Episode: 12 Talent Acquisition with Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano

Episode: 12 Talent Acquisition with Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano

In this episode Brian Comerford and Nick Lozano discuss talent acquisition, something that is a challenge for most organizations in any industry. Particularly for today's modern technology leaders, when it comes to talent acquisition how do you simply hire good people?


0:04 Opening
0:37 Talent Availability
2:22 Asking the question why?
4:50 Learning by doing
8:05 Looking internally for talent
9:58 Small wins and allowing people to fail/succeed
13:12 Answering the How?
16:24 using LinkedIn
18:16 Meetup.com
19:12 STAR questions in interviews
20:56 Asking interviewee what books they read
23:41 Something that you are proud of
25:03 Do your research on the person before the interview
26:37 Whats next for you?
27:26 Where do you see yourself in five years?
29:21 Outsourcing
39:58 Automation and changes that come with it
46:10 What books do you like to read?
50:50 Closing


Books mentioned:

https://www.amazon.com/4-Hour-Workweek-Escape-Live-Anywhere/dp/0307465357

https://www.amazon.com/Zero-One-Notes-Startups-Future/dp/B00M284NY2/

https://www.amazon.com/Talent-Fix-Leaders-Guide-Recruiting-ebook/dp/B07CPF4C7C


Hosted By:

Brian Comerford
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/briancomerford/

Nick Lozano
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nick-lozano-97356621/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NickLLozano          ‌

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Show Transcript:

Brian Comerford  0:04
Welcome to another edition of lead.exe. I'm Brian hammer forward in Denver, Colorado.

Nick Lozano  0:09
And I'm Nick Lozano in Washington DC.

Brian Comerford  0:12
And today we're talking about something that is the challenge for most organizations in any industry, and particularly for today's modern technology leadership, when it comes to talent acquisition, or said more simply hiring good people.

Nick Lozano  0:31
Yeah, I think that's a, you know, Hot Topic nowadays.

Brian Comerford  0:37
And, you know, there's a lot of directions that this can go, you can certainly think about, you know, particular skill sets that are especially difficult to recruit, especially where they're, you know, hot in the market place, where you might be in a geographic region where the median wage type, it looks different than what the average wage type is for someone who's highly skilled in a specialized area. So we'll chat about that a little bit, as well as, where there are some opportunities to consider buying by the drink, outsourcing using managed services providers, as well as looking to automation and technology to help solve where some of those talent acquisition challenges might come in. So one that comes to mind for me, Nick, and you know, maybe this is one that you hear a lot is around the domains of data analysis and data science, it seems like one of the biggest constraints there is that if you're able to find someone who's got immediate availability, of course, the first question that leaps to mind is why why hasn't snatch them up already? There could be some yellow flags there. But of course, there's always the question about how many years of experience come along with a degree in something like data science, and oftentimes, what you discover is, there aren't too many years of experience that is available in the marketplace with those types of credentials.

Nick Lozano  2:22
Yeah, no, I completely agree with you, when you when you look at things like data science right now, or data analytics, or somebody who's like highly skilled and Power BI, those individuals that are in high demand right now, and then they can be hard to find. And when you do find them, they may cost a lot of money. So you run into that a road where, you know, what do we do here? How do we acquire this talent? Do we try to grow this talent internally? Or do we, you know, just go out on our own, and we, you know, see what the markets providing and try to play in that space, you know, with, you know, you know, the big five consulting companies hiring people with those credentials, and, you know, the software companies in the valley and, and Austin and Denver. You know, in New York City, the financial service firms are also after those people. So it makes the makes the talent pool, pretty tight and difficult to deal with. In what I always kind of think of it is, you know, you brought up a good point there when you said why. And that's why I always like, try to think of when I get brought into a project, why are we trying to do this, and I can't remember if it's a Tony Robbins thing, or, or somebody like him, he's like, you know, you always ask why. And you ask the Y three times, it's like, we need a data analytics person, why do we need to emulate analytics person, because we need to, you know, get greater insight off of our data, why do we need greater insight off of our data, we need greater insight, because we need to work on client retention and proving, you know, that we're actually driving value, and he got off, that's actually what we're trying to solve right there. Not necessarily the data analytics person, maybe that's the end goal. But maybe we can start at that third step down, and drive a little more value and maybe find someone who was, you know, an econ major, they're going to have just as much of the statistics, statistical math experience, doing linear regressions and, you know, modeling different data. And maybe that's a different route you can go. Because, like you said, you're finding people who come out of college with these data and Lyft degrees. And, you know, if it's anything like when I went to college, right, they kind of, you know, showed you things to do and and basically you you got hired someone you basically learned on the job, right? I don't know if it's the same experience for you. But you know, I feel like it's like that in any field.

