Dave Delaney on Talent Acquisition Career Pathing

Dave DelaneyRecruiter, Cockroach Labs

Dave Delaney, former Director of Recruiting at Yext and current Recruiter at Cockroach Labs explains how to assess your own needs and motivations when making career moves in talent acquisition.

Episode Transcript

00:00 Rob Stevenson: Hello again, you darling rabble of talent acquiring pros. Rob Stevenson here once more, bringing you another classic installment of Hired’s Recruiting Podcast, and I have another banger in store for you. I can’t wait for y’all to hear it, but before we get into it, let me set the scene for anyone out there in podcast land who might be finding themselves tuning in for the first time. Here’s all you need to know about the podcast: Every week, I bring in my favorite people in the recruitment space, directors of recruitment, heads of talent, sourcers, DE&I program managers, you name it. If they have a title that’s even tangentially related to hiring or keeping someone around, I get them in here and they do primarily one thing.


00:43 RS: Talk talent to me. And for this episode, I brought in Cockroach Labs recruiter Dave Delaney. Dave has had quite an interesting journey as a TA Pro. And rather than talk about best practices and strategies and campaigns like we normally do here on the show, I figured this time, we’d get into career pathing. Most TA pros I talk to haven’t experienced the standard delineated career ladder that exists for sales people or engineers. And when Dave was ready to make his next career move, he moved in such a way that some would consider “a step down.” He had previously worked five years as a director at a company whose head count he had 10x-ed and then hired through an IPO. And you see that on someone’s resume and you probably think they could write their own ticket, and that ticket would typically have VP or C-level on it somewhere. Dave took another route. He looked long and hard at what was truly important to him, what he found fulfilling about his work, and ultimately decided on Cockroach Labs.

01:49 RS: He and I noted that recruiters are tasked with assessing candidate motivations and goals at a really early stage in the candidate journey, and trying to suss out whether your org is really going to fulfill that person’s needs. So what happens when a recruiter takes that skill and turns it on themselves? That’s what this episode is about. So, strap yourselves in, buckle on your podcasting helmet, and lace up your audio-based recruitment content boots, ’cause we are about to go on a journey. Please join me in giving a warm TT2M welcome to Cockroach Labs recruiter, Dave Delaney.


02:35 RS: Dave Delaney, recruiter at Cockroach Labs is in the e-house. Dave, how are you?

02:40 Dave Delaney: I’m doing well, how are you doing today?

02:42 RS: Doing really great. I am excited to chat with you. You have this amazing background and I really wanted to focus on career pathing. But before we get into that, can you kinda give us some background on what Cockroach Labs does?

02:56 DD: Yeah, absolutely. So Cockroach Labs, we’re the team behind CockroachDB. So CockroachDB is an open source distributed SQL database. And the idea behind the name Cockroach Labs is that it’s survivable. So this idea that it never goes down, so it’s like a cockroach, it’s always going to survive. So it takes the rich features of SQL, which has been around for a long time now, and then combines that with the scalability that really is approached by NoSQL offerings. So kinda combining these two sides into this new space that’s called NewSQL, so bringing SQL databases into the new era of things like distributed computing and cloud computing here.

03:40 DD: And so, it’s basically providing beyond enterprise-grade disaster recovery and in the same light of Google Spanner. So it’s actually pretty heavily what our original idea was based upon was these early white papers by Google about Spanner, and the idea being that we wanted to have something similar to that in terms of the problems that it could approach, but done in a way that is one, open source first. So that is how the company started from and we still are very focused on the open source community, and then also platform-agnostic. So you’re not tied to a particular vendor, so you can use AWS, GCP, you can also have a hybrid if you’re moving things from bare steel into the cloud. So, yeah, so that’s really what we’re focused behind. We also have something called Manage CockroachDB, which is a managed services offering, where we kinda handle all the heavy lifting of monitoring, deploying the clusters. Where companies can really focus on just building on top of the database, and we handle all of these DevOps and operational piece behind that.

