Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

433: Techie Staffing with Anna Spearman

July 28th, 2022

Anna Spearman is the Founder of Techie Staffing, which connects high-quality technology talent with high-caliber clients.

Chad talks with Anna about founding and growing the company, immediately after graduating college, during a pandemic, reputation building, and facing skepticism around her lack of track record in recruiting, and finding and providing talent for clients as a white-glove service.

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CHAD: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots Podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Chad Pytel. And with me today is Anna Spearman, the Founder of Techie Staffing, which connects high-quality technology talent with high-caliber clients. Anna, thanks so much for joining me.

ANNA: Thank you so much for inviting me, Chad.

CHAD: In theory, at the surface level, Techie Staffing is probably fairly straightforward in terms of what you do. But I'm curious how you got started.

ANNA: Yes, of course. So I can't believe I'm saying this, but it's been two years. Two years ago, I was, during that time, attending the University of Virginia, where I was majoring in computer science with a minor in entrepreneurship. And in the spring of 2020, I was planning on coming back home to...I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I was planning to come back home for spring break. And I was finishing out my second semester of senior year. So I was planning my [chuckles] victory lap of going back home, taking a little bit of a rest time, and then coming back to UVA to finish my degree, graduate, and move on to a new job in Los Angeles.

But unfortunately, as my plane was landing in Los Angeles, we kept hearing about COVID. And so the pandemic hit in the middle of my spring break. And during that time, I had to finish my second semester of senior year remote. It was very stressful, but when I finished the degree, I was so fulfilled. But unfortunately, there was a rapid dwindling of entry-level tech and product roles. I initially either wanted to be a software engineer or a product manager or be a software engineer that transitioned into a technical product manager.

But unfortunately, once the pandemic hit, companies weren't willing to ramp up entry-level talent. Companies didn't really know what was going to happen in the future, and everybody was remote. So it was just a really confusing time. But while I was searching through different job boards trying to find new opportunities, especially entry-level opportunities, I found just a wealth of senior tech jobs, specifically with companies that were thriving due to the pandemic. During that time, companies like Peloton, Discord, Zoom, they were all soaring due to the pandemic.

So I had heard about contingent recruiting in the past. My biggest dream for a new opportunity for myself graduating out of college was just to learn something new every day because I've always had a very much an interdisciplinary background. I've never been able to stay in one area. I've always loved to try different things. So with a little bit of a background recruiting at a past summer internship as well as wanting to utilize my entrepreneurship minor...I'm actually a fourth-generation woman entrepreneur. So definitely, growing up, creating my own business was my dream. So really, that was my main goal.

I thought I was going to transition from a current role into entrepreneurship, but I had my back against the wall. So I just thought, why not start now? So I created Techie Staffing, a technology staffing agency specializing in direct hire placements nationwide. I basically had my virtual graduation; then I took a week. And then, I got started creating the website, establishing the business paperwork, as well as developing strategic partnerships with senior technical recruiters that had full candidate pipelines to fill incoming job requisitions.

And I basically started off with nothing. I had no contacts, no network, just nothing at all. And I was really starting just fresh. So I really had to really spend a lot of time networking and developing relationships as well as just learning and mastering full lifecycle recruiting, especially with engineering since there's such a supply and demand issue for software engineers. So you're just consistently following up and contacting people that could potentially be interested in your companies. But it really blew up.

As I was establishing everything in 2020 from summer to the end of 2020, it was 2021 when it really blew up where I contacted this founder during the time they had raised a Series B 50 million, which was amazing, and they were going through a hiring sprint. So we got connected fairly quickly. And with just great team synergy, we were actually able to place five people in one month, and it was frontend, backend, and full-stack developers. So that really jump-started Techie Staffing.

And then after that, we worked with...we're now working with Fortune 500 companies as well as high-growth startups and really building a diversified portfolio, and we’re also a certified woman-owned business which I'm so proud of because there aren't really a lot of women or even just women of color that are founders. So I was really happy to get that certification, really proud of that as well.

I always say all the time to everybody it's super stressful, but it's so rewarding at the same time. And I do believe that it's honestly, you know, I know the pandemic has been super hard on people. And it's been such a change and such a shift. But there is still a part of me that is so grateful for making that pivot because I really found something that I feel like I really enjoy doing every day.

