Speaking live with us on the floor of TA Week Conference is Dana Atherton, the Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Jamf. In our conversation, we unpack what it means to be a true leader, what employees expect in the current climate, and how to remain positive during difficult times.
Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to Talk talent to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment.
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We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life, we want to understand how they make decisions, where they’re willing to take risks, and what it looks like when they
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Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.
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Rob Stevenson 0:52
I’m your host, Rob Stevenson, and you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me. Here with me is the VP of talent acquisition over at jamp Dana Atherton. Dana, welcome to the podcast. How are you today?
Dana Atherton 1:06
Oh, I’m doing well. Thanks so much for having me.
Rob Stevenson 1:08
I’m so pleased you’re here. And we are kind of a couple more sessions left. But like things are winding down, what’s been your take on the conference, if you had to sum it up in a sentence,
Dana Atherton 1:16
if I had to sum it up in a sentence, I think that it’s a great conference, because it’s combining so many different areas. So you’ve got the sourcing component, you’ve got the employment branding component, you have a lot of the diversity discussions, those are all like three of the pillars within my organization that I’m working towards, in ta so it’s nice to be able to actually divide and conquer to I have two of my team members here with me, that fortunately have not been to a conference like this. And so they’re kind of dividing between all those areas and reporting back to our TA team on those three pillars. How are they finding it, they’re finding it really exciting, that’s nice for them to be out. And networking, of course, they’re glad to be out of the I think negative 12. They were telling me the other day in Minneapolis. So it’s nice for them to be in sunny California as well, between the networking and just I think learning best practices, but also hearing some areas that might be areas that are a little more uncomfortable for some folks, especially when we start to talk about diversity. And we start to talk about bias and how we reduce that. And we’ve have some great speakers like Batman that we just came from, who really put it out there and challenge the typical status quo that we see sometimes and really breaking those biases and what we’re seeing so I think they’re learning a lot.
Rob Stevenson 2:35
How did you respond to that man’s take? I had him on the podcast a minute ago. He’s a friend of mine is uh, you know, larger than life, obviously.
Dana Atherton 2:42
Yes, I was actually had dinner with him last night too. And, and he talks about in his particular segment here that he always asks people tell me three things about you that don’t have to do with family, pets, particular spouses, lifestyle partners. And then also what is the personal affirmation for you? And I think that’s kind of an not only an amazing icebreaker. I mean, it definitely puts you on the spot. And so he did that to me at the end of dinner last night.
Rob Stevenson 3:10
Really? Did you say?
Dana Atherton 3:13
I actually will I told the story of a nickname of when I was a child. I didn’t really like sweets. I liked more salty things. I still do. But we were on a vacation. And I’m an only child, but I have 20 cousins. So and they’re all older than me. So I was the one that did get picked on. And the parents would to buy doughnuts for all the kids and I would think it was eight. And they said, Well, why aren’t you eating that doughnut? I said I don’t want to it’s it’s too sweet. It’s too sugary. What, what child does not enjoy donuts. So so we’re gonna call you Dana donut. I said okay, really? Isn’t that
Rob Stevenson 3:49
one of those ironic nicknames where you call a really tall guy tiny or something?
Dana Atherton 3:54
And I will tell you, they still do it to this day. Occasionally they will say Donna, you know, it’s just that it’s that family nickname. And my told a funny story of how even at one of their weddings years ago, they were throwing the bouquet and I was outside in the foyer a and I guess I you know, they were calling all the single women out onto the dance floor. And all of a sudden I hear that DJ on the mic. Dana donut, please report to the dance floor. So that was real fun to have that and now everyone knows that’s yeah. So when we came in today, there was no yeah. Oh, perfect. And I wanted to go up to Batman and say, Hey,
Rob Stevenson 4:29
did you do this is your fault.
Dana Atherton 4:31
Did you do this last night? Yeah.
Rob Stevenson 4:34
You know, this is funny because I have received a similar nickname. I was friends of mine visit Nantucket. And they invited me to go along and I wanted to express my appreciation for them hosting me. And so I got up early one morning before the rest of the house got up and I rode my bike as you do in Nantucket. There’s like this very famous donut shop there whose name I can’t remember. So I got a bunch of donuts for everyone to say thank you. And then from that moment on, this is years ago, that whole People all refer to me only as Bobby doughnuts. That’d be I mean, their phone is Bobby donuts. They send me emojis. Like they see a hat with a doughnut and they send it to me. I’m like, I tried to do one nice thing. Now. Like you’re just now and like, in your case, you expressed a preference or right like, I don’t want a doughnut. Well, now you’re going to have that. So yeah, so hold on, what is the so we both Dana, Dennis and Bobby donuts, live live in the flesh? But what was the personal affirmation with
Dana Atherton 5:25
the affirmation? Yes. And actually, he said, Yeah, I really like that one. I follow John Gordon, who does a lot of words of positivity. And, and every at the beginning of each year, he has some training on just picking out a word that’s going to just set the tone for you for your whole year. And certain words will come to you, they may not be the right ones for that period in your life or that year of your life. But when it hits you, it will hit you and somebody had sent me I think it was actually a vendor had sent me a book. And the book is flourish, it was called flourish. And that just hit me as my one for the year. It’s like flourish personally flourish professionally. And then I went so far as to I was talking to somebody recently, and this is actually a woman that does skincare. And she said yes, but you can’t flourish in anything you do, unless you’re nourishing your body, your mind your soul, so it’s nourished to flourish. And that’s what I shared with him.
