Suzan Vulaj

LIVE in NYC: NBCUniversal VP Global TA Suzan Vulaj & Shutterstock VP Valerie Vadala

Suzan Vulaj & Valerie VadalaVP of Global TA

NBCUniversal’s VP of Global TA Suzan Vulaj & Shutterstock’s VP of TA Valerie Vadala join Rob LIVE from the Canary Club in New York City to kick off Talk Talent To Me’s 2022 Roadshow.

Episode Transcript


[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent To Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the frontlines of modern recruitment.

[00:00:12] SPEAKER 1: We actually want to understand the themes of someone’s life. We want to understand how they make decisions. Are they willing to take risks? And what it looks like when they fail.

[00:00:22] RS: No holds barred, completely off-the-cuff interviews, with directors of recruitment, VPS of global talent, CHROs and everyone in between.

[00:00:31] SPEAKER 2: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity and inclusion, I still felt like something was missing.

[00:00:39] SPEAKER 3: Talent acquisition, it’s a fantastic career, you are trusted by the organization, you get to work with the C-suite, and the security at the front desk, and everybody in between and everybody knows you.

[00:00:52] RS: I’m your host, Rob Stevenson and you’re about to hear the best in the biz Talk Talent To Me.


[00:00:59] RS: Hey, everybody. Hello, New York City. How are we? I’m so glad. I’m so glad you all came out. Thanks for being here. New York City is the best city in the world. Right? Come on. I say that as someone who lived in Los Angeles for two years. Right? Boo, LA. No. LA is not so bad. If you love cars, and hate burritos and an honest day’s work, I would recommend it in those states. But I’m so glad to be here. I really do love New York City. I was reminded, in fact, how much I love it immediately when I left my hotel this morning, stepped on the sidewalk and was immediately struck by a cascading moisture of an unknown nebulous origin. Was it rain? Was it the dribbling of the in-window AC units? Was it God herself spitting on my head and the heads of all of the other heathens in this godforsaken city? We’ll never know. But at any rate, I’m really glad to be here.

It’s been a few years since I was in New York. The last time I was here was for this podcast, actually, in late 2019. Came out here. It was great. It was me, my girlfriend Caroline and my boyfriend, Charles. We had the best time, we did the show, it went really great. We did the show here in New York, we did in San Francisco, we did in Los Angeles. Was a ton of fun, so much fun, in fact, that in early 2020, we were like, “Look, this has been going great. Let’s put our foot on the gas and really start doing these live events as much as possible.” Then, I don’t know if y’all follow the news. But that whole thing with the masks, and the shots and the Facebook posts happened, yada, yada, yada. Two years later, we’re back.

So glad we’re here. Yeah, give it up. Give it up. I’m really glad you’re all here. It’s wonderful to see the bottom halves of your faces, and to see you all in three dimensions and stunning 8k resolution. We’re going to have some fun here tonight. It’s going to be a good one. If you’ve heard the podcast before, say “Woo” really loud.

[00:02:41] AUDIENCE: Woo!

[00:02:42] RS: Wow! Way more than I expected. I’m so glad. I’m so glad y’all have checked it out, so you kind of know what you’re getting. But we’re going to have a little more fun, we’re going to be a little more off the cuff than your regularly scheduled Talk Talent To Me episode. If you haven’t heard the show before, here’s all you really need to know, every week or a couple times a week, these days, I sit down with directors of recruitment, VPs of TA, global heads of talent. All of my favorite people in the recruiting space, we flip on the microphones and just go for it. Hopefully at some point, they—

[00:03:08] AUDIENCE: [Inaudible 00:03:08]

[00:03:09] RS: Yes, nailed it. Thank you. I’m so glad you came and you [inaudible 00:03:13] the one had in my back. It’s all it’s all downhill from here. Thank you so much. Okay. We’re going to have some fun tonight. I’m also hoping that this can take a little bit of a town hall sort of vibe. The regularly recorded episode happens in a basement beat lab, sometimes a dilapidated, sad blanket fort in my home. And now, we have all of you, we have all of this great talent experience in the house. If at any point you want to chime in, rush to the stage with a folded chair, I don’t know. I just want to make sure we take advantage of the fact that we have all of you here today. We have some amazing panelists lined up that we’re going to learn from. Then, towards the end of the show, I’m going to drag one of you guys up here. I’m hoping to solve a problem for you guys.

At the same time, there’s plenty of cocktails happening, there’s a nine-drink minimum, make sure to take advantage of that. Don’t forget to grab an appetizer from Timothy Charlamagne here. For the rest of you, I’m just really excited that we’re here. So let’s get this show going. We’ll bring up our first panelist. She started her career in law, decided she hated it, got into recruiting. Served at Credit Suisse, couple other companies. Now, she is the VP of global talent over at Shutterstock. Please give it up for Valerie Vadala.

[00:04:22] VV: Hello, everybody.

[00:04:24] RS: Hey, Valerie. How are we?

[00:04:25] VV: We are so good and belated Happy Birthday to Rob yesterday.

[00:04:30] RS: Yeah, it was my birthday yesterday. I got to celebrate it. I went to Quality Meats. I ate a steak the size of my face. I had, what do you call it, caviar sliders, was very bougie, very unbranded, felt great.

[00:04:41] VV: What sign does that make you?

[00:04:42] RS: What sign?

[00:04:43] VV: Sign, yeah?

[00:04:44] RS: I’m a Gemini.

[00:04:44] VV: A Gemini. I don’t think that’s good. I’m not— it’s fun, but like astrology is a thing now, you know.

[00:04:50] RS: It is, yeah. And I hear you’re also supposed to insult the host as fast as possible when you do a podcast.

[00:04:55] VV: I’m sure you have a rising sign that’s much nicer than that.

[00:04:59] RS: Add me on Co-Star people. Valerie, I’m so glad to have you here. We recorded a few months ago, you and I, back in January. What’s new? What’s going on since then? I guess, first, let’s get to know you a little bit. Would you mind kind of walking us through, crash course through your career and then how you wound up at Shutterstock?