04:42 RS: Got it, okay. So I’m sure that definitely helps with the employer branding on the engineering side, right? Like people who are technical talent probably know who you guys are?

04:51 DD: Yeah, it’s been an interesting thing. One of the challenges when you’re a recruiter, especially at an early stage company, is name recognition. And for us, we certainly have an advantage there, where particularly people in the database space tend to be more familiar with us than, I think, most companies of our size. It also ties back to our founders. All three founders spent close to about 10 years each at Google, as well as a number of other companies, including some of their own that they started, so they’re very well known in this space and our name has come up quite a bit as companies continue to expand globally and continue to explore cloud options, cloud computing options, and realising that traditional SQL databases are falling short of their needs, but NoSQL addresses them in a way that still has its own shortcomings.

05:42 DD: So yes, it’s been very interesting. It’s something that I haven’t seen in some of my past roles, where people really know what it is right off the bat, particularly on the engineering side. Now, there’s still a lot we need to do in terms of getting name out there, and marketing, and branding, but we’re starting from a great place, given the technical complexity of our product and the fact that this is such a rapidly growing space that we’re a part of.

06:07 RS: Right, right, definitely. So is it just you on the recruitment team? How is the talent acquisition broken down over there?

06:15 DD: Yeah, yeah, so we… We have a small team, it is a small company as a whole. We’re only about 85 total employee right now. But when I joined back in October, at the time it was just me and then our Chief People Officer Lindsay, who oversees everything from recruiting, HR, and finance. And then also, we had Megan on the team, who was transitioning from a recruiting coordinator role into a recruiter role, and she’s done a fantastic job with that over the last few months. We also have recently been expanding, so just given the growth that we need to see over the next year and beyond, we recognise that we want to make sure we have the right resources in place here to do that, so that we can all not only spread the workload around, but also just be as efficient as possible and make sure that we’re helping and supporting all of the teams here.

07:06 DD: So just about a month ago, we hired two additional people to the recruiting team, Devonaire, who’s joined us as an additional recruiter, and then Shannon, who is overseeing everything related to recruiting operations and systems, so things like our ATS and our employee referrals tool, as well as handling our sourcing initiatives as well, so running our sourcing campaigns and tools that we use for that. So currently, then, we have five people working on the Talent Acquisition Team.

07:36 RS: Alright. So you’ve got a lean but mean team over there at Cockroach Labs, it sounds like. And I do wanna hear more about the work y’all are doing there, but we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, ’cause I really wanna talk about your last role at Yext, and then how you wound up at Cockroach Labs, because I think the way that recruiters’ careers kinda unfold, there’s not typically a delineated path like there is in sales or engineering. So could you explain your experience at Yext, and… Particularly towards the end and kinda how you decided on your next move?

08:11 DD: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s something I talk to a lot of my friends about that are in recruiting is, it’s very rare. And in fact, I can only think of one person I’ve talked to who knew, kinda coming out of school, or coming out of college, or whatever it might be, that they wanted to be a recruiter. It’s very rare that you hear someone say that. And most people that I talk to, myself included, use this line like, “Oh, I fell into it.” And it’s something that’s very, very common. And I’ll definitely talk a little bit about Yext, but even just take a step a little bit further back. My path has been not a straight line to where I am today. I actually started right out of school, I was a psychology major, which meant, basically, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I liked working with people. And so I started at a small company that was in Connecticut actually, where I’m from, as a Product Manager, and not… I should preface, it was not the product manager that we think of in the tech world, it was more of a physical product manager, so working at a office supplies company doing things like sales training, inventory, purchasing, those types of things.

09:21 DD: I did that for about three and a half years, and realised I loved the negotiation piece, I loved the people aspect, but [chuckle] I didn’t love sitting in a cubicle, and I didn’t love the traditional nine-to-five type thing that I was doing there, and had this little bit of a moment of like, “What am I doing here? Is this where I’m gonna see myself for the rest of life… Rest of my life?” and I had to make this choice. So I decided… Actually, I took a year and met some people and actually helped them open up a restaurant, which was a lot of fun and had a great time with that. Again, I think there’s this theme here, coming back to working with people. I loved working the front of the house, I love working with the people, I even did some of their inventory and negotiations for them there, which was an awesome experience, but that’s a grind.

