Episode 6

Team Composition: How to Attract and Hire Stars Employees (with Amanda Gordon, Vice President People at Rewind)

In this episode, our guest Amanda shares the secrets to attracting, hiring and retaining the star employees that will bring your company from good to great.

Listen now on your favourite platform

“If you're building a talent strategy based on a sample you saw online or a book you read, you won't match what your business needs. Whenever I’m doing any kind of talent strategy or when I was consulting I always ask people “what’re your business goals”. It was shocking how often I would look then at the talent strategy and couldn’t see the business connect.  I couldn’t see the EVP (the employee value proposition) connect. And I’m like that’s why you’re struggling,  because your programs probably aren’t resonating with people and you’re spending money where you shouldn’t be.” - Amanda Gordon

In this episode

Have you ever asked yourself “what would have to be true for my company to get to 10 million, 25 million, 50 million, or even 100 million”?

The people on your team are a huge factor.

Amanda Gordon is currently the Vice President People at Rewind, a company with a mission to help businesses protect their SaaS and cloud data. 

In episode #6, Amanda talks about all things human resources and building a star team of employees starting with three key questions: why did they join, why did they stay, why did they leave?

She also discusses the keys to building a successful talent strategy for your business and being honest with candidates during the interview process.

Lastly, she shares why she advocates for people to take steps before they think they’re ready and why working for small companies isn’t a step backwards in your career journey. 

Tune in to hear all about how Amanda’s leadership experiences and advice can help you improve your leadership style!

Time Stamps

3:00 The employee experience journey

5:30 Employee value proposition

9:30 CEO strategy: passionate people

14:30 How she got into HR

21:30 Screening candidates

24:00 Recruiting executive talent

27:00 Different salaries for the same role

30:30 Interviewing for a position with 3 babies

35:30 Ask: what would have to be true to get to 10 million

42:30 Difficult conversations

45:10 When to NOT join a company

47:30 How to build a talent strategy

Amanda Gordon

Vice President, People at Rewind

Guest Bio

Amanda Gordon has lived a life with many accomplishments. She’s currently the vice President People at Rewind, Board Member/Chair Human Resources and Talent Committee for the Kanata North Business Association, Executive In Residence for University of Ottawa's Entrepreneurship Program, Ubiquity Leaderboard winner for Exemplary Leadership in Human Resources, Advisory Council & Program Committee member for University of Ottawa/KNBA partnership, and an active member of the Human Resources Leadership Council for Canada’s largest technology park.

Amanda uses her experience as a senior human resources and business executive to hire, engage and grow top talent. With over a thousand hires under her belt and over 20 years working in the tech space, she is a known expert in talent management strategy to support growing businesses. She has a proven track record working with both small and large scale technology organizations with extensive experience internationally. 

A coach and trusted advisor to CEOs and executive teams, her career spans all aspects of strategic talent acquisition, optimization and development, as well as executive coaching and assessment. Amanda’s expertise extends across multiple sectors within the technology industry including hardware, software and applications, satellite and cellular networks, IT, internet of things and telecoms. 

She’s eternally grateful for her incredible career and the opportunities she’s been given to share the journey with so many fantastic people along the way.


Amanda: If you put them into those kind of strategic buckets and you're you challenge yourself on, you know, what is true now and where do we wanna be and what would have to be true to get us there. Um, and then layer in what matters to employees? Like spend the time, ask people, why do you, why did you join? Why did you stay? Why, why would you leave? Um, and make sure your programs fit that that's where it's magic.

Fahd: [00:00:30] Hello, and welcome back to our Unicorn Leaders podcast. My name is Fahd CEO and founder of Unicorn Labs. And on this podcast is where we interview amazing VPs of talent CEOs and managers on how they create high performing teams and high performing cultures. And that was just Amanda Gordon, the vice president of, uh, people at Rewind talking about [00:01:00] how to attract and hire stars and employees. And, and this is the goal of our podcast is to give you the insights and tools so that you don't have to make some of the mistakes we've made and are able to actually, uh, succeed from where we're going. So this podcast is brought to you by Unicorn Labs, and you can check us out at unicornlabs.ca, where you learn a little bit about our leadership development programs for high growth tech startups and their managers and their executives. I was really excited to [00:01:30] share, uh, some insights with Amanda Gordon to talk about the employee experience journey.

Fahd: I think this journey is so important and so undervalued. We often in startups, we'll talk about our customer journey and when we're trying to make product market fit and trying to understand exactly how our product has to be positioned in the market and what our customers experience with it, what their pain points are. We get really good at customer insight and customer journeys, and, and we've gotta be to be able to create a phenomenal product that people [00:02:00] actually want to buy and that solves pain, but why can't we do that? Same thing for employees, we've gotta create not just a product market fit for our products. We've gotta create that kind of talent market fit. That talent culture fit within our organizations. What is our employee experience? What are the pains they're facing? What are the challenges they have and how are we positioning ourselves in the market to be able to attract the most phenomenal team players, to create a high performing [00:02:30] team.

Fahd: We need to set certain culture in place. We need to have psychological safety. We need to have empowerment. We need the great communication. We have to have a vision. We have to culture of leadership, all of these different elements, but we've gotta be able to get the right people because unless we have the right people on the bus, then we'll never figure out what seat on the bus they need to get beyond or where the bus is actually headed. And we can thank Jim Collins for that analogy there, we gotta get the right people on the bus. So here are, are seven different [00:03:00] steps. I wanna talk to you through about the employee experience, journey, seven different things that you need to take into account when designing your employee experience. The first one is attract talent. How do you attract top talent? Where are you posting?

Fahd: Where are you talking about your brand? Who do you have evangelizing your culture? You've gotta be able to talk about employee experiences in such a way that people get excited, but also you can't just be the one talking about it. [00:03:30] It's what other people say about what it is to work at your, in your teams and high performing teams attract high performers, but you know what? Detract high performers, low performing teams, and they actually leave and they will not want to come. So the first bucket is attracting high performers. The second one is actually being able to hire them when they've been attracted, being able to actually pick the stars amongst all those that apply to your teams. How do you actually pick those stars? How do you identify the key skills? How do you identify the [00:04:00] key innate tendencies? Then you've gotta onboard them.

