April Venables

Moderna VP of TA April Venables

April VenablesVP of Talent Acquisition

Historically, talent acquisition and recruiting have relied heavily on networking, but how has the influence of technology, AI tools, and systems changed the role? Today I sit down and talk to the Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Moderna, April Venables. Her career has focused exclusively on talent acquisition and recruiting, which includes building and leading global recruiting teams, employer brand work, executive search and process, and program excellence. We talk about the recruiter of today and how both the role and required skillset have changed over the course of her career. April also tells us about different AI tools they implement to help the recruiting process and we chat about hiring; values-based versus skillset-based, and what makes for a bad (or good) hire.

Episode Transcript

Rob Stevenson 0:05
Welcome to top talent to me, a podcast featuring the most elite talent leaders on the front lines of modern recruitment. 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 fail. No holds barred completely off the cuff interviews with directors of recruitment to VPs of global talent CHR OHS and everyone in between once I went through the classes and the trainings and got the certifications through diversity inclusion, I still felt like something was missing. 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. I’m your host, Rob Stevenson. And you’re about to hear the best in the biz. talk down to me.

Rob Stevenson 0:59
Here with me today on top talent to me is the vice president of talent acquisition at Maderna. April Eldridge, April, welcome to the podcast. How the heck are you today?

April Eldred 1:09
I’m doing great, Rob. Thanks for having me.

Rob Stevenson 1:12
Yeah, it’s a pleasure and kind of an honor, I have to say, and can I just say on behalf of all mankind, thank you for whatever role you played in literally saving all of our lives. In the last two years, modernity at this moment is coursing through my veins. And it’s, it’s allowed me to continue my life and emerge from the pandemic in this way. So so thank you for all that you’ve done. April.

April Eldred 1:32
Yeah, I’m just happy to be part of it.

Rob Stevenson 1:33
So humbled to, in addition to your humility, we were just speaking, before we hit the record button about our hatred for email, and how your email is out of control. I, I declared email bankruptcy like once a year, what is it about that? Like? How do you get away with with not being reachable by email?

April Eldred 1:55
Oh, my gosh, well, that’s a good strategy. I like email bankruptcy. And I think anyone who is a slave to getting to zero emails in their inbox, probably becomes beholden to their inbox, you know, throughout the day. So you have to train people, right? People know that emails, not the best way to get me I hate to say it, but I’m a team’s girl. I’m a text girl, or an in person, girl. So email is my nemesis. These days. I think I said to you earlier, I have 5300 emails in my inbox. So for the Type A folks on the on the on the podcast, it’ll probably stress them out.

Rob Stevenson 2:32
But yeah, their eyes are just twitching hearing.

April Eldred 2:35
Exactly. Sorry about that. I did inbox zero for a time in my career.

Rob Stevenson 2:40
And I was so proud of it. I was like, Oh, God, no, send that last email to archive I got so good at using email shortcuts are like inbox shortcuts. And here’s the problem, though, when you are really, really good at sending emails. Sending an email is like hitting a ping pong ball. Like, it’s going to come back probably right. You never just done sending an email at best the person says, Okay, thanks, done. And then that’s one more email that you still have to action. So the better you are at managing your email, the more email you will have to manage.

April Eldred 3:10
Sounds awful.

Rob Stevenson 3:12
Can you imagine the worst?

April Eldred 3:13
No, no, absolutely not? Absolutely not.

Rob Stevenson 3:17
Yeah, and I’m of the persuasion that I, if something is important enough, I will be emailed about it again, or I will be slapped about it again. So I try and stay up on things, especially when I’m scheduling with people and and you know, making meetings and recordings and that kind of thing. But a lot of things. I’m just like, we’ll see how I’m one of 11 people on this email thread. We’ll see how important my involvement actually is. Right.

April Eldred 3:39
I think we have more valuable things to do with our time. Right? They’ll find us if it’s important.

Rob Stevenson 3:43
Exactly. Such as record podcasts.

April Eldred 3:46
Exactly. Much more fun.

Rob Stevenson 3:47
Yeah. So April, I would love to just learn a little bit about your background, how you wound up at Moderna. I think most people at this point know who the company is. So I would love to know a little bit about your journey and how you wound up there.