Rob Stevenson 6:18
That’s special. I like that. So Batman is suggesting you ask this on of candidates on a phone screen?
Dana Atherton 6:24
I don’t think he’s necessarily saying do it on a phone screen. I think it was just more about conversationally, when instead of talking about yourself, so a little bit of the act of listening, but really just how can you get to know somebody without the particulars of what you might usually focus on
Rob Stevenson 6:43
small talk, where are you from the weather, etc.
Dana Atherton 6:46
Exactly. So it’s icebreaker, but it’s, it pushes you a little bit farther. And I think it really, especially when you get to the affirmation, you could really learn about where somebody’s purposes, where somebody’s drive, what’s somewhat of their mission kind of in their life, and how might that align? I suppose you could even use that lining with mission of a company or so yeah,
Rob Stevenson 7:07
I do like that because it is pushing people to really be introspective and honest. And compare it to other similar questions like What’s your greatest weakness? Interviewers know that when you’re asked that you are now meant to say like, oh, well just describe something that you overcame? Basically, it’s like, well, I mean, this is blank, but I compensate for it by blank. Okay, good. Like done. Yeah. So I have that answer holstered up ready to go. It’s not an honest thing. It’s just a way to get past an interview.
Dana Atherton 7:34
And you’re right. I think honing in on the honesty, right? I think if if we’ve learned one of the most important thing is since this pandemic is leading with vulnerability, and I was first introduced to Brene, Brown in 2017, at LinkedIn Talent Connect, and I literally was standing up on during the Ovation after her speech, buying her books on Amazon, and I’ve read three or four of them. And then the pandemic comes, it’s like, oh, to hear somebody like her who and that really did help me. I mean, I call myself previously a recovering perfectionist. I’ve always been a driver. I’ve always been a high achiever. And I think I learned from her to really let go of a lot of things. And then here comes the pandemic, and you have to not only be an empath, you have to be an empathetic leader, but really leading and being more open and vulnerable. Like that’s what people are really looking for now, is your company transparent? How honest are they in their communication? How grounded is it? Are you a vulnerable leader?
Rob Stevenson 8:28
Yeah. So your six or eight months into the role at jam? Have you been injecting that authenticity into the proceedings of the town department? Were there?
Dana Atherton 8:34
Yes, I like to think I am hopefully my team would agree, because that is really I think, embedded in our, in our culture of really being authentic. And being grounded, it helps that the company is also based in the Midwest. I mean, I think just that although we’re a global company, there’s a root of that groundedness. And hey, I am who I am. And I think that definitely is embedded into the organization along with our values of relentless self improvement and selflessness. But I think when you can lead with that, and anytime you come in as a new leader, you really want to show that because the more that they can really see you as a person, not okay, this is my boss, who am I at the core, what am I about what are my values, and that was a big attraction to me in joining the organization as well. And I think when you come in and you have a new team, it’s also showing them trust, it’s building that trust. I’m the type of leader that I’m not going to ever ask somebody to do something that I’m not afraid to do myself too. Right. So when you tap you know, some people say hands on leader and they think, oh, that means they’re gonna, they’re gonna, you’re gonna want to over manage or micromanage. It isn’t it’s about like, No, I’m in there with you.
Rob Stevenson 9:46
I can roll up my sleeves. Yeah,
Dana Atherton 9:48
I can get in the trenches with you. There’s no absolutely.