Fahd: We've gotta be able to help them affirm the decision they've made to join your company as the right decision. The decision they've made to be part of this team is something that's exciting. It's gonna be a journey that onboarding is so key and so important. Then once they're onboarded, once we've hired them, once you've attracted them, hired them, onboarded them, you start to engage them, you build their strengths and you give them purpose. And from a strength based perspective, you put them into a role and you continually adapt the role where they are working. Their best, their values are aligned [00:04:30] and their strengths are aligned. Then we help them push performance. And that's where we get into some, some coaching where we help drive expectations. We make expectations clear, and we look for growth paths. That growth path leads up to development. Development's all about coaching and career growth, how they can grow within your company, not just vertically, but kind of like a matrix going into different roles, different positions, not always necessarily growing into management, but growing into more experienced individual contribu roles.

Fahd: And lastly, when they depart from your team, how to have a positive [00:05:00] exit experience, where they continue to talk about the, the experience in, in the brand, the employee brand, the employee, the experience in your company, and evangelize that for you, that is the employee experience attract top talent, hire the stars, onboard them, engage them and build their strengths, perform drive those expectations, help develop their careers and help them depart when it's time for them to find their next journey. Let's hear a little bit more from Amanda about how she builds this [00:05:30] experience at Rewind

Amanda: It's consulting. I was always asking people, what are your business goals? And it was shocking to me, or I would look then at the talent strategy and I couldn't see the business connect. I couldn't see the EVP, the employee value proposition connect. And I'm like, that's why you're struggling because your programs probably aren't resonating with people and you're spending money where you shouldn't be spending money.

Fahd: I love how she mentions employee value proposition. Again, connecting it back to the value propositions [00:06:00] we create for customers and value propositions that we create for employees thinking both in our product market fit for our products, but our talent culture fit for our employees. You've gotta ask yourself what would have to be true for my company to get to 10 million, 25 million, 50 million, even a hundred million. The team, the people are gonna be the driving factor to be able to get there. And Meda Gordon's currently the vice president of people at Rewind a company with a mission to help business protect their SAS and cloud data. And she joins us on this episode and goes into some really [00:06:30] interesting pieces, talking about human resources and building a star team of employees starting with three key key questions. Why did they join? Why did they stay and why did they leave?

Fahd: Amanda uses her experience as a senior human resources and business executives. She's hired engaged and has grown top talent over a thousand hires under her belt. Over 20 years in a tech space. She's truly known as an expert in talent management. And we dive into some interesting buckets to understand all the different [00:07:00] pieces to talent strategies. Lastly, she shares why she advocates for people to take steps before they think they're ready. And why working for small companies, isn't actually a step backwards in your career, but a chance to learn. So let's dive in and hear about Amanda's leadership experience and learn more from everything she has to share.

Fahd: Welcome Amanda. I'm I'm I gotta say, I'm really excited to have you on this show here with [00:07:30] us today. Um, cuz I know you've done some really cool things. You've done some amazing things and, and, and I wanna, I want our audience to learn about it today. It's all about building teams and team building and what that looks like from both the hiring and retaining and attracting, but also the whole process of building teams and, and the power of teams. And I think you have a lot to say that. So I'm gonna start with our puzzle with our big question, Amanda, how do you build teams?

Amanda: That, that [00:08:00] is a big question. I have to first say that, you know, what's funny is this morning I was having breakfast with my kids and I said, I'm gonna be on a podcast.

Fahd: <laugh>

Amanda: Almost like fell off their chairs laughing. So I love

Fahd: They, are they gonna be our top listeners? They're gonna

Amanda: In at some point or my dog might bark. But um, so actually our team, we love puzzles and we have on our meetings regularly, the puzzle of the day. [00:08:30] And, and it's something that, um, I like, because it's like that bigger picture challenge of like, yeah, how do you build teams? And I'm passionate about finding great talent, um, but not only finding great talent, but then how do you make sure that like we can find all kinds of resumes, maybe, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative> 200 that look good on paper. And then, um, you sort them through to maybe, uh, 10 that could actually do the job, [00:09:00] have the right, you know, compensation expectations are available, interested in our company, but then how do you find that secret sauce and really build great teams. Um, and there's a gazillion books on it. It's, it's a topic that is kind of that black art.

Amanda: Um, but I, I go back to, for myself of, um, our CEO wrote today, um, an email to all staff cuz it's employee appreciation day. Mm. Um, and he said that [00:09:30] his philosophy is to find great passionate people and put them together and unite them on a common goal and let them run. And you know, I, I really appreciate that. So I am a big believer in finding people that need or match what you need right now. It's never a secret ingredient. You know, it's not a cookie cutter ever. I always look at a team and go what's missing. Is it [00:10:00] a diversity thing? Is it a mm-hmm <affirmative> is this an extroverted team, an introverted team? What, what would be that secret to that team? So there's one thing of finding the talent, but then it's growing the talent, retaining the talent, engaging the talent. So all those other layers have to be in there. To me, that's really the secret of a great team.

Fahd: Yeah. I like that. I like, I like that. You've, you've kind of looked at the, the full cycle of that. Right. You've gotta attract the right people, then you've gotta choose the right people. Then [00:10:30] you've gotta develop those right people, right. Place them in the right teams. And then you've gotta retain them over time. Like there's a full employee cycle here. That that is a big part of building great teams.

Amanda: Huge. And you know, I, um, you'll see this a lot in industry of employee value propositions and I dig deep on employee value propositions. So employee value proposition to me is the same as a customer value proposition. It's like, why did they join us? Why do they stay? And why do they leave? [00:11:00] And if you map out the employee journey with a, with a lens, like hardcore, be analytical, be real don't sugar coat, it like really real on why do they join? Why do they stay? Why do they leave? Um, you can then build programs that fit your company and you can build teams that really get it, like it, it fits. Um, and I think you can only do that. If you leave your personal bias, your [00:11:30] personal views aside and you go hardcore into like, let's really figure this out. Sure. Um, and that, that's where the cool stuff happens.