Brian Comerford  4:50
Well, there's always a degree of learn by doing. And that's especially true when you step into an industry that might be completely foreign to you. As it was, to me, when I came into the commercial insurance industry, there was never a time where I was going to college, or in my life, to be honest, that I thought, insurance, hey, that sounds like an industry that's got a lot of sex appeal, I think I'll hang my hat there. But as someone who cherishes opportunities to innovate, and a lot of the creativity that goes around software development, and you know, youtility development in particular, part of what I learned early on coming into this industry was there was nothing to do but innovate. And so it's sort of seated my creative interests in that way. And, and I've been sort of locked into it for a long time. Now, as a result of those things. Part of what you touch on that, I think, is really critical, though, particularly when you are starting to do an external search, to bring in that talent. And you've gone through the process of asking the why and answering those things adequately, to know that you do, in fact, have a need for that particular roll a resource, having an opportunity to look within and see what kind of talent that you've got already inside your organization, where you might have someone who has a very strong organizational understanding of how the business operates, or some of the nuances of your particular interest industry type. And they might also have enough of an interest and acumen that they could be developed into the type of role that you're looking for, with adequate training. It's not always a perfect fit. You know, if you take someone who's sitting in a role that is, you know, not very analytical to begin with, and you move them over into something that requires a high degree of analysis. So you have to kind of beat the bushes, or see who's already risen to the top, to demonstrate some of that proclivity already, and take the time to have the conversation, as well as to know your people to have a sense of where there might be someone that could be a good internal candidate like that. And sometimes that just comes with having conversations with other leaders within your organization. Right finding out kind of, you know, who some folks are, who might be in their reporting downline, what is it that they're doing? You know, I saw that Sally brought a pretty cool graphic representation of some analysis into a recent organization wide meeting. And I had no idea that she had an interest in that kind of thing. And as she walked through it, it was clear that she really had a command of the underlying data. Even though there was some room to grow with what the graphical execution looked like, you know, that can be a perfect opportunity to say, we might have someone here who's already got enough business savvy, that was some additional training that could be the right fit, to be put in into a role that we're trying to actively recruit for.

Nick Lozano  8:05
Now, I think it's definitely you touched on a good point is to look internally, when I always look internally, for people for technology roles, I always look for someone who's very curious, right? They want to know why something works, or how it works. And they kind of have, you know, the drive to go look for the answer to, I mean, especially with today's day and age, I mean, you know, you can learn anything you want on YouTube, which is just really amazing that you can plug in how to do anything in there that you want to do with probably Power BI. And you can get going all by yourself probably in like five minutes making a dashboard. Not to mention, like the free products that Microsoft gives out. Because, you know, they want people to use their product and buy it. Because, you know, it's it's it's not a cheap investment. But, you know, I always like to look for those people who have that curiosity. HI, you know, who want to solve problems?

Brian Comerford  9:03
Yeah. And with that, I think goes that tinkerer mentality, you know, who was it that likes to get in there and play around with things. Sometimes you have folks who have a very undisciplined approach to that, which is clicking on, you know, what's this button do? What's this button? What happens if we try this, that kind of curiosity is good up to a point unless it might have some actual production impacts across your enterprise. But when you've got someone who has some curiosity around, finding some tools that might be free, were, you know, open source tools, and they have figured out how to quickly build their own youtility? Maybe it's not very sophisticated, but it accomplishes something that actually solves a genuine business need. That's when I think, you know, the signs are right, that you may have somebody that could be elevated into a different type of role.

Nick Lozano  9:58
Yeah, no, I like that idea that I like the idea of, you know, kind of driving small wins, right, you can take that internal person and in maybe somebody just needs a really slick looking, pie chart and graphs and linear regression for a presentation to a client. And that's where you can start with that lower level person, right, and put them on that, give them something with clear direction of where you want it to go. But just let them roll with it and explore, say, you know, these are the charts we need, we need it show up in this PowerPoint, you know, give me the best looking thing you think you can do, go for it, you know, take take every other Friday, for the next two months, and see what you can put together for this slide deck presentation for this big client and wall wall get together and you can roll through it and what you've built before we actually present anything to the client, I really like giving people the opportunity to kind of build something or do something on their own with some kind of clear, you know, not clear, specifically telling them exactly what word for word, but telling them let him know what the end goal is, there is like john Abbott said, you know, letting them know what the commander's intent is here. You know, it's like, Hey, we need these, you know, data analytics for customer retention, and we need to show, you know, a return on investment somehow, you know, widgets, or how whatever you want to sell, you know, as long as they know what the end goal is, you just kind of let them go. And do it, give them some of that free time, allow them to fail over and over, let them know, it's okay to try stuff and come back with a jumbled pile a mess. I mean, that's how we all kind of learn, right? That's right, we were all that IT guy at one point in time, you know, pushing a button, go, I hope this thing turns back on again. That server hasn't been off in eight years. So that's gonna be dangerous, but we'll see what happens. You know, you gotta you gotta let your people have the opportunity to have to fail, and let them know, it's okay to fail. You know, as long as the entity pension is good behind there, were not making catastrophic, you know, things that, you know, just, you know, send the company in a downturn, I think, you know, failures a good thing for people.

