In today’s episode of Talk Talent to Me, we are joined by Maria Molin, Head of People at Mavenoid. Maria breaks down her history in recruitment and how her interest in AI learning led her to join Mavenoid. We delve into Mavenoid’s ambitious growth targets, how that has affected employer branding, and unpack some of the methods that Mavenoid has been using to drive hiring outcomes. Maria discusses some of the exciting things that Mavenoid has been doing to foster connection between colleagues during remote work and how they are supporting their hybrid working needs. Hear about Mavenoid’s Unlimited Books policy as well as other ways that they are facilitating skills growth for their employees. Later we take a look at Mavenoid’s approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and some of the steps they’re taking to increase representation, including partnering with Pink Programming to recruit women in STEM.
[00:00:05] RS: Welcome to Talk Talent To Me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines with 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.
[00:00:29] SPEAKER 2: Once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity 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.
[00:01:00] RS: Joining me today on this installment of Talk Talent To Me, Mavenoid’s Head of People, Maria Molin. Maria, welcome to the podcast. How are you this morning?
[00:01:08] MM: I’m good. Thank you. How are you?
[00:01:10] RS: I am great. I am in a hotel room in a blanket fort. It’s a poorly known secret. It’s a little secret among us podcasters that you can get just as good sound quality in a blanket fort as you can in a really expensive studio. So, I’m just making do with what I’ve got here. I’m really glad to have you on. Where are you broadcasting in from?
[00:01:29] MM: I’m broadcasting from Barcelona today. I’m taking advantage of our remote first policy, so usually I’m based in Stockholm, but I’ve been working for a few weeks from Italy and Sicily actually, and right now in Barcelona.
[00:01:42] RS: Wow, that’s sure beats where I’m working from, which is Jacksonville Beach, Florida. You didn’t have to flex on me that hard. But you did. How’s Barcelona been? Are you going to museums? What are you getting up to over there?
[00:01:53] MM: Yeah, it’s really amazing. So, kind of finishing up my work day, and then we just go out and explore the city. We went past La Sagrada Familia yesterday. We went to [inaudible 00:02:06] and it’s really amazing. It’s like you finish your work day and then you’re on vacation essentially. So, it’s really great. The weather is a lot better here than in Sweden. So that’s really great.
[00:02:17] RS: Yeah, definitely. I’m excited for this to be a new reality of remote work. Obviously, while we were all remote, no one was going to Barcelona on holiday during the peak of the pandemic, but now it’s like, okay, well, can you just like, take your vacation without taking days off? Alright, I’m just going to work from like you’re doing right now and then end my day a little early, and then be in sunny Spain. It’s wonderful.
[00:02:42] MM: Yeah, it’s great. We actually have someone, for example, working from South Africa for a few months, just working remotely. He’s also based in Sweden. So, more and more just taking advantage of that and we highly encourage, it’s just an amazing experience.
[00:02:55] RS: I love it. So wonderful. Well, I’ve been to Barcelona one time, and I simply adored the whole city. I can’t wait to go back. So, I’m very, very jealous of you. I could sit here and talk to you about Barcelona for the next 35 minutes. But I think at some point we’re supposed to talk about recruitment. The podcast is called Talk Talent To Me, after all. Unfortunately, it’s not called talk Barcelona to me. But maybe we can start to spin-off show.
[00:03:16] MM: I love that.
[00:03:16] RS: I would love to know, Maria, just a little bit about your background. Could you kind of tell me about your career in the people space and then how you wound up at Mavenoid?
[00:03:24] MM: Yeah, absolutely. So, as I mentioned, usually I’m based in Sweden. I’m from there. But I actually started off my career in London as a recruitment consultant and wanted to try something new, be outside of Sweden. So, I got the opportunity to recruit data scientists, data engineers for recruitment consultancy. Having studied economics, and really liking the behavioral part of that, I was super interested.