Fahd: I love that. That's such that's so clippable too, you know, so I mean three questions, uh, that, that can really help drive and like to strip away everything. I like that. Why do they join? Why do they stay? Why do they leave? That's so powerful. How you, you you've distilled that. I like that. So to, to kind of pause this puzzle for a second, Amanda, um, I'd love to hear your journey. So you've got this [00:12:00] wealth of experience, these insights, that, and, and the fact that you can take these, these complex ideas and simplify them to these three questions, I think already shows kind of the, the, the experience that you have, cuz you can simplify it. And I really love that, but I'd love to kind of take us back. Who is Amanda? Where, where is Amanda from? Where where'd you grow up? Let's start with a little bit of, you know, let's start there and how did we get to here? So let's, let's go through a little bit of that life story.

Amanda: Um, so I recently joined Rewind and love, love, love, love, love this company. [00:12:30] And I'll talk about it later. Um, but in, in joining Rewind my first couple of weeks, I had to tell my story over and over again. <laugh> and I, I suddenly realized, holy crap, I'm old.

Fahd: <laugh> no, no, no,

Amanda: All this experience, but I'm so proud of all that experience. So I go all the way back to born in Ottawa

Fahd: Local Ottawa <laugh>

Amanda: Yeah. Sat on a porch on Powell avenue and used to wave [00:13:00] at people and say, hi, Amanda, I'm free. Um, I'll

Amanda: My parents actually moved to Perth, uh, landmark area. Mm-hmm uh, when I was, um, younger and I went to high school in Perth and had a, a great childhood, a really great family and just, uh, people that brought me up and supported me and, and taught me to dream big, um, went to university, uh, in Guelph and studied, um, business and economics and math. And you know, my passion [00:13:30] was math and I remember coming outta school and my dad, I said to him, I don't wanna be an accountant. I don't wanna do math. And, and um, I got an offer right away to do, um, human resources and I didn't even know what human resources meant. <laugh> um, I've I did a lot of recruiting and, and my dad said to me at that stage that there are two streams on the people side, one is very strategic and he had had a phenomenal mentor in his career that was there, [00:14:00] HR prime and, um, and was, was very strategic. And the other side is very administrative. And he said, if it's an administrative role, run screaming, it's not your fit. If it's a strategic role, run in the building and, and say, pick me, pick me. Um, and so that is, um, you know, where my career began on, um, you know, leaning in on the, on the people side.

Fahd: Let's get, let, let's get back to, um, um, where you were, you were, you were telling me a little bit less story. So you, you, you, uh, [00:14:30] you, you, you got placed into a human resources role. Is that, that kind of, or, sorry. That was the bit I was on.

Amanda: Yeah. So, um, I think where we got cut off is I said that, um, I remember reaching out to my dad and I said, I don't even know what human resources means, what it is <laugh>. And his response to me was that he had had an incredible mentor in his career. And he said that there's two streams of, of HR and, and people. And one of them is very strategic and it's, it's a critical piece of a business and [00:15:00] the other is more administrative and I'm not criticizing either, but he said to me that you are a hundred percent in the strategic stream. And if you can find a role like that, run screaming into the building. Um, and so my early part of my career, um, was in, um, people, roles, recruitment, always in tech, um, mm-hmm <affirmative> and I grew up in just a phenomenal industry that was exploding. Um, and so had, uh, really just like, [00:15:30] I, I still pinch myself of some of the career opportunities I had. So from small, tiny little startups where started from the bottom now we're here through

Fahd: <laugh>

Amanda: Yeah. Um, large multinationals that gave me that global perspective. Um, there's nothing like working on global compensation for Asia Pacific to really figure out, you know, what does, what does compensation really mean? How do you make it strategic? And then through to, um, working at, sorry, I have [00:16:00] a little tickle that's okay. Um, some, uh, smaller companies, which is my sweet spot and helping them grow, uh, one company, I was there for 11 years and we grew it to, um, be eventually being acquired. And, and one of my career highlights of from that very early stage through to seeing it grow to an 80 million, 200 million company. Um, and then

Fahd: If I, what company, uh, may I ask what, what company that was? Yeah.

Amanda: That company was called SkyWave and just a ton of lessons learned, [00:16:30] uh, from me during that stage of my, of my career, then I started consulting. Um, when we, uh, I actually had an opportunity to do consulting, which was a phenomenal experience because I thought I'd learned a ton at SkyWave, but when you have to go into different companies and walk in the door and try to make a quick assessment of, is this a bean by culture? Is this a cubicles to the ceiling culture, um, and really lean in and help them? Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, [00:17:00] I worked with about 30 different tech companies at that stage and cleaned compensation, clean stock options, coached executives, fixed, whatever was broken. And certainly that gave me a, just an incredible learning experience. Um, then I moved into, um, I'll fast forward, really quick. I moved into

Fahd: It's all good. I'm, I'm loving every part of this. Don't don't feel you need to fast forward, right? This is, this is music to my ears, Amanda. I, I share a lot of [00:17:30] the same interests. So I, I like hearing about this.

Amanda: So as I was doing the consulting, I joined a board and that board, um, is, um, part of Canada, north, uh, tech park mm-hmm <affirmative>, and it's called the Canna north business association. And they are passionately looking at how do we support Canada's largest tech park to be able to attract top talent and make more companies successful for perspective, there's about 540 different tech companies in Canada. And, um, to be able [00:18:00] to look at it from that bigger picture of how do we really pull in talent, like at an extreme level to support, um, this community, to be able to have more success stories that became my passion. And so, um, I joined, um, Boyden, which is an executive search firm to be able to lean in really, really hard on executive search, um, and pull talent into our tech communities full time. I can't say enough about Boyden.