[00:05:13] VV: Sure. I’ve pretty much been a recruiter my whole life. It’s my passion. It’s my love. I was a lawyer for a year, not my passion, not my love. I have been in leadership roles for the last, let’s say, 10 years. It’s been a bit of a road to Shutterstock. I was with a company—and it’s funny when I listened to our podcast later. It was like—I was with a company called Oppenheimer Funds where I was incredibly happy, and then we got acquired and I was not incredibly happy. Anybody who’s been through an acquisition is probably like, “Girl, I know.”

When I was listening to our podcasts, I’m like, “I sound like somebody that’s not over somebody.” Like that is my joy, that job. But anyway, so I was at this company, and it got acquired, and I wasn’t in love with the other company. So I went to Wells Fargo, which was way too bureaucratic for me. And it’s kind of funny, because they have ended up in the front page of The New York Times recently, part of the reasons that I left. But anyway, so I came to Shutterstock and I’ve been running their talent acquisition team for about a year. I have an amazing team, and we are doing really, really good work and I’m so proud of them. That’s all you need to know. Anything else is boring, right?

[00:06:17] RS: Great. Everything else is boring. I guess we’ll end the show right there then.

[00:06:20] VV: I’m done.

[00:06:21] RS: So yeah, I’m curious, Valerie, about the state of your email inbox. Because as Shutterstock, publicly traded company, you have an elevated title. I’m sure it’s just an unmitigated disaster of salespeople and marketers getting in there being like, “Hey! Here’s this product you didn’t know exists, but desperately need. Can I get 30 minutes of your time? Can I get a demo? Can I understand some of your problems?” Is that like a good chunk of your email these days?

[00:06:44] VV: It’s probably—I mean, I’m pulling this number out of my ass, but probably about 20 percent of what I’m getting out of my inbox is sales emails. It kind of sucks, because for a brief moment in time, I worked for a search firm called Special Counsel and I was in sales, so I know how it is. You’re like, “I’ve got the best thing and you would love me, and you would love what I’m selling.” Then, you’re just like, I don’t have time for this. Absolutely. I feel like it’s something I hate, to just hit delete in the morning and just say, “I have no time for this,” especially if there’s something great. I wish there was a better way, there was some sort of forum where we could figure out what’s good, and what’s worth talking about, what’s worth setting up a 30-minute conversation.

[00:07:27] RS: Yeah. I’m hearing a murmur of assent throughout the crowd, so you may be onto something there. But you do need to build a tech stack, right? Like they’re not all going to be things that you’re complete disinterested in, that’s a big part of your job, I’m sure is signing these year-long contracts with vendors to make sure that your team is equipped. How do you evaluate them? How do you figure out why you should buy besides hired?

[00:07:48] VV: Yeah, which we do have, we have hired, right?

[00:07:51] RS: Shout out.

[00:07:51] VV: Thumbs up. Yay! I have personally found that it’s a little bit of trial and error, right? Somehow, some slip through the cracks where their email is appealing enough that you’re like, and for me, it’s usually either sourcing, because we don’t have a dedicated sourcing team. It’s either sourcing or diversity equity and inclusion. Those are the two where I’m like, “If you can help me with this, I’ll listen.” So, what I found, and if somebody has a better answer tell me, is, “You need to just try it for a year and say that sucked, and then get rid of it.” I love that moment where you’re like, “I will not be using. I will not be renewing this.”

[00:08:28] RS: What are the ones that suck and you’re not using? Let’s put them on notice right now?

[00:08:31] VV: Jobwell.

[00:08:32] RS: Oh, wow. I didn’t think you’re actually going to do it.

[00:08:36] VV: Hireup. Damn! Good luck with that one. Sorry.

[00:08:41] RS: I don’t work there. It’s fine.

[00:08:42] VV: You invited me. There are some great ones, of course, Hired. Hired is awesome.

[00:08:46] RS: Plug. Plug. Plug. Plug.

[00:08:47] VV: Yeah. There’s one called Fetcher that I think is awesome. I need a forum. I need to know what works for people. I’ve heard of one called Easy Hire, somebody said it was great. Anybody know about this one at all? Hire Easy? Is that good? I’ve heard it’s good. Somebody said it was life changing. But you know what Gwyneth Paltrow said that about Brazilian waxes, so I don’t know how much I believe in life changing, but I heard it’s good. I don’t know. But like, we need a forum to know what’s good and what’s not, right? Because, otherwise, you just waste a year paying for something that you don’t use.

[00:09:18] RS: For you, how much of it is about trying to understand your team’s needs? There’s also—there’s a tool for every stage of the funnel, right? Like you said, there’s obviously lots of sourcing and diversity tools. There’s talent CRMs. There are email scraping tools, what have you. So for you, is it about the stage of the funnel or how do you sort of figure out when you’re building the tech stack, what are all of the pieces you need to put together?

[00:09:39] VV: For me, it’s the weak links. Like I said, I don’t have a sourcing team and D&I. I don’t have anybody dedicated. So those are pieces that are weak links. I do find with the bigger things like ATSs. We have workday, which I’m not a fan of, but I don’t know how many of you are feeling my pain, but it is what it is, right? I feel like a lot of these, you just—you’re kind of stock. I’m not the one that makes a decision on these things, and you just kind of have to live with it. But you also have to be careful, because what I have found, and this is going to sound shocking, but vendors lie a lot. Has anybody ever pitched you on stuff? I’m not going to name the name of this one, because we actually are using them. But we overhauled our career site, because workday was not doing it for us. So, I use the company, when I tell you, “They were so inept in terms of the technology.” When you’re talking to the salesperson, it’s like, “Oh my God.” I really become a little vicious when I’m with salespeople. I’m like, I’m going to put this in an email back to you that you said this, because I want to get this when I get this service, because they promise everything. It’s definitely, it’s trying, it’s hard.

