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Silicon Valley Talent Acquisition of Note November 19, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, human resources, Talent.
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We hear about it in the news every so often out here in Silicon Valley: a big player at Google has left for Facebook.  Or a Yahoo executive has been seduced by Microsoft.  Or some perky young startup has snatched a head developer from a venerable software giant.

Silicon Valley’s human resources arena, ripe with star engineers and executives, is  like a day time soap opera, full of unexpected surprises and shocking betrayals.  Every time a transfer of talent occurs, juicy questions immediately begin to pop up surrounding the jump.  Were they abused at the first company?  Were they offered a huge salary?  Who got screwed?

I’d like to take an overview of several high profile transfers of talent that have occurred in Silicon Valley over the past decade.  Each one is a soap opera in its own right and has in some way affected the fertility of the Valley’s technological breeding grounds.  If I leave any big ones out, be sure to contribute your own top Silicon Valley talent transfers.

Tim Armstrong, Google to AOL:  This shocking transfer occurred in March, 2009, when AOL abruptly fired two head executives and hired Google’s sales boss, Tim Armstrong.  Armstrong had joined Google back in 2000, when the company’s ad sales were minimal and it was still in stiff competition with competitors like Yahoo and MSN. Flash forward eight years and Google is bringing in nearly $21 billion in Ad revenue per year and dominates a majority percentage of the internet search market.

The acquisition of Armstrong signifies a change in branding and corporate goals for AOL, as it continues to move away from its past as a ISP towards a future in digital media and advertising.

Sheryl Sandberg, Google to Facebook:  Sheryl Sandberg served as Google’s VP of Global Online Sales before being snatched away by a hungry startup called Facebook in March of 2008.  Sandberg’s departure marked the end of Google’s ‘super growth spurt’, which was capped with a $747 share price a few months prior.

It was rumored that Facebook’s young CEO Mark Zuckerburg first met Sandberg at a Christmas party, and was impressed.  Soon after she left to become Facebook’s COO, which at the time was still a refreshingly new start up (and had a $15 billion dollar valuation).

Josh Elman, Facebook to Twitter:  Although Facebook’s former platform manager isn’t as a huge name, his new home at Twitter speaks volumes to the current ‘Twitter-mania’ that Silicon Valley is going through.  Facebook and Twitter are currently in a war (with Twitter having the upper hand) for the ‘real-time’ web.  Elman’s savvy on how people connect and communicate in real time is surely a gain for Twitter’s growing empire.

Vic Gundotra, Microsoft to Google: Microsoft’s 15 year platform evangelist, Vic Gundotra, broke the breach and went to Google in June, 2006.  This was at the height of Microsoft’s Silicon Valley envy, particularly the Redmond giant’s jealousy of Google’s growing search engine dominance.  Ever since, Microsoft has been hot on Google’s tail – most recently launching it’s ‘Bing’ search engine, which surprisingly has the beginnings to usurp Google’s hot streak.

So what does the future hold for Silicon Valley?  While some big players in talent acquisition have emerged, there is always a hotbed of hungry start ups that have proved time and again that they compete with the big boys.  Although many of these start ups don’t yet have the hiring resources and clout of the Googles and Facebooks, they are fast moving, ambitious, and have products that are set to change the world.   Armed with the right tools, such as cost effective Applicant Tracking software, many of these small companies may soon make an apperance on the soap opera that is, Silicon Valley Hiring.

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Talent from Hollywood to Silicon Valley October 22, 2009

Posted by Darwin in applicant tracking, Talent.
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actor and coderThe Merriam Webster Dictionary defines talent in three ways:

1) a characteristic feature, aptitude, or disposition of a person or animal
2) the natural endowments of a person
3) a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude

Talent is a trendy word often thrown around within various industry lingos, from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.  In Hollywood, talent used to refer directly to an actor or actress, though that definition has since expanded to the variety of creative roles necessary for film production.

In Hollywood, the word ‘talent’ carries a number of unspoken meanings.  One of those is the notion that talent is  irreplaceable.   Although actors, cinematographers, and directors often shift in the initial phases of pre-production, as scripts and funding are still being secured, changing talent during a project can be a disaster.    Filming with a lead actor who quits (or dies) mid-film can pose obvious problems, and pretty much means re-shooting everything (although recently digital ‘recreation’ provides a somewhat morbid option).

Major Hollywood corporations like Creative Artists Agency are built around finding and selling talent.  Talent Agents pride themselves on the quality of the talent they represent, and make or break their careers by landing their clients in big pictures.

The importance of acting talent is one of the reasons why Christian Bale / Russell Crowe-esque hissy fits are somewhat tolerated in the industry.   What choice is an executive producer left with?  Fire the lead and face setting back the movie’s release for a year or more and ending up cash strapped.  Although less apparent, other creative roles are just as integral to the continuity of a film.   Losing a director, cinematographer, best boy or set designer can change a film’s aesthetic completely.

Other industries also utilize the word ‘Talent,’ although in a somewhat different manner.  In Silicon Valley, talent is in a stage of redefinition.   Unlike Hollywood’s creative types, talent in the Valley primarily refers to brilliant Engineers.   Developers are the hot commodity here, gauged on their ability to code complex and cutting edge software and websites.

Although software developers are considered more mathematical than creative (this could be argued), they also possess an irreplaceable talent quality.  Trying to swap out a head developer mid-project can be just as disastrous as losing a lead actor.  Developers utilize their own methods and signatures in writing code, and finding a new engineer to pick up the pieces can be a costly and time-sapping affair for a company.

However, unlike the Hollywood talent agency structure, Silicon Valley talent is often found and recruited through modern, ‘Web 2.0’ techniques.  Cutting edge applicant tracking and recruiting software solutions allow companies to discover and attract the best talent out there.  Unlike the often complex Hollywood wine and dine process, companies in the Valley can utilize simple but efficient recruiting software solutions to find engineers and programmers (to build more software).

Although Talent is irreplacable and unique, the process of finding and attracting new talent is clearly still evolving.