“Shifting to impact-first culture is a logical step in our evolution”: Lesya Arnold, founder of A-Players Recruiting, for TechToloka

A-Players Recruiting mission is all about changing money-first culture to impact-first culture, and our founder, Lesya Arnold, totally shares it. Recently, she discussed it in detail with TechToloka, a platform for discussions related to technology, personal growth, and product thinking in Ukraine. In particular, she talked to Max Tymchii about the following:

🟣 Why and how is the world changing towards impact-first culture?

🟣 How to find your company and realize it actually has an impact-first culture?

🟣 What personal qualities should companies pay attention to when communicating with top performers?

But first, a couple of words about Lesya 💁‍♀️ She started her career at 12 when working in network marketing and earning her first money. At the age of 17, she got a job at an IT company as a recruiter, and after graduating from university, she moved from Vinnytsia, Ukraine, to LA, USA. She eventually moved to San Francisco and now lives in New York 🌎

We are excited to share this interview’s key messages, and the full video is available on YouTube (in Ukrainian).

— Lesya, what is money-first culture, and how does it differ from an impact-first culture?

— The question that underlies this difference is “what comes first”? Is it money or impact? Money is an essential tool for companies, and of course, it should not conflict with the impact. But first and foremost, followers of impact-first culture think about changing things for the better, not making as much money as possible. The model of the company’s and person’s behavior truly depends on what comes first.

Sure, impact-first culture is not about volunteering because businesses should make money. However, the founders’ core priority is crucial. If profit is in the first place, they will build a company that multiplies capital. But when founders start a business aiming for positive changes globally, this intention will create an impact-first company.

— What examples can you give here?

— Let’s take a look at BaseCamp and Reddit. In its history, Reddit has made several unpopular decisions for its business. However, they managed to build a culture and an atmosphere where people do influence things through the community, and Gamestop’s case is a perfect example here. Both the product and the company matter here — their actions build this kind of culture at each stage of the company’s development.

It is important to recall that values ​​are not just sentences on your website. It’s what everyone in the company lives and proves every day. Reddit is our client, and we at A-Players Recruiting see their values ​​and processes from the inside. We know how candidates are selected, what they are hired for, why they are promoted, and why they are fired.

In turn, BaseCamp is a company where 30% of people resigned in one day due to the company’s leaders’ behavior. This case is not about money-first; it’s more about the connection between culture and company behavior. For me, this is definitely not an example of a strong culture.

You can also compare different approaches by analyzing how people are being dismissed. For example, the pandemic has caused the tide of layoffs in a company. But how and why was the reduction made, and what was offered to the employees leaving the company? In this connection, last year’s Airbnb case was quite representative.

— More and more, we witness a shift to impact-first culture. Why is it happening now and what are the examples of these changes?

— I believe that shifting to impact-first culture is a logical step in our evolution, including cultural one. The world is moving and our mindset is changing towards the impact in an organic way. On a more practical level, I know venture funds today start investing exclusively in impact-first companies, and this is a good example of this evolution.

For instance, SMRK, founded by MacPaw’s Oleksandr Kosovan, is one of these funds. Another example is the Sustainability Accelerator Program by Startup Wise Guys, where I used to be a mentor. This year, they made a separate program for startups that support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, i.e., are aimed at improving the world and society. And such examples come on all the time.

— How to find this type of company and how to realize it actually has an impact-first culture?

— Choosing a company is essential, as it will significantly affect your happiness and life comfort in the next few months or even years. First of all, I recommend a deep dive into your feelings — try to reflect and analyze what kind of company suits you best. Some people prefer impact-first, while others opt for money-first, and that’s totally fine. You can even talk to a coach, mentor, or therapist to reveal what you actually need right now.

It’s also important to properly understand the company’s identity. In addition to a formal interview, search for informal meetings. Of course, in times of a pandemic, it is not that easy, however, there are companies that arrange informal video calls with a potential team and leader. Initiate a virtual coffee conversation before accepting an offer to see if you really like the atmosphere and culture of the company.