April Eldred 3:59
Yeah, sure. So it’s really interesting. So I’ve I’ve been with Moderna now for almost five and a half years. So of course, when I joined the company, it was not a known name. In fact, it had just come out of kind of stealth mode, if you will, was privately held at the time. And my journey early on in my career in talent acquisition was in biotech, it was biotech, it was medical device and had had started over 20 years ago, which we won’t talk about in the biotech and med device space. You know, really, as a recruiter, I took a really traditional route into recruiting coming out of agency, but specializing in biotech on my agency days so so that journey into ta really was steeped in health care. But then over the years, I went into other industries, right, I checked out consumer products, I checked out Tech, I checked out consumer goods, you name it. But what I realized is talent acquisition really is one of those skills that you can transfer and industry. And where I got my payoff where I got my reward was really being back in that biotech space, knowing that I was helping patients, maybe not directly. But having that impact by bringing in the people that could potentially cure cancer or radically change the course of a pandemic. So my journey to Moderna was really, you know, an intention to return to my roots in biotech, I had been working for a CPG company out in Los Angeles and got the call about Moderna. And, you know, said to my husband, I was like, sorry, Honey, we’re moving back east, because this is a job, I got to get Moderna at the time, while not known was brand new science, right? I mean, MRA people, to this day, are still learning what mRNA is. So you can imagine in 2017, to have this value proposition of building a company based on a whole new science, and to come into a company that was pre commercial, which I had never done before. So it’s really fun coming into a company that, you know, was on, I think we were on series H funding or something at the, at the time, but to really build something that we didn’t know if it was gonna work, it was super high, high risk. So it was a fun challenge for me professionally, and personally, and I’m pretty proud that I’m still here.

Rob Stevenson 6:16
You know, coming from Silicon Valley, where I sort of cut my teeth, series h would be a huge red flag. If I was going to join a company, I’d be like, Okay, if you’re raising your series H round, you’re probably not going to make it right. But that’s obviously that’s a very narrow minded view of it. When you learn that they were late stage of funding, what made you still think that it was a huge opportunity?

April Eldred 6:38
Yeah, I mean, just because I’ve been in TA for most of my career, doesn’t mean I want to rest on my laurels, right. And so I had seen myself, you know, go through different industries, rise up through the ranks, build teams, rebuild teams. And for me, the value proposition of coming into an organization at the time that didn’t have a formal ta organization and actually starting from scratch, to build something that didn’t exist was so cool to me. Right. So I was also at a point in my career where I felt like I could take a risk. And and I wanted to kind of scare myself a little bit. So yeah, it was it was kind of like that virtual jumping off of a cliff and seeing if it works, you know, it’s hoping the parachute opens up.

Rob Stevenson 7:23
Yeah. When something scares you a little bit, that usually means it’s outside your comfort zone, which usually means it’s a great thing to do, it usually means you’ll grow if you pursue it. So I commend you for taking that leap.

April Eldred 7:34
I can’t remember the last time I was in my comfort zone.

Rob Stevenson 7:37
That’s good. There’s this great quote, you know, the NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, she has this great quote that I’m going to bundle now. But she said something like, you have to find that point in the turn, where you’re right on the verge of spinning out, because that’s where the fast set. So I have to use that can steal it from me and Danica. Yeah, I mean, I would urge folks out there in your career, like find out where the fast set for you and you will, you will hopefully grow and change. So thanks for sharing that April. And I wanted to ask you to just because you, you’ve really like your career starting out as a recruiter now as VP, when you think back to your time as an individual contributor, now you oversee a team of individual contributors, how do you think the job has changed? If you take out like some of the tooling and technology, not obvious stuff? How is the role of a recruiter changed just in your career?