I jumped on that opportunity. I spent a year recruiting data scientists, I think in the UK. And then moving over to the Scandinavian part, and recruiting everything from software engineers, product managers, still some data scientists, data engineers, for Scandinavian companies. After about two years, I realized what I liked the most was really connecting with the candidates. I felt like I learned so much from speaking to new people every day, and also really working with the hiring managers and understanding what it is that they want, what can make the company thrive.
I also really missed when I kind of got a candidate a role, and then I didn’t get to see them, like, have an impact on the company. So, I really wanted that. That’s when I realized I wanted to go in-house. Having a real fascination for AI and machine learning in particular, it was really important for me to move to a company that focused on that. So, I got my first in house recruiter role for a startup in the fraud detection space.
So, I was their first internal recruiter, so that was a really amazing opportunity to be able to take that on and build up their recruitment. And a few months in, I got the opportunity to step up as a people ops manager there. So, I really jumped on it. After that, I started doing not just recruitment, but everything people related, like play engagement and those kinds of things, too.
I was with them for almost two years before I essentially started missing Sweden too much and being closer to my family. That’s where we decided that we were looking to go back to Sweden, and again, super important for me to go to a company that was in the AI ML space, because I just love being able to be passionate, like passionate about the product that I’m selling. You can just recruit a lot better if you’re passionate about the company and the product.
I wanted to go into a little bit of a smaller company at the time, something that was earlier rather like, series A was ideal for me. So, I researched a few companies and Mavenoid one of three companies that I found that I thought looked really interesting. I was really impressed by the product. I was impressed by both Shahan and Gintautas in what they’ve done. So, yeah, I reached out to Shahan and kind of like here I am after about 13 months. So yeah.
[00:06:10] RS: Got it. Thanks for sharing that kind of context. So, you have had a handful of roles across the talent space, head of people now. Are you still getting to scratch that itch for filling roles and hiring candidates? Are you one of those head of peoples that has like three jobs rolled into one? What’s your role like now?
[00:06:29] MM: Yeah, for sure. I have my hand in all the cookie jars. And when it comes to people in recruitment, I would say that about somewhere between 50% and 80%, depending on the need we have for hiring, I focused on recruitment. So right now, I would say it’s really in the upper limit, more like around like 75%, 80%, just because we’re looking to double in size as a company, and in the next like 9 to 12 months. We’re looking for some really amazing people to come on board on this journey that we’re on. Trying to find everything from amazing account execs, to amazing machine learning engineers. So, I get to really experience a lot of that, doing everything from the recruitments to doing the culture. Our company gatherings that we’re doing as well.
[00:07:16] RS: Got you. So, you have all these different roles, you’re trying to fill, doubling the company over the next nine months to a year, what would you say are some of the campaigns that are driving those hiring outcomes? In addition to obviously the hard work of sourcing, interviewing and all that, are you doing other things to try and kind of pour fuel on the fire there?
[00:07:35] MM: Yeah, for sure. We are focusing a lot more on our employee branding efforts. So, we’re trying to showcase our culture in social media channels. We’ve got a really amazing marketing team that are helping us out. So, we’re posting a lot on LinkedIn, a lot on Instagram. We have something called Meet Mavenoid, which garnered some really good responses on social media, which is essentially us broadcasting the new hires that we have, what made them excited to join Mavenoid, which is always super exciting for us to hear. Even though we hire a lot of new people, I get so happy every time I read what made someone join Mavenoid.
We also have our employee spotlight, which is once a month, we highlight someone that usually has their like, one-year, two-year anniversary with us in what they’re doing. We also showcase our activities. So, we had an active activity. We had like a step competition together, got into groups with different people from different locations, from different teams, and you kind of got to join a challenge together. So, a showcase of that. I had some amazing responses to LinkedIn, people have been like quoting that in our interview processes. So yeah, really showcasing all the great things that we have here at Mavenoid.
[00:08:53] RS: Yeah, it’s tricky to do all that employer branding, while teams are distributed. Maybe you can’t be in person as much. How are you kind of getting around that problem?