Brian Comerford  12:12
I couldn't agree more. And I think the inverse of that is also true, give your folks an opportunity to succeed. Part of what you're talking about an approach that I like and have tried on a number of occasions is handing over a project to somebody. Explain to them ultimately, what the outcomes are that you're looking for. But don't tie them to any particular methodology or tools necessarily, in order to accomplish that and see where their creativity and curiosity takes them, see what they bring back to the table. And often, you can be pleasantly surprised how much folks who are already ambitious will seek to stretch themselves.

Nick Lozano  12:53
And they will also find, sometimes all you know, you'll find you'll give them a specific task. And in their research and playing with things, they figured out how to solve something else that was not even related to what they were doing with the current task. So you know, it can drive good things either way. happy accidents.

Exactly.

Brian Comerford  13:12
So this brings us to another area that I think is has got to be a question that gets answered at some point. So we address the Y. Now the next component of it, I think can be the how right? How do you go about doing this. So there's, there's a couple of pieces to this one. There's, you know, the overall interview process itself, once you feel like you've got a selection of candidates to draw from. But let's say that you're trying to source some talent from within your drill and some dry holes. And he realized that it's really time to cast a wider net and start looking for where there might be some additional, additional talent externally. What's the process that you've gone through that you feel is most effective when it comes to engaging external recruiters or resources? You know, do you have go to websites that you use where you plug in candidate desires and requirements? And then see what comes back to you How have you handled this with some of your own challenges?

Nick Lozano  14:17
You know, I've had a really good luck with using LinkedIn to reach out to my network already. When you kind of post things on, on indeed, and all that you just get floods of resumes that you cannot possibly get, you know, you you get, you get so many you can just possibly even parse through that data. So I would think the first thing probably you do is to pin your own network and see if, you know, there's anyone who has somebody who's, you know, they can think of that's in their network as well who might be looking for a position or might be looking for growth, maybe there somewhere now, it's a smaller organization doesn't have the opportunity to maybe you can provide that for them. Like I said, I've always had better better luck with reaching through my network and more to mouth and talking to people, which would bring me to how I like to interview people, which we can do in a whole nother part. within itself, I just for my own self, I hate star based questions. Do you know what I'm talking about? You know, it's the situation of, I can't remember what all the acronyms are. But it's basically you get a situation and I did this, and these are the results. And those just feel very, very robotic, I kind of like to have conversations with people first, and just ask them general questions to warm them up, you know, to get to know them as a person because they'll possibly be working for you. And and then kind of just ask them what they've done in the past and let them you know, talk about their experience of like, maybe you were talking about Power BI or you know, like what types of forms they've built in Excel. Maybe we can just have a discussion about that. And then, you know, we'll maybe bring him in a second round, like, Hey, can you show us some of that stuff that you built? You know, as long as you're not an NDA with any of that, or, you know, you're not any, under any kind of security clearances or anything like that. I've had better luck by, like I said, so reaching through my network and doing, like more personable interviews with individuals.

Brian Comerford  16:24
Yeah, I think those are great recommendations. And, you know, certainly LinkedIn is an awesome powerful resource. Looking to other groups, where you might not necessarily have an electronic database component attached to it, board memberships, you know, board, even board members that were you're not a member of that particular board, but you have some kind of relationship with other board members, they tend to have broad networks. Same is true for various types of meetup groups, you know, whether you've got an affinity interest group, word, you know, it's something that you can go out and search and join. You know, searching on meetups, I think is also one of those ways pretty quickly, to be able to find, you know, where is there a close local consortium of people who are dealing with the challenge that you're trying to solve, particularly if it's a talent challenge for you, where you're going to come across a lot of different people, they're already all in that domain, trying to solve some of those challenges today, their leaders who are conducting projects around those types of things. So a recent one for me was robotic process automation, right wanted to find out kind of who's working in it, it didn't matter to me whether or not it was actually within the industry. I'm in fact, I kind of preferred that it wasn't wanted to hear how other industries were solving similar types of challenges, as well as where are some of the resources available? Who are some of the best vendors or frameworks to be working within? So that it wasn't just all shielded by some of the, you know, same type of answers that you get when you're, you know, saddled in groupthink? within your, your own industry?

Nick Lozano  18:16
Yeah, no, I and I really like the website, you're referencing this meetup. com, right. And that, that's really great, even for what we were discussing previously about bringing someone up in talent, because a lot of times they have groups, and they get together and they do projects, and they discuss things. And it's a good learning environment for people to, and it's a low investment for you to maybe you can sponsor one of those meetups to have that whole group come to your office, if you got a enough office for like 30 or 40, people sponsor one of those meetups, say, Hey, you know, guys, you want to come in here, I'll buy you some beers, you know, you can have the space for free, run your meeting. Don't Don't try to sell anyone hard on the job. But you know, be there with your hand out and, you know, talk about the frustrations you're have. And if you're willing to give more than you take from somebody, you're probably going to make a good friendship, they're good network connection to help you solve your problem for you.