April Eldred 8:30
Man, the role of a recruiter has changed so much, where do I begin? I think there’s a couple of things right. You know, we live in an age now where the work we do is informed and fueled by technology, right? So I think the recruiter of today, right, needs to be incredibly savvy with technology and have truly outstanding analytical skills, right from, you know, doing heat mapping and leveraging talent intelligence, to telling stories with data, right? And reporting. Those are skills that were not necessarily important, you know, 1520 years ago. And so I remember when I first started recruiting, it was all about networking. Could you network, Could you could you kind of ferret out the right talent, you know, were you a good hunter of talent. And I will admit, that wasn’t a day and age before LinkedIn. So I did have a Rolodex with paper clips and little hash marks on the cards on who was good and who wasn’t. So there was a fearlessness to recruiting where you just had to pick up the phone. You know, there was no video conferencing, you picked up the phone, and you just started calling people and having conversations. That is an amazing training ground, but it’s not necessarily the skill set that makes a recruiter successful today. I think along the way, things like Employer Branding, understanding the value proposition business acumen, you know, understanding how your business truly works, how a product gets to market, understand And the behaviors that align with your values, you know, within your company are all really important things. So it’s been an evolution. But the things that I think about today are really more around technology, storytelling, data, telling, really telling that story, leveraging the information you have available to you, not just hustling, hustling is kind of table stakes these days, I think for a great recruiter,

Rob Stevenson 10:23
it sounds like it’s become a lot more multidisciplinary. Over the years.

April Eldred 10:24
It is I mean, if you think about, you know, the role in talent acquisition, sometimes I’m the HR business partner in a conversation, sometimes I’m the coach, sometimes I am the shoulder to cry on. Unfortunately, when someone’s not getting the role. I think, though, the credibility that ta brings to the table within an organization has has risen over the years. And given the fact that we are in a negative labor market, people are looking to talent acquisition to solve a lot of problems, which means the you know, there’s a need to be more strategic, and how we think about recruiting in general, knowing that it’s not about just, you know, finding a person finding a job and putting them together. It is much bigger than that. And it’s much more of a long term play than just filling jobs.

Rob Stevenson 11:13
Yeah, of course. So I really want to know a little bit about just your journey at Moderna. Specifically, you joined in 2017. And then I’m sure everything changed once, like the research began on the vaccine, right? Can you just tell us a little bit about what that experience was like, and how it affected the Talent Team?

April Eldred 11:35
Yeah, so it’s really, I mean, the journey has always been kind of high growth, if you will. But there was obviously the inflection point in early 2020. And I wrote, I remember, specifically, in January of 2020, when we were all watching the news, we could kind of see these things happening around the world. And our CEO had just come back from from JP Morgan, and, you know, he was all fired up. And he said, This is real, this is happening. And I and, and we can do this, like, we actually have an opportunity to lean in here. And you have to keep in mind that we were at the time, less than 1000 employees with no commercial product, we had no intention of being a commercial company for years for at least five years, right, then we were very much still in startup mode. And then the CEO comes and says we could do this, we could solve for this pandemic. So there was this, I think, I don’t know if it’s excitement, or fear, or what have you. But this collective shock to everyone in the company that oh, my gosh, we’re going to do something really, really scary. And really, really fun. And hopefully, really, really successful. So it was kind of this locking of arms of everyone in the company to say, hey, like, we’re going to do this. And, you know, we develop the vaccine in 42 days, which was amazing. And we said, oh, my gosh, well, we did that. So what’s next? And so we could see, we never thought we would do it right? And then you could see, okay, now we’re going to build a commercial organization. Okay, let’s do it. And so you saw these incremental winds start to snowball, where it feels like overnight, we went from one office and Cambridge, Massachusetts, to me now we’re over 4000 employees in over 20 countries, right? That didn’t happen overnight, but it feels like it because of the pace at which we were working. And, you know, I’ll admit working through COVID was a bit of a blur at Moderna. Because we were all just so laser focused on delivering a vaccine. So it was a really interesting challenge.

Rob Stevenson 13:38
I can’t believe that timeline 42 days to develop the vaccine 42 days into lockdown. I don’t think I’d even baked sourdough bread yet.

April Eldred 13:45
But your starter was that you’re still working on your starter.

Rob Stevenson 13:49
I was still feeding the starter. i So is that just reflect? Like, obviously, he was like mid 2021. By the time we were getting these shots? Is that just reflective of how long it takes the FDA to approve this stuff? And how like testing, et cetera, et cetera.