[00:10:48] RS: Can you open the hood and really get your hands dirty? Can you meet with an engineer? How do you make sure that you get past the sales units, the marketing speak,and actually figure what the tool is going to do?

[00:10:57] VV: I haven’t done that yet, but it’s not a bad idea. It’s a good idea to do that, actually.

[00:11:01] RS: I’m going to do that.

[00:11:02] VV: Yeah. I mean, does anybody else have that happen to them where they promise the world, and then it’s not the world when you get there. Then the salesperson disappears, by the way.

[00:11:10] RS: They leave the company. They moved to Bali. They’re gone. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think it’s a universal pain. I think salespeople are motivated by closing the deal, like not necessarily keeping you around. That’s a necessary evil, I think.

[00:11:23] VV: I still believe in honesty, though. Sure, sure.

[00:11:26] RS: I’m not going to defend them too hard.

[00:11:28] VV: Gemini.

[00:11:31] RS: But yeah. I mean, so for you, it’s like you have some gaps in your team. You’re like, “Okay. I’m low on sourcing, right?” Firepower, maybe my existing recruiters who are spending 10 percent or 20 percent of their job. They’re the ones who need the big guns.

[00:11:41] VV: Yeah. And you just really see where you have an ROI. If something, if you’re like, “Wow!” An ROI isn’t really that much. If you get a couple of placements from a tool, it’s usually worth it, right? I mean, the only one that’s hard is LinkedIn. I mean, how expensive is LinkedIn? Here’s a funny story and how old I am. I was at Lehman Brothers when LinkedIn was becoming a thing. They came in, I swear, I vividly remember this. We’re like, who knew what would happen to LinkedIn? What would happen to Lehman Brothers? Okay, none of us knew. We’re still thinking, we’re like bulge bracket investment bank, whatever. And they’re like, “This will cost you $20,000 a year.” We’re, “You fools.” Now, LinkedIn is like ridiculously expensive and Lehman’s dead.

[00:12:29] RS: Right. They got the last laugh over there. LinkedIn is like a necessary evil, though, right?

[00:12:35] VV: It’s totally and you have to. That’s the thing, you have to. We have an enterprise, which I give thumbs up to, is actually a good contract. But it’s like crazy money, but you have to. Yeah, some of me just—are beholden to at this point.

[00:12:46] RS: Yeah, exactly. It makes sense. Well, let’s not spend the whole time talking about HR tech vendors.

[00:12:50] VV: What do you think guys? More HR tech vendors?

[00:12:52] RS: [Inaudible 00:12:52] as we abruptly changed topics. What else is going on for you, Valerie? What are you seeing out there in terms of high level hiring trends? I’m hearing a lot of murmurs about belt tightening going on. Not a super popular thing to say in a roomful of recruiters, but I wanted to know your take on it.

[00:13:06] VV: We at Shutterstock are not slowing down yet. I don’t really see us slowing down, because a lot of our needs, we’re kind of transitioning, we’re transforming. There’s a lot of engineering needs that we absolutely need and some enterprise sales needs we absolutely need. We haven’t seen the slowdown, but I don’t know how many of you guys do Blind? Do any of you have the app Blind? It’s a really good way to kind of hear the murmuring of what’s happening.

[00:13:30] RS: It’s anonymous company gossip y’all. It’s great. It’s fantastic.

[00:13:32] VV: Yes. Thank you. Exactly. Although I was saying that the tech people are kind of jerks, but whatever. God bless them. You weren’t treated well in middle school, and you’re doing really well now, so it’s all good. You’re seeing that startups, I mean, you’re reading these, right? The startups are—they’re laying people off. You’re also seeing the fang companies, the Facebooks or Meta? I think of mang now. What are they going to do?

[00:14:00] RS: It has to be mang.

[00:14:01] VV: Yeah, mang. Meta and—they’re starting to freeze on everything, but senior level technology people, and so they’re starting to panic. I think it’s the canary in the coal mine. I think we’re going to see a slowdown. I don’t know. I mean, I have no idea obviously how deep it’s going to be. But it’s just the frenzy that we were all feeling. I know you guys were all feeling the same pain I was the last year and a half, right? It just kind of sucks to be a recruiter. I think that we’re going to start seeing—I’m already seeing—are you guys seeing pipelines that are deeper, that are richer, and everybody doesn’t negotiate? Some people actually accept offers now. I think there’s something happening here.

[00:14:44] RS: As a recruiter, though, if the candidates are getting a little more, they’re playing ball or maybe even more desperate. How do you position yourself? Let’s indulge the worst-case scenario here. Let’s indulge a lot of belt tightening. What would you do if you were a recruiter in that case, because you want to work for a company it’s going to grow, and going to hire no matter what, even in a in a case of economic downturn?

[00:15:02] VV: I don’t think that startups are where you want to go at this very moment. Some of them will be just fine. FinTech I think is really hurting. I think I would go for a [inaudible 00:15:14] company right now. I’d go for either something that’s long established and not going public or doesn’t have plans to go public or a public company that’s pretty well established, because they’re going to keep recruiting. They might slow down a little, but if they’re looking for a recruiter right now, they need a recruiter for real.

[00:15:34] RS: Yeah. I see the industrial approach being good, not just for a time of downturn, but your entire career. If you took a job at a DoorDash or Postmates, and like March 2020, you probably feel really good about that decision. There are these companies that will continue to grow, and will be a little immune, I think, to economic pressures. That’s what I would do if I was looking for a role. I’d be like, “Okay, which of these companies is still going to sell?”

[00:15:56] VV: Right. Although, I would counter you. Even DoorDash, because I know there’s one called Gopuff that’s kind of similar and they had layoffs, because there’s all this complexity with startups that I don’t understand it. But when they get the next tranche of their funding, it’s like, sometimes you have to lay people off. I don’t know.

[00:16:15] RS: Did you say Gopuff?

[00:16:15] VV: Gopuff, it’s called. Isn’t that’s funny?

[00:16:17] RS: Yeah. Okay. That’s what I’m going to get to. That’s what I’m going to do after the show.

