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Pure Storage on How to Diversify Your Recruiting Pipeline

This is the 10th episode of HackerRank Radio, a podcast for engineering leaders interested in solving developers’ toughest problems today: Hiring the right developers. Hosted by Vivek Ravisankar (CEO & Co-founder, HackerRank). You can subscribe to us on iTunes and Google Play.

This is part 2 of a special 2-part podcast, featuring HackerRank’s VP of Customer Success, Gaurav Verma, and his interviews with customers from the HackerRank main () meetup series. Listen to Part 1 here

Angela Miller has taken Pure Storage, one of the fastest growing IT storage companies in history, from having 400 to almost 3,000 employees in a span of four years. Angela is Pure Storage’s Director of Global Talent Acquisition and has previously recruited for Amazon and Google.

HackerRank’s VP of Customer Success Gaurav Verma sat down with Angela and covered the following in a quick 13 minutes:

  • Rapid growth and scaling teams
  • The role of AI in hiring
  • The myth of talent shortages
  • Tapping into overlooked talent pools

Listen to the episode, or scroll below to skim the transcript.

Jump ahead:

Gaurav: Talk about yourself and introduce herself to everyone.

Angela: Angela Miller Director of Global Talent Ops at Pure Storage. I’ve been there for four years, had an exciting evolution of career there that I think I’ll talk to you about shortly, but I manage a center of excellence for TA [talent acquisition] so PMO, our recruiting coordination team that spans the globe as well as global strategic sourcing.

Gaurav: So there’s one question I’ve asked everyone and it’s a question we love asking: what’s the fastest time to hire that you’ve ever had? Just tell us a story, in any role.

Angela: I’m sure I’m missing the fastest time to hire because when I joined Pure, we were 400 people, we were far more agile in an unorganized way. And so I recall kind of three, four-day turnarounds in those days, but in 2015 we actually hired a developer referral from Israel and we were able to do phone interviews, bring them on site and then close the deal within 30 days, and I think that was pretty impressive. He’s still with us through multiple promotions of great hire that we’re really proud of, and through logistical challenges that was a pretty quick turnaround.

Gaurav: That’s awesome. Angela, you’ve scaled for four years. Pure Storage has been on this massive tear, how do you go through this whole process? What’s the journey, the uniqueness of having to hire developers versus other roles, whether it’s sales, customer success, front office, back office, all of those different functions? Tech recruiting definitely has its own nuances – what did you learn from it, what would you share with everyone?

Angela: I always say that being up here for four years, taking it from 400 to almost 3,000 today feels like I’ve worked at three different companies, which is fantastic for someone who thrives in an environment of change, and nowadays you can’t be in tech if you don’t like change. There’s a lot of interesting problems to solve and solving those problems at 500 people looks a lot different than solving those problems at 1,500. A growth mindset has been incredibly important, rallying around a central vision of what we’re trying to do is also really important so that you don’t create silos in your talent acquisition organization where go-to-market team may be completely disconnected from your engineering talent acquisition strategy.

So building infrastructure and framework where talent acquisition can do their jobs in the fastest way possible, connecting the best talent in the right ways at the right timing is important. Organizational design is important because when you’re growing rapidly your business is changing. It’s important to really stay plugged into the changes in the business and the changes in the corporate strategies that you’re aligned and the best way to support those changes. So keeping your org plugged into executive staff and what we’re blogging about on the technical front and our value proposition two years ago looked very different from where it is today, and I’m sure that’s the same for any rapidly growing company, and the talent therefore that you’re trying to target to take your business to the next level, the next roadmap step, changes and it evolves.

So it’s important to keep talent acquisition connected to that story as its evolving and also creating a culture of recruitment within the organization has really helped, making sure that every single person whether they’re in marketing or an engineering leader or facilities person understands that we are growing and we need to be turning our brand inside out for the world to see. We don’t want to be the best-kept secret in the valley, so everybody plays a part in recruiting and bringing those individuals outside of TA [Talent Acquisition] into the fold has really helped as we continue to grow at scale. Gosh, but it’s been a wild ride.

Gaurav: I can attest to all of this that you talked about. I used to be at EMC some years ago, and that was Pure Storage when it announced itself, came out of stealth, started scaling, it was like, “Okay, hang on a minute, I’m trying to hire engineers come work at EMC in Pleasanton, and I’m competing against Pure Storage for hiring in Mountain View,” the message was point on. It was scary, you rattled all the cages, it was like, “Wow, you got to get up and pay attention to Pure Storage, this is a formidable competitor.”

This year I got to go to HR Tech, biggest HR tech conference held in Vegas, Amsterdam, and one more city. It felt like I was at an AI conference, it didn’t feel like I was at the HR tech conference. Every booth it was AI, AI, AI and it’s a very polarizing topic. On one end, there’s a whole group of us that go, “This is Pixie Dust, it’s going to solve world hunger, AI is going to solve all of our world problems.” Then there’s the Dr. Gloom-Doom scenario of, “Machines are taking over, Judgment Day is about to come.” It’s a very polarizing topic is what I see in all the media coverage around AI. I wanted your opinion on AI, machine learning – what’s going to happen, human interaction, is it still important, can we just go, “Automate the hell out of everything,” where do you see this going, are we going to become obsolete because that seems to be one scenario that AI can make us obsolete, what does the future look like say 2030? I’m going to be super obsolete by then, I know that for sure. But just the whole tech recruiting space, where are we going, what do you see, is it going to augment what we do or is it going to take over what we do?