April Eldred 14:02
Exactly. So the first available vaccine was in December of 2020. So if you think about kind of March to December, you have the development, but then you have to make sure things are safe. You have to go through trials. And obviously clinical trials for a COVID vaccine had to be shortened right in order to meet the needs of the pandemic. And and that’s why you get emergency use authorization. But it was really tense moments watching verpackt on the FDA and watching watching the video of them talk about the data, seeing our executives at the table with them and just waiting for that moment to hear a yes that this could proceed and it was a really amazing moment. I mean, we were ready. We were already manufacturing because you have to in order to get the vaccine out quickly once that approval happens. So it felt like that was the you know the icing on the cake really to get that final nod at the end of 2020

Rob Stevenson 14:57
When your CEO comes to The table and said like kind of draws a line in the sand and says we’re going to do this, this is going to happen. It feels like one of those moments where all the other executives were looked at each other, like, who’s going to make this happen? Like, how is this possible? Like, it’s easy to, you know, say something ambitious and visionary, but executing. It’s a very different story. I’m always reminded of how in like 1960, JFK said, we will go to the moon in the next 10 years. And all of the scientists were like, What are you talking about? Like, we’re going to invent rocket travel, basically. But they did. They got it done. Just a fantastic combination of bombs and math landed us on the moon. So that moment there where it’s like, Okay, we have this awesome visionary. We have this huge assignment now. How did that start getting broken down into practical things? And then how did it turn into like a hiring plan? I guess for you?

April Eldred 15:50
Yeah, sure. I mean, I wish I could say it was like this well laid out plan, right. And then we just said, well, we’ll do this. And we’ll do this. And we’ll do that. And then we’ll have a vaccine. It wasn’t that linear, right. But what I can tell you is not just the CEO, saying we’re going to do this, right. I mean, we have a we have a really talented executive team at Moderna. And I think what you need to know about Maderna culturally, is it’s a team of optimists, right? So, again, before COVID, people didn’t know what MRnA was, we were trying to prove to the world that there was this new form of science, this new form of medicine that we could bring, that would disrupt biotech, it would disrupt healthcare, and it would change things. Right. So we’ve always believed that. So when we saw a challenge, like, like, COVID, it was like, Heck, yeah, like, let’s do it, you know, and, and we had done some some prior research with SARS and some other some other infectious diseases that really gave us that unique advantage, we felt the unique advantage to to pursue a COVID vaccine. So So we already had that kind of optimism and hopefulness that we could we could deliver on something that would help. But again, we weren’t a commercial organization by any stretch. And in fact, we had just barely started building out our clinical organization in a real way. So it was really if you kind of think of that image of building train tracks in front of the train as it comes down, is really how we approached it. And it was everyday huddles, what do we do next? What do we need now. And it really required me and my team to have a different strategy, right, looking at external partners, looking at new ways of recruiting that we just hadn’t explored before, just given the volume. And having to sacrifice a little bit on process where we had a pretty buttoned up process. Previously, we started fast tracking. But we were lucky that we had implemented some AI tools before, before the pandemic that we were able to leverage to really help accelerate candidate funnel and gets more people to the table, or at least get the right people to the table faster.

Rob Stevenson 17:57
What were some of those tools?

April Eldred 17:59
Yeah, so in 2008, it was the middle of summer 2019, we had implemented an AI based candidate assessment. And we used an external partner to develop this assessment that really took Mo’s values. Now, we talked about Moderna’s mindsets. But at the time we had, we still have majorities for values of bold, relentless, curious and collaborative. We had built an assessment that would actually assess candidates in a very engaging fun, 20 minute, you know, quick hit online assessment. But it would take that data and compare it to our high performers within the company. And we were fortunate enough to work with an IO psychologist that’s that took our high performers, and did an assessment on our high performers, looked at our values and the behaviors that aligned with our values and actually showed a correlation that high performers are more aligned with our values that are lower performers. So if we could prove a candidate was well aligned with the behaviors that aligned with our values, we could anecdotally say that they could potentially be a high performer. So we’d already put that in place. And we just went on hyperdrive. With that, right, we really made sure every single person we talked to took that assessment prior to speaking with anyone at Maderna. So that we had some insight on you know, before we even got on the phone with them or on video with them, that really helped shorten our assessment time, and gave us some confidence to move faster on people knowing that from a from a values perspective, they had the behaviors that aligned with our values. One of the things that we’ve been, I think, really good at at Madrona. Over the years I know we’ve been really good at over the years, is assessing skills, right? Like hard skills are pretty easy to assess, especially in the biotech space. You either have a skill or you don’t and you can ask some pretty good questions or you can do some sort of quick exercise with someone to assess those skills but That’s the easiest thing to to figure out. Well, we needed to understand like table stakes, we knew people had those skills, we needed to understand if people would thrive and the pace and intensity of Moderna’s culture. And that’s where that assessment really helped give us the confidence to make some quick hiring decisions. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a huge help for us in moving the process forward.

