Tech Recruiting in Augmented Reality: Q&A with Andrew Heywood
DAQRI’s Director of Talent Acquisition in Silicon Valley talks about recruiting people from around the world to help engineer the future of work.
Andrew Heywood is the Silicon Valley-based Director of Talent Acquisition at DAQRI, a leading augmented reality (AR) company powering the future of work through innovative human–machine interfaces. A tech industry veteran, Andrew has also worked with groundbreakers including Google, Twitter, Ooyala, Origami Logic, AdRoll.com, Rocket Fuel, and Kabam. We got on a call to discuss what it’s like to recruit people capable of engineering new technologies, how to balance local and company cultures when opening international offices, and whether AR will even change how talent teams work.
“The intermix of technology and the human touch is what’s going to be crucial moving forward.”
You’re recruiting specialized talent to work on technologies that are new or don’t yet exist. How do you find candidates interested in and qualified to do that work?
There isn’t a silver bullet.
Branding is a big piece and something DAQRI’s been building since day one. Revamping and improving our digital presence, including our website, has been an ongoing project. We’ve partnered with The Muse to help show and promote our culture. Phenomena like the recent popularity of Pokémon Go has also created a lot of visibility and press for augmented reality. Even though our products serve a different, enterprise-oriented purpose, more people now know what AR is and what its capabilities are. We do laboratory demo sessions where we actually have people try out the DAQRI Smart Helmet. It’s very powerful – people come out of it in awe, and get excited about what we’re doing here.
Leveraging your internal pool of people for referrals is also key. They know where you can find more great people, what types of technologies their network of peers is working on that are relevant to your needs, and how to get them excited about the work your company is doing.
How do you assess candidates?
That’s an important question for us: what are we looking for? We’re continuing to look at and revamp our interview best-practices as we scale. The first step when we’re looking at candidates is to go through their background and qualifications. Have they done something relevant before? With technical candidates, we’ll ask them to do a coding exercise. Then we go deeper, with a video conference meeting or a face-to-face interview, to determine if they fit with our culture. Do they have the DAQRI DNA we’re looking for, as a whole? Because we have seven global offices, in California, Washington, Ireland, the UK, and Austria, we also have to be sensitive to each region’s unique cultural aspects, but at the same time base that within our company’s mindset and culture.
How does hiring in different international markets influence the recruitment process? How do you respect local culture and practices, while hiring people who match your company culture?
As a company opens up in different regions, there is definitely a balance between finding people who fit skill and culture needs, while maintaining a realistic understanding of who is available in the local market.
I was fortunate to be able to help Google open its R&D center in Tokyo. We were looking to recruit technically-sound, English-speaking Japanese nationals and get them through the Google process of hiring committees and executive reviews. However, traditional Japanese work culture was not Googley – at least not what Googley meant at that time. That made trying to really showcase candidates and get through the process very challenging, especially if they weren’t used to writing a resume and doing Western-style interviews. At the same time, the pool of potential candidates was very limited for what we needed.
So setting realistic expectations of what the market could give was very important. And the talent team needs to spend time learning about the local market. What kind of process or approach do you need to take with local candidates? Some markets are slower than others. Some markets focus on leveraging recruiting agencies more than others. Some look at branding, sourcing, events, and other initiatives to get people excited. It can be helpful to embed long-time employees in new offices, to act as ambassadors for the company’s culture. Google did this.
Part of it, too, is learning from experience – making mistakes. A lot of big brands expanding into new markets make bad hires, learn from those mistakes, calibrate and adjust. In time, as offices grow, they become better integrated into that local market’s culture.
“There is definitely a balance between finding people who fit skill and culture needs, while maintaining a realistic understanding of who is available in the local market.”
Technical employees make up a large percentage of DAQRI’s team. Does this shape the workplace culture and hiring?
It definitely shapes culture. Every role has its unique attributes; think how different it is to be in a room full of salespeople compared to a room full of engineers. Being very technology-centric influences how we approach problems. And having a big pool of engineers helps us attract technical talent; it shows we’re serious about creating a well-engineered product.
Does AR hold the potential to change how talent teams work? Will it affect recruitment in the near future?
At DAQRI, we’re all very passionate about how AR technology is impacting the world. Our talent team talks about it. I have a colleague who runs an HR consulting firm, and he uses virtual reality as part of his client training. There are definitely uses in all kinds of work functions. I think we’re going to see more of this in the future.
Recruiting is an evolving, ever-changing function. While adopting new tools and technologies is a big part of where things are headed, the human element – working with people – isn’t going away. The intermix of technology and the human touch is what’s going to be crucial moving forward.
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