Working From Home Could Completely Transform the Job Market — Shathiya Rengalwar

By Shrinedhi Rajan

Shathiya currently serves as the Global Head of Talent, at venture-backed Branch, Inc, and has worked in the recruiting industry close to a decade partnering with numerous companies as their trusted talent partner. Prior to Branch, Shathiya held various recruiting roles at mobile, healthcare, and fintech start-ups in the Bay Area. An Engineering major who began her career as a Software Engineer and eventually moved into talent acquisition because of her passion for all things People. Originally from India, she has been in the Bay Area since 2007. A proud mom of 2 wonderful kids, and a trained Bharatanatyam dancer who loves to cook, read, and be a chauffeur to her kids for birthday parties.

Engineer to Talent Partner, that is a unique transition! How and why did you make this pivot?

I have answered this question a zillion times by now but I get so excited every single time when sharing my life experience. First, let’s talk about making the decision to switch careers to follow your passion. Getting here wasn’t easy, no one talks about the hard parts. Overcoming self-doubts, being vulnerable, social pressures, and given my cultural upbringing, “what will my family think” kept me in a role which didn’t fuel my passion at the end of the day. Working through the stigma and self-imposed barriers to embark on the new journey was totally worth the hardships. I went into Engineering because it was the only other option given by my parents and if you are an Asian American like me, you won’t find this to be weird. I realized that I was comfortable relying on emotions but also can think rationally when making moral decisions.

I took some time off when I had my daughter back in 2009 and when it was time for me to return back to the workforce, I made the decision to explore other career paths that will take me close to working with people. One of my friends suggested Recruiting as an option, I joined a staffing agency and ended up supporting one of their biggest clients, APPLE because of my engineering background. Picking up the phone and calling random strangers for opportunities was nerve-racking at first, eventually, I got confident once I started making hires at Apple with minimal interaction with the hiring team and while competing with 25 other agencies on the same role. There was no looking back from there. I had my calling for the startup world later and the rest is all history.

What are some skills required to be a successful recruiter? How did you leverage your engineering background to your role in talent acquisition?

Recruiting is tough, but successful recruiters know what it takes to succeed. Being a strategic partner to both the candidates and hiring managers is one of the crucial skills needed, the ability to build deep connections and long term relationships, being customer-centric with a strong business acumen. Take a futuristic approach, although recruiting could be tactical and heavy metric-driven, always remember we are dealing with real people.

There were a number of skills that I developed while studying and working in engineering which I have been able to apply to recruitment. Let’s say, persistence, problem-solving, and looking at the broader picture. Knowing the market in which I operate has really benefited me in the talent partner role, specifically because I can speak credibly about the industry which helps me to develop a rapport with candidates and hiring managers. I can definitely speak to the difference between JavaBeans and Java language, lol.

How has the recruitment process changed with the pandemic?

Covid not only changed the hiring process but impacted the face of recruitment in the long run. It has changed the hiring needs of most companies while some of them (Amazon, Instacart) roared, the others declined.

At Branch, it was a much easier transition given we already had a hybrid (in-person & Zoom) interview model in place. We were able to adapt quickly and easily, our transition to a fully virtual recruiting was a smooth sail. We just replaced face-to-face interviews with live zoom interviews, while the rest of our hiring process remained the same as it was before the COVID-19.

The job market has also changed forever due to a sudden shift from office to remote work, triggered by the pandemic. Working from home could completely transform the job market because it will open the door to a truly globalized workforce.

What’s your advice to candidates looking for jobs, especially the recent graduates, and those with no/less experience?

It is a tough market given many companies have slammed the break on hiring particularly fresh grads for the time being. Here’s what recent grads can do to help get their career off the ground during these difficult times.

  • Be flexible and persistent — It’s not a bad idea to take a role that might not be your dream gig. You are playing the long game here and it wouldn’t hurt to build that skill set right away while earning money to pay your bills. Look for jobs that are in high demand and think about leveraging your skills and experiences for those opportunities.
  • Network, Network, Network — Employee Referrals are such an important source of hires for most companies. Think about people you know, tap into their connections, ask for introductions. Always remember to cultivate your network, no one appreciates hearing from someone out of the blue asking for favors.
  • Build a compelling online professional profile — You can make a strong first impression using your LinkedIn profile. Start with a clear headshot, fill in the header column with keywords that match your skill set, and a summary of your background. Make sure to keep your summary “short and sweet”.
  • Do your research: Having the market intel gives you an upper hand. You might be wondering about how start-ups differ from big corporations or debating a non-profit or government position, find those answers. There are platforms that help connect students with potential companies.
  • Stay focused, positive, and continue to network — Get into the habit of setting job alerts and apply to them immediately, follow up with a note to someone from their team. We are hoping that more opportunities arise as part of the economy continues to reopen. The market is slowly starting to improve and the new year should bring the light at the end of the tunnel.

Can you share some tips on how to reach out to someone on LinkedIn for a job?

I know from my own personal experience how difficult it can be asking for help, particularly from a random stranger. Finding a job and going through the interview process can be overwhelming. I’ve received hundreds of cold messages from job seekers over the years and I always make a point to respond to every single message, connect with them on LinkedIn.

  • Be clear and state your purpose — The more clear and direct you are, the more responses you’ll get., Avoid jargon and wordy phrases and say what you really mean.
  • Brevity is important — The message should be short and precise. When somebody opens your outreach message, they’re much more likely to read it and reply to it if it looks manageable and easy to read at first glance. You want it to be inviting to read! Please customize your message to each person.
  • Customize and Personalize — Tweak the messaging based on the individual you are reaching out to ( Hiring manager, employee, or recruiter). Always remember this will be their first impression of you.
  • Test and fine-tune — It’s important to test a few different messages and see what works best for you. You don’t want to be sending out the same exact message to everyone.

How do you unplug, especially during times like this?

The big hurdle for me is how do I disconnect and set an example for my kids. With the current work from home set up, the lines started to blur and I realized that I was spending more time on my phone and laptop. There’s just something about a smartphone and how difficult it is to put down. We set up family dinners together in the backyard minus TV and that has become our routine lately. We set rules that there are no screens involved when we are spending time together because connecting with each other is the most important thing we do in our family, and connection happens much better when we’re unplugged.

Generally, both I and my daughter connect over dancing, it is something that we bond over which also helps me detox stress and the “I’m feeling low” mood you sometimes get into. We often play games, gardening, and cook together. Being stuck at home until the COVID-19 pandemic is over isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m looking at it as a chance to spend valuable time with my family.

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