Rob Stevenson 20:23
It’s so interesting, I feel like I’m hearing this a couple places. I’ve heard this a few places. Now, this focus on values based assessment rather than technical skills based and of course, you have to have the technical skills to do the job. But that’s kind of table stakes. And like you say, either you have it or you don’t. And if they don’t, you could presumably teach someone some of that, right. But how do you teach someone to have a character that aligns with with the rest of the company and the needs of the rest of the company? So that’s really, really interesting. And when you reflect on why, why someone doesn’t work out, so you make a bad hire, and they are terminated? Or they leave after you know, like, within six months? Is it that they turned out that they like duped you and they actually couldn’t do the job? It’s like, oh, we thought they were a software engineer who knew Ruby? Turns out, they couldn’t write code at all. Usually, that’s not it. Usually, it’s something else. It’s like, motivation based or they just don’t get their work done. Or, or, like, I’m kind of guessing, though, right like is that your experience, that’s usually not a bad hire is usually not bad on account of a lack of technical ability.

April Eldred 21:31
100%, I couldn’t underscore that more. I mean, it is, I don’t even know if I could think of a recent example, where a hire who didn’t work out, didn’t work out because of their skill set. It really boils down to the pace at which we work. I mean, majority is a very different culture, you know, we say and it doesn’t, we say like, we’re not for everyone. We’re not everybody’s cup of tea. But I think that goes for most companies, right, there’s a lid for every pot, and you got to find find the environment where you thrive. I think because of our pace, people think they know what they’re coming into. But when they get inside, and they actually see how fast we move, and how quickly we pivot in the face of new data that can give some people whiplash, if someone’s coming out, especially during COVID, right, we had to hire people who had really good commercial experience, which means coming out of more established pharmaceutical companies, large biotech, more mature organizations, where processes are, are already defined, and the tech stack is already there. And roles and responsibilities are already mature and clearer. When you come into Moderna, you know, you’re, you’re building all of that while doing your day job. And when people say, Oh, I love a fast paced environment, that’s great. But when someone looks at you and says, Okay, go build a commercial org, and they’re like, Well, I don’t, I don’t know how to build that I can run it, but I don’t know how to build it. So it’s, it’s, it’s being able to better ferret out the folks that can build that can roll up their sleeves, you know, we talked about dynamic range a lot. It’s those folks that just want to lean in and figure it out, and don’t have a fear of getting it wrong the first time, or, you know, they don’t have an ego that they need to be right every time, we just need to kind of come together and build. Those are the those are the types of leaders and individual contributors that do really well at Moderna. So it’s it’s almost never a skill set.

Rob Stevenson 23:35
There’s a dot to Connect here to impostor syndrome. If you’re feeling impostor syndrome, rest, easy knowing that companies are generally pretty good at assessing your technical abilities. So if you got the job, you can do the job. And then if you lose the job, or you’re not performing at your job, it may not be because of your ability, it’s probably because of other things. That may not be your fault. Maybe you shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. It’s not a good organization for you, bad boss, etc, all these other reasons, but don’t think that you’re not good at your job just because, I don’t know. Maybe grasping threads hear a little bit, but it just feels like once we assume that companies are really good at making the technical assessment, then if you get past that, okay, just know that you’re good at your role. If it’s not a deficiency in technical ability that makes someone a bad hire. And it is more on values based. What would you say are the common reasons why someone is a bad hire?