To find out whether your values ​​coincide with the company’s values, I also recommend talking to employees at different levels. Try to reach the highest possible level and, if possible, communicate with the CEO and founders. Often these are the people who form the company’s culture and set its values.

Don’t hesitate to ask the most profound and even awkward questions, such as “why do you even exist”, “what do you want to do or change”, “what are your personal goals.” We at A-Players Recruiting do the same when we talk to a potential client — we ask about founders’ personal goals and how the company helps them reach these goals. I also recommend asking the reasons for hiring people at this company, promoting and firing them.

— Currently, the labor market in Ukraine is overheated, so there are lots of career options for IT people. What is your attitude to this situation?

— Yes, the market is overheated all over the world today. We at A-Players Recruiting are now hiring not only in Ukraine but also globally — looking for candidates in Europe, Asia, and the United States. For some countries, the momentum is even more challenging, and Ukraine is one of them. But I see no negative connotation here — on the contrary, I think this situation is a positive factor that will force innovation and help to change the money-first culture to impact-first.

Many companies have difficulties hiring people today, and hence they should offer not only something more attractive than competitors but also something really significant. For example, in the tech sector, candidates appreciate working on a project or product that has a greater positive impact. Thus, if a company does not have this component, attracting the best talent will be tougher.

— By the way, how do companies understand that a candidate is an A-Player? What is the proper way to estimate their soft skills?

— Mainly, it’s not even soft skills but personal qualities that make a person a top performer. There’s no difficulty asking a candidate to write a code and thus understand if it is appropriate. But it is a lot more complicated to determine what personal qualities a person has and how they suit the company and the team.

Me and my team, we pay attention to several important personal qualities:

1 / First, a high standard of quality — to everything in a person’s life and work.

2 / Secondly, ownership-approach — when a person treats everything as their own and cares in the same way — about the company, team, product.

3 Third, natural curiosity — top performers usually have a deep desire to understand the nature of each issue they deal with thoroughly.

4 / Then, a high level of values. This is about a conscious choice of the company, the importance of the values’ coincidence, and genuine interest in the company’s mission.

5 / Of course, a self-organization skill matters. A real A-Player doesn’t need micromanagement from their team leader.

Also, to identify the top performers during the interview, I recommend focusing on the following aspects. Ask deep questions — there can be a lot of those because you need to check the candidate from different angles. Having several people from the team involved in the interview process is very good — their feedback will help to analyze the candidate’s behavior. Don’t limit yourself to an official interview only — try informal formats so that people can reveal themselves. The more meetings you hold, the better you understand the candidate.

Despite the challenging market, I don’t believe in job offers after the 30-minutes screening interview. For me, skipping the deep conversation and analysis is not acceptable — a hiring mistake can cost a company 15 “fully loaded” salaries of that person!

— Finally, tell us more about the Myers-Briggs Personality Test (MBTI) — what is it, and how can companies use it?

— The MBTI test is probably the best test to determine the type of personality. Well, at least from what I’ve seen so fat — and that’s a lot. It gives a profound understanding of personality, so, in my opinion, it can be used as an additional source of information about the candidate.

It is quite holistic — you will get the result in four letters. Each of them reveals different aspects of the personality, and the deeper we understand people, the better we are ready to work with them and adapt our approaches if needed. Within the test results, you should look at the letters and the percentage of each of them.

For example, the fourth letter in this test is P or J, i.e., Prospecting or Judging. It’s about making decisions, meaning how quickly and easily people can decide something for themselves — like going on a trip from today to tomorrow. If the potential job involves many unexpected business trips, a person with a high percentage in the P letter will adjust quickly. In contrast, a candidate with a prevailing rate of the J letter will find it stressful. These factors are pretty important to consider, but of course, you should not make a final decision based on this test alone.

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We thank TechToloka and Maksym Tymchii for this fruitful conversation and their interest in spreading the impact-first culture around the globe! By the way, during the interview, Lesya has chosen the most interesting question. Its author, Oleg Pasko, a patron of TechToloka and a CEO of Everlabs, received a 30-minute consultation with A-Players Recruiting.

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