10:07 DD: And so that was basically when I decided to pick up and move to New York, and sort of picked up and moved without a job planned, just knew that I wanted to get into technology and do something with people, which is pretty broad and, looking back, kind of crazy, but just decided that this was how I was gonna do it, and went through the whole process of interviewing and came down to basically two opportunities. And one was sort of similar to what I had done in the past, it would have been a very traditional, nine-to-five, shirt-and-tie-type job, and the other was actually working at a recruiting agency. I had never really thought about that before, but just in going through the whole interviewing process with all these different places, I had a really interesting experience talking to them, and it started sounding kinda interesting.

10:51 DD: My brother is actually a software engineer, so I had some experience kinda just working with him and talking through things, and he always told me that I should consider getting into something in technology, which was kind of driving this. So I decided to just take the leap and start at a small agency and moved up the ranks there pretty quickly, it just sort of clicked for me, and realised that this was just something that I could see myself doing long-term. That’s actually sort of a long way of telling the story of how I got to know Yext, because they were one of my clients at the time. So they were very, very small, I think I started working with them when they were maybe like 50 or 60 people at that point. And they had recently kinda split off… Spun off part of their company, so I was working with the smaller division, which would kinda grow into the place that I worked later. And they didn’t have an internal recruiting team at the time, so I worked very closely with the CTO and the CIO there and helped them build out some of their engineering team, hired a couple of product managers.

11:52 DD: And yeah, so I just hit the ground running there. It just made sense to me, it was something that I could get behind. I felt like I was working with a company I really respected and I was doing something that… I felt like I was doing a good thing. I was helping people get a better job, but it was also exciting. There was that aspect of chasing the thrill of closing the deal, and… But I just also knew that I wanted to be in-house. The whole idea of, “You don’t really get to pick your clients when you’re on the agency side,” was just something that I had a tough time with. I really wanted to be somewhere where I could help the team grow and develop, so I did a stint over at Twitter on the Vine team there. Very, very early days. It was post-acquisition, but before they launched, so I think I was employee number six that time. And there, I was doing individual contributors, straight recruiting for engineers. We grew that office, that team, to about 25. And [chuckle] I don’t know how much you remember about the life path of Vine, but it was doing extremely well, it was number one in the App Store, and then Instagram came in and launched their video.

13:01 RS: RIP Vine, I miss Vine. Pour some out.

13:04 DD: Yeah, yeah, it was an awesome, awesome tool. It was a great team, it was a lot of fun, but it was honestly probably one of the most depressing days I’ve ever had in an office, walking into it. Yeah, it was like, one day to the next, everybody was on cloud nine, the app was doing great. And then Instagram, they had all these resources and already had all these people that are on board and followers, and the writing was on the wall there.

13:26 RS: Yeah, yeah.

13:27 DD: And I was still in that middle transition. I was technically a contractor, so I was in-house, but not quite. It was this weird thing. So around that time was actually when Lindsay, who is my current boss, she had joined just a couple months before as the VP of People over at Yext, and my name had kinda come up in some of the conversations there because I had done some work with them, and she reached out and the timing was, as it goes in recruiting, it was all about timing and it was pretty fortuitous. I was getting to the end of my contract. I saw that, I didn’t think this was gonna really continue to grow the way that we originally thought it would, based on just what was going on in the market. And I had had a great relationship with Yext and ultimately made the decision to jump over there. And I spent the next five years there and that was an absolutely incredible experience.

14:18 DD: I saw the company grow from… Well, at this point it was about 160 or so when I joined. Built it up to… We got to just shy of 1000 before I left, including going through an IPO in 2017. And just really an incredible experience from starting being an individual contributor, just kind of focusing on engineering roles, to doing recruiting across sales, finance, operations, product. Pretty much worked on every team at some point there, and with pretty much every senior leadership, every executive along the way, and then also moved up the ranks. I had this in my head that I really, really wanted to lead a team and move up the ladder and basically get this title. And so I, after a couple of years, became the recruiting manager there. And then, about a year and a half after that, I became the director of recruiting, which I spent close to the last year and a half, two years as the director of recruiting.