April Eldred 24:35
It’s a good question. I think if I if I think about the key factors that play into someone not being a great, a great hire at Moderna. Again, they’re not a bad hire. Right? No, one’s a bad hire. It’s very rare. I think it’s just, you know, like I said, there’s a lid for every pot and people thrive in different environments and you want to come into an environment where you feel like you can be yourself. You can be off Benteke that you’re with your people, right? And that you see others around you that you can be friends with and have community with. And so so every company, every organization has a different flavor for us. You know, you need to believe that things that the science works, right, because we’ve always had to have that ethos that we’re proving, proving to the world that mRNA is a new is a new foundation for medicines. So that you have to have that you just have to have that optimism. But you also have to have like, the ambition and drive to like, not take no for an answer, right? That, that if you fail, it’s fine. Like it is psychologically safe to fail at Moderna, we fail all the time. So if you feel fine, just like learn from it and try something new. And depending on where you’re hiring from, people are not rewarded for making mistakes, let’s be honest, people have come from more safe organizations where where change is incremental, here changes so fast. So you need to put your neck on the line every time and it’s okay, when it doesn’t work. That’s just a very different philosophy than other organizations. So I think where we lose people, there’s two places where we lose people, it’s that unwillingness or that fear of taking a risk, and putting yourself out there and trying something different that you’ve never tried before. And then there’s that dynamic range piece, right? We we are a extremely flat organization at Moderna. Right? And, and if you’re in a in a cross functional meeting, level means nothing, right? Like it’s we’re almost level agnostic when we’re trying to solve a problem. And so if someone needs to feel important, if they need a big, fancy title, if they feel they need an empire of people to get stuff done, it’s probably not the right place. Because we all get our hands so dirty every day, just getting into a problem and getting to the guts of it, that there’s no ego around, you know, strategic work versus tactical work. I’m, you know, I dive up and down between strategy and tactics every single day. And I think that’s a common thread among our leaders, and our emerging leaders. And it’s very clear, when someone doesn’t have that. And those folks typically tend to opt out, if they don’t want to get their hands dirty, and just get in there.

Rob Stevenson 27:24
Could you share a little more about how the AI tool you mentioned, was able to make that assessment?

April Eldred 27:30
How the AI tool was able to make the assessment around dynamic range? Yes. Yeah, sure. So. So there’s a couple of ways and I listen, my disclaimer, am I an IO psychologist? 1,000%. Now, right, but but from a design perspective, we really looked at a couple of things. One is analytical skills. So the ability to translate concepts into something simple. So there were there were and I think still is part of the assessment that includes shapes and colors and matching, right, the ability to take one thing and match it to something else that might not be directly connected. So there’s, there’s this analytical assessment. But then there’s also that we proved out in the assessment, that multitasking, actually, if you’re really good multitasker, and we could debate multitasking as a skill. But if you can show an ability to do multiple things at once, one you’re iterative, to you’re able to prioritize. And three, you don’t have a fear of making mistakes. And so the multitasking piece, I found to be the most fascinating part of the assessment. And I do think it’s a direct correlation to sense of urgency to dynamic range to living through ambiguity, and quick decision making. So that was kind of an aha moment for me when we when we first went live with the assessment

Rob Stevenson 28:49
with multitasking, is it like can you walk and chew gum at the same time? Or is it like, more about your ability to juggle responsibilities?

April Eldred 28:59
I think it’s the former versus the latter. You know, they’re obviously when we, when we create an assessment, you you assess the behavior in different ways. So there’s, there are probably three or four different ways we assess multitasking in this particular assessment. But we want to show that folks are able to kind of keep the plates spinning on the on the sticks, if you will, and be okay with that. And that means you have to kind of be okay, not having all the information, right. You know, we talked about the 80% rule all the time, of course, not when it comes to safety or clinical data, things like that, which have to be precise, but but there is this ability to say yeah, directionally, we’re going the right way. Keep going and let’s make a call. So it’s a I wish I wasn’t IO psychologists. I could tell you all the science behind it, but it is. I do think that that one multitasking factor is probably the most predictive, that Maderna I probably should be called something else because I think the science shows that multitasking is a misnomer, but I do think the ability to juggle multiple things and to flex your brain simultaneously in different ways is important here.

Rob Stevenson 30:07
Yeah, organization prioritization, adaptability, shifting between different tasks that require different approaches all desirable things. What is an IO? Psychologist? I’ve not heard that. That acronym before.

April Eldred 30:19
Oh, industrial and organizational psychology. So when you think of any assessment that gets created, you’re going to have some PhD level mastermind behind the scenes, making sure that there’s no bias in the in the process, that it is sound science that you are creating, and that whatever algorithm you’re using is being created for good and not evil. So it’s a skill that I certainly don’t have.