CHAD: That's great. I really commend you on everything you've done so far. And I'm excited about what you're going to do in the future. You now have grown where you're multiple people on your team.

ANNA: Yeah, so we actually hired two new people fairly recently. I did have one direct hire recruiter working with me. So now it's officially a team of four. I did develop the strategic part. I do still have some strategic partnerships as well because on that part, at first, I was partnering with recruiters that were independent, so who were a little bit more entrepreneurial so that we could split the placement fee. But it's still better to just have full-time employees. I'm so excited to have two new additional hires, and it's still new for me.

So I'm really looking forward to growing together in terms of growing Techie Staffing and growing into being a full life cycle recruiter because it wasn't that long ago when I was in that same exact spot. And it's so amazing. It still blows my mind to this day how two years ago, thinking about interviewing candidates or selling to clients, and now what I've evolved in. It's been absolutely amazing.

So I'm so happy to see their journey and seeing them transition into being technical recruiters and also making a pivot in their career as well, which that's still blowing my mind a little bit. I'm sure you know founding thoughtbot and really building that from the ground up. So it's just amazing seeing that infrastructure. It just really brings a brighter future as well.

CHAD: So what kind of people do you look for when you're looking to add to your team? Are you bringing on people who have experience with recruiting? Or are you bringing on people who are transitioning into it?

ANNA: I would say for Q1 and Q2 of 2022 and even a little bit beforehand, since there was a surge in demand for everything and tech companies were just scaling like crazy, there was very much a competitive market for recruiters, specifically technical recruiters. Because that's what companies were really looking for to scale their engineering and product teams. So it was very, very competitive to recruit for a technical recruiter.

So now you see agencies now who are hiring people who can have the DNA for a technical recruiter but not necessarily have direct experience, which I think can be really, really cool. Because like I said, like two years ago, I knew absolutely nothing, and now I feel very much confident in the full life cycle. So I think that's really cool to have people be able to pivot into a really cool industry where you're really learning something new every day, and you're speaking to really interesting people.

We specialize in senior up until C-suite, so yeah, learning from people who are senior all the way up to Director, VP. So it's really interesting. So when I was approaching hiring, I really wanted to find someone who had that DNA that can potentially transition to being a technical recruiter. And that DNA would be, you know, it doesn't have to be personality but just really interacting with engineers, just maybe being a self-starter.

I would say great communication, and lastly, I would say just really hungry. Yes, I would say hungry. Because if you're really hungry and you're really willing to learn and be open, so openness as well, then you can really understand the rules or just the lifecycle and the process of being a recruiter, and then you can change people's lives.

I actually had one...It was about a year ago, I was working with a Fortune 500 company, and I recruited this guy, and I led him through the process. And it was about maybe a month later when he told me I had basically changed his life. Him and his family were now moving to Atlanta, and it was a new role, and it was just a fresh start. And he was just telling me how appreciative he was of me, and so that really hit home. So I think for those two new hires, I'm so excited to have them get super engaged and be able to change other people's lives as well under the Techie Staffing name, of course.

CHAD: You mentioned early on that you're contingent recruiting. So correct me if I'm wrong, but that means that you get paid when you place somebody, when someone gets hired from the company that hires them.

ANNA: Yes.

CHAD: But then you also mentioned that these people who you're bringing onto your team are full-time. So how does the compensation structure typically work for them?

ANNA: Oh, compensation, we have them on salary, but they do have commission. So we wanted to really give; like I said, I want us to grow together. So I do provide commission for each placement they'll place just to really provide incentive. Like I said, it's so early. I want us to think of each other just as teammates and a team because we're all building towards the same goal.

So just really wanted to provide incentives where they're really feeling like they're almost owning it full life cycle as well. Because like I said, it's early on, and these can be really strong pillars in the future. So there is salary, but there's also that commission as well to just really provide that incentive. And I know for me personally, incentive can be awesome, so definitely trying to provide that motivation and having them really feel like they're an integral part.

CHAD: What's the harder part of your business? Or are they equally hard, finding new clients versus finding people who want to work with you on the candidate side?