Angela: Yeah, so I don’t believe that AI is replacing sourcing. I believe that it is up-leveling the sourcing function in a company. AI is rewriting the sourcing job description essentially by removing administrative burden, low touch tasks, and allowing them to really up-level their skill sets in research, BI [business intelligence], company mapping, finding really high-value target talent based on skills rather than resumes. It’s not an algorithm anymore where you’re looking at the elite top 10 computer science schools. There’s a lot more strategy that goes into finding the top 10% of engineers out there and some of them are at San Jose State and we’re going to find those with more time to double down on those kinds of channels. So yeah I love AI, I love what we’re doing with screening with AI, love what we’re doing with automating the course of kind of discipline of following up with good talent so that we’re not being redundant in our work streams, but human interaction will always be a major player.

We’ve done some research lately on understanding the consumers who are our target talent markets and generational studies and newer generations are super skeptical about selling or marketing and they want to hear authentic stories about what it’s actually like to work somewhere. They don’t want to hear a sell, they don’t want to get some sexy infographic that promises the world, they want to really hear about what it’s like for people that have experience growing their careers in places, they want different things, they want growth, they want genuine authenticity. They want to be in a place that’s inclusive where they could be their genuine self and bring all of their person to work, and those things will never be conveyed via AI. So it’s just going to give us another opportunity to evolve how we’re approaching this kind of high business impact group within a TA [talent acquisition] organization, and an organization in general.

Gaurav: Cool. Well, I was super gullible when I started my professional career for sure. I bought in all of that stuff.

Angela: Yeah, they’re getting smarter.

Gaurav: Yeah, they definitely are. So the bots are not taking over, that’s good. All right, so the next one, which is a very debated topic especially here in the Bay Area. Do we have a talent shortage? It goes from, we hear things like, “Supply versus demand, are we not doing it the right way.” But just fundamentally, do you believe we have a talent shortage, tech talent specifically for your companies in the Bay Area specifically as you’re hiring, or anywhere across the globe – do we have this massive tech talent shortage or is there a different problem that manifests itself as, “Oh we have this massive shortage of talent in the world of tech”?

Angela: Look, there are a lot more jobs probably than there were in this tech space but if you tell a recruiting manager that there’s a tech talent shortage, I kind of have like a visceral reaction. No, there are plenty of good people out there. We just have to find them. There’s more jobs, but tenures tend to be slimming down, so there’s more opportunity to pull people. I also feel that there are so many startups that are so sexy and pull a lot of early-in-career engineers and maybe mid-career engineers that are looking for the upside in the middle of their career by being part of a start-up. But those are kind of – lots of them are facades of grandeur, and they’re not as stable and as innovative as they may have been promised, so I think that there’s a lot of opportunity. If you’ve got a solid value proposition and if you can bring stories to life about why it’s truly great to be at your company, I think that there’s people out there that will listen. And even if someone isn’t in a position to make a move in that immediate future, it’s worth developing that candidate relationship because they will be, in nine months they will be in 13 months, and that’s the play, it’s long-term candidate development now, it’s building relationships for the long term. And so I do not believe there is a talent shortage.

Gaurav: Awesome. Angela, I know you’re very passionate about this and you have programs in place where you’re going after or looking for women in tech specifically that have been out of the workforce for all the right reasons and are ready to re-enter. Talk to us more about that. As you say, there is no shortage, there’s more than just the same 10 universities that you go after and same folks.

Angela: Yeah, diversity isn’t only about underrepresented minorities. Diversity is about diversity of thought and with that comes people that have been out of the workforce. And our job is to find skills-based matches, people that can make a difference, that can diversify the conversation because our people making decisions need to be representative of our customers. I’m particularly passionate about women who’ve taken break from work. Our CHRO, JJ took a break in work to raise her son which I think is admirable, and now she’s executive at a fast growing company. She came from LinkedIn as well. But I recently spoke at an event called Swing Shift in Seattle that was talking to a bunch of women that took like a two or more year break and were really nervous about entering the workforce again, and the fact is there’s skill based training that are available to get them feeling more confident about the email ecosystem now, no longer Outlook now, let’s get familiar with Google suite. But yeah, there are programs in place to do that; and with a little tiny mountain to climb, these people can be huge assets in your organization. I’m a believer in skills-based hiring. In fact, our engineering interviewers don’t even look at resumes when they interview, we’ve always been like that up here. So that particular model falls very well within our organization specifically.

Gaurav: Just to give a quick tidbit on this, when we asked this question the first time in San Francisco we got the same answer, hey no talent shortage, same in Palo Alto. When we went to New York, the answer was categorically hell yes, we have a talent shortage. Then we asked this question in London which was London-Amsterdam, it was sort of mixed, yes and no, supply-demand. Sydney was – Sydney is fun, everyone wants to come work here. But it’s very interesting to see geo, industry – that lens when you put on it like what the answers are. And when everyone’s from that same geo, same industry, like its financial services, big money center banks, the investment banks have definitely made that shift and they’re more software driven, but the other ones are going, “Oh yeah, we have this massive talent shortage,” because you’re looking with that lens. So really cool. This is awesome. I’ve learned a lot. Thank you so much. Like I said, I can keep peppering you with questions.

Vivek: Thank you for tuning in. If you have any questions, tweet us @HackerRank.

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