Brian Comerford  19:12
Love that. So star, the behavioral interview questions that you're referring to situate task action result sort

Nick Lozano  19:21
of this, I hate this. It seems so like 1958 you go in there? And it's like, well there. Brian, can you tell me about a time when you were under a lot of stress? And how did you handle it? Right? I don't know. This is a dumb question.

Brian Comerford  19:41
How did you deal with a difficult relationship?

Nick Lozano  19:44
That's almost always wanted to always ask. Sure. But for me, I feel like I don't get a sense of them as a person. You know, more than I get like a rehearsed questions back, maybe that's why I don't like it quite as much. Because I feel like people who ask the questions, I feel like don't put a lot of effort into finding the questions to ask to really ask you no questions. So everything just seems rehearsed even from the interviewers side. You know, it doesn't feel very personable. And that's, that's not the way you're gonna interact with them every day when you're actually in the office, and you're working on projects together. So I want to kind of know someone as a person first. Because maybe they're just not a cultural fit, they could have the best resume in the world, you know, data analytics star, but if they don't fit your culture, like say, You're 100% remote work company, and they want to be in an office every day, they can be the best rock star in the world, they're, they're probably not going to last, you know, not because they can't cut the mustard and do the work. But you know, it's not a culture fit. So, you know, when we're acquiring talent, we have other issues, just Besides, you know, the expertise behind it.

Brian Comerford  20:56
Yeah, I think those are great points, Nick. And, you know, one of the questions that I tend to like to ask in interviews is one that we actually ask of a lot of our interview subjects here, which is about what you like to read. First of all, I like to get a sense whether or not someone, in fact, is actually a reader type. It's interesting to know, is that even a content choice, you know, for somebody? And then certainly, you know, you find out where someone has invested some of their time recently, to me, it's always interesting to know a little bit about the quality of what interests them, the types of things that they want to choose to explore, you know, topics that may be near and dear to them. And that can spawn a whole different series of questions and conversations.

Nick Lozano  21:49
No, I like that, too. I always I, it's funny people put their hobbies down on on their resume. And I know, in today's age, it's it's kind of mixed, like whether you should put high these down are interest, actually like reading those? Because it gives me some insight to how they are as a person more than just reading. Yeah, I'm a.net nano, you know, application developer and I work on Windows Server are two 2008. You know, it's like, you just feel like you're you're reading a, you know, a job post job description. That gives you a little bit more personality into this person. That maybe that's just me, though. I like those things I like I like your book question. And I think I'm had to use that. I'd be interested if they would tell me any book. He doesn't have to be a business based book. And I would probably pre face that question with that, too. Doesn't have to be a business based book. Because you know, I don't want you to feed me.

Brian Comerford  22:49
Yeah,

Nick Lozano  22:50
yeah, exactly. You know, thinking Grow Rich, or feed me some other book that you think I want to see you're like, what's, what's the one to 100? Or is that the God who said, Peter teal book that everyone always talks? Yeah, I think it's one to 100 I can't can't remember hundred percent. But you know, like, I don't want answers back like that. You know, there's some great historical fiction that people can read. The one of my favorite books is Musashi, Musashi. And that's historical fiction. Right? Um, but there's lots of great lessons in there.

Brian Comerford  23:24
Zero to One is the Peter Thiel

Nick Lozano  23:26
one, that's what it is. It came rides, but you know, everyone's hot on that one, you know, or maybe they'll tell me the four hour workweek, you know, sure, sure. I like Tim Ferriss. But yeah. I don't need to hear, you know, answers. You think that I want to hear

Brian Comerford  23:41
if they're reading the four hour workweek that might bring up some questions as to whether or not they're really looking for a job?

That's true. Automation.

automation, Brian, so.

Okay, so we're talking about, you know, some of those questions to ask. One thing that I like to ask, interviews is, you know, really around, tell me something that you're proud of, that you feel created value, in your current role, or in a recent role in your past? One of those things that you feel like, if, if I were to pick up the phone, call one of your co workers today, they would point to that thing and say, Hey, this is the difference maker for us. To me, those are interesting questions to pursue, because ultimately, that's what you're looking for, right? You're looking for someone who's a value creator, for your own organization, that's who you want to bring in. More than just asking the situation task action results. Question, right. And I'm not dismissing the importance of any of those things. And certainly there, you know, more nuanced approaches that you can take to kind of hit all those points. But really asking the value creation question, I think it's one that allows you to see, again, how quickly someone shifts into reflection, versus where they you have some canned responses right out of the gates?