ANNA: On the business development side, I would say it was harder perhaps in the beginning because I just so was starting with nothing, really. I had just graduated from college. And a lot of agency owners they previously have maybe worked at a really cool tech startup, or maybe they've been working on their agencies for the past 5 or 10 years. They have previous years of experience, but I didn't have that.

So I had to convey another method of just really networking, really meeting people, and just really knowing my stuff and having a handle on it. I know maybe a lot of people say, like, just fake it until you make it because then once you make it, and then you get that experience, then you can transfer that experience to new experiences as well. So at first, it was really just building myself up and building the Techie Staffing brand so that we could acquire those clients.

In terms of the candidate side, I would say Techie Staffing, and one of the things and part of our brand that we love to portray is that we are the agency that has the companies with the best employer branding. Because like I said, with the supply and demand issue for the software engineers, it is so competitive to attract them to new opportunities. There are just so many companies that are contacting them multiple times a day. So there has to be at least a little bit of a shine or a little bit of a differentiator for companies that you're recruiting for.

So we actually specialize in companies that are Series B and above that do have that established employer branding where engineers are really interested in joining that company, so that's just the thing. It's like really having companies that have strong employer branding and being able to follow up. Follow-ups are really, really important when it comes to engaging engineers because, like I said, it's just a super competitive market and just trying to provide them a great white-glove experience. There are some agencies that fall a little bit too close to the client-side where the client is always right.

And there are some that fall too much to the candidate side where the candidate is right, but we really want to be a balanced middleman where we're just trying to find the compromise and find the best solution for everybody. So that's the real important part of it of just really providing them with a great experience and showing them that we care and that we're rooting for them.

Because it sometimes does surprise me when candidates can be a little...maybe this is a part of me being new. But that's kind of an advantage, too, because I'm still paying attention to detail. That's where my computer science major comes in. It's like constantly trying to stay in tune with candidates and what they need, so just trying to provide a great experience in general. And I'm sure you feel that way with your clients. You're a consultancy as well where you're trying to be B2B and contact these different companies. So how do you conduct business development and really differentiate yourself?

CHAD: We focused a lot on reputation building, so blogging, creating open source so that we don't need, fortunately, to cold contact people. And when we do, we're fortunate enough that they might already know about us. And so it's an easier conversation to have because they may already be reading our blog, or they may already be using some of our open source in their product. And so it becomes an easier conversation to have. But the majority of our clients actually come to us when they have a need because we're fortunate enough to have worked to be at the top of the list.

ANNA: Definitely, yeah. And I'm still doing that, just reputation building. With one of our Fortune 500, we're doing incredibly well with them to the point where we're filling their pipelines, and we have majority of our candidates in their pipeline. So that's what we're really working on right now is just consistently...and I know like with any business, you have to just constantly build that reputation. So I especially just try to provide a great experience for candidates because they can also be hiring managers as well, so just really providing that white-glove experience.

And also, a cool differentiator we always like to showcase is like, I'm a computer science major. And actually, the two people that I just hired have a tech background. So it's not like tech is entirely foreign to us. We've engaged with programming languages. We've coded projects. So we do have some form of understanding when it comes to certain technologies or certain projects that certain engineers are working on.

And that's what really gets me excited to speak with engineers because it's so cool and interesting hearing about them working on their projects and working on projects that directly affect me and the products that I'm interacting with. So it's so cool to hear about their...I can understand a bit. And so that's another thing we have with Techie Staffing is really finding people who have a bit of a tech background so at least they have a little bit of knowledge or an understanding of what projects and can be able to really share and convey that to clients that are looking for this talent.

CHAD: You mentioned it's a really competitive market now. And as a company who probably has multiple clients, how do you minimize or how do you deal with the potential competition for the limited supply among your own clients?

ANNA: Among my own clients, I will say that right now we don't have...for the roles that we're working on for each client, they're not very similar or too, too similar, which is a good thing. We would like it in the future where we could have the same role, but we can understand how that can be a little tricky as well.

CHAD: And how do they differ then? Are they differing by the technology experience that they're looking for or the sort of level of the role? How are they different?

ANNA: It could be technology, difference of the role. So, for example, for a Fortune 500 company that we're working with, we'll work more with UX, data science, data science roles, as well UX, data science. And then for high-growth startups, mostly with them, they're really looking for back-end engineers, but overall just engineering so frontend, backend, DevOps. We are working potentially to do engineering or more engineering-heavy for our Fortune 500 companies. We have recently been working on a VP of engineering.