[00:16:20] VV: No, I’m totally—I think, I actually—I’m imagining that’s where they got their name, because it’s like—people, they’re like, I need some fucking Takis right now.

[00:16:27] RS: Yeah, exactly.

[00:16:28] VV: I think that’s where they got their name.

[00:16:30] RS: Yeah, probably. Probably a little cheeky. Valerie, I want to hear more from you, but I don’t want to leave our next guest waiting in the wings too much. I’m going to ask you to slide on the bench a little bit just to make room for our next guest.

[00:16:40] VV: I get to move?

[00:16:41] RS: Yeah, you get to.

[00:16:41] VV: This, none of you will get, because I’m the oldest person in the room. But this is like, Merv Griffin or Mike Douglas, where you move over [inaudible 00:16:49].

[00:16:49] RS: Right, yeah. You slide down the bench a little bit, but we keep you up here.

[00:16:51] VV: There might be spittle on here, Suzan, I don’t know. I think I’m okay. All right. He made me do it.

[00:16:57] RS: Thank you, Valerie. And our next guest—give it up for Valerie everybody. Our next guest started as a page at the NBC building. No, she absolutely did not. But she started as the recruiting equivalent of that, which is as a recruiting coordinator at Google. She has since worked up her whole career. Now, she is the Global VP of talent over at NBC Universal. Give it up for Suzan Vulaj.

[00:17:20] SV: Thank you.

[00:17:23] RS: Welcome, Suzan. How are you?

[00:17:24] SV: Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m so glad you’re here. Yeah, me too. I got to meet Valerie. But like, hit it off.

[00:17:31] RS: Yeah, you’re like friends on LinkedIn before, now—

[00:17:33] SV: Yes, I followed her because that’s what we do as recruiters. We stalk people on LinkedIn. Right? Then we get to meet them in the flesh, and we’re like, “Oh my God. I know you.”

[00:17:41] VV: Nice.

[00:17:41] RS: Yeah. Now you can endorse her for podcast appearances now.

[00:17:45] SV: I will. I will.

[00:17:47] RS: I think you can. Yeah.

[00:17:48] SV: I will endorse you too.

[00:17:49] RS: No one’s endorsed me for that.

[00:17:50] SV: I will. I will as soon as I go back.

[00:17:53] RS: I’m so glad to have you, Suzan. I was being cheeky earlier, but I’m really am impressed by your journey, because you started as a recruiting coordinator at Google. That is the equivalent of starting in the mailroom, and then winding up in the C-suite, which is kind of what you’ve done. I would just love to hear a little bit about your journey. What are the commonalities in you sort of winding up in this current role as you think about all the stops along the way?

[00:18:16] SV: Yeah, that’s a good question. My journey. Now, I’ve been in TA for like 17 years, it feels like just yesterday. I think it’s fair to say, no one grows up saying that they want to be a recruiter, but I think we should. I think we need to change that. Because I think it’s awesome to be in TA and to be in recruiting. When I was in college, I had been working since I was like 14. I actually worked at a tanning salon. I put my way through college for four years. I jokingly say it was my favorite job ever.

[00:18:45] RS: Why? Why was it the best job?

[00:18:46] SV: I got to do my homework. I was there like nine o’clock in the morning, like who tan that early. I would sit there, and I would do my homework in silence and I got to go to school full time, which was awesome. But I actually started to recruit when I was at the tanning salon and I had no idea. I was hiring people, interviewing people at like 19 years old, running the payroll, running the store. I was doing all these things that are really transferable. So anyway, when I went to college—

[00:19:11] RS: Employee of the month by the way. Come on! That should have been the owner’s job.

[00:19:15] SV: We had 10 employees, and it was just really awesome. Anyway, I thought I wanted to do finance and accounting. It was boring, blah. Then, I had to take an HR class, and I was like, “Okay. HR is very applicable to any industry, any company, any size company. And there’s so many different facets of HR, like you can go into comp, and benefits, TA, employee relations, et cetera. I was like, this is cool. I kind of Iike working with people, even though people make our lives difficult. Then when I graduated, I quit my job because I said I had to find a real job now and break into the corporate world, and a little bit of luck and some good interviewing skills and some people skills, I landed my first job at Google and their recruiting team. I was building their team internationally. We were building our offices in China at the time, so we had to hire like a gazillion engineers overnight. I remember one of my first tasks was to go through 6,000 resumes in a week.

[00:20:12] RS: Whoa!

[00:20:12] VV: Wow!

[00:20:13] SV: Yeah. That was me and another coordinator, and we had five days. I might be exaggerating, but that’s what it felt like, 6000 resumes, so that we can give it to the recruiter so that they can interview.

[00:20:24] RS: By the way, no one at Google has done that since. This is an empty stack of unread resume from now until the end of time.

[00:20:28] SV: Probably not. Now we have machines and AI to go through all of it. But I sort of built my recruiting muscle there and we operated as a machine. I took a lot from my experience there. I went on to work at a very conservative financial institution called Standard and Poor’s. I did that for eight years. I started out as a coordinator. By sheer luck, because the universe worked in my favor, our tech recruiter went out on leave, and my boss was in a pinch and said, “I need you to start recruiting.”

[00:20:57] RS: And put me in coach. Yeah.

[00:20:59] SV: I don’t know what I’m doing. I was just coordinating, doing stuff like that and I just jumped right in. Then, I became the tech recruiter for four years. Then I started, I didn’t know what I wanted to do yet. Then I looked at my boss, and it was like, I love her. I want to be her some day, so she was my role model. That’s what I did. Then I said, “Okay. I have to learn HR a little bit for me to be her. I can’t just be a TA,” I moved into an HR business partner role for about two years, which was great and no knocking HR people, because I love them. They’re my partner’s, but like, it’s different.

[00:21:32] RS: However, if you were going to knock them, it’d go a little something like this.