Nick Lozano  25:03
Yeah, no, I like that. And we always expect, you know, when when you're interviewing people, you're always expecting the candidate to read your website. You know, find out what your mission statement is, and all that. But as you doing the interviewing you, a lot of people don't do their research on the people themselves, either. It's like, Hey, I get a resume, I instantly go see if they have a LinkedIn, see what their interests are, if they have their school on there. Do they post anything on there? And do they have a blog? So I always try to do my own due diligence to to, you know, give back what I'm expecting? You know, I feel like the reason why I probably don't like a lot of the star based questions is because I feel like people Google a list. And they're like, Oh, yeah, I'll take that one. That one, that one in that one. And they probably looked at the resume five minutes before they went in there. And they're just trying to match one for one, one. For one, you now a Furby, I need somebody who who's a sequel server developer out of this guided sequel server, I need somebody who's dot net, this guy did.net, you know, it's like, they're just checking boxes instead of actually looking to see who they are as a person. And maybe maybe I'm just a little bit more extreme on this side. I don't know. But I feel like you should at least give that respect back because you're expecting, you know, the person you're going to interview to look at your website, look at your job description, look at your company, and what industry you're in. So it's worth you to return the favor as well, too.

Brian Comerford  26:37
Absolutely. And I think another set of questions that goes along with that same train of thought is, what's next for you? And how can our company help you get there, it may not be within the domains of what this job description is today. But, you know, if you're here, and you've got, you know, a couple years under your belt, you want to look at what's next one of those things that really piqued your interest. We're Are you seeing the drivers for yourself to be able to pursue additional opportunities, and sometimes they won't know, you know, a well rounded answer to that, and which is fear, because they may not know your, your company, just as they don't know your industry. But it also helps you start to narrow down whether or not you've got someone who may in fact, be the right type of fit for the role that you're hiring for today.

Nick Lozano  27:26
That brings up a good point, I know people are always that's always kind of a weird question to ask, right? Like, where do you see yourself in five years, and you know, the rate people kind of job hop now, you know, we don't have people who, you know, start working at IBM, and they're there 20 years, and then they get the gold watch and the pension when I leave.

Brian Comerford  27:47
Right, five years, what are you talking about? Well, it's not gonna be this company.

Nick Lozano  27:52
Exactly. Well, in for me, when I interview an asset question, for me, that's okay. Right. Um, you know, means a leader, I'm here to help culture, you know, help bring them along, mentor them, make them you know, better at their job, help them in their weak spots. You know, if I'm not doing everything I can to make them better. And then they possibly go get a, you know, a better job than what I have for them, how can I be mad about that, right? I mean, that's your job as a leader is to help mentor the people who are below you to make them better to bring them up to the next level. And maybe you don't have a spot open for them on a team, but, you know, but they go off somewhere else. And you never know, come back around, you know, maybe maybe one day you need a job. They'll just remember that great experience, I just feel like you as a leader, you have responsibility to, you know, to help mentor and bring these people up. and not worry, don't worry about quite as much as where they'll be in five years, if they'll be here. If I put that investment in them, you know, if you show that you're truly interested in them, you want them to succeed, and you know, you're there for them when you need them, you know, it's always going to be more, it's going to be more, it's going to be more than money that takes them away from you. And that's always helpful. If you kind of don't mentor them, leave them alone, then the next job that offers them more money is just they're just going to leave.

Brian Comerford  29:21
Well said, Let's touch on another topic that tends to be sensitive within a lot of organizations, which is outsourcing, right? Sometimes, it's, it's too difficult a search. Now I think about security as one of those areas where you may have someone who is an internal, see. So you might have someone who's prime responsibilities working on security. But as you and I both know, it is such a broad set of capabilities, skill sets and knowledge that to put that responsibility on a single person or even a small team can be incredibly challenging. And sometimes, outsource saying that to a partner who specializes in that area that's got a vast number of internal resources, who can backfill each other if someone's not available, or, you know, knowledge, gap, backfill each other as, as alternate experts on certain things. Sometimes it's better to go out and and really find something that's more of a managed services offering in the marketplace. So taking that approach, I like the introduction of the Y. So let's check the box on saying we've determined we know we need someone who's a security expert in our organization, now addressing the how, how do we go out and find what that type of talent is that we're looking for? In the absence of having anyone that we we feel would be adequate to hire to bring on board to drive that forward? What does that look like for you and your approach?

Nick Lozano  30:57
I the managed service providers partners, that's that's always a tough one, right? Because when you reach out, you're always getting the sales people first, right? And the sales guys at MSP is they're going to always say great things are going to give you customers who always give them great reviews, and you've kind of got to go off and you know, do your due diligence and actually try to find people you know, who use them, at least for me, that's that's the way I do it. I don't know, how do you do it? Brian, I guess?

Brian Comerford  31:34
Well, you know, that was a bit of a leading question.