So for Fortune 500 for now, we've been working more with leadership roles especially, and for high-growth, it's been more engineering IC. But we would like to transition that in the future to have it kind of...or have roles that maybe some candidates could go to this company, and some candidates can go to that startup. And then another differentiator could be or what makes our clientele different from each other is for high-growth startups, especially for engineering ICs, they're really looking for candidates that come from high-growth startups who just understand the current company where they are, and how they're scaling during that period of time around that series B and series C. That's the time to really scale.

And Fortune 500 companies they can be open to startups, but for the most part, especially sometimes for leaders who need to have a certain amount of direct reports, they're more looking for people from larger companies. So that would be one way to kind of separate it and so we're not having candidates almost be where they have to compete with candidates within our own company. Because with the difference in the leveling of companies, there's just a difference in what kind of candidates that they're looking for.

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CHAD: When I was first starting thoughtbot, I really felt like I needed to take every client that we could get because we were just starting out. We needed to make money. We needed to build a reputation. And so, I felt like we needed to say yes to every client. Over the years, I learned that that was actually watering us down, and it made us less successful. And the more we were clear about who we were, and what we did, and what clients we were best for, the more successful we were. Have you gotten to the point where you needed to turn down clients?

ANNA: Because I do such targeted biz dev, we will contact companies that we personally want to work with. But I will say in the beginning, there were some companies that were a lot smaller that, just like you said, you just felt the need to want to rack up a client list. And you just are ready to go and wanting to work with someone. It really motivated me to really take a look and really go deep into the type of clients that we want. So, for example, really, really early-stage companies can have a really, really hard time hiring because, like I said, employer branding is so, so important.

And so usually what they'll have is maybe like mission, but they won't really have salary. Or they won't really have the employer branding of the company of candidates either knowing about the company or being able to search the company really quickly and seeing the platform that the company is building and seeing how strong it is. So it's really, really hard to recruit for those stages. I mean, it is possible, but it's just really hard.

And then at the same time for these early-stage companies, they really want to, which I totally understand, you know, when you're having your probably 8th, 9th, or 10th engineer and being on the founding team, you really want a strong engineer because that's your platform, that's your baby. You don't want anybody that, you know, it could potentially maybe cause problems, or they really want somebody there they can trust. And so it's hard, you know like I said --

CHAD: But they might not be able to afford that. [laughs]

ANNA: Yes, they might either not be able to afford it, or they also cannot interview fast enough in order to just get the offer in their hands. Because I understand they really want to have them speak to the entire team and have them have an in-depth process because it's very much an important role. But these candidates and startups are moving so fast right now where I will speak to a candidate one day, and he or she or they'll probably say, "Oh, you know, I'm passively looking. I'm not really actively looking." And maybe a week and a half to two weeks later, they're like, "Oh, I actually have two offers in hand."

So it goes really, really fast versus earlier stage; it can just go a little bit slower because they're just really taking the time to go more in-depth and see if this prospective candidate is the right fit, which is totally understandable. But it was just really hard for us as contingent trying to find that candidate, that perfect candidate for them as well as trying to keep candidates warm and keep them interested when some companies just have like mission.

So now, in the future, I've just really, like I said, Techie Staffing, we specialize from Series B and above. And I really just make sure during business development exploratory chats that I'm really going in-depth and making sure I understand the roles that they're prioritizing their time to hire. So if they have a long, long interview process and a really, really low salary in terms of the competitive market, then I may not be as interested in that startup as opposed to another startup whose interview process timeline could be about a week and a half to two weeks.

And it doesn't have to be absolutely amazingly competitive base salary but just a fairly competitive salary with a great timeline for time to hire. So that's been my way of just condensing or just being a little bit more pickier in terms of clients in the future. Were there any certain clients for you where you started working with them, and you were like, "Oh, maybe I shouldn't have," that's now caused you to be a little bit more pickier for clients in the future?

CHAD: Part of it was the kind of work. So we really wanted to be writing software. But just starting out, I also had a background in sort of IT support. And so, when I was reaching out, particularly to past clients, they might say, "You built our website. Now can you help us with purchasing a computer or setting up a computer network in our office?"