15:16 DD: So at that point, the largest… My team was about seven people. Yeah, so the team grew to seven people during that, and then I just got to the stage where… There was nothing wrong with the company, I still think the world of it, I think the world of the team over there and, of course, rooting for them to continue to do great, but it just had changed. It’d gone from, like I said, 160 to nearly 1000. We had offices… Basically, we’re all in New York when I started. We now had offices in DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, gosh, where else? London, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, it was all over the world. It was just a different experience, and that’s when I really started to think about, what’s next for me? What was important to me? What am I really looking for?

16:06 DD: And that’s where I started looking around and started having some conversations with, not only people in my network, but also my family and friends, and really having this moment of, okay, what’s next? Do I take a bigger title? Do I go to a big company? Do I go back to early stage? Am I one of the original founding members? Not that all of these were necessarily possible, but these were all the thoughts that were running through my head. Like, alright, I’ve been doing this for five years now which, in start-up life, seems like 20 years…

16:35 RS: Yeah, yeah.

16:35 DD: When you start looking around the way some people move around sometimes, and thinking about, “Okay, well I haven’t done this in a long time. What am I really gonna look for and go out there and look for?” And this would be the first time, also, that I was making that transition from fully in-house and fully a part of building the team out, ’cause being a contractor and then being an agency recruiter is a different transition, so this would be really that first time making that switch to something that was in the same realm, but figuring out what it would look like.

17:04 RS: Yeah, yeah.

17:05 DD: Yeah. You kinda brought [17:06] ____ in there.

17:07 RS: Also, you’re in this position, then, at Yext, where you have this director title. You have been there for a long time. You’ve essentially 10X-ed the head count and including going through an IPO, which usually involves hiring for similar esoteric roles. With those two gold stars on your resume, you could probably write your ticket. I feel like, on paper, people are usually thinking at that point, “Alright, well, now I want VP of something” or “Now I wanna VP at another company,” which comes with a nice salary bump, and then your life goes from being an IC to being in meetings the whole time. So that’s the prescribed, I use that word loosely because, again, I don’t think there is much of a prescription, but that seems like the move most people would probably make after that. What went into your decision when you were moving to Cockroach Labs?

18:00 DD: Yeah, so something like when I was going through the search, I was definitely looking at some of those other roles. I talked to a few companies that were looking for director, VP-type folks, or manager at a larger company. There’s variations depending on the size. Usually the thing that people say is, “If you’re going to a bigger company, you might take one step down on the title,” or, “If you’re going to a smaller company then you should expect to jump up a bit more and take that bigger role. And I realised that I was just doing this because that’s what people have been saying to me, or what I felt like was the right next step. And especially when you talk about New York City, or San Francisco, or these kind of type A, very competitive places, and people are always talking about getting that next title and moving up the ladder.

18:49 DD: And I just realised that, yes, that’s important to a degree, but all these conversations I’ve had with candidates, making them walk me through their priorities, what they’re really looking for, telling them that title is not everything, or money is not everything, or whatever it might be.

19:04 DD: I really wasn’t even following that myself, I really wasn’t following the advice that I knew was good advice, or that, at least, that I believed was good advice, but I wasn’t taking it in something that was my own major decision. And my wife and I talked a lot about this and we talked a bit about how, you mentioned being in meetings all the time, that’s not what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to be out there, I wanted to be recruiting, I wanted to be helping build a team. And there’s a lot that can be done in those meetings and at the high level and those things, and not to say that I’ll never go back there, but I really miss those interpersonal connections and that ability to really forge those relationships, both internally and externally, with the hiring managers and the candidates, and just miss that kind of thrill of bringing in that big hire that makes that next product launch really successful, or makes that next big sale that puts us over our quota for the quarter, whatever it might be, really being that direct impact on the success of the company.

