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When Alex Jeffers joined CreateMe in August 2020, he had already been familiar with the company's incredible culture through his network. This sentiment was confirmed during his interview process. “During my interview process, I got to meet with several department heads and executives. I put a lot of value on culture and was blown away by the commitment these members of leadership expressed when it came to creating a workplace where everyone could thrive.”

In his role as Manager, Talent & People, Alex is regularly tasked with staffing the company’s Hardware Engineering team, as well as the hard-to-fill roles at the executive level. Among the pool of candidates he interviews and hires, Alex focuses on soft skills such as proactivity and desire to change conventional wisdom in order to stand out as top talent.

In a recent interview with Fairygodboss, Alex shared with us how the company is prioritizing its employees' wellbeing during the COVID pandemic, such as flexible time off and open-ended desk budget allowance. “We like to see folks take time every quarter,” says Alex. He also shares his recommendations for job seekers who are looking to make a great first virtual impression.

How long have you been in your current role, and what were you doing previously? 

I started with CreateMe in August of 2020, so as of now I’ve been here for about six months. Prior to joining CreateMe, I spent five years in various roles at another tech startup that was focused on politics and data science. Initially, I joined as an intern during college and then came on full time as a Data Analyst. As the business began to grow, I started dipping my toes into recruitment before fully transitioning into heading up the company’s People function.

How did you first learn about CreateMe, and what made you decide to join the organization?

I knew a couple of software engineers who had already joined – they had great things to say about the business, people, and overall culture. During my interview process, I got to meet with several department heads and executives. I put a lot of value on culture and was blown away by the commitment these members of leadership expressed when it came to creating a workplace where everyone could thrive. It wasn’t just talk either – a lot of early-stage startups put resourcing towards minimal viable products, but CreateMe wants to invest in their employees early and often to grow them with the company through a variety of programs and initiatives. CreateMe is self-funded so we have the luxury of investing in what matters early that most other startups don’t get until their Series B or Series C.

Tell me a little bit about your role. What are your priorities?

As my title implies, I have a hybrid role that is split between Talent Acquisition (TA) and People Relations. For TA, I’m focused on high-level strategy for staffing up our fast-growing teams (especially our Hardware Engineering team), as well as finding top talent for hard-to-fill roles at the executive level. This involves partnering with our hiring managers to not just understand their roles but also how they want to grow their teams to meet our business needs over time. I also lead our employer branding efforts to try and attract great talent and am building out our recruitment analytics function, so we can capture and leverage insight into how our hiring strategies are performing and understand where to continue to improve. 

For People Relations, I’m focused on understanding our employees and what we can do to make CreateMe a great place for them to work. I do this through launching Engagement and Pulse surveys to gather data on how our employees are experiencing the organization from a variety of perspectives for a holistic view. This allows us to align programming and initiatives to what matters most.

What’s one thing you think job seekers should know about CreateMe? 

A lesser-known fact is that we have a whole host of tenured subject matter experts (SMEs) on staff. These are folks who have 20-30+ years of experience in their respective fields and are integrated in each of our teams. These SMEs give teams and individuals the ability to make strides much faster, by always having someone who is a true domain expert. This not only helps to educate and give our employees a better understanding of a topic, but these SMEs are forward-thinking partners helping reimagine a new solution with us.

As a Recruiter/Hiring Manager, what are the top three qualities you look for when you’re interviewing a candidate?

To keep it brief:

  1. Flexibility and adaptability – we’re a startup, so naturally, things can change quickly.

  2. Ownership – we need folks who don’t hesitate to proactively own and be accountable for their work.

  3. No ego – even though we have folks here with 20-30+ years of experience, they and everyone else at CreateMe embraces Ideas Over Ego. In fact, it’s one of our values!

As you continue to build your new team at CreateMe, what skills are you looking for in someone interested in joining the Hardware Engineering Team?

This year, we’re going to increase our hiring for this team, focusing on Electrical Engineers, Mechanical Engineers, Firmware Engineers, Robotics Engineers, Test Engineers, NPI Engineers, and Product Managers at varying levels of seniority. 

For anyone interested in joining the Hardware Engineering team, it’s important they have exposure to these different fields/functions, as it helps facilitate communication between team members with different disciplines. This exposure outside of an immediate discipline tends to also improve the collaborative experience here as everyone truly works with everyone on this team. This is an environment where avid learners who are intellectually curious will enjoy and thrive.

While we look for specific technical competencies for these roles, the team also assesses soft skills that they’ve identified as being crucial to succeeding in a fast-moving startup where ambiguity is present. These can include proactivity and challenging conventional wisdom, to name a few.  

What’s something you find particularly unique about working at CreateMe — whether a formal policy or program or more in terms of office culture?

For a seed-stage startup, our benefits are actually more reflective of an established organization. To name a few that stand out, we have a 401(k) program with up to 4% match that vests immediately, and we invest in learning and development (L&D) opportunities through reimbursements for conferences, classes, and anything else that could help grow an employee’s existing expertise or get them started in a new one.

Our time off policy is quite robust compared to most companies, established or otherwise. We offer flexible paid time off, which means you take it when you need it, and with the pace we move, our managers are great at reminding employees that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and taking time for themselves, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, is critical to their well-being. We like to see folks take time every quarter. We also provide an additional two weeks of paid time off per year through company-wide vacations where the office is closed during the week of July 4th and the days between Christmas and New Year’s. Company-wide vacations allow for everyone to take a long uninterrupted break at the same time, meaning there are no work distractions while you’re away and no fires to put out when you return. We recognize that burnout is real and want that to be top of mind from the get-go. 

What resources or support has CreateMe offered you during the crisis? 

With the lines between work and home more blurred than ever, we wanted to be sure we were giving employees time to step away from their work and concentrate on themselves and their loved ones. To do this, we started doing Summer Fridays, giving off every other Friday from June through August. We also began our tradition of giving off the entire week of July 4th.

Additionally, we recognized the need to make sure employees had all the tools and resources to make working at home as comfortable and productive as possible. To do this, we started offering a Desk Budget Allowance — this allowance is open-ended, allowing employees to purchase a wide range of items for their at-home work station, from more traditional items like monitors and standing desks to less traditional ones like blue light glasses and soundproofing. 

What’s your #1 piece of advice for women who are looking for jobs in tech? 

Be confident in your abilities. No one is expected to fit 100% of the job description, but in the areas where you don’t have direct experience, outline what transferable skills you would bring to those competencies. They may not translate enough for every role, but it’s always worth sharing, and you might be surprised how it can open doors when you’re transparent and own what you do and don’t know. That might mean moving forward for the role you applied for, or a different role at the company you may not have considered. 

Also, talk yourself up like a friend referring you to a company. At the offer stage, take time to read through the terms and put together your list of questions – never be afraid to ask the questions you need answers to.

Do you have any recommendations for job seekers who are looking to make a great first virtual impression?

First off, test the video link and log in on time. It can feel small, but those couple of minutes you might spend troubleshooting are valuable time for you to showcase yourself during the interview.

Second, try to minimize noise where possible. We realize this is a balancing act we’re all striving for, with varying degrees of success depending on the day. If possible, set yourself up in the quietest area of your home. If you have headphones with a good mic, this can make a big difference, especially if you have background noise.

Third, don’t sweat it too much! We’re all working from home too, so we understand if the WiFi drops, or if pets and kids make a cameo. Also, be ready, we’re a pet obsessed group, and we will ask names! Whether virtual or in-person, we like to see candidates shake off the nerves and feel confident when connecting, we’re here to learn about you! 

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