I felt compelled to say, "Yes," because I felt like we needed all the work we could get. But by doing that work that wasn't really what we wanted to be doing, we were not only less happy in our work, but it was taking time and attention away from the work that we really wanted to be doing.

The other was values and practices, which took a little bit longer to form a real understanding of what our values were and the practices that we believe in. But now there's a pretty clear list of the kinds of companies that...what we say at thoughtbot is that we want to work on things that deserve to exist in the world.

And so there's a whole bunch of industries that they might not even be actively doing harm in the world, but they are the ones that we wouldn't work in. But even if it's just not a positive contribution to the world, it's probably not going to be something that we're excited to work on.

ANNA: That's been an exciting trend, actually, to speak with engineers about. I've started seeing that trend where engineers are saying, "I don't want to create anything evil," or "I just want to do good." And that's been a really awesome selling point for some teams. It definitely is a cherry on top where engineers are really looking for social impact. And the cool part is they have so many opportunities that are coming towards them that they can really pick and choose which one. So to find people who are really looking for social good and just really mission-driven products is amazing to see.

And I'm really happy with the work...I'm actually working with a data science team for AI ethics. And that's been really interesting hearing some people talk about their projects and hearing about how data can really not only just strengthen bias but also can just really produce results that can harm certain groups of people, which is so interesting. And it can be something so, so small that I haven't even noticed at all, but that can lead to a big difference.

CHAD: Yeah, we've had several episodes about that.

ANNA: And it's amazing. And it really is just a huge difference with something so small. And as a woman of color, I'm always aware of what's going on in terms of just ethical practices or just fairness and seeing bias. But in terms of data, seeing something so so small can affect just a whole group of underrepresented people is just amazing to see. But it's also amazing that people or data scientists are now aware of it, and now they're changing it so that it no least they'll be able to alleviate that bias.

CHAD: I want to ask a little bit more about that, and then I want to talk about some market trends. But if you're comfortable, I'm curious; you already mentioned you were just out of college when you were getting started. So there was skepticism around your lack of track record in recruiting. And you've mentioned that you are a woman of color.

And so I think as engineers, as people in the market, we probably have this image in our head of what a typical recruiter looks like in terms of attitude, and values, and demographics. And you don't fit that mold in almost any way, basically. Is this actually a positive for you now, or is it actually still hard? Are there companies that are actively seeking out to work with you because they want that different approach? Or are you still facing that skepticism?

ANNA: I'm still facing that skepticism. I actually created Techie Staffing around the time of summer 2020, where Black Lives Matter, where George Floyd happened. And it was really interesting because I was entering the corporate workplace. I went to a really wealthy private school in Los Angeles. And I went to the University of Virginia. So I survived two PWIs which means predominantly White institutions. So I thought I had not seen it all, but I thought I had maybe experienced those experiences of bias and understood it a little bit more.

But when I went to the corporate workplace and the diversity inclusion campaigns were happening, it was just really confusing because it's hard specifically for engineering and product specifically because it's so new that there is a really, really hard time to find diverse talent. That's why I honestly believe that it's just really trying to educate underrepresented communities to understanding all of the different diverse types of roles and opportunities that you can encounter in the tech industry so, for example, like UX, UX design, UX research, data science, machine learning, all of that.

So I think I was more contacted or maybe was engaged in business development companies who were looking for me to do diversity which I think it kind of...and I am such a huge proponent for diversity. But it also kind of had my heart drop a little bit because I just felt like people were contacting me because of who I am instead of just thinking like if it was just any other agency, would I be contacted specifically for that? It was more just for exclusive searches, which can be very, very hard for products and engineering.

I think in diversity and inclusion, we really need to focus on different departments and the different problems that underrepresented communities encounter with different departments. So it was just really hard, but in terms of companies contacting me because I am a woman of color owning an agency, no, that didn't really...and it's never really helped. I do wear it as a badge of honor because, like I said, I started out with nothing. So to start out with nothing and have to fight through everything to sit at the table and create something is amazing.