[00:21:36] SV: It’s the dark side. It just wasn’t fun for me. I felt like it was very negative, like Employee Relations, and performance plans, and compensation and benefits. That wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t like jumping out of bed to go to work. Anyway, our company went through a massive restructuring on the TA side, and they built a team, an internal mobility team. This was more than 10 years ago, which no one heard of at the time, and it was a very controversial role. They basically wanted to hire recruiters to become internal headhunters, and not P word, poach, right? We couldn’t poach our talent internally. But basically, our sole mission was to move people internally, because we were very siloed as an enterprise. We had seven or eight different businesses. That was fun, but it was hard. It was really hard.

[00:22:29] RS: I don’t know how popular that would have made you around the old cafeteria there. It’s feels like moving talent around.

[00:22:34] SV: Yeah. We had—I had hiring managers who hated me, and then employees who loved me, right? What we wanted to do was infuse in our DNA that, if you want it to look for a job, don’t go external. We have so much opportunity internally, and we have so many different companies internally, and each one has its own culture. It’s like, “Wait! Hold on. Before you run. and go on LinkedIn, and look for your next job, check us out first.” We built this team. We knew it was temporary, right? Because it wouldn’t be forever. We just wanted to get this into the water system. I did that for about three years. I finally left Standard and Poor’s and went to a company called Pitney Bowes, which is a super old company like 100 years old now, who was trying to transform itself into a sexy technology company.

[00:23:20] RS: It’s so old as named after a guy named Pitney, right?

[00:23:23] SV: I mean, it was great. I really enjoyed my time there. That’s where I became a director of TA and that’s where I started managing a global team. I had people in Australia, and India, and the UK and throughout the US. I was supporting for businesses and I did that for four years. In those four years. I also bought a house, got married and had a baby, and the new job. So I did all the sort of big milestones during my time there.

[00:23:47] RS: You can’t have it all ladies. You heard it here first.

[00:23:49] SV: Yes, like this. Like no patience, let’s go. I did that. It was a great experience. Then NBC Universal came knocking, and when they called, I was like, “Wait! You mean, like Channel Four News?” I’m a New Yorker, if you can’t tell. I guess I have an accent. I thought they were, I kid you not, Channel Four News. And they were like, “Wait! No, we’re someone more than that.” I was like, “Let me do my research, please.” After a couple months of courting, I took the offer. I became a director of technology that was running their technology team. I did that for about three years. I had a team of about 18 recruiters at max, and then about three and a half years into it, our global head of TA left, and I raised my hand I got that job. So now, I run the entire global talent acquisition team across all of our brands at NBC Universal. I’ve been doing that for about a year and a half. I have a team of about 165 people globally. I love every one of them. I know them all by name, and who they work for and what they support. We have people in Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Germany, UK, and throughout the US and here I am in a nut shell. Sorry, I tried to keep that short, but I feel like it’s been a great journey. It really, really has and I’m looking forward to what’s to come.

[00:25:00] RS: Yeah, yeah. Thank you for sharing that journey with us. Boy, there’s so many things I want to double click on there. Where do I start? I guess just to cuddle our HR people a little bit after we beat them up. Isn’t that a necessary step on the tour of duty if you want to wind up in a role like yours? If you are in talent acquisition purely for a long time, eventually, you’re going to need that to advance, right?

[00:25:19] SV: Yes. It depends on what you want to do. I think as you start your journey and progress in it, if you don’t know what you want to do, that’s okay. I feel like people who fall into TA, which most of us have, the folks that are really good at it naturally are successful and stay in it. Then if you realize at some point, whether it’s a year or five years down the line that you want to stay in TA, I feel like you absolutely have to round out your experience and other facets of HR so that you can understand the full spectrum of supporting the business, right? Some of the best recruiters I know don’t want to manage people, they want to be individual contributors, and they want to recruit and that’s fine. But if you want to become a leader, that you want to start running a massive business or supporting a massive business, I think you need to learn the other parts of HR too, but TA is the best part and most fun.

[00:26:12] RS: Valerie, would you agree with that?

[00:26:14] VV: Yes, I do agree. Although, I opted not to do the HRBPs for exactly the reasons that you say. I knew I would not like it, so I never did it. But I’ve always been incredibly close to the other SMEs and the other—you have to understand and know it, and value and appreciate it and suck up to it, at least the HRBP.

[00:26:35] SV: Yeah. I say in TA, you have to have—they’re like three best friends, TA, HR and finance. And the three of you have to be best friends. That’s what I tell my team. So I think when you do a stint in HR, you really worked closely with them, you understand the different aspects of like TA support. It just makes you a well-rounded TA professional.

[00:26:57] RS: What is your relationship with the financial arm of that triad bringing to the table?

[00:27:01] SV: Yeah, it’s important. I mean, look, we’re having lots of conversations about forecasting, right? Like you spoke about mang, or fang, or whatever you want to call it. All these hiring freezes, and all these leaked emails. You have to be in lockstep with finance, because they’re super organized, and they know what’s coming, what’s approved, when it’s coming, and how much. What you don’t want to be is a reactive TA organization that all of a sudden —I mean, don’t get me wrong, we get phone calls that say like, “Hey! We have 50 new jobs coming next week. It’s like, “Holy shit! Hold on.” I need a recruiter. But the more you’re in lockstep with these groups, they will call you and they will say, “Hey! By the way, we’ve locked in our budget. We’re going to add 175 heads next year.” So as a TA leader, you’re like, “Okay. Let me whip out my formula. Let me let you know how many recruiters you have to pay for to support that.”

[00:27:52] RS: That formula, that like recruiter load balancing, is it like a heroic spreadsheet you built? Is that a product? What does that look like?