Amanda: And if, just to give you perspective, they, uh, work on about 600 [00:18:30] executive searches a year in Canada, or sorry in Canada. Um, so, you know, this is big leagues, um, and when you're placing a CEO, a CFO of, you know, a VP product into a company, you know, these are game changing roles. So we talked earlier about, you know, how do you build a great team? Um, I became like, just obsessed about perfecting my craft in that space and, um, and, and saw so many different placements where [00:19:00] I left tonight, go home and go, like, I think I really helped that company today. And I'm, I'm really proud of, of what we just did. So like high, high fives to the team and, and we'd see that person accept their role. But what I was missing was, um, I wasn't at the table building the company.

Amanda: I would place these phenomenal people. And then I was like, okay, go do amazing things, check in on them. But I'm like, oh, how are you doing? And they'd tell me about their struggles and I would be talking them about [00:19:30] it. And, and so, um, I had the, um, I had multiple calls. There were lots, you know, this is a very hot market. And so, um, I had a call from a company called Rewind, a nice person called me, and <laugh> told me all kinds of great things. And I had, this was the first time that a company actually really resonated with me because, um, early stages, um, they had just raised 80 million in funding. They were doing a pivot of their business and [00:20:00] it was really go time to, um, like really build this. And, um, they've been, if you read in the press about them, their, you know, label this Unicorn Unicorn, um, and doing just phenomenal things and a, a all star team. So I thought, um, I, I wanna check that box again. I really miss, um, building. And so yeah, November said, yes. And here I am <laugh>

Fahd: And here you are, what a journey, Amanda, that, that is, uh, that [00:20:30] is really, uh, uh, really quite a journey and, and a few key points that I'd like to kind of maybe take us back to and, and kind of explore. So you, you know, you, you, you started some of your days in kind of some recruitment stuff, right. As as many people in the people and culture space kinda start with some recruitment. Um, and until today you do a certain level of recruitment and what I'd like to kind of, uh, kind of position the views is what was Amanda thinking during her first recruitment days of like, how do I recruit people to [00:21:00] the transformation of how does Amanda think today mm-hmm <affirmative>. So I kind of wanna see the differences that in that journey for recruitment specifically, maybe as, as a, as a first start,

Amanda: So early stages, um, it was, we have 30 positions we have to fill

Fahd: <laugh>.

Amanda: And so I remember, um, thinking that the only way I'm really going to impress this team of engineers that I'm working with is to be able to, um, like at the start they [00:21:30] would screen everything I did. They would screen every candidate that I would recommend. Um, they were wasting their time because I could easily say to them, no, no, no, no, no, here's a yes, no, no, no, no, no, here's a yes. Um, and so I, I realized quickly that, um, I have to lean in and make sure that anybody I recommend really is a yes, so that we can start to build trust mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and the only way I could ever get there was by, um, having some pretty deep conversations [00:22:00] with them about, you know, what, what do you really need? Like, let's talk about, um, that profile and it's not just a C plus plus whatever, um, like what will make you say yes.

Amanda: Um, and so I would passionately screen candidates and try to find, um, that right fit for, uh, for our teams. And once I I've always told people when I'm mentoring or when I'm working with them early in their career, that don't take [00:22:30] recruitment for granted, like really lean in with managers. And if you can hire some stars for them, they start to really open up a trust with you. Um, and they'll ask you about how to onboard that star. And they'll ask you how to, you know, really retain talent, they'll come to you with, with different things. And I think what I also started to realize early in my career, um, and I would say, you know, I perfect. My craft, I I've really looked at that now is that, um, the relationship you [00:23:00] make with a candidate is lasting, you know, in a lot of cases, those candidates will invite me to their barbecue, to their children's weddings, to their <laugh>, to their baby showers, um, because they will come to you and say like, you, you took a chance on me and we form a relationship that is very different. And you coach candidates through that process and form like really good relationships with them. So all those lessons learned to say, like being real and caring [00:23:30] about the candidate experience. And, um, I would never oversell. I learned that later in life, never oversell an opportunity because the candidate will land and then they'll run screaming outta the building. So those are all the,

Fahd: And, and you say you learned that the hard way you you've <laugh>

Amanda: Well, you, you learn that even from being, you know, just seeing a candidate, not connecting, not really, um, fitting, and that's the hard way, because then you have to go back [00:24:00] to what, what happened. And, and, um, certainly if I look now, um, when I'm working with teams, when I'm, when I'm recruiting executive talent, I spend a lot of time with candidates right up front saying, here's the deal. When I was doing executive search, I remember talking to candidates and saying, this team is a gong show. Like you're walking into a team that needs you. It's not clean. If you're up for something that's like really exciting and meaty and challenging. This is a [00:24:30] great role. If you're looking for a coasting role, big established, you know, they, they need a, a leader, but it's not like roll up your sleeves and dig deep. Um, then, then I'll find that fit for you. So, you know, all those big lessons learned to get you to a spot where you realize that it's not about shoving around peg and aqui hole, it's about, um, being okay to say no to somebody and it's okay. I got you. I'll keep looking for you. [00:25:00] Um, but you're not the right fit for this one. And, and that's an okay thing. I'm saving you, you worry and me time and all that kind of stuff.

Fahd: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. I, I think that's, it's so relevant yet. So challenging, especially in today's talent market, right. It is excruciatingly difficult right now in this talent market to land mm-hmm, <affirmative> some of the, some of the people, and maybe I'm saying excruciating difficult, maybe your experience is different. I don't wanna put those words in your mouth, [00:25:30] but you know, more and more employers are, are struggling with finding the right people. So they, they feel like there need to be selling. They need to be kind of push. How do you balance that? Can I, you're going through, you're hiring right now at Rewind. Oh yeah. You know how difficult its, to find good people with the talent market, the way it is costs rising with it and, and kind of borders really blurring because you're, you're hiring from, from all over. Um, how do you balance that with the, the long term good that you know of don't, don't push a candidate [00:26:00] into a position that might not be good because you, you pay for it in the long run. How are we balancing that?