My background didn't really help me. It was really just me, just constantly contacting people. And I was prepared for this because, in my entrepreneurship minor, they said, "You're going to encounter a lot of nos," and so I did. I encountered so many nos, but eventually, I was able to turn those nos into yeses. So now that I turned some of those nos into yeses...and I'm still encountering nos, but I still keep going and still building and building.

And now I do feel a sense of pride now two years later where it is like, wow, I really did have to fight through to make it, and that's where I hold just a huge sense of pride. But no, it was not my background that really...the only thing that my background was maybe appealing was thinking like, oh, okay, I think you can do diversity and inclusion, which I don't want to be profiled in that way.

I just want to be a founder who happens to be a Black woman instead of a Black woman founder. And so, I don't want to be contacted to feel like my race is a part of it. And that was interesting in the corporate workplace, especially when I was trying to navigate different, you know, how to speak, how to build rapport, or how to navigate corporate workplace conversations.

And that's very hard to do with diversity and inclusion because you're fighting with, like, that's racism and misogyny. That's something really deep-rooted, and that has been here for years and years. So it's a really heavy, heavy topic. And that's not some really, really heavy topic that you really want to bring or a lot of people don't really want to bring into the workplace. So that was just hard to encounter.

But overall, I so, so support diversity and inclusion. And the cool part is because I have this awareness and I know that diverse teams are better teams, whenever I'm sourcing, or one of my recruiters is sourcing, I'm just making sure that they have that in the front of their mind, and they're just trying to diversify their candidate pipeline as much as possible.

CHAD: Well, taking it from the candidate side of things, I, unfortunately, I'm of the belief that the hiring process is really ripe for extreme, subtle unconscious biases or conscious ones even to have an impact on the hiring process. So, how have you navigated that on the candidate side? I'm sure you don't want to say anything negative about any of your clients. It's not about, oh, this company is racist. But I think do you agree with the premise that the hiring process at a lot of companies is ripe for some bias to creep in?

ANNA: Of course. I mean, all of the time. And the part that's so, I would say, scary about it is that bias is something that you feel. It's not really tangible. You can't really grab it. I mean, it can be in writing, and [laughs] there has been stuff in writing. But it's very much kind of yeah; it's non-tangible. So it's hard to really call it out specifically of like, hmm, this candidate I don't know why all of a sudden nice to haves become must-haves. Why is there a shift?

Like I said, there are different problems with different departments, but there are also different problems in terms of leveling systems, so leadership roles versus individual contributor roles. There can be a little bit more, you know, maybe there's a little bit more openness on the IC side, but with leadership, it can get a little interesting sometimes. But the hard part is it's not really tangible. So I really have to give it to diversity like DEI specialists because to have to navigate those conversations and really articulate a non-tangible thing is so, so complicated.

So there are tangible things you can do, like having a diverse panel. But what happens if the company doesn't even have the numbers for diversity to have that diverse panel in the first place? So it can get really complicated in terms of trying to navigate the bias within the interview process, and we do try to do our best there, just trying to provide on our side because that's all we can do. It's really up to the companies in terms of their interview processes and how they are going to change it or maintain some stages.

But for us, we're just trying to just submit diverse talent and really just try to provide that white-glove service for them and hope that that bias doesn't seep in. But like I said, it's such a heavy topic. And like I said, with corporate workplace politics, it can be so fragile and really interesting. So it's just hard to really take that and understand where it comes from or being able to even verbalize it. So that's where it gets really interesting.

And so, I do hope that in the future, interview processes are changed where there is able to be a diverse panel, or there is a way to really be able to understand that bias. Because like I said, it's very complicated. And we don't want to claim that any company is specifically racist, but it's just understanding bias and maybe why there's a difference for one candidate versus another candidate, which can be really interesting.

CHAD: I think the first part is recognizing that everybody has biases, and it could be anything. It could be, well, what happens when you come across a resume of someone that went to the same school that you did? What happens to that resume, then? And does that subtly influence how you review that resume? It has nothing to do with their race or the color of their skin or anything. So those biases can creep in, and you need to decide as a company is this something that actually matters to success at the company? Is this something that we want to be using when we make hiring decisions about who gets that first interview or who continues on in the interview process?