20:00 DD: And again, I don’t ever wanna take away from the directors and the VPs, they are hugely valuable; the amount that Lindsey does for our team, it can’t be overstated, but it just wasn’t what the type of impact I was looking to make at this point. And also, I think there’s something to be said for the fact of being able to take what I learned at Yext, go back and maybe do it again, but do it a little bit better this time. Maybe some of the things that I’ve learned along the way, and it’s been really fascinating to be on these calls with candidates, or even just in meetings internally, and hearing myself say some of these things and I’m like, “Oh wow, this is not stuff I knew or really could articulate this well, three years ago, four years ago, when I was doing this as an IC before.” So I think there is something there too, really being able to build upon past knowledge and develop my skills and do that whole piece.

20:51 DD: And then there’s also, quite frankly, the other aspect of, I place a very high level of importance on my life outside of work, in particular, my family. I have a one-year-old son at home, and I know myself and what I put into my role, and also what it takes to lead a team and manage. It takes a lot out of you when you have manage a team, emotionally, there’s a lot that goes into it. You’re carrying the weight of not only yourself but the rest of your team as well. And I know as myself, how I am when I’ve led teams in the past, that I take that burden heavily upon myself. And just knowing where I am in my life and what I wanna be able to do both in the office and outside of it, that was just something that I felt like, being able to really just focus on my own goals, my OKRs, hitting those numbers, hitting that, and then being able to just be responsible for myself, and taking care of that, and contributing back to the company without having to be worrying all the time about making sure everyone else is also hitting their numbers and getting through and doing all of that.

22:00 DD: So there’s a lot that went into my decision-making process and it was a lot of breaking down, quite frankly, what were some of these pre-conceived ideas of the right choice or the best choice in my mind, and it didn’t come easily. I went on a number of interviews that that were for roles that I walked out and I was like, “Man, this would be an amazing opportunity for somebody else.” And just really kind of coming to terms with that, that like, “It’s okay that it’s not for me. There are a lot of great companies, it doesn’t mean I should, or can, or will work at all of them.” And it took me a long time to get there.

22:36 RS: Yeah, and it’s so interesting that you were able to say, “This is an amazing opportunity, but not for me,” because so many people, and perhaps yourself included, for at least a little bit, would look at that and be like, “This is a great job on paper, this is the job that I’m supposed to want.” And “supposed is italicized, because what does that mean? What does “supposed” mean? What is this prescribed next step? And you are able to identify what was really important for you in the next job. And I think recruiters, perhaps by accident, are better disposed to do that, because when you’re interviewing someone, I always talk with people on the show about assessing a candidate’s motivations, and when you do that early on in a phone screen, you might be able to figure out who are the people that would get all the way to offer stage and then say, “No.”

23:28 RS: And so, being practiced at assessing that in a candidate ought to lead a recruiter to be practiced at looking for it inside themselves. And so, I just think that maybe now, this is why the recruiter’s path is so non-standard and so meandering. Is it because recruiters are able to confront that within themselves based on having done it to other people and then go and what they look for what they actually want, as opposed to what is the supposed next step for them? That’s not really a question, I’m just philosophising at this point.

24:04 DD: Yeah, no. I think it’s a great point, and I think there’s also something to be said for, we all need to make sure we’re holding ourselves to it as recruiters. Let’s not do this, “Do as I say, not as I do,” and that’s what I… And again, I shouldn’t pass this on to anyone else, that’s what I was doing, I was realising that all of these things I was saying to people, asking about, “Well what are your top priorities?” And going through. And when I really did sit down and list mine out, they weren’t really in line with how I was initially doing my job search. And so it was a real gut check moment of, “Okay, you ask these other people to be upfront with you and open themselves up and be honest, do that yourself. Let’s be real about this, what are you looking for, and what’s gonna make it so you come home and you’re happy?” And I’ve noticed it, I come home from work now, and my wife says, “Hey, you’re a different person than you were at the end of the last role.” And again, nothing to say bad about the last company, it’s just, everyone has a life cycle at a place, and when you get to the end of it, I think we all know that.