Amanda: Yep. So my puppy just came in with his toy. So a few years, it's my puppy. <laugh> not my puppy. Um, so, um, you are a hundred percent, right? And I think of, um, some recruitment we're doing right now in Denmark and Poland and we have a couple of candidates that have been brought forward and it's not only, um, oh my gosh, we need to find talent for that region. [00:26:30] But compensation is insane right now, uh, where we're seeing candidates that are saying, sure, I'll join you, but I want a us salary or I want, you know, something that's completely out of market. And I challenge my team regularly to say that, um, we have to stay true to Rewinds cultures at the end of the day, like we have to. And so our, our culture is to, you know, [00:27:00] diversity equity inclusion, um, to really make sure that what we do for one we'll do for others.

Amanda: Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and I don't want two people in a role that have completely different salary, uh, salaries, because somebody is a better negotiator. Like that's not how we roll. Um, and so I say that because you layer on the need for talent, you know, some of these roles are business critical [00:27:30] and talent is in, you know, is in demand these days. Um, so it, it is really tricky. And so I go back to working with our, our TAs, our, um, our whole TA team to say that, make sure that you're creating that experience. And you're respecting the experience with the candidate. You're listening to them. Um, don't spend a lot of time with somebody that is, you know, clearly they're saying I want this and we can only offer that. Don't [00:28:00] try to fit that square peg in the round hole. Um, but when you find great talent, it's, it's a noisy market of everybody saying we've got a great culture. We're an employer of choice. I believe that Rewind actually has some secret sauce. I would not have come here. <laugh> yeah. If I didn't believe that. And so I'm trying to really help them to tell that story that's real. Um, and it'll resonate with some and others. It's okay. If it, if they run screaming away, I'll actually happily recommend [00:28:30] them to other companies. <laugh>

Fahd: <laugh>. There you go. That's awesome. That's that's that's I really like how you tied it back to our core values. And I think that, I think, you know, many companies will come up with core values or vision or mission, you know, do a little exercise, put them on the wall and yay. They exist, right? Like <laugh> but in this case, what you're saying is, well, no, our hiring process has to follow some of these core values. How are we staying true to them and, and really pushing against the current challenges and trends of what's being demanded, [00:29:00] but staying true to those. I think that's, that's really powerful. Thank you

Amanda: For that. You know, that's another part of screening. Like if core values don't matter to you, that's okay. Find a company where it doesn't matter if core values matter to you, then appreciate what this company's core values are. And for us it's, it is a critical piece, um, because we wanna grow a beautiful, great company. Um, and even when you, you [00:29:30] hear our CEOs speak, but you can ask anybody, um, and they'll talk to you about core values and, and it matters. Um, and again, it's okay if core values don't matter to you, you then you should find a different company because here we're going to, we're gonna push you on them regularly. Yeah. So yeah.

Fahd: Yeah. I like that. Okay. So, so, so we went back to Amanda's little recruitment days, kind of early on and, and shown kind of the, the, the transformation of that. Take me back to SkyWave. Um, and, [00:30:00] and it can share with me the cuz 11 years and you, you, the company sells. So you really go through, uh, stages and ages of people and culture at a company, because you know, what, what you can do maybe with a company that's been around for 15 years in regards to people in culture might be different than the startup that's got 20 or 30 people kind of what they're looking at. So maybe gimme an insight as to how did, um, some of your role change and how did the play and cultural role change throughout SkyWave through the kind of decade that you were with them?

Amanda: It was [00:30:30] crazy. It's crazy. And even to think that I was there for 11 years is like, what I, I never <laugh> ever, especially at that stage of my career, I never would've guessed that I would've stayed at, um, a company that long, but it wasn't the same company. And every couple of years it was changing and our challenges were so different than they were before. Um, I walked into Skywave with three little babies. When the CEO interviewed me, he interviewed [00:31:00] me in my house and, and, oh my God, whose nap time for the babies, <laugh> give my dog to the neighbors. Cuz I knew he was gonna ring the doorbell. Dog was gonna bark. Babies were gonna wake up. So I was like, who, like thinking I could interview in my house with a, with a CEO about a job for you, sleeping babies was crazy. Um, but,

Fahd: But you did it, you did it. And, and, and they were, I mean, that's ahead of their time for being so open to that, right? Like, I mean maybe today we're, we're a lot more [00:31:30] open to that, but that, that's pretty, that kind of is telling a bit of the culture there, the openness for that.

Amanda: <laugh> huge. And I said to him that if we're gonna work together, you need to respect that, you know, supper time, bath time, like I'm the real deal <laugh> yeah. Um, after that I'm okay. But during that, you know, I have protected hours and, and, you know, come sneak in and look at my babies <laugh> um, and so, um, from early stages, like walking into SkyWave, I remember [00:32:00] that in the early stages, we used to joke and say, you know, one of the first things they told me was, oh, I'm not sure if we can make payroll this <laugh> this month. I'm like, okay, this is gonna be fun. <laugh> um, through to what would have to be true for us to get to 10 million wow. And really digging deep into that philosophy, what would have to be true to get to 25 million to 50 million, to a hundred million.

Amanda: Um, and I saw our whole team, [00:32:30] especially our executive team evolve and grow. And I remember at this early stages, our CEO, his name was Stanley Stanley would say things like strategy doesn't matter. It's what will our customers buy? What do they need? <laugh> like, we just have to get revenue, get it going, get it solid. And then we can be more strategic on our three year, five year plan. We would debate that with them. A lot of <laugh>, he was very real on to get to 5 million, to get to 10 million. [00:33:00] We needed to really get tight with, um, certain markets, certain customers, um, and then to get to 25 to 50, what would have to be true and, and a lot of those stages, um, if you look at even our org design completely different for what does a company look like at 5 million to 10 million, 25 million.