[00:09:02] MM: Yeah, for sure. It’s something that we’re conscious of, and essentially thinking of every day, and we’re doing a lot of activity, so a lot of like online remote activities. We are doing, for example, something called like roulette lunches. Attempt to try and do them like once a month or so, which is that you get into a team, like it’s randomized, or into a group, and people from different teams and you have essentially like a lunch or dinner. For some people in different geographical locations, it’s breakfast, and you are four to five people, you just like, eat together, you hang out 45 minutes, you can talk about absolutely everything. It can be about fun TV shows, what you did yesterday, where you’re working remotely from, and you get to talk to people that you don’t usually talk to.
So really getting to know people even though you’re not in the same office is really a big thing for us. And we’re also going to start having a company gatherings every six months, which is we’re going to pick a location in the world, and everyone gets flown in. We get to spend five days together, both doing team activities, cross team activities. We’re having talks by anyone who would want to ask a really interesting idea discussion. And then of course, like a lot of fun activities to do, any outside activities, tennis, whatever it can be to really make sure that you bond with people outside of the team, and you work a lot better if you met someone, you talk to someone a lot more.
[00:10:34] RS: Yeah, those are great examples. It’s got to be hard, though with like the remote thing where it’s like you kind of get dropped into a Zoom call with a person and you kind of you small talk or you get to know each other. But that was happening in offices everywhere, right? The goal is obviously to recreate that, and to someone who is like, “I don’t want to do that.” Well, that was part of being in an office. And guess what, now it’s part of your new remote responsibility, right? Part of your responsibility is going to be kind of contributing and participating in this culture, right? I assume that you would hire for that as like a value, when you’re selecting people like, okay, we want people who are going to enjoy that kind of opportunity, right?
[00:11:16] MM: For sure. So, there is not everyone that it fits to be remote first, but someone might want to see their colleagues every day. I would say that I also miss sometimes seeing my colleagues more often. But we try to make it as smooth as possible to see people even if it’s just over Zoom. We also have the opportunity to just if you want to see someone on the team, you want more of a get together more often, then you’re free to kind of fly over and meet someone. It could be that we have people who are based in France, for example, the rest of the team is based in Stockholm. They’re more than welcome to just fly over for a few days and be with the team here.
So, we’re really flexible in making it work and being as flexible for as many people as possible, and I think that that’s really the key to being remote first, that you need to listen to what the people in the company really wants and what they need to be most comfortable in their role and being as productive as efficient as possible.
[00:12:17] RS: Yeah, I think you’re right. Have you done like surveys? Or how are you kind of taking the temperature of how to give people what they need while they’re working remote?
[00:12:26] MM: Yeah, for sure. So, we are taking surveys or doing surveys every six months. And those are engagement surveys, so it’s everything about the company culture, how we are as leaders in the company. But a big part of it is also buffer mode first. And that’s not just about how often do you want to see your colleagues? But how do we do with our communication? Can we be more clear? Can we work more on our asynchronous communication, for example?
Based on the feedback that we get, then we try to make reasonable adjustments. If there’s something that we can showcase more, we can be better with our documentation. The CEO can be more clear in the in the weekly all hands. We do a lot of things to really respond to that. We are also doing surveys when it comes to offices, for example. We have had some requests to have an office in New York. So, that’s something that we’re aiming to do in a few months’ time, obviously. It’s a little bit trickier in New York with the COVID situation. But as soon as we can, then we want to open one up and that is purely based on the feedback that we’ve had from people on the east coast. And they say we want to get together more often and now we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.
[00:13:36] RS: Got you. I’m curious a little bit about kind of nitty gritty of your day to day, Maria, because in his Head of People role, you are designing these employer branding campaigns, you’re serving the employee base, you are designing these remote work policies, et cetera, et cetera, and doubling the company, making all these hires. So, I’m curious how does she do it? That’s my question. How do you manage to prioritize with the rest of the business because they want to hire speed, but they also want people to have clarity into the reality of their remote life? How are you sort of ordering this stuff so that you can kind of deliver from the business and across all these things are asking of you?