Nick Lozano  31:40
For this fight, no,

Brian Comerford  31:41
no, no part of the approach that we've taken, particularly, when it comes to, you know, having a bye bye The drink, sort of engagement, it kind of goes back to what we were talking about on the per project basis, right, carve out a component of something that you know, you need. So in the case of secure, let's say, we've got to do a quarterly enterprise wide fishing campaign. And, you know, part of what we need is campaign itself. We need the analysis on, you know, ultimately, where are the gaps that we need to fill? Some of that includes, you know, how people are behaving, and some of it includes what where do we have gaps in our current security protocols within our own infrastructure or technology processes? And then also, how do we ultimately have an action plan that comes out of some of that analysis right? Back in that with some training, where we've got personnel behavior issues, that could be highly detrimental. You and I both know that email is still probably the most common attack vector for me cyber

Nick Lozano  32:51
city, you know, information security, your biggest week of weak points always going to be a human being, right.

Brian Comerford  32:58
So adequate training, and up being really what the key solve is for that. And being able to have you know, that tribal knowledge so that if somebody within a team, they come across something that looks somewhat suspicious to them, but they're not really sure. They don't want to look dumb, but they also have had enough training that they realize, wait a second, this could be hugely detrimental. If I just click here. And maybe, maybe they're too bashful to reach out to it, it's like, man, I just took that test two weeks ago, I don't, the last thing I want to do is reach out to one of our IT guys, and you know, show that I'm uncertain about this. But they reach out to someone else on the team. And the knowledge has been shared through training adequately enough. So that from a tribal perspective, there are other folks who are going to help reinforce, you know, I'm about 90% certain that this looks bad. Let's just grab someone it, you know, I'll pick up the phone, we can conference, call them in together. So, you know, back to the MSP question, I think, you know, from my opinion perspective, the rules of engagement are usually around how do you start small, some companies, you know, they won't do anything for any less than a six or 12 month engagement, which is fine, I completely understand, you know, it's a waste of their time as well to try to align themselves with the client that isn't really going to do them an opportunity to prove things out over time. But, you know, it's up to you ultimately, to determine where do you set the limitations for that? So if it's more of a matter of, Okay, great, we'll do a 12 month contract, and this is the expectation on a quarterly basis. That should give you enough information to know, you know, do we have a partner who's adequate, load up with some additional responsibilities? When it

Nick Lozano  34:46
comes to the MSP route? It can be tough with those those big contracts. Yeah.

Brian Comerford  34:53
Yeah, when it comes to consulting practices, you know, it becomes even more challenging, I think, because they're is just a pretty wide swing. This is where the investments can get really sizable really fast. Certainly, if you're talking about any of the Big Five, I mean, those are out of reach for a vast swath of companies.

Nick Lozano  35:17
Pretty much for Fortune 500 companies. Yeah,

Brian Comerford  35:19
yeah. So So where does that leave you? I mean, there are certainly plenty of boutique consultancies. There are mom and pop consultancies, there are independent practices, all of those things, I think, come with the same responsibility of vetting that we've already walked through a little bit in terms of, it can't just be about, you know, speaking directly with sales person, it has to be, in fact, this is one of those areas where taking a star approach may actually be more effective if you deliver a specific challenge to find out, okay, how are they going to step through this and prescribe a challenge? The solution for a challenge that we we have? That's a no challenge today, right?

Nick Lozano  36:02
Yeah, like that. And I've had good luck with getting smaller consulting boutiques, you know, like the one two person shop, going through your network, right? saying, Hey, you know, I'm going to do Salesforce CRM, you know, integration and sequel, have you used anybody to do that, now you guys are on Salesforce, I found stuff like that to be very helpful to staying in touch with your network, I can't stress enough. You know, how valuable professional network can be, and how how valuable a tool like LinkedIn can be as well to help you wade through through some of this information. I mean, for me, I'm kind of late on it, I was always, you know, the information security route, and I'm like, I'm not putting any of my information in there. Because that's how they social engineer, they're going to find what you do. But you know, I'm warming up to and realizing that there's, there's lots of power and, and value in there. And that's another way to validate someone, you know, expertise, right. Do they write all the time about it on LinkedIn? Are they an influencer? are they offering help all the time? You know, it goes back to that concept we're talking about, we're interviewing people, you know, it's like, are they reaching with their hand out, you know, to help, you know, instead of, you know, their palm out looking for $1? You know, those are always, you know, telltale signs right there. That he you know, it's dollar for anything to like, Well, you know, for me to do an assessment or just coming to talk to you, it's going to be XYZ.

Brian Comerford  37:36
telltale tall tale, tall tale can have a completely different meaning for it. Exactly. Yeah.

Nick Lozano  37:45
But, you know, like I said, your network, professional network professional associations as well to, can be very helpful to paying off to to find some of these consultants or or to wait, there's some MSP as well, too. Yeah, helpful to

Brian Comerford  38:01
know, I highly agree with that. One, it's, you know, it's much easier to reach out to somebody who you may see either on a client list or you know, has been engaged in working with a certain type of consultant, or MSP and just ask you now, how did you arrive at, you know, whoever it is that you've gotten engaged? Or what do you think of them are? Any red flags that we should be aware of? We're talking to these guys today. So, you know, kind of last on my list was really the role of automation. You know, when when do you get to a point where you have to go through an internal analysis to determine whether or not the job that you've got today is even one that's worth being done by a human being?