Rob Stevenson 30:43
Got it. Got it. Yeah. Multitasking is an interesting one, I’m going to use myself as an example, which I realize is limited, but it’s my podcast, I’ll cry if I want to. I like multitasking is like the enemy of productivity for me, just because I feel like I’m being being I feel like I’m being productive, because I’m getting like working on a lots of different tasks, but I ended up doing 10 things 10% of the way. And instead of one thing, 100% of the way, is that just a personal organizational thing? Does that mean I’m a bad multitasker? Can you diagnose me here on the podcast? April?

April Eldred 31:16
Gosh, you don’t I don’t know if you want my diagnosis. But I can say, you know, it’s it’s less about, it’s less about doing 10 things at once. And I think about the course of my day, right? i It’s never linear, right? It’s always abstract. I start with, I start over here, I wind up over there. And you have to be able to chase what the day is giving you. And that means, oh, gosh, we need to go to a hiring group. And you know, and hire, you know, 30 people in Spain in two months, Oh, didn’t see that coming? Oh, let’s go do that. Let me start working on that plan. And I might start working on that strategy. But that doesn’t mean I’m dropping everything else that I’m working on. Right. So you have to be able to say I’m going to get started over here, I’m going to keep working on what I’ve got going on over here, not losing sight of what I’ve started over here, and be totally cool shifting between those things. And I’m only using two examples. There’s probably 10 things I’m working on at any given time, that get little bits of my attention to incrementally move each of those programs or strategies or initiatives. And depending on the person that can really one stressed someone out and cause a lot of anxiety, and to for folks that need to do one thing, see it through, do the next thing see it through. That’s a really important skill. And there’s roles within our company, obviously, where you need to be able to do that. But we pivot so quickly. Because we have such a large portfolio, that we’re chasing new data all the time. So, you know, if someone is looking for a really predictable, linear way to do their work, the dharnas would probably the majority would probably drive them crazy. Let’s be honest. That’s part of what I like about it.

Rob Stevenson 33:01
So speaking your multitasking, misnomer or not? I’m sure you’re doing a lot of that it sounds like so what is top of mind for you? What are you kind of working on right now?

April Eldred 33:10
Sure. There’s a lot going on in Moderna. As I’m sure people can understand, we are kind of in this post pandemic world where we are still obviously solving for COVID. But we have a huge aggressive pipeline right now. So we have some great data that’s been coming out recently, most recently for RSP. We’ve also had some good phase two data for personalized mRNA cancer vaccines. So things are moving along at quite a fast and furious pace at Moderna. So we’re tasked to hire 2000 additional headcount this year. So those are big goals. But what I’ve been reflecting on and I thought about this a lot over the holidays, was the traditional ta model or strategy that has worked historically and no, it has worked for for us here at Moderna. To grow so quickly, in such a short period of time is not the same strategy that’s going to make us successful, long term. And what I mean by that is, I’m spending my time thinking about Yeah, we got to fill racks, sure, yeah, beautiful jobs, that’s table stakes. But actually, because we’re in a negative labor market, because the war for talent is real, because the bar is even higher now for talent than it ever was. We need to kind of turn the tea strategy on its air and say, okay, find to fill jobs, but how are we building talent? How are we actually creating feeder pools and engines to not only identify talent in the market, which is important, you know, your talent discovery model or what have you, but then how are we actually building them? Really, you know, early on campus programs, apprenticeship programs. I’m really passionate about trying to build some apprenticeship programs here. How do we tap into people? What’s potential, beyond diploma beyond a resume? And how do we start to groom people and give them these development opportunities within Moderna as early as possible so that big focus on on campus programs and apprenticeships right now, real big focus on belonging, inclusion and diversity programs partnering with HBCUs, partnering with, you know, associations and creating these programs that haven’t existed, Moderna existed that Moderna is really important. So my focus while I want my team to be filling jobs, I’d rather build an engine, where we’re promoting from within, we’re creating retentive opportunities for people at a younger and younger age, right where they come to Moderna, and we will grow you, we will develop you, we have a massive learning culture. Here at Madonna, we have a whole university, we have a manager Academy, a Leadership Academy, if we can get the people in sooner, they will have opportunities to grow and learn that we didn’t have two years ago, by the way, but they’ll have that opportunity. Which means recruiting then becomes a strategy around more entry level roles, right? Because if we’re promoting people internally, through this engine, then I don’t have to go out and hire 10 VPS a quarter, right, we’ll promote internally for those. But maybe we’re hiring 10 Associate Directors because we’ve just moved people up the ranks. I’d love to see that happen. And so that’s one of the things that’s been keeping me up at night. The other thing that I’m spending a lot of time on is talent, intelligence, right? We have more access to talent information than we ever have. And it’s well beyond LinkedIn. Right? I mean, LinkedIn is I actually think it’s on its downward curve. But when you think about talent, intelligence, heat mapping, where talent is migrating from and to globally, what skill sets are emerging? And how do we think about strategic workforce planning and the capabilities we’re going to need in three years? How do we get ahead of that? We have access to really amazing information now at our fingertips. So how do we harness it? How do we bring it to the forefront when we’re making strategic decisions about new locations about the skills of the future that we’re going to need for the future researchers, right? It’s pretty, it kind of makes my head hurt actually even talking about it. But there’s this massive need to kind of get ahead and have that crystal ball of what’s next. And the talent intelligence we have, I think, is the best crystal ball we could have to use. And I don’t think, at least in my own world, I don’t think we’re using it as much as we could be. And I see those those partners that are offering talent intelligence in the marketplace right now. We’ll have a lot of demand, if they don’t already.