Amanda: Um, and so we had to be very strategic about our growth. Um, if I look at even 25 million, it was a time where we shifted [00:33:30] gears to look internally at our systems and how we work, um, to really make sure that we could keep up with what we wanted, where we wanted to go and what we saw coming at us. Um, each stage had very different, um, requirements to make it to the next stage. And if, if you don't do that, if you just keep growing without stopping and being very real about what does the talent look like that we need for that next stage? What are we missing that [00:34:00] if we don't start building it now, we're, we're not gonna make it to the next stage. Then I think you grow by accident versus really, um, you know, pulling in what you need now, building it now so that you're able to do even be even better and stronger there.

Amanda: Um, a great example is an OD project that, um, that we worked on, we worked on OD one, OD two, OD three, OD four. And, um, and if, I think back to that, one of [00:34:30] the first, um, stories that I love is we had somebody that was in manufacturing and if he watches it, he'll, he'll laugh. <laugh> um, because we, we needed somebody in customer support and to run the customer support organization. And I remember having a conversation with him saying, we'd really like you to leave your role and to move into customer support. And he was like, fire me, like, what do you do? And we're like, no, you're a phenomenal manager. Um, you understand [00:35:00] our product, you understand when it breaks, how long it takes to fix it. And we'd love you to be able to really help clean up the customer support organization in terms of building the right structure and, and, um, supporting that team to scale to what we needed next.

Amanda: Um, and he was, he went over to the role and he was phenomenal. He was looking at best practices globally of how do you really create like a world class, uh, customer support organization. [00:35:30] And then when his assignment was over, this is part of building our future leaders. Um, I said, okay, you know, you can go back to manufacturing. He's like, I don't wanna go back to manufacturing <laugh> and we're like, we're, you know, completely supportive of where you wanna go. So I just tell that story, because I think it was such an important lesson in our organization. And so many other people then started raising their hand to say, yeah, pick me, pick me. And we could see in our organization, we needed a lot more people in engineering that [00:36:00] appreciated our customers and really got why our customers buy our products and, and what their needs are. And that shift only came from putting a lot more people in engineering, into customer facing roles, presales, even competitive intelligence and, and allowing them to, um, get away from building the next, you know, next step of our technology through to holy crap. We've gotta do like [00:36:30] some big steps if we really want to deliver what our customers need. And so that's where we saw the company take off in very different ways. Yeah.

Fahd: Yeah. I really love that. And I really love the question you used, what would have to be true for us to get to what would have to be true? I think that's, that's such a powerful kind of piece, um, for our audience to kind of think about what would have to be true for you to get 10 million for you to, to build the team that you want to ex, you know, Mount and, and kind of breaking some of that down. I really like that question. And then I I'd love to pick on [00:37:00] you. You mentioned that part of the assignment was, was around your building, the future leaders of the team. Tell me about that. Tell me that you, you had a, it was a formal program around building future leaders, uh, in, in, in, in SkyWave, was it kind of ad hoc? How, how was that?

Amanda: So, um, I would say the seed was planted at Skywave for really respecting that we had a management team that needed support. Am I gonna start, I gonna lose my voice. <laugh> um, as [00:37:30] we were scaling, we, we didn't wanna always be hiring externally. We really wanted those employees to come on the journey with us. And so we started to build more, um, management chops within our organization. And what you start to see when your business is scaling, is it, it's not just a management layer, it's a leadership level that you need. Um, and so we, we looked at, uh, future leaders, but I would say to you where I saw this most and, and worked in it [00:38:00] most was with, um, consulting. Okay. Um, and going into companies and looking at where they were struggling and often it was management layers. And so did this for multiple clients where we designed, um, a management development program for them.

Amanda: And then we would challenge them on the future leaders program. And so even at Rewind, uh, I had a conversation with a member of my team just yesterday talking about, we have, um, an assignment it's kind of like a puzzle for [00:38:30] our company. And I said, what if we made that an assignment for one or a couple of our future leaders, um, like pull people out of their jobs on a cross-functional puzzle and, and allow them to dig deep into, um, coming up with suggestions and solutions for our executive team, um, as well as giving them training and development in what does it really mean to be a leader, but giving them real life, real world, real [00:39:00] company problems, um, that are outside of their domain so that they understand finance better. They understand our customer better. They understand, you know, whatever it is, um, that they are given the exposure of, of the business side of our, our business.

Fahd: Yeah. I really like that. I really like how you framed it. We've got a puzzle and can we assign some future leaders to this puzzle? You know, kind of look at some of these problems as little puzzles, bring cross functional team, um, you know, areas that, you know, you could backfill fair fairly well. [00:39:30] Um, but you can't necessarily put new people on this puzzle cuz it requires an intimate knowledge of, you know, the business and the customer and so

Amanda: On forth or, or you do bring somebody in that you wanna stretch them and they're new and to see the business and I, with future leaders, we don't pull them out of their current role typically. Okay. Um, often it's an assignment, like I think of Kinaxis, which is a, a beautiful company in Ottawa. Yeah. Big shout out and props to Kinaxis. And um, and I know John [00:40:00] Sard, who's a CEO used to do that with his team where he'd have, you know, what's keeping John up at night and he would, um, uh, pull together a cross-functional team to help solve one of John's puzzles and the opportunity for employees to, um, really dig deep with a CEO on whatever it is. It could be launching a new product into a different region of the world and you know, what would have to be true for us to get $1 of revenue, um, [00:40:30] or it could be we're having a hard time hiring people in Poland, what would have to be true for that to, you know, for us to break that puzzle. So, um, I, I think it's, we've got such bright people in our organizations and just because somebody hasn't done something before that, you know, I'm a fan of even better fresh eyes and they'll learn and, and we'll all learn from hearing a, a different perspective. So yeah, it's, the growth is incredible. I highly recommend it.