Nick Lozano  38:51
We've been doing that for years. And I see, right?

Brian Comerford  38:53
That's right.

Nick Lozano  38:54
I think the big shift was email, right? Don't take my Exchange Server away from am I gonna have a job? And what do they do now? They managed an exchange that's in the cloud. And life's better, right? You're like, you don't have to restart that thing and pray that it turns back on. You know, it's Saturday at three in the morning.

Brian Comerford  39:11
Oh, absolutely. And recovery looks a lot different to

Nick Lozano  39:16
Yeah. And have you tested your backup and recovery? That's always the other part of the story to write. Ups. Have you ever tested them? I don't know. Right? Yeah, we tested them three years ago, and it worked. Great. Well, that was 30 years ago. Yeah, that's for another another podcast.

Brian Comerford  39:34
Sure enough, we'll call that one, you know, complete restore challenges.

Nick Lozano  39:38
Yeah. And everyone has their story of a restore network. You know, I don't care. who you are. We all have the horror stories of turning the server off, and it not coming back on even virtualized billions of No, absolutely.

Brian Comerford  39:52
No question about it.

Nick Lozano  39:54
Yeah, but but

I digress, I forgot where we were their

Brian Comerford  39:58
automation. So, you know, part of why I asked this question is because more and more, there are just a lot of routine activities, that they may not be optimized in terms of how their process flow works today, where they would really be good candidates for automation. But to me, that's part of where technology can work in partnership with the business. In particular, if you have a business analyst or tech savvy, PM, you know, folks who have some organizational understanding of how the business processes are working for the organization today, that's where the discussion can get really rigorous around, you know, well, let's find some things that might be ripe for the picking, for automation. And again, it's not to take away someone's job, it's really to enhance where their skill set can be applied elsewhere. Because the fact is, if you've got tasks that if they are leaned out enough, can be identified as so routine, that a robot can perform them, they're probably not worthy of human beings attention. As much as some folks like to bear hug that kind of stuff, you know,

Nick Lozano  41:14
well, and you know, if you, if you look back at history to right, you look at the industrial age, right, and the, you know, the assembly line, when, you know, 14 with they're like, well, this is just going to completely, you know, take everyone's jobs away, and, you know, we're going to lose lots of factors, because all they want to do is they want to transitioning to be in the people who fixed the machines that run the lines, you know, they just kind of transition so that jobs are lost, they just kind of shift, right. And we've kind of dealt with that for years. And it I mean, especially as everything, you know, was kind of like all our stuffs on prem, we can't put a single thing and a private cloud or public cloud at all. And now people are just taking their stuff saying I don't want any, any hardware at all, just put it somewhere else. And a lot of people staffers have had to adapt to that, you know, in your employees, the, you know, the way you want to give it sell it to them is that you know, do you want to do something else that drives more value? Do you want to learn something new, like, Look, this automation can take, you know, 15 minutes of your day, every day back for you, you know, at the end of the month, you you have a couple of days that that are just free? You know, why don't you work on some, you know, small project and build something that you think might be helpful for you or for us, as a company? You know, it's a good example, for your data analytics person, right?

Brian Comerford  42:37
Absolutely. In

Nick Lozano  42:38
some way, you know, we're going to give them a couple of days of time by, you know, throwing that automation in there and letting them do something that's more, more value driven. If not, you know, something that affects the bottom line of the company, maybe it's an education investment in that person, then they can drive value later.

Brian Comerford  42:56
Yeah, that's not to say that there's not going to be some attrition that goes along with some of what automation allows an organization to execute differently about. There are some folks who, you know, may find themselves edged out, that's very true. But there are some folks going back to your assembly line example, who might find themselves the foreman. Right, you may have gone from the master of minutia on a lot of pithy administrative tasks to suddenly being the chief of automation processes for your organization, because you were on the front lines of knowing better than anyone how all those things work. And now if you're going to hook that into some form of automation, who better than you as a subject matter expert to help drive those things

Nick Lozano  43:43
fits your your business process engineer right there, right, or optimizer? Depending on how how you want to title that role. But yeah, you know, they can go from being the person who physically did it to the one who engineers the process and manages the process day to day, which is kind of cool. Like, if this was a perfect. If this was all we could build anything you wanted? How would you want it to be? You know, let them run with that. I mean, I know automation and technology over time, always take job takes jobs, everything takes jobs, right. Everybody's worried about everything, taking jobs, but you know, you, you know, people as individuals have to be willing to take the transition as well, too. I feel like the people who get left behind are the people who are like, No, you know, this is what I do. You know, I don't want to do anything with with that automation thing. That's that things taking my job. Instead of being curious to know, what's that? Well, if I can automate that, what else can I make it automate? You know, maybe I can have a couple vaping more vacation days a year or something?

