Podcast 4: Austin Douglas – Talener Group
Austin Douglas of the technology-staffing firm the Talener Group discusses current trends in engineering and technology. Company culture plays an important role in the decisions of professionals to switch companies. Douglas lists actionable means of building skillsets and networks for candidates to better position themselves. An internal look at the Talener Group highlights characteristics of their ideal employees and the tenets that contribute to their successful team environment.
Time-Stamped Show Notes
[00:35] Ryan Kellogg introduces Austin Douglas of the technology-staffing firm the Talener Group.
[01:30] Douglas leads the Los Angeles office, one of six Talener Group locations across the United States.
[04:00] High demand in engineering and technology centers on candidates with 2 to 5 years of experience in the 75-120K salary range.
[06:40] The top reasons why tech professionals switch companies.
[08:30] Factors that contribute to successful company culture versus environments that drive workers away.
[12:00] How the Talener Group approaches candidates and the process of preparing them for job transitions.
[15:00] Building a skillset and network are imperative for professionals and can be accomplished with resources such as GitHub, Stack Overflow, and connecting with groups through Meetup.
[18:45] The benefit to young professionals of exploring various career paths, industries, and connecting with alumni and mentors.
[22:00] The Talener Group’s employees must be comfortable working in a team-based environment, communicating with an introverted demographic, and handling the challenge of building a career from scratch.
[24:15] The internal culture of the Talener Group centers on professional development and accountability.
[27:00] Through a monthly review system, the Talener Group guides its employees with honest discussions, evaluation of goals, and positive reinforcement.
Austin Douglas: Retaining Talent in Technology and Engineering
The Talener Group, a large, technology-staffing firm based in New York, has six offices across the country. Specialized teams in each location focus on their local metropolitan areas and the needs of the tech market. Austin Douglas runs the Los Angeles office and says he’s committed to “building the best recruiting agency we possibly can.”
A Candidate’s Market
For engineering and technology professionals with two to five years of experience and salary goals between 75-120K, opportunity abounds. “It’s really a candidate’s market,” Douglas says, though the going can be rougher for people right out of college or in senior level positions.
As companies constantly evolve, Douglas sees plenty of movement within the industry, with people changing jobs in search of higher pay, growth opportunities, or a change in company culture. “Some folks don’t feel appreciated for their work,” Douglas warns, and sometimes that’s all that’s needed to send an employee in search of change.
Positive company culture makes people feel valued and engaged and often includes “a company that’s looking to make an investment in training.” An enterprise that offers autonomy and flexibility, and which is constantly trying to evolve and improve has a better chance of attracting candidates. Conversely, businesses that are “not collaborative” and “don’t facilitate effective communication between management and staff” experience retention problems. Douglas further advises companies to consider their employees and ask, “Are these folks getting paid their market value?” If not, they’re likely to leave.
Positioning for Success
When connecting with job seekers, the Talener Group’s assessment involves identifying the candidate’s experience, goals, areas in which he or she feels most confident, and reasons for the employment change. By building a relationship and offering realistic expectations, “we really come up with a game plan together as a team,” Douglas explains.
To best position them for success, Douglas asks candidates, “What are you doing to try to build your skillset and your experience?” Opportunities to do so are plentiful, including building profiles on GitHub and Stack Overflow, coding bootcamps like Hack Reactor, and connecting with people in the industry via Meetup. For those in the Los Angeles area, Douglas recommends LA Tech Happy Hour.
A Colgate graduate, Douglas sees how networking could have helped him in his college years. “I really wish that I had networked a lot more with alumni.” The value of connecting with people, asking for help, and learning about different careers and industries is immense, and Douglas admits he began his career not knowing that staffing is multi-billion dollar industry.
Inside the Talener Group
In addition to assessing top talent in engineering and technology, Douglas also knows what type of people excel in his line of work. Talener Group employees must be coachable and up for the challenge of starting their business from scratch. The best candidates work well in a team environment, can communicate effectively with the often introverted demographic of tech professionals, and are “very resilient and looking for a career-based opportunity.”
To cultivate his team, Douglas identifies people’s goals and motivations, and holds them accountable to those ideals. “People want clear expectations, they want clear goals, and they want to get honest feedback,” he says. “They want to feel like they are developing professionally.” The Talener Group culture includes clear growth plans, retreats, and out-of-office events.
Monthly reviews center on “appreciative inquiry,” an open and honest discussion of what team members feel good about, what they want to accomplish, and how the team can help them realize their goals. They also review goals of previous meetings as a means of positive reinforcement. “It reminds that person that they have come a long way,” says Douglas.