and then they don't really get a chance to give their background, it feels like an interrogation. 

So I want to open up the floor a little bit, allow them to just slay tell me about where they're coming from, we can just talk around that instead of just saying, Hey, what's your experience with Excel? What's your experience in C++? And instead, I can say, Oh, you said you were with this and so he told me about how you worked with this here. And it allows us to really just have an open dialogue.

James Mackey  26:11  
For sure. And, talking about just the evaluation process, determining if somebody is the right addition to the team. What's your perspective on culture ad versus culture fit? 

I mean, people are talking about that a lot today. You know, particularly like high-level CEOs that are thinking about strategy, diversity, equity inclusion, they are really slowing down to think about, you know, ensuring that they're building a hiring culture that considers people coming from different perspectives and backgrounds, like culture add versus thinking through the term or the concept of a culture fit. What's the difference to you, when you think about that?

Ian Ambrosio  26:54  
Yeah, this is an important area, because I feel like when I first got into recruiting, everywhere, it was about culture fit. And I never even heard the term culture add. It wasn't even really until recently that came into my repertoire of thinking about a culture ad versus a culture fit and what that difference is. And I think the way things potentially should shift, and need to shift is to that culture-add mentality. 

I mean, the last thing I feel an organization should do is to hire a team full of people that are basically carbon copies of themselves. And I feel like what that promotes is, yes, you may have accomplished that goal of culture fit. But then you run into this problem where people kind of learn things the same way. If people are all, quote, unquote, the same, or they just fit together, because Oh, yeah, they would get along with our team, because they have common interests, and they come from the same organization or same cut cloth, essentially, then that means you when new problems arise, it's highly likely that team is going to approach the problem in the same way, they are going to tackle that problem together in a way without some divers look into it. 

So that's why this culture adds piece, I think, is extremely important. Because you get these new perspectives, you get this mentality where yes, this person might be a little different. This person comes from a startup and this person comes from a large corporation. So you're, what you get now is two ideas to solve a problem you get someone from a certain approach from the B Corp side, and someone from worrying has wrapped the approach. So it's really this opportunity to bring new ideas into the workspace, which I think is extremely valuable. And it creates, more importantly, an ever-learning environment. I think something that a lot of people stay at corporations for and companies for is the opportunity to learn. 

There are so many people I talk to that they consider themselves lifelong learners. How are you going to be lifelong and learn if your team is all a carbon copy of each other? So you add new backgrounds. I mean, whether that's on an I mean, people HR side in terms of ethnicity and such, there's that piece, but there's also just background piece where people are coming from me and you get to create this learning environment. So I think it's a win-win. That culture adds mentality. Yes, hiring managers might not be fully on board at first, because they're so stuck in this, oh, they wouldn't fit the team. They wouldn't fit the team. But I think having someone that doesn't fit the team, be so much more beneficial because you bring a new perspective,

James Mackey  29:51  
And also a lot of times when people say doesn't fit the team like they may not realize it, but it's usually completely uncorrelated to the person's ability to perform the function of the role.  I'm not saying that report isn't important, but it is always kind of when somebody leads with like, hey, I grab a beer with this person like that, that should not be your primary leading indicator of who you should hire. 

At  SecureVision, there's a tonne of different personalities, like people from different backgrounds, that's great, you know? Is it everybody that type of person with each other that, like they would hang out outside of work? Probably not. But we are here for a shared mission, we have a lot of the same underlying values, you know, we do have a good rapport because we're aligned on a mission. So you know, you can still build a report that people that are potentially different, and, that should be, that should be something that companies consider.

I mean, the other thing, too, is, yeah, when you have people that are coming from the same, or I shouldn't say the same, similar life experiences, and similar perspectives, it kind of creates the risk of that group-think mentality. And you're creating vulnerabilities because you're going to have similar blind spots. So there's a lot more likely to get blindsided with particular challenges and hit a wall with particular challenges. And so it's really good to just have people that have different thought processes, because, even people that might be coming from a completely different perspective, if they share some of the same underlying, you know, the same mission and the same underlying values, and they work hard, right? If they're consistent, and they have the right stuff, then they can be a significant value add. 

Ian Ambrosio  31:34  
I think that's a great point you make regarding values and mission. I mean, if they're aligned there, then what's the difference if they like the same sports team, you? I mean, here, you're saying, Well, we have what's called our five H's, which is our values, which are humble, honest, happy, hungry, and high performing, all in that order. And we're specifically looking for people that align with those values. And if you align with those values, then it doesn't matter to me, if you like the same hockey team, I do. You're aligned with our organization, and you can provide some great value there.

James Mackey  32:14  
For sure, for sure. Well, this has been a great conversation. We are coming up on time here. So I just wanted to say, you know, thank you, again, for joining us today. This was a lot of fun. And before we jump off, if people want to engage with you, follow your content, or whatever it might be, how can they find you?

Ian Ambrosio  32:32  
Yeah, I'm very active on LinkedIn. I'm sure you guys will use my LinkedIn profile there somewhere. But LinkedIn is the best way to engage with me. I am extremely active. So LinkedIn is the best place. I haven't dove into the other social media rooms for recruiting yet I'm not that brave, but LinkedIn is the best place.

James Mackey  32:57  
I love it. Well, anyway, Ian, thanks again for joining us. And for everybody else tuning in, thank you, and we'll see you next time. 

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