25:05 DD: So it was… Yeah, it was a very eye-opening experience for me, ’cause it also, I think, increased my empathy for my candidates, which was helpful too. Because again, it’d been five years since I’d been looking for a new job. So all these things I’d say to people like, “Well, you know, money doesn’t need to be the top priority.” Okay, well, I always say that about myself, but then, when I thought about going back to an early stage company, the compensation definitely does look different, and was that something I was gonna be okay with? This different look at… And you hope that eventually it all works out, but the reality is is that the structure of it is different, and what you see today in terms of comp is gonna look very different at a post-IPO versus pre-IPO-type company. So yeah, it was definitely something that I think really helped me understand myself, understand my candidates, and just understand my job a whole lot more. And so I’m thankful for that also.

26:01 RS: Yeah, yeah. So it sounds like the question you asked yourself was, “What’s important to me? And not just in the next role, but what’s important to me in terms of my entire lifestyle?” And so, what are those… What were the answers to that? And, I guess, in a larger question, what are they for, just in general? What are those levers that everyone should be considering? Just off the top of my head, it would be like, is it a flexible schedule? Can I work remote? Can I work from home? Is compensation the most important for me? Is job security? Is a team that… It’s resources, it’s going somewhere where I’m gonna have a team of 15 people versus I’m the only one. What are some of those other things that people can critically think about their lifestyle and their work lifestyle as they make this decision?

26:53 DD: Yeah, yeah, really, really good question. And I think, before diving into the specifics of it, the most important thing, and we’ve touched on this a little bit, but it’s just to be honest with yourself. And again, I had to do this with myself and I do it with my candidates all the time, but what is it? I think you have to make sure that we’re not judging people either and understanding that whatever, everyone’s different… Has different priorities there. So when I say like, “Hey, money isn’t everything,” to some people, but on the flip side, it’s okay if money is your top priority, there’s no judgement there. I’m not saying it as though it’s a bad thing if it is, I just… We should know that up front, because that’s really gonna shape what you’re looking for.

27:32 DD: If you have student loans, or you just wanna save a bunch of money to retire or whatever, it doesn’t matter what the reason is, but if comp is number one, if cash now is your top priority, by all means own that. That’s a totally okay thing to say, just be upfront about that with, or at least with yourself, as you’re going through the process, because you get some of these individuals that want to maximize cash comp immediately, but then wanna leave finance to go into a start-up. Well, you’re gonna have an issue there. So for me, I’ve just truly never been someone that money was the number one motivator. Now, I’m very fortunate to work in an industry where tech is a great place to be. I think that I live a life… I’m not struggling to put food on the table or anything like that, but I know that there are probably places where I could have gone along the way that would have maximized for cash, if that was sort of the first priority for me.

28:32 DD: But also, knowing myself, I think it’s something where I have to really feel engaged to my job, and there’s a couple of things that are top priority for me. I have to believe in the mission of the company, is a huge one. I discovered this at Vine. I loved Vine as a user, but being somebody that was going in there and building it every day, I realised that being a B2C company in that way, like an app company, that just wasn’t something that I felt that passion about. I thought it was a cool technology, I liked playing around with it, but I didn’t feel like I was 100% on board with really getting behind it and believing in it. And again, I hope that doesn’t come across the wrong way. I went in there and I did my job, but I just knew that…

29:19 RS: That’s a really important distinction to make, because if you are a fan of some product or some thing, you have to imagine like, “Okay, but what is my function inside that?” And for you, it’s like, “I really loved using Vine. I thought it was cool.” Okay, well, unless you’re a UX designer or a product manager there, then not gonna… You’re not gonna get to exercise that joy in your work. Your work is gonna be different, so you have to be like, “What is my… Even if I love this company for X reason, is my function in that company going to align with that in some way?” And if it’s not, then it might not be… It might not be a good move for you.