Brian Comerford  44:43
Well, and from a leadership perspective, I think that's really critical and how we frame that, right? Hey, we've got some exciting new opportunities. Now, this may sound threatening to some of you. But here's what we're planning. And here's how we're going to do it. Let's see what we can do to collaborate together to find find out where this journey is going to take all of us, if you've got some valued resources internally, currently, that you want to retain over the long term, but they're going to have to go through some role provisioning, then it's incumbent on you as a good leader, to be able to help message that in a way that's non threatening, as well as to look for where some of those genuine opportunities might be, to help continue to enrich and grow the workforce that you've already worked so hard to recruit,

Nick Lozano  45:29
ya know, and that's total. I mean, if they're great employees, you're and care, you're doing your job as a leader, you're probably looking for opportunities constantly to educate them anyways. Right? Now, here's this automation is going to take you and it runs, you know, all on Python. So if you know Python very well, maybe we can get you in there and get you involved and start doing some stuff right away. So let's send you to a couple Python coding boot camps or like a Python class coding class at the community college or something, which are not huge investments for for most organizations, you know, couple thousand bucks into to an individual, but if they're good employee, you're going to get that value back through time.

Brian Comerford  46:10
Amen to that. So I know we we tend to like to ask our interview guests, if they've got particular materials that they've found to be helpful on any particular topic that we're talking about? Do you have any books on recruiting or talent management that are ones that have risen to the surface for you as go to resources as as you've found yourself wrestling with similar challenges over time?

Nick Lozano  46:41
For me, it's not necessarily books with recruiting or talent management, I think Harvard Business Review does a pretty good job of putting out articles constantly, with different perspectives and dif different thought patterns on on talent and recruitment, and, and you know, some of that is just based on my experience of things that I've gone through that I like, and I don't like, you know, like I said, as your leader, you're a mentor. And you should be doing everything you can to help your people as well, too. So what about you, Brian, do you have any books on talent and development that you've,

Brian Comerford  47:20
you know, one of the books that I've seen recently that I haven't been able to dive into deeply, but it's one that I know, some of our own internal corporate recruiters have referred to. And one that I've heard from a couple other external recruiters is the new talent acquisition frontier. This is a book that, you know, I think, is intended to address a lot of the things that we've been talking about, even though its focus is more around higher education. Right? The idea of diversity in the workforce is one that I know has been a challenge for folks like myself, who are, you know, I'm, I'm of the age that I am, and I'm of the gender and race that I am. And that that can be limiting when we've got a lot of organizations and industry types that are trying to employ diversity strategy. This is a book that kind of takes that same approach and looks at how you start building sustainable talent management, more from a higher education perspective, but from what I've heard, it's got a lot of those lessons learned that can carry over into any type of industry.

Nick Lozano  48:42
That sounds great. Oh, I'll have to read that one. Of course, my reading list lately has been kind of short on talent development and diversity and inclusion. I know I know DNI is they're calling it right. DNI diversity inclusion is, is pretty big nowadays. You know, something people should be talking about, and, you know, making their place more welcoming, more diverse, right?

Brian Comerford  49:08
Absolutely. One other that I'll put out there that has sort of a similar bent on some of the topics that we've touched on here is called the talent fix by Tim second. And that one is a leader's guide to recruiting great talent. It's, it's never, you know, there's never just sort of a procedural approach to how any of this is executed successfully. There are a lot of considerations that has to be made in order to be effective with it. And hopefully, the episode that we've had today is touched on a number of those points and helped elucidate where some of those key challenges are that you have to consider as a leader who's constrained with finding good people.

Nick Lozano  49:53
Yeah, I think talent, talent development, acquisition, diversity, inclusion, more, more, the manager also needs to be be the HR person as well, too, right? You need to kind of have some of that knowledge that you know, you would rely on HR executives for before now, it's kind of expected as a leader that you know, some of these some of these topics yourself, like emotional intelligence and DNI and, you know, like the big five personality tests and the disc tests and all that stuff, so I mean,

you got lots of reading to do.

Brian Comerford  50:32
You and I both

Oh, my goodness, there's there's more reading them. There's time.

Nick Lozano  50:37
Exactly. That's why they made audio books and podcasts podcast. And, you know, there's lots of great content, you can get lots of great information from more things than just books.

Brian Comerford  50:50
Cool. Thanks, Nick.

Nick Lozano  50:51
Hey,appreciate it, Brian. All right,

sir. Solo podcast. So hopefully everyone enjoyed it.

Brian Comerford  50:56
Alright, thanks again for joining us for another edition of lead.exe

About Nick Lozano

Co-host of the > Lead.exe_ Podcast and owner/consultant at CornerStack, LLC.

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