Fahd: [00:41:00] I love that. I love that. So we've, we've kind of entered the consulting stage of, of, of your, of your, of your time there. And, and you said that one of the big problems that you saw in companies was this management layer. What, as what, what other were kind of kind of key indicators for you of like, Ooh, this is a red flag, this is a yellow flag for our listeners here. Kind of put your consulting hat on and you know, for them to do an assessment of their own kind of companies, um, what are things that you would look for little signs that said, oh, this maybe this area needed help. That area needed help. Yeah. [00:41:30] What was, I mean, a mental model you used when you went in and, and did these assessments,

Amanda: Especially in high growth companies, what I saw and I still see regularly is the congratulations. You're a manager, good luck.

Fahd: <laugh> <laugh>

Amanda: And everybody's so keen. And everybody is like, Woohoo. You know, you're a natural manager, go do it. Good luck. And we want you to do now, you know, your one on ones every week, and we want you to do your feedback [00:42:00] for your employees every month. And, and we want you to deliver and engage and inspire and knock it outta the park. Good luck. Um, <laugh> I think it's that for me is a red flag. Um, and I think it's also a red flag for me is something that's just the same for everyone. Mm. Um, because in my journey I've learned that, um, we really need to have conversations with people [00:42:30] and you never know what somebody needs until you ask. Um, and sometimes it can be, oh my gosh, I'm terrified. I don't know how to be a manager. <laugh> uh, can you help me with feedback?

Amanda: I have to have a difficult conversation. I don't like to have difficult conversations. Um, and so like if you spent time with me and saw in my day, the challenges that I work on Rewind is, is still fresh. So I'm, I'm just building that. But I think of even SkyWave [00:43:00] of, it would be with the CEO talking about a conversation that, uh, they had to have and, and making sure that they framed it right. That they had all the information and that I would play devil's advocate with them through, to a brand new manager. Who's just terrified. And I did a lot of 360 S and what I learned in delivering 360 S is I'm really comfortable in saying to somebody you're amazing at this, but boy, [00:43:30] boy, do you ever suck at this? <laugh>

Amanda: And that's okay. What do you wanna do with that? Like, is, does that impact you does that matter? And they could say no. And I, through a 360, I could say, uh, yeah, it does. <laugh> um, and so let's figure out a way to, uh, work through that, but back to your question of red flags, I think it's, it really isn't money often it's time. Um, and it's knowing how to support [00:44:00] managers, like what, like, you know, there's no magic program out there. Um, and so I think it's where I see a lot of the struggles is, um, is really helping managers to be better managers.

Fahd: Yeah. That's fantastic. That's awesome. And, and, and, and, and I love that I'm smiling ear to ear cuz you know, it's not like you're putting a plug in for Unicorn Labs, but you know what it's, that's exactly what we've, we've we've started to do. And we've done for a number of years now we work with companies who've been like, yeah, we have these 20 managers [00:44:30] that have never received any trading. And uh, we thought they were gonna be phenomenal, but they're, they're, they're struggling. And it's like, yeah, I, I <laugh>, you know, and, and I think you hit the nail in the head is that, is that a lot of these young manager in high growth startups, right? You hire a whole bunch that the lead, the designer who was the best is now the lead designer, right? Managing X, Y people haven't ever done that.

Fahd: So, so let me switch that back to, to Rewind. Now you're at Rewind, you've had all these experiences, you're building it out and I'm assuming you're building a bit of a talent strategy. So now you're [00:45:00] thinking high level talent strategy, all these different components, what are components of talent strategy that other VPs of talent, other people who are concerned about the talent and their startups should be thinking about. And I think one key piece we started the episode with, which is, you know, why will people come work with, for you? Why will they stay and why are they leaving? I think that's the kind of employee value prop, what other key parts of a talent strategy we should consider?

Amanda: So one best piece of advice to anybody is don't join a company in [00:45:30] November because you have to report on your last quarter results, your annual results. You have to create your new plan for the next year and also your plan for Q1. So, whew, it's like I, I have just finished doing, um, you know, my strategic plan and my, my talent strategy and, um, with Rewind, um, as I would with any company that I was working with before I broke it down into buckets. [00:46:00] And I think it's, it's common to do that, but I'll shout it out because I think it really helps frame it. So join is a bucket grow is a bucket, engage is a bucket and, um, reward is a bucket and we also have diversify as a bucket. And, um, and I, I say that because if you look at it, um, like really go hardcore in those, uh, focus areas, [00:46:30] um, and think we are on an OKR, uh, process.

Amanda: So we're regularly setting our stretch goals. And I look at, um, layering in, we have great feedback tools in our company. And so before I set our new OKRs, I'm going back into like, I've just spent hours and hours reading through and answering all of our office five responses and hearing, you know, what people love and where they're challenging us to do better. And so [00:47:00] I think, um, if you do the, if you put them into those kind of strategic buckets and you're you challenge yourself on, you know, what is true now and where do we wanna be and what would have to be true to get us there. Um, and then layer in what matters to employees like spend the time, ask people <laugh> why do you, why did you join? Why do you stay? Why, why would you leave? Um, and make sure your programs fit that that's where it's magic.

Amanda: [00:47:30] If you are building a talent strategy, that's based on a sample you saw online or a great book you've read mm-hmm <affirmative>, you will not match what your business needs. And so I think whenever I'm doing any kind of talent strategy or, or when I was consulting, I was always asking people, what are your business goals? And it was shocking to me where I would look then at the talent strategy and I couldn't see the business connect. I couldn't see the [00:48:00] EVP, the employee value proposition connect. And I'm like, that's why you're struggling because your programs probably aren't resonating with people and you're spending money where you shouldn't be spending money. So, you know, to me, it it's all about that grind, which creates a beautiful plan <laugh> which really fits a company.

Fahd: That is awesome. I love that. I love those buckets. I, I, I wrote those down cause I think, I think those really help, but I think the ultimate message there in addition to the bucket was, [00:48:30] was that, does the talent strategy actually align with the business goals? Because there's gotta, there's gotta be that connection. Otherwise you're just, you know, just you're or listen. Yeah. I mean, even you said, listen to your staff, listen to your employees, what do they want? What, what do they, what do they want to continue to join and to stay. Right. And I think Netflix where

Amanda: It works. Yeah. That's where it works. Yeah. When you like hardcore, what does our business need this year? What does our business need in five years? What are we building today? That's going to make sure we [00:49:00] hit what the business needs coming at us. Not just what we need this quarter, but like really looking at that bigger level. And that's where your leadership development, your management, your, I don't know, just strategic hires I'm losing my voice really starts to, to click.