29:54 DD: Right, exactly, and then that led me to Yext which, quite frankly, I didn’t originally think that a B2B SaaS company was gonna be that interesting for me, but then the more I dug into it and I saw that it was really making an impact for businesses, it was helping businesses be better at what they do. And so it’s not like I have to be working on a place that is curing diseases or changing the world necessarily in that way, but I just wanna see that it’s something that I can kinda get behind, and so, with Cockroach Labs, there’s a real need for this, businesses need what we’re building. So that’s a big part of it.

30:27 DD: I think, for me also, there’s a huge aspect of the team. I’ll be very upfront that the likelihood of me taking this role at Cockroach Labs would have been greatly diminished had I not had the existing relationship with Lindsay. I consider her a mentor, I think the world of her. I think she’s absolutely incredible to work for and I’ve just learned a ton from her. And so having that level of trust and respect going into it, you take some of the unknowns out of it. And when you have someone that you trust like that, you also have to assume, or you hope that, based on your relationship with them, that the people that they trust and the people that they would work for are of a similar nature. And so, seeing that she made the decision to go to this place and spoke very highly of the team there, that took a lot of unknowns out of it for me, and I felt like that these were individuals that I could really feel good about supporting and working for. So that’s definitely a huge aspect too.

31:25 DD: And then, balance is one that you brought up, work-life balance that, I think a lot of companies talk about it. I think it’s important for people to really, when they’re talking to perspective companies, to know what balance means to them, ’cause that’s totally different. Like in some places, balance might mean that there’s a keg in the common room and people are there playing video games till 2 AM every night. And that’s cool, that’s great. Those places are fine, there’s nothing against that. But I also know that for me, again, having a wife and a son and having a fairly long commute and things like that, to me, isn’t balance, that’s not [32:02] ____ to me. For me, balance, and something that Cockroach Labs does is, we do have a flexible schedule. We have our Flex Fridays, where people aren’t required to be in the office and to self-manage days. We are supportive of individuals with children, and something that… Many people on the team do have families, and so it’s something that I knew that people would understand the situation I was in because they were also in a similar role with… Or life stage that they’re at.

32:32 DD: Things like having even core hours, so that if people wanna come in a little bit earlier or leave a little bit later, they know that that’s being supported by the business itself. So for example, I’m home every night except for one night a week. So every night except for one, I’m home for bedtime and dinner with my son. I knew that that was something that was really important. There’s not a ton of places I would probably be able to do that, but that is a really important thing for me that I was prioritising, probably more than most people. Or maybe not, I don’t know. But…

33:04 RS: Well, you also… You know, then, to ask for that in the interview. It’s like, “Hey, what’s your work-life balance?” And then you’ll get some whitewashed answer. But then it’s like, “Okay, well, here’s the truth. I need to be home for dinner and bedtime with my son every night, or four to five nights, and that’s a non-negotiable for me, and I will be out the door at 5:05 PM every night,” or whatever it is, right? “So, is that gonna vibe? You can tell me that there’s a work hard-play hard culture or you can tell me that you value work-life balance, but this is what it actually looks like for me, I’m going to do this. So if that’s not gonna fly here, then tell me now so I know I can find a company that will allow that.”

33:41 DD: Right, exactly. And so much of it comes down to openness and transparency. And I think that’s probably something else that people should really look for. It seems like that should be a given, but you talk to enough different places and hear enough horror stories and you realize that that’s not always the case. And that is, in fact, one of our core values at Cockroach Labs, is transparency about the highs and lows, really talking about things when they go right and when they go wrong and being open about them. And that was something that I also really valued was, you see a lot of companies, and I don’t wanna single out tech or startups but that’s just what I’m most familiar with, but it’s like…

34:19 RS: No, do it, let’s single ’em out.


34:20 RS: Well, you always have to pretend like everything’s amazing, right? The company’s growing the fastest, and there’s money coming in, and everything’s awesome.

34:26 DD: Yup, yup.

34:27 RS: Anyone that suggests otherwise, it’s like, “Well, you haven’t drank your Kool-Aid, you don’t believe in us.”