For us, we've decided it's not, so we have a completely anonymous screening process where we don't even show the names of schools. We don't show the names of the companies that you worked at previously. We only show the positions that you held at those companies because we've decided that whether you have a degree or not doesn't matter, and the companies that you worked at previously don't matter. It's what you were actually able to do with that experience.

ANNA: Oh yeah. I think that's actually amazing. That's a really great way of doing it. I always just try to tell hiring managers also to just open that candidate pipeline as much as possible because the number one way to really understand someone isn't really through just a piece of paper.

Yes, we want to make sure that the resume is at least a bit aligned. And they have, if it's an engineering role, for example, the right tech stack or maybe the right technologies or the right kind of projects that they've worked on. But other than that, you'll be so amazed what can happen when people just hop on a call with each other. You can really find just that hidden genius in people.

So usually, when it comes to just diversity, it's like just hopping on a quick call with someone, anybody. Like you said, there are so many biases, but just being able to talk to them and see them as a human being can really just surprise you and surprise everybody. So really just, I always say just find that hidden genius through engaging with someone.

CHAD: Yeah. So you've mentioned time to hire is a really important thing moving quickly in today's market when candidates have a lot of opportunity. What are some other ways, either trends or things that are happening in the market or things that you see changing?

ANNA: Well, honey, I'm sure, as you know, there's been a huge amount of layoffs that have happened. Like, recently, about 17,000 workers were laid off from more than 70 tech startups globally in May, and that's been about a 350% jump from April. So I will say it's just due to inflation as well as just the slowing of demand. Startups right now are just really trying to just cut corners and just really trying to just hone in on their runway and their burn rate.

CHAD: Are the candidates that are being laid off finding new work quickly?

ANNA: I'm not sure because it depends on the departments. We're working with engineering mostly in product. So it's really funny because as we are tracking the layoffs, we will contact candidates to see if they're interested in another opportunity. Because fortunately, for our client list, we haven't had anyone have a massive amount of layoffs which has been...we're so happy about that, fortunately. But we've actually contacted engineers. And it's amazing how strong the engineering department is. It does not seem like they really are...that's not a department where there's like significant layoffs because they just have to uphold that platform.

So yeah, so it still is in terms of engineering surprising with all these layoffs. It still is just very much competitive because even the people who have or the companies that have encountered a large amount of layoffs those engineers are still wanting to stay or don't...there are some that may feel the need to depart at a certain point. But for the most part, they are staying. But in terms of how quickly, I'm not entirely sure in terms of for people that are laid off how quickly they are being hired because this is also within early-stage startups or not early-stage; they also have Fortune 500s too. But yeah, I'm not sure about that part.

But in terms of engineering specifically, the jobs are still just growing. The projected growth rate for software engineers is like 22%, and data scientists is 22%, as well as web developers is 13%. So fortunately for us, as an agency who primarily specializes in engineering, there hasn't been a huge difference.

But like I said, specifically with engineering, that time to hire is still super important because these candidates are still encountering offers quickly. And it's just a way to be competitive because if you're just the first offer, you're the first offer in their face instead of, let's say, they have two offers from another company and you're like at the last offer. It's such a big difference there.

CHAD: Are you seeing a lot of remote positions versus in-person positions?

ANNA: Yes, remote is still going strong. I have seen that now there is a little bit of a trend of some startups or companies where you know because I research companies every day...I'll go on Crunchbase, Morning Brew, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Built-In. I'll go on all of the websites, and I'm seeing who got a fresh new round of funding or who's highly growing, or any new products that companies are offering.

CHAD: You're seeing some companies say that they're hiring hybrid or in person.

ANNA: I am seeing that on startups and companies' career pages, once they've acquired a new round of funding or they're scaling, that on the job boards, you'll start seeing only the headquarters, so just San Francisco or just maybe Boston instead of remote. So it's been a little bit more of a quiet transition because I remember when bigger companies were announcing it like, oh, we're going to transition in the office in February of 2022 or December of 2021, then there would all of a sudden be a mass exodus of people who were seeking remote opportunities.

But I do still feel that remote is still going strong, especially for high-growth startups, you know, yeah, still going strong. There is the option of hybrid. With these engineers that do have these choices, 100% remote is really becoming a great selling point. I mean, I don't even know if it's really a selling point but just standard now.

CHAD: So that's what you're hearing from candidates. Candidates want that.