Rob Stevenson 37:51
When you speak about thinking beyond the resume, looking at talents, prospects, long term, coupled with what you said earlier about assessing based on values, as opposed to hard skills. It sounds like a lot of what drives your decision making is that the traditional means of assessing someone are not sufficient to or or maybe irrelevant to their ability to do the job. Is that fair to say?

April Eldred 38:20
I don’t know. I mean, I would I you have to put it in context of an organization, right? Someone can have all the skills that assess for skills, but it does go back to behaviors. I think what worries me more like what I think about now, other than traditional assessment, and we’ll continue to push the boundaries on assessment, but but I think it’s actually understanding skill adjacencies and someone’s learning agility, right. learning agility is super important. And we just know, we don’t have enough people out there in the market to fill all of these jobs. So if you see someone who was a chess player, member of a chess club, right, you can infer that they have pretty good analytical skills, and they’re probably a good problem solver, and they’re probably pretty strategic. Right? So how do we kind of get under the hood a bit with with people’s skill? adjacencies that could mean they have potential to do other things, and take some chances on talent based on those those transferable skills or, you know, what can we coach, what can we teach, knowing that someone has a foundation that is somewhat close to what we need, I think is a really interesting problem to try and solve.

Rob Stevenson 39:35
Yeah, it is. And it’s a lot more I think, nuanced and thoughtful than just filling a role in front of you, which as you said at the top is not the not the ultimate goal. Really it is but it isn’t right. You need to think a little more long term.

April Eldred 39:45
So definitely get upstream April before

Rob Stevenson 39:47
I let you go. Last question for you. In the inevitable Hollywood movie about the vaccine development Who do you want to play you?

April Eldred 39:57
That’s a really good question. Who am I I want to play me, well has to be someone who can make fun of themselves because I have no ego about what I do. And it has to be someone who has a really good sense of humor. Because because you have to in a place like Mo, you just gotta go with things and you got to be able to laugh. So who would I pick? I might pick, this would not be on physical resemblance. But I would probably pick someone like Kristen Wiig, or someone who is just can kind of play different characters where whatever hats needed and and create some laughs along the way. But that’s a tough question. And I didn’t see that one coming. So I reserve the right to follow up with you at a later time and come up with some other some other options. Yeah, that’s a good question.

Rob Stevenson 40:51
Kristen Wiig is a good answer because she plays funny Street, right? Like, she’s she can be silly, but like when I think she’s funniest when she was like looking very intense.

April Eldred 41:00
Yeah. Or if you’ve seen everything everywhere, all at once, right and kind of transcending universes to save the world. Maybe Maybe that’s the more meta approach I would take.

Rob Stevenson 41:12
I love it. Yeah, like just just like blow up the concept. April, this has been a delight. chatting with you. Thank you so much for being with me here today. I’ve loved meeting.

April Eldred 41:21
Yeah, thanks for having me. It’s, it’s great to be here. Thanks for the invite.

Rob Stevenson 41:27
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