Fahd: Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I love that. I think that's the that's phenomenal. Um, so, so Amanda, I, I, I could keep talking to you all day. I've got, I've got so many, so many thoughts. I love, I love everything you've shared so far your experience, [00:49:30] everything you have. Uh, but I'm gonna, I'm gonna give you, I'm gonna give you our last question of, of this episode, but hopefully we'll have you back to unpack some more of these stuff. I'd love to do some stuff on, on the grow, on the learning culture piece. What do we do for learning even some stuff on compensation? I think they, I think we could, you could do a whole, how to masterclass Amanda with, with, with your experience. And, uh, and I think that would be really, really awesome to share, but I'll, I'll, I'll leave you with more of a personal, um, uh, uh, question, you know, what advice would you tell, [00:50:00] uh, your younger staff, maybe there's a younger VP of talent. Who's at a comp a small company that they're growing, or they're the first HR hire for a team and they're kind of, you know, younger self, but also in that role where they're working with startups and they're trying to figure it out. What what's, what's your advice? Both personally and, and professionally.

Amanda: So I think it took me a long time to realize, to just be you be real, you know, I talked about, um, being real with candidates and [00:50:30] tell them the real story and if they run screaming outta the building, it's okay. Um, and if they run screaming in, then, then really focus on that. Um, but that only comes from open courageous conversations, um, and understanding the business. So, you know, I would, I would tell my younger self to maybe spend more time trying to figure out that part than the okay, C plus plus and da, da, da, da <laugh>, [00:51:00] you know, would be whatever we're looking for. Um, I can find you a hundred of those, but I, you know, to really connect and make a difference, um, is where you layer in like really understanding what does this business need and what does, um, this team need.

Amanda: And, um, and not looking at each time, just a, a cookie cut of, of the last one. Um, but back to, you know, being [00:51:30] real and being you, I, I would say that, like, that has been where I've just truly connected with people. And that's where culture also comes from when it's just a safe environment to just like my dog a few minutes ago, started snoring at my feet. <laugh> my younger self probably would went, oh my gosh, my dog started. Um, now I'm like, do you wanna be my dog? Um, and I think that, um, I regularly [00:52:00] introduced my kids on screen and, you know, I, I think I learned that to, with SkyWave where I, I knew everybody's dog's names. I knew everybody's kids' names. Um, that's where companies are the ones you wanna stay with for a long time. And it just comes from, yeah, just being real, being you.

Amanda: I would also tell my younger self that all that hard work will pay off, um, and being [00:52:30] brave and taking steps. When you think you're not ready, it's okay. You'll figure it out. And that's where big growth happens. Yes. Um, like I could have easily stayed at SkyWave for another five, 10 years, but I think like everybody, I knew everybody's name everybody's dog's names, but when I think of the growth I've had since then it's magic because I was brave and said, okay, I got this. And I think that, [00:53:00] um, we do get scared of, of really stretching, but stretch is beautiful. And the other advice I would give my younger self is that I had beautiful learning when I went small company, big company, small company, big company. Ah, so I would encourage people to do small. Um, don't be afraid of small, small is phenomenal if it fits you, um, because you have to <laugh>, you have to do

Fahd: Everything

Amanda: Exactly. You know, it's up to you to, [00:53:30] yeah. If we say, okay, we need to do executive compensation. It's like, okay, how do we do executive compensation? <laugh> um, and then when you go to a big company, I had incredible learning of like big, well oiled machines and how it works. And, and how do you do things on a global basis? And just a, a very different learning that just made my toolbox so much bigger when I went to small companies, cuz then I, I knew what we could look like, um, and [00:54:00] how to start building to that.

Fahd: I love that. I love that. I, I really like that last piece of advice. In addition to, to, to everything, you know, kind of lead into it, be brave. And then you you've left us with, uh, many puzzles to unpack, which are fun. You've you've left us with some key insights. You've led us in with some frameworks to think about some questions to unpack. Uh, you've given us some amazing stories, um, and, uh, you've allowed us into your, uh, your heart and your home, your children and, and your, your, your, your soul. And I really appreciate how much you share on, [00:54:30] on this call. Uh, thank you so much for all the wisdom, all the brilliance that you bring to this. And, uh, I really appreciate your time being here.

Amanda: It's been a pleasure. Thank you for the opportunity.

Fahd: Thank you, Amanda, for such an amazing episode and so many insights that you kind of threw at us right at the end, more and more and more. And I, I absolutely loved it. Thank you to each and every one of you for listening all the way through for tuning in for being part of our community here at Unicorn Labs in our Unicorn Leaders podcast, [00:55:00] it is always a pleasure to have you, and we're so honored for you to listen to our show. So if you've got any questions for me, you've got any questions for Amanda. We can get it to her, just send it in, uh, either through any of our social media, as you can find me Fahd Alhattab on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Instagram, or if you want email us if fahd@Unicornlabs.ca we will take all your questions. And maybe even if you've got some guests that you think we should interview on our program, do a, let us know, but that's it for today.

Fahd: Thank you so much for tuning into this episode. [00:55:30] You can find the show notes and transcript at Unicornlabs.ca/podcast. If you like the content, be sure to rate it, review it, subscribe to get notified. Tell your friends, tell your fellow managers, and I'll leave you with this question to ponder. Do you have a clearly outlined employee journey map? Do you know the experience that your employees go on? Is it intentional or is it just kind of going along with whatever comes our way? We don't have to make it anything crazy. Just think of [00:56:00] seven different steps. How do I attract them? How do I choose them and hire them? How do I onboard? How do I engage? How do I help them perform? How do I help them develop? And when it's their time to go, how do I help them depart in a great way?

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