Rob Stevenson 9:50
I think that’s really important for a leader to do. Obviously, you can’t spend all of your time in the trenches. But I think about times in my career when I’ve seen my boss, my boss’s boss, kind of point there saw that my functional that interesting really, really well is like, oh, right, that’s why you’re my boss, because you were once very, very good at doing this, you know, and it’s not dissimilar, you know, your your VP of sales will pop up with one or two really big deals a year right, even though they don’t necessarily have a quota. Your SVP of marketing should be like I had this idea for a campaign just prove that you can do it right. And I think that doesn’t inspire, it certainly hasn’t me inspired a lot of like loyalty. Absolutely, yeah. When you’re gonna do that, when you roll up your sleeves, we will be the the trench you’d like to spend time,
Dana Atherton 10:32
I think the trench that I spend time is you have to put yourself in their shoes. Right? So although I may be up doing more high level strategic work to help scale and really continue to build the hyper growth of the organization and supply top talent in the line, that’s business strategies. I have to also when when we’re looking at any of these particular pillars, how does that impact my team? Like, what is it like if we’re looking at technology? I hate to say it, but I have been at places where decisions are made applicant tracking systems and recruiters have not had input. So how do you build something when the person who has to drive the car hasn’t tested it? So you’ve got to be in their seat to understand I think that’s also where the respect comes is. I mean, I remember years ago, when I was like a senior manager, I was carrying 20 racks. And I had a team of 12 people, because I always want to have my toe in there, I want to understand, give me a position when I come in so that I can really see the full cycle I want. I want to see how everything works, not only with the system, but the whole kickoff process. And we renamed that from intake to be more advisory. But how am I going to be able to say, hey, I really think that best practice would be to do this, like you don’t want to give lip service. It’s like, well, I’ve gone through this, and this is what I experienced. And I understand what you’re feeling and how this might work to your advantage a little bit more to put you out there as more of that consultant if we did some of these things, or, but you can’t do that by just coming in and saying oh, yeah, we should do this, let me put, I need to put a roadmap together. And, and that’s great. But it’s like you can’t do that unless you go out on a listing tour. You’re talking to everybody in the business better. You’re also talking all the team members about their challenges, the things that they’re facing the things that they are passionate about, I always like to play to people’s passions to development is very big for me. And I love for people to not everybody’s comfortable coming forward and saying I think this is where I could use more development. But let’s work together on what that might look like. And where are your passions? What do you want to lean in, to do more of, and then really doing that with all of the team members in my team, I had those conversations, as I’m building that roadmap, I’m thinking towards the future, like, oh, this person could could definitely move their career in this area ops, or this person could help move us forward in branding, or in sourcing building out our sourcing strategy, like this person is very passionate about dei and building that also into the pipelines and looking at the biases. And so so that’s the approach I took,
Rob Stevenson 13:16
what do you go on that listening to her? A lot of what you hear is going to depend on the organization, there’s different ills at every single company. What is the same though, are there things that you tend to hear lots of people being worried about, regardless of the situation in that company,
Dana Atherton 13:30
there’s various themes that always seem to kind of bubble up to the top, of course, technology is always one of them. And when you work at a tech company that is always ever changing, you’re always going to have the certain frustrations or areas that people think, you know, could be potential barriers within the applicant tracking system. Or if we’re looking at a CRM or something that we might need to take it to a next step further. So I think that that’s always been kind of a theme that comes up at most companies. But I think it also just depends too on, where are the priorities within the business, right? So coming into an understanding where the business priorities are so that then we can align our strategies to support those.
Rob Stevenson 14:17
What do you respond to when folks kind of raise that concern? Is it like, hey, just give me time. Trust me, like, reassure them. What do you say?
Dana Atherton 14:26
Yeah, and sometimes that’s hard to when you’re new later. It’s like, okay, I hear you saying this. But what always depends too on budgets, and we’re dealing with let’s talk about the craziest year and talent acquisition we’ve ever seen in my entire career. So to go from where we were last January, to now, it’s always being mindful to what’s the current climate within the organization within the greater macro economics, but I think it’s letting them know that there’s a commitment there. So I have a commitment to this team. And inspirational like what what’s our mission? What what What are we aspiring to do to and I’m committed to not only developing you to be the best that you can be, but committed to doing whatever we need to do to ensure that we’re going to get the company the best talent that we can. So now it’s that fine line between, okay. And I always say I will take a bullet for my team, I don’t want them to take the bullets, but let me know before I step in to the line of fire. So accountability and mistakes happen. It’s like, just let me know, but I will be the one to, it’s always hard to when you’re in this troops type of environment. Sometimes we’re hiring does a little bit of slow down. I never want my recruiters to be the ones that are communicating things like oh, hiring manager, you know, I’m sorry, we’re slowing down, that should be coming from the business. Right? So it’s things like that, where it’s like, no, I will go ensure that doesn’t happen for you. Let me do those move those types of boulders.
Rob Stevenson 15:55
Yeah, makes sense. Well, Dana, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length, optimal conference length, this is the last one of the show. So I’m going to put it on mute to kind of bring us home here. I’ve been asking everyone this question. I’m really curious what you’ll say, what is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Dana Atherton 16:13
I think the best career advice I’ve ever received is to always at the end of the day, and this is what I tell my team to never let yourself forget why you do what you do. We spend more time at work than we do with our families or anywhere else. If you’re not liking what you’re doing, or there isn’t some kind of fire that ignites with it. Remind yourself why you’re doing it then because maybe it isn’t what you should be doing. So at the end of the day, I always tell my team to Yeah, you know, you might feel like sometimes it’s a thankless profession, or you’ve had a bad day, at the end of every day remind where you had the impact, because this is a super, super purposeful career. I remember going to iari several years ago, and they had done a survey and it’s like, what are the top three professions and purposeful professions and it was like, doctor nurse recruiter was number three. So at the end of the day, how did you impact somebody’s life, especially in this world that we’re living in with a job change? How did you impact the company? How did you impact that hiring manager, but I think you just have to the best career advice was always keep in mind why you do what you do. And that will propel you and continue to drive you towards those passions.
Rob Stevenson 17:25
That’s fantastic advice. Dana, thank you so much for sharing that and for being with me here. I’ve loved chatting with you.
Dana Atherton 17:30
Thank you so much Rob really enjoyed it.
Rob Stevenson 17:34
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