[00:14:18] MM: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great question and it’s something that we focus a lot on the prioritization. There’s so much that we want to do all the time. I would say, me and my colleague, my people ops partner on the team, we’re constantly in communication together on what needs the priority or what is the highest priority for the company? What has the biggest impact? But also communicating with the CEO, with the CTO, with all the hiring managers in the company, and realizing what would have the biggest impact for them, is getting this other person, like another person on the team. Is it helping up with something else? Is it getting that office?
So, listening to the business. Surveys are great, but we really want to keep the conversations going every day. Right now, what we really need is getting people in. So that is our biggest focus and then we prioritize based on, is it sales people we need to get in? Is it more people on the people operations team? Is it engineers? It’s just the communication with the hiring managers, having catchups with them every week, and that’s essentially how we set the recruitment priorities.
When it comes to things outside of recruitment, such as remote work, communication, et cetera, we just listen to the people in the company, and what is it that they would need that we can do better? One of the responses that we had regarding their engagement survey was that people wanted to focus more on learning and development. So, we built out our policy on that and we’ve given people a few days to take off every year to focus on learning and development, and to really grow in their role, keeping challenged. So, that’s something that we realized needs to be a big priority and we made it a big priority.
[00:16:04] RS: So, having a few days a year, is that intended to like, you can go to a trade show, or you can take like online classes? What are you kind of intending there?
[00:16:11] MM: Essentially, whatever the person wants. So, we have also an unlimited books policy, which a lot of us love. So, essentially, if you buy a pile of books, and he wants to take three days off to just like be in your hammock and read your book, you can do that. If you want to take a course on like people analytics, recruitment statistics, that’s something I obviously love. I would want to do more of that. But then you can take your base for that. So, it’s really designing it based on what you would benefit from in your role, and then going with that. So yeah, a big part is like flexibility and focusing on what you would like to learn.
[00:16:51] RS: Got it. Is that for like any book? Does it have to be professional related? Or can like, I expense my copy of Daisy Jones and The Six?
[00:17:00] MM: I would say maybe not Daisy Jones and The Six, but we are again, very open. It can be a psychology book, because, for example, in the people operations, like we need to understand how people work. So, that’s essentially related to it. If I want to buy a coding book, even though I don’t code on a daily basis, it’s like machine learning for dummies, then essentially, I could get that.
[00:17:25] RS: Got it. So, it has to be tangentially related to this skill you’re trying to improve. But hey, maybe reading the pros in Daisy Jones and The Six is going to make me a better copywriter, and then my emails will just make people weep with joy, because of the beautiful word selection. I don’t know. But that is really cool that you’re kind of investing in people that way and sort of letting them choose their own adventure. So, with the L&D, with getting the few days off, are there also stipends to be like, “Hey, you can go to this conference”, or like in addition to the book stipend?
[00:17:56] MM: Yeah, for sure. I would say we have a very generous stipend. We have 2,400 every year that you can spend on conferences, online courses. If there are actual courses you want to take, physical courses as well, you just work with your lead and essentially what it is that you would want. But yeah, it’s more driven by the person itself and they just come and say essentially, “Hey, this is what I think would benefit me and this is what would make me have an even bigger impact on the company.” We’ve actually never said no to someone that has asked this question. So maybe people haven’t pushed enough, but it’s essentially down to the person and what they would like.
[00:18:35] RS: Got you. So, you mentioned the psychology textbook and maybe like a recruiting statistics course, what are some ways for you, Maria, as a head of people. What are some ways that you would like go about your own personality?
[00:18:48] MM: Yeah, I learned so much from speaking to other people in the business. I have a few people who are more experienced than I am. They’ve gone through like a longer journey within the people operation space and I tried to just learn from them and be a sponge. There are a few people that just recently, like I have catch up calls with, and I see what works with them in their company, what has not worked, and then just trying to see like everything from employee engagement to the remote work. What is it that’s really been successful and then try to see how can we adapt that would that work for us as a company?