[00:27:59] SV: Yeah, sometimes. It differs by business. I’m working on these benchmarks today. I think there is a difference between like tech recruiters, and non-tech recruiters and then high-volume recruiters. If I had to generalize recruiters, those would be the three buckets. There’s a different threshold and benchmark on what each recruiter can produce. We’ve been pushing the needle this year with hiring. I’m sure we’re all hiring like crazy. But there is a formula I like to use. When we get numbers from finance, or HR, I kid you not, I whip out my calculator, my phone because I’m not very good at math. Thank God, I didn’t do accounting, or finance in college. I whip out my calculator. I’m like, “Okay. A typical recruiter can make X amount of hires, typically in a month. If we’re looking at the year, this is what we need to support and sustain your business. Anything more than that, we need more recruiters. We just need to fluctuate based on that.

[00:28:51] RS: Yeah. How can they can argue with that, right?

[00:28:53] SV: They can’t. It’s numbers.

[00:28:54] RS: Right. It’s like, “Look. You can ask me for 50 hires, but who is going to make these hires?” I can’t just tell my people to work a little bit harder. Yeah. Right. Can we go back to Standard and Poor’s quickly because you mentioned you had this amazing boss. I wanted to ask you why she was so good. What made her really good? I think mentorship is really, really crucial. I think everyone can probably tell a story of like an amazing boss, they had, like really jumpstart of their career or made things okay. Would you mind just sharing a little bit about that relationship and why she was so good.

[00:29:22] SV: I was young. I was like, in my mid-20s. What I looked up to was a little bit different, I think, than what I would look up to now. But I admired the way she showed up. She was a professional, and she was confident and she was dressed to the T, always. Like she’s spot on. She looked great all the time. She spoke with such confidence, and she knew what she was doing. She was assertive, but also very empathetic. I wanted to be her. I just looked at her. In my whole life working, I’ve always looked at people in my organization and said, “I like how they show up.” I’m very observant on when they speak, and how they speak and how they bring themselves to the table.

Luckily, after that, I started working for another boss who was great in a different way. He served very much as like a career coach to me, someone who I can trust very much and I would go to, and use as a sounding board and spit out my problems or my thinking. He’d helped sort of navigate my thinking and not telling me what to do, but sort of helped me navigate to the problem. That’s been great to have someone like that.

[00:30:28] RS: So now, a few years later, you’re on the other side of that coin. Right? Are you cultivating mentorship and your team? How do you think about that?

[00:30:36] SV: I hope so. I mean, I don’t know. From NBC Universal, I would say that I try, and I have 10 direct reports. Each one, I’ve now been managing them for the past year and a half, and each one is different. It’s a very diverse team of backgrounds, and I appreciate each one and I’ve learned a lot in my last year and a half managing this team. But like, I don’t tell them what to do, but I create a safe space for them to talk to me about what’s going on, and for me to learn about what’s going on in their businesses, and to understand their thinking and to figure out what they’re good at and keep shining the light on what they’re good at. But also figuring out what they want to do, and what they’re not so great at and help build that muscle for them to get better.

[00:31:24] RS: Got it. Suzan’s LinkedIn DMs are open for anyone to whom that sounds good. But I also wanted to ask you about the internal mobility piece, like you are hiring from within. Internal mobility is hugely important for a million reasons. Everyone will tell you, “Oh! They’re more likely to stick around. They know the culture. You can trust. They’re competent, et cetera, et cetera.” That’s great, but it doesn’t always work like that. It doesn’t always just like—now you are in this job, sometimes people raise their hand, and then they don’t get the job. I want to know what you do with those people. Because if it was me, I would feel like I painted a target on my back that like, “Oh! I’ve admitted that I’m not happy and I didn’t get it.” You show your cards a little bit. So I’m curious, what do you do with those folks who go for an internal role and then don’t get it?

[00:32:07] SV: Yeah. Here’s what I would say. One, you own your career. Don’t ever put your career in someone else’s hands. If you’re going to sit here and wait for your boss to give you, the promotion, I don’t know. I feel like oneself has to take accountability to run their career journey. For me, I’ll share. I think I shared this with you that I raised my hand for this VP global TA job the first time and I didn’t get it. I felt vulnerable, because I had interviewed with people, I think my peers knew at the time like I wanted the job. I, of course, like many others, was a bit insecure, and kind of talk myself out of it like, “I’m not ready. I’m too young. I’ve never managed this scene this big. Oh my God! They’re going to find someone better outside.” I didn’t get the job, but you know what, I made it very clear to everyone in the process that I wanted the job, and that I wanted to build my career and I wanted to build my experience to get there because I was going to get that job whether or not it was at NBC Universal.

I had the conversations, and I didn’t feel bad after. I was like, “Look, I want these people to know, like I want this job. I want to manage this global team.” I think that if you do raise your hand for a job, and you don’t get it, what’s important is what happens after, those conversations with your manager. Again, owning your own career, you got to own those career conversations suits to say, “Hey! I want to be the VP of global TA. I don’t have global experience. How can I get there?” A good manager will help you get there, and we’ll help you put together a development plan or individual sort of development plan, like maybe their experiences, or projects, or things that you can own or maybe like a short stint assignment that you could manage and go into so that you can build that muscle, so that you can have more experience.

I think it’s about creating an action plan, if you don’t get the job, but continuing to look and keeping your eyes open. But you have to change something about not yourself, but what you’re doing. Maybe it’s getting some more education, some certifications, some LinkedIn learnings, like getting a mentor, getting a career coach, or redoing your resume. There are so many things you can do, but you have to take action.

[00:34:17] RS: Hell, yeah. I love what you said about how you wanted to make it known that you wanted the job, whether it was NBC Universal or not. Because if you’re not going to get a job, then you need to know so you can leave, so you can get the job that you actually want. Maybe really, the only reasonable way forward is even if you don’t think you’re going to get it, raise your hand and figure out, is this a possibility for me? Because if not, I got to get to stepping.

[00:34:39] SV: But not in a threatening way. It wasn’t like—

[00:34:41] RS: In a nice way. Yeah.