34:32 DD: Yeah. That’s not what I mean. It means, I believe in what we’re doing, but I recognize that sometimes you need to look back at mistakes or things that could have been done differently so that you don’t repeat those in the future. And so that’s something I really value that I’ve seen here. And I think that’s also an interesting point, that is maybe something that I inherently value, but didn’t necessarily realise until I really saw it in action. Where there is transparency at most places I’ve worked, but I think we take it to a real… Really, the one side of the spectrum of being very, very open across the board about everything.

35:12 DD: So it’s something we really believe in here and it’s one of those things that kinda clicked with me, where it’s like, “Okay, well, I matched these other priorities and I work with… I’m gonna work with people I trusted, or people I had a relationship with, who I felt I could trust, but it makes sense if there’s gonna be other things that fall into place.” But that wasn’t something I necessarily set out originally, that I was looking for explicitly, but have now come to find that, “Man, I don’t know if I could work at a place going forward that doesn’t have that level of transparency.”

35:40 RS: Yes, yeah, exactly. Yeah, again, the transparency is key, but knowing to push for the transparency in the face of a career page, ask-response that’s just overwhelmingly positive, that kinda comes with experience and that comes from looking inward to be like, “What is really important to me? How do I make sure that I ask for it and how do I get a solid answer so that I’m not surprised a month in? And I’m coming in a random Tuesday and I’m staying until 8 PM and I’m like, ‘Wait, this isn’t what I signed up for.”

36:15 DD: Right.

36:16 RS: And that’s how people end up getting bitter and end up leaving jobs within a few months and that’s stuff that you can figure out up front. And again, I said it earlier, but it’s the same thing. It’s the recruiter’s job to find that in a candidate, to be like, “Hey, you say you want this, but this is actually the case of the company. I’m gonna tell you that you shouldn’t take this job because I’m just gonna be filling it again in two months and that’s gonna be really expensive and a waste everyone’s time.” So you can treat yourself [chuckle] the same way that you evaluate candidates and the same way that recruiters are taught to dig and find out what really makes someone tick, do it to yourself.

36:56 DD: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s what I ultimately ended up doing, was taking myself through the process that I ask my candidates to think through decisions that they make. I even literally sat down and made a list of priorities and looked at what jobs meant what. And it was pretty eye-opening, ’cause when you’re just thinking about it, you tend to gloss over things, but when you really sit down and you write it out and you start matching things up, you will surprise yourself sometimes with what you almost went forward with, and then realise that it didn’t really necessarily hit most, or even any, of the things that you actually prioritised when you sat down and explicitly wrote it out.

37:35 RS: Got it, right. Yeah, makes sense. Well Dave, this has been really interesting. It’s been a slight deviation from the TT2M norm, but I think in a really good way, because I think your path, like a lot of recruiters, has not been standard. Maybe I should stop saying that there is a standard path, it doesn’t sound like there is. And I think this has been really valuable just to hear how you have weighed decisions and wound up where you are. So thank you so much for being a part of this and for sharing your journey.

38:01 DD: Yeah, and it was my pleasure. I really enjoy talking about this stuff. I think it’s something that, I think, should be more open about it, there’s so much pressure. Even when I was having these conversations, it just felt like people were pushing me a certain way based on things. And maybe not even consciously, but there was just this expectation like, “Oh, well, we’re not even gonna talk about it. You’re definitely gonna take XYZ-type job.” So it’s one of those things where I think it’s just better the more we talk about it, the more it’s out there. And just, again, not saying my way is the right way either, but just knowing that there are other ways to think about your next step that don’t have to necessarily follow this linear path per se.

38:37 RS: Yes, yes absolutely, I love it. Well, Dave, thanks again so much for calling in. This has been really, really interesting, hearing about your journey. And yeah, I don’t know what to say, thanks so much for being a part of it.

38:48 DD: Yeah, thank you. It was an absolute pleasure and I appreciate your time.

38:52 RS: That just about does it. For all of you listening in out there in podcast land, thank you so much for joining us once more. I’ve been Rob Stevenson, Dave Delaney has been Dave Delaney, and you’ve all been amazing, wonderful talent acquisition pros. Have a spectacular week and happy hunting.


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