So, that’s one of the most important things for me. I am also a big books lover, I must admit. I take on like the unlimited books policy to heart and I bought a lot of books. I am also a new user of something called Blinkist which is like you get like key insights from books. I spend maybe an hour on that every day, and then I see the key insights and then the ones that absolutely love, I go out and buy the book from that.
Most recently, like work rules from less low block. He had some amazing insights. So, I immediately got out, went out and got that book, for example. And then for me, take some courses. I’m taking some courses now in people analytics, both on the recruitment side, but also to be able to better make use of our engagement surveys, for example. So, I say I’m quite mixing. I’m trying to be like a sponge and be like, I can always learn. Continuous learning is really, really key for me. And then also learning from the people around me. I tend to go to – well, the marketing team, I always ask them, like, read through what everything, how can I be better than next time? If it’s a new role that we have, for example, like a DevOps role, then I go out to people who are doing DevOps, and I’d be like, “Please tell me, what you use? Why you use it for?” And then I learned something new. So, I think learning every day is really key.
[00:20:53] RS: Yeah, definitely. I love the example of Blinkist, because that’s kind of how I try and take insights away from books like I read them, and I’m writing things down. And then it’s like way later, I go back to my notes about it. I could just as easily go back to someone else’s notes about it, right?
[00:21:08] MM: Yeah, for sure. They have like a highlights feature as well. So, it’s really great being able to go back and be like, “Oh, what was that again?” I also Google a lot about it. If I see something that’s really great, then I go on Google about it and I’ve learned that way, too.
[00:21:24] RS: Yeah, of course. Well, I want to get into the the – what’s probably like the third job you have as head of people, which it sounds like you’re doing a good amount of ideating, and work around representation in your company and your DE&I efforts. So, could you maybe share a little bit about how you are approaching this need and desire to make Mavenoid look more representative?
[00:21:48] MM: Yeah, absolutely. I think that as all other tech startups, this is a big focus for us. Something that we have implemented that we are really strict on is that in the interview process, at least one female interviewer no matter what role it is, and likewise, at least one male interviewer. So that’s something that we have across all the roles that we have throughout the whole recruitment process, it needs to be at least one of each. We’re also trying to connect with more communities. We talked to, for example, women in sales, to get more females in on the sales side. We’re also connecting with more female coding schools, to reach out to women. There are a lot of women studying STEM right now and I think it’s an amazing opportunity to connect with women and get them into the industry. I would say also, being an international company, we’ve really tried to celebrate all our international employees and their unique perspective and cultures.
[00:22:48] RS: Yes. I love that. Would you share a little bit about some of the third parties that you mentioned?
[00:22:53] MM: Yeah. So we are, for example, talking right now with Pink Programming, which is a coding school in Sweden for women. It’s both for women who are in university, they’re studying Stem, they want to learn more about coding. But also, women that have been in STEM roles, essentially, like a developer role that might want to start coding in another language. If they’ve coded in Java before, they want to go into coding into Python or another language, then they learn there as well. So yeah, it’s really connecting with that community.
[00:23:28] RS: Got it. And then how are you kind of measuring, holding yourself in a whole company accountable to DE&I goals?
[00:23:35] MM: Yeah. So, we are looking both as a company, as a whole, looking at percentage of the company, but also in the leadership team. I would say we’re really proud or I’m really proud as well to be in a company with a leadership team that’s 50% women. That is really amazing. The percentage of women in the company has grown a lot, and I would say also working remotely, it’s a great opportunity to bring in people from different backgrounds, and that is something that we’re really aiming for in all the roles that we’re recruiting for.
[00:24:08] RS: Got it. Well Maria, this has been really great chatting with you. We are creeping up on optimal podcast length here, so I unfortunately have to let you go. But I would just say thank you so much for being a part of the podcast and sharing all this insight. I really love learning from you today.
[00:24:21] MM: Okay, thanks so much, Rob, for having me.
[00:24:23] RS: Yup, definitely. You were a great.
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