[00:34:42] SV: Yeah. It wasn’t like, “Because we’re recruiters, oh my God, we do this for a living.” Why is it that we forget to sort of take our own advice as like we talked to candidates, right? It wasn’t like if I don’t get this job, I’m going to leave. It’s, “Hey! I want this job. I love this company. I love the people here, and what we do and I truly believe in it, so help me stay here.” Help me get those experiences. But I get bored easily and my attention span is very short. So eventually, I think that people know hey, if something doesn’t change for me, and I don’t do exciting, challenging work, yeah, people are going to leave. I always say, people want that next challenge, and people get bored, and people leave managers and people want the next best thing in their careers.

[00:35:30] VV: I’ll add, of all the places I work, Credit Suisse was probably the best with their internal mobility policies. A lot of it is because you need senior leadership that’s on board with it and saying this is important, just like diversity, right? They really need to mean it. But they had a policy, because you were saying, is it a red flag when somebody raises their hand? Well, Suzan is in talent acquisition, she’s saying I want to be bigger in talent acquisition, which is very different. You kept your eye on the same price. At Credit Suisse, I don’t know how much they stick to it now. But if somebody applied, if an internal candidate applied to three very different distinct jobs and did not get them, that HR business partner that supported them would talk to them. Because then, you’re like, “Okay, you’re deeply miserable, and you’re just looking for a way out.”

[00:36:12] RS: You don’t know what you want to be when you grow up. Yeah.

[00:36:14] VV: Yes, you’re not focusing. You’re just saying, “This sucks. Where can I go?” But I think that generally, if you know what you want to do, and you do exactly it, your story is great, because you were like, “All right. Next time, bring it back.” That’s the way to do it.

[00:36:27] RS: And yeah, I love the call out head fake. Don’t threaten. Like, “Give me this job or I’ll leave.” Don’t say that just heavily insinuated through your actions. This has been fantastic with you both. Thank you for sharing your experience. Give a hand for Valerie and Suzan, everybody. We still have some time left here. I would love to get to know some of you. Does anyone have a question they would like to post our panel here. We’re going to solve some recruiting pain, live here on the podcast. Who out there has a question for Suzan or Valerie? Someone raise their hand. Please?

[00:36:58] VV: Don’t be shy.

[00:36:59] RS: Come up here. We can share this microphone. Yeah, come right over here. Give it up for this young lady. Hi, what’s your name?

[00:37:06] Ca: Camila.

[00:37:07] RS: Camila. Camila, where do you work and what’s your job title?

[00:37:09] Ca: I’m a technical recruiter at Meadow.

[00:37:11] RS: What’s your email address?

[00:37:15] SV: And are you on a hiring freeze? Just want to know.

[00:37:18] RS: Are you hiring podcasters? No. Yeah, I would love to hear from you. What’s your question for the group?

[00:37:22] Ca: I’m curious to see like now, they’re super successful. But I often hear that people in recruiting, they don’t plan to be in recruiting. Why do you think that? You mentioned like 99 percent of people just fell into recruiting. I have the opposite experience on my own, so I’m very curious to know why people wouldn’t want recruiting, seeing you and seeing you both like being successful and seeing how far we can go. Why not?

[00:37:48] SV: I don’t think that the universities do a good enough job, pitching recruiting as an actual profession. Number one, I think they do a good job like HR overall. My concentration was HR. I studied Business and Economics. But in my HR one-on-one classes, I was like, I like this, I didn’t look at recruiting and say, “Oh my God. I love this. I want to do this. I think I’m really good at it.” I just actually think when I fell into it, I was like, “Oh my God. I’m changing people’s lives.” For me, it was a huge accomplishment when people would—when I would meet them, and they would be like, “Oh my God! It changed my life. I got this new job. I love my job. I love my career.” That made me feel good, but I don’t think we do a good enough job at promoting recruiting as a true profession, and how fun it is. I think we need to do more of that.

[00:38:38] VV: I would add that I do think it’s a personality type. I’m an introvert, so it’s not about introvert extrovert. It’s about, I’m a connector. I love to connect people. I do like the joy of putting people in roles where they’ll flourish, and it means a lot to me. I think that what we do is the most important part of HR. I truly believe that. I think that you have to be a story person, you have to enjoy people’s stories. It’s not for everyone, though. There are people in comp that would be like, “Why doesn’t everybody want to be an Excel all the time? It’s the bomb.” I’m like, “Oh!” It’s like, “How does your brain work? How does your heart work?” It’s not for everybody. But if you if you believe in connecting, you’re going to enjoy it. If you don’t, you’re going to be like, “Get me out of here. This just noise.”

[00:39:26] RS: Great. We have one over here. I don’t know if my cord will reach. You’re going to have to meet me halfway, right at the border line. It’s where I’m going to wait for you. Come on up. Hi, there. Welcome. Hey, what’s your name?

[00:39:37] Ra: I’m Rachel. You actually interviewed me.

[00:39:40] RS: I know. I want the people out there to know. Yeah, we did a podcast together.

[00:39:43] RH: It’s nice to meet you. Hi, I’m Rachel Hirsch. I work for, which is now an Adobe company.

[00:39:47] RS: Congratulations.

[00:39:48] RH: Thank you so much. We were acquired in November. We were previously a very small startup and then worked our way up to the acquisition, which came official in November of 2021.

[00:39:58] RS: I love it. Quite a feather in your cap. I’m glad that you’re here as a returning champion of the podcast. What would you like to ask our panelists?

[00:40:04] RH: I’d love to know, remote work is obviously such a hot topic these days. Maybe you were anticipating this. I’ll go ahead and take it. I’m curious. So many people are bringing this topic up, and I’m sure you’re totally sick of answering this question. My question for you both is, at such large global companies, how are you addressing the nuance in this situation where you’re having to come up with a policy that has to be uniform for a massive company that affects 1000s and 1000s of people? What are you doing to create a uniform policy that still allows for nuance within it?

[00:40:40] SV: I mean. Look, it’s a complicated question, because I think we’re all going through it in some shape or form. We don’t have the right perfect answer that’s uniform to every single employee. At NBC Universal. I mean, we have people in the newsroom. News is going on during COVID. People were shooting from their basements, and we needed people in the office. We certainly have roles and businesses that absolutely have to be in the office. That is the nature of work. They have to be in person. That is it. I think that COVID has changed our lives and our perspective of work, and family, and life and everything. So, if that doesn’t work for you anymore, then you got to change jobs, because there are remote jobs out there and companies splatter it all over the job boards.