ANNA: Definitely, candidates want. There's been plenty of candidates that we've interviewed where they've said in terms of their...because we'll ask them what would be their motivation for considering other opportunities and potentially leaving, and then they'll say, "X company is anticipating us to transition into the office, and I just don't want to do that." Their commute may be an hour, and that can be two even maybe three hours out of your day where you're spending your morning driving and then spending your evening driving.

So people just prefer to be remote. Or people are located now in the Midwest. They're going back to their hometowns where they're able to instead of like these big metropolitan cities where now it's really hard to afford a house, so they're going back home and being able to enjoy their family there. So definitely it is a standard and people are really interested in it. And for companies that are having employees transition back into the office, we've consistently heard that there's just a mass exodus of people leaving.

CHAD: What have you seen compensation do over the last year-plus?

ANNA: I would say for compensation, I mean, in my personal opinion, when it was super competitive, it was definitely increasing. Now I feel like we're working with a Fortune 500 company, so compensation hasn't really been too, too much of a problem. So yeah, it hasn't been as competitive. But I do remember when it was maybe around Q1 and Q2 2021 where there was almost this great rehire. And everybody was scaling, and demand was soaring where the salaries were just like, it just increased or were just consistently increasing. We were just so shocked at what some software engineers were making.

But now, it seems to have potentially tamed a little bit. It's not as high as it probably used to be because we were working with that series B Company and their salaries were pretty good, pretty competitive. But all of a sudden, with the demand soaring and these engineers, it started getting even more competitive. Then that's when all of a sudden, you know, the first few placements were fine. And then, all of a sudden, each candidate, like I said, they would say they were passively looking and then the next week...

And this startup their time to hire was actually really great. But even with this competitive market, it was still hard because, like I said, a week later, they would already have an offer. And their salary would probably increase like 20,000-30,000 from their initial target base that they were seeking to now what they were being hired from other companies. So it would definitely increase. But I haven't seen that recently as much.

CHAD: Yeah. I think also the trend to remote changed compensation, too, because it leveled it out. There were people who if you were trying to find a job in Kansas and you were going in an office, that market is very different than the U.S.-wide hiring market. But now, candidates are on the U.S.-wide hiring market. And I think that that brought up the lower end of salaries.

ANNA: Oh yes. Because at first, it was like okay, we can look was 100% remote, which was great, and so they were like, we can look for people in the Midwest. But during that time, companies were paying San Francisco and New York salaries, and they were offering those salaries to people who were located in Kansas and Iowa.

So you would have engineers who were deep, deep in the Midwest who were asking for in terms of target for those metropolitan city salary budgets. And they would get it, which I think is great as well, just they are doing the same work as someone who is located in San Francisco or in New York but maybe with less overhead, of course. But it definitely was a little bit more of a challenge. And you can no longer assume that somebody located in the Midwest that may have lower salary bands aren't at those metropolitan city salary budgets now.

CHAD: Anna, thanks much for stopping by and sharing with us. I really I'm impressed by what you've accomplished so far. And I'm excited about what you're going to be able to do in the future.

ANNA: Thank you. Thank you so much, again, for inviting me. I had a great time speaking with you, and it was so interesting hearing about your time being a consultancy. Because I know being an external vendor, it's really interesting interacting with clients when you're not internal. So that was really interesting hearing about the difference of clients that you're encountering at first versus now.

CHAD: Yeah. If folks want to get in touch with Techie Staffing or get in touch with you, where are the best places for them to do that?

ANNA: So in terms of contacting me, I'll say the best way would be either our website so Or you can contact me on LinkedIn; my name is Anna Spearman, A-N-N-A S-P-E-A-R-M-A-N. I'm always active on LinkedIn. So if you're seeking a new opportunity either on the candidate side or either meeting, help and engaging Techie Staffing as a scaling company to fill your engineering, design, UX, and product roles, you can contact me on LinkedIn as well as filling out the forms on the Techie Staffing website. And we also are on Twitter @StaffingTechie. So definitely contact us, and we'd be happy to hear from you.

CHAD: Wonderful. You can subscribe to the show and find notes and a complete transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at You can find me on Twitter at @cpytel.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

Thanks so much for listening, and see you next time.

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