I do think that there are roles that offer extreme flexibility. As a recruiter, I tell my team, “You just need a computer and Wi-Fi. You can do your job from anywhere. You don’t need to be in an office.” Now, when I started working at NBC Universal, we were very much in-person culture. I mean, five days a week, all of our recruiters, our coordinators, everybody. Then COVID changed all that. We proved every single day that we can absolutely be successful working from home, no matter what you were wearing, pajamas, tights, jeans, whatever. Wi-Fi video, like this. Overnight, I could say my team had not one problem working remotely.

Now, I think, again, I think it’s really based on the role and the level. For me, I’m hybrid. I go in, but I have a lot of flexibility. I’m in today. I wasn’t in yesterday. I’m not going in tomorrow. I’ll be in next week for a couple of days, the week after. For me, the company in which I work offers me and my team a lot of flexibility, which is great. I think it works for us. But 100 percent, there are jobs that have to be in the office, unfortunately. Now look, you see today, I think on the news, Elon Musk’s email leaked and he wants everybody in the office. There you go. I’m sure people are going to leave Twitter. Okay, that’s the talent up for grabs. I think it really varies based on role. I don’t think there’s one solution for everything. But I do know that people’s lives have been changed no matter what, or where they are in their life or where they live. I think that we have to accommodate that, and we have to understand that and we have to flex that. Long-winded answer. I’m sorry.

[00:43:02] VV: I totally agree with her. I think that the bigger struggle long-term, I think the companies that will survive or fare the best in terms of talent are going to be hybrid, to remote in terms of what they allow. I think the comp is going to be an issue. I loved that the CEO of Airbnb was like, “I don’t care where you are. I don’t care what you—yeah, you’re going to get paid the same.” “You want to know, my mortgage is in Brooklyn. I don’t want to get paid the same as a guy in Iowa. I’m sorry, but I don’t.” I do think there’s this leveling of cop that I think is going to be tricky. I don’t know if I’ve—I’m bored with that.

[00:43:37] RS: I think we have time for one more. Can we satisfy anyone else’s recruiting pain now? Right here in the front, in the pink. Hi, there. What’s your name?

[00:43:43] Re: Rebecca.

[00:43:45] RS: Rebecca, welcome.

[00:43:46] Re: Hi, everyone.

[00:43:47] RS: Would you share your title and your company?

[00:43:49] Re: I’m senior recruiter for Simons Foundation. We do basic science and math research. Actually, my company is back in the office four days. I’m just curious your perspective on how companies will maintain their culture if everybody’s remote and dispersed? How do you feel like companies will do best in sort of doing that? Do you feel like the future of work is completely changed for good forever? Do you think that you see companies just remote and hybrid forever or is this just temporary?

[00:44:17] SV: It’s a million-dollar question. I have my leadership staff meeting today. I have two of my leaders here in the room with me. At the end of the staff meeting, I asked them a question. The question was, I said, I wanted everyone to share their thoughts on how do we as we continue to onboard recruiters, like now I’m just being selfish here and talking about the TA team. As we continue to onboard remote employees who sell, and pitch our company in jobs who are responsible for bringing in the best talent to this organization that are fully remote in Iowa or Brooklyn, right? How do we get them to understand our culture? Not only the TA culture, but the company culture, the business culture, the HR culture. How do we hire people who do our talent branding who have no idea what the 30-rock building looks like and would never step foot? It’s a big question. Look, I think we’re all trying to navigate it. We came up with some creative ideas, but it’s going to cost money, right? Do we fly people land? Do we have an offsite? Do we do virtual events? Do we create videos and send it to everyone?

We have a really good onboarding program for TA because we have a very structured operations scene, which is solid, but we have to be inclusive. The future of work is changing, and we are in the change and we need to figure out what that looks like. The great thing is that we can build it, right? We’re a super creative company, so I’m excited about that, but we just had our chief talent officer fly out to LA for meeting. We thought it was great if she met with the recruiters, but we have a whole bunch of recruiters out on the West Coast that are remote. Someone said to me, what do we do with our remote recruiters and I was like, “Oh, shit! Because we can’t fly everyone in for a cup of coffee with our chief talent officer. We don’t have money for that. Right?”

We did a Team’s video, but we made sure that we gave them time and we gave them air time to ask questions, and she was very engaging with them. That is going to be the way we work. What I will say is, when I started at NBC Universal, we were always very global. We always had a leader in the UK, and we always had people in LA. So for us, we were always virtual. There was never a point where 100 percent of my team was in the same office. For us, we’re very adaptable. We’re pretty used to it.

[00:46:33] RS: If you have offices in two locations, you already have a remote culture, right? That’s not new.

[00:46:37] SV: Yeah.

[00:46:38] VV: I would add. I think that offsites are going to become pivotal. I think that companies are going to give up commercial real estate, and they’re going to spend that money on off sites. I believe it will become important and they’ll kind of share the culture and offsites are usually kind of boondoggles anyway, so you know, you can share your best self.

[00:46:56] RS: There you have it. Well, folks, we are creeping up on optimal podcast length, as well as the end of the time we’ve booked on the stage. We are going to wind down here. Please stick around though. I think we still have some cocktails to sling. We have also a minimum to hit. So if you want me to keep my job, you need to get drunk on Hired tonight. It’s the only way, I’m begging you. Subscribing will not do it. You should do that too, though. But anyway, thank you all for coming out. It’s been a blast, doing this for you and meeting all of you. Suzan Vulaj has been Suzan Vulaj. Valerie Vadala has been Valeri Vadala. I’ve been Rob Stevenson and you’ve all been amazing, wonderful, talent-acquiring darlings. Have a spectacular night and happy hunting.

[00:47:32] VV: Thank you.


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