September 8, 2020

How to find a great job in a super friendly company. Interview with Talkable

Talkable is an IT company and a well-known referral marketing platform.

They describe themselves as a “Ukrainian-American team, and we are proud of our multinational culture — there are 65 people in our team. We work at two offices — San-Francisco and Kyiv, and try to see each other regularly to exchange experiences."

Our guests: Kate, Talent Partnership Manager, and Stacey, Head of Campaign Management

Make it in Ukraine: A hard question to get going, but imposter syndrome is often mentioned now, from freelancers to people entering large companies. What do you think of imposter syndrome? Have you ever experienced it within your teams, and how have you attempted to overcome it?

(Author's note: Imposter syndrome is the effect where people feel they're not good enough or don't deserve the success they've had, that people are mistaken about their abilities. They look around at their peers and think that their skills are not on a high enough level. They don't feel like they have enough impact)

Talkable, Kate: From the day I started working at Talkable, I liked the idea that we are hiring people, not looking at their competencies and experience. For example, if we went to hire a middle-level developer or a middle-level campaign manager, we do not think that this person should have three years of experience. I never limited myself with years of experience. I am always looking at people when they're like one year, two years, three years of experience, and then talking to these people. Often we meet the perfect match, but this person didn't have all the necessary expertise. We understand we need to invest in this person, and we see this person will be growing rapidly with our team. And he'll become a senior person with us.

So we understand we are ready to invest in this person. Luckily we don't have many cases of this syndrome.

Talkable, Stacey: This type of thing happened to me and happened to me from time to time. It's when you're finding yourself in a situation where you think everybody in the room is smarter than you. Like everybody has this tremendous experience or expertise. I didn't work at that company, or I don't know that, or I haven't got any experience with that at all. I started thinking about how I don't know all the answers.

How to fight with Imposter Syndrome

What you need to do is just write down your accomplishments or little wins. Day over day or week over week. And then you understand nobody's perfect. Nobody knows everything. Even if you're talking to the big people from a Fortune 500 company, they may not have all the answers. It always comes down to how you approach the situation, even confidence in yourself. If you lack that confidence, you can build that step by step by writing down those small things. What's important, I guess in the workplace, to avoid that imposter syndrome coming up within your team is praising people, saying they're fantastic. Sending them cheers, showcasing their achievements in front of the company, making sure they know they succeeded in this, and doing a great job.

Talkable, Kate: It works well. When my manager was pointing to some good things I'm doing on an everyday basis, it kept me motivated and relaxed. It means I do my job in the right way. And I'm growing day by day and doing something better every day, and it's impossible to know all the answers to all the questions.

Talkable Interview
Source: DOU

Make it in Ukraine: How do you merge your Ukrainian efforts with the international efforts? And do you see any culture class and kind of imposter syndrome popping up because of that?

Talkable, Kate: The communication for both offices was building for ten years now. We still have some things popping up due to the differences in cultures or even differences in time zones. I can't remember that this syndrome is popping up just because of these two offices because we are trying not to feel like two different offices, and it's the thing I love the most about Talkable. We are one big company, and it doesn't matter which time zone we are. From my perspective, and hopefully, from the perspective of people I'm working closely with, we don't feel that big difference in two different locations.

Talkable, Stacey: We communicate every day with our US colleagues. It's crucial to have excellent communication and no misunderstandings. They happen, of course, but the first thing I ensured is that we're feeling like one team, we did some team buildings together, like travels. US team traveled here, and we went to the US every year.

Make it in Ukraine: In terms of your culture at Talkable and are you other Ukrainian companies, would you say that you are more of the rule or more of the anomaly?

Talkable, Stacey: I think we are more anomaly. It's the best company I worked in terms of culture and everything. You know that feeling when you love to go to work and love to meet your teammates. That's about Talkable.

Make it in Ukraine: Let's talk about your culture. You both been here for roughly three years. How did you manage to build that cohesive culture between the different offices and have it an equal thing?

Talkable, Kate: Most companies have their cultural values written on a paper and in a document. When I started to work at Talkable, we didn't have this culture doc. We didn't have any values written until half a year ago, but still when you're coming into the company and seeing that most people are working three, four, five, seven years. And You see it is built for the people. It flies in the air, but no one can open the documents and share our values. We now have the company values written out. The cultural, social transparency amazes me the most at Talkable. This is the first and only company I know that communicates everything that's happening. For the people who are being their first day, after the QBR, they ask: "How much money did you have in your bank account, and what will you do with this money?" It's amazing.

Every person is able and is welcome to ask any questions, what they're interested in. If someone doesn't understand why something has been done or why this decision, you can go to the CEO or to the founder, or to your manager. Your question will be 100% answered. This is something I'm amazed by the most.

Talkable Interview

Make it in Ukraine: Do you tend to install this ethos during your onboarding? What does your onboarding look like?

Talkable, Stacey: I can speak about my team. We start with onboarding with the operations manager and with Kate herself. Then we move to all the meetings and docs, which are held in the first two weeks. I start my intro to the company. I tell how the company works, the flow for the customer, what each department is responsible for, what this person's role in the company, what they can influence, with whom they will collaborate and so on. Then we have a meeting for this new person with all the key members of those teams with whom they will be working in the future. For example, with QA, with engineers, with the product, marketing. That's very important in the beginning. There's so much information around you in any onboarding, so it's hard to focus on something. We ensure that information is structured, and they have different perspectives and views, and they get to know the team.

We are doing one small thing in our department: once somebody joins, on the same day we're going out for lunch or dinner together and try not to talk about the job. We communicate about real-life things. What they like to do, what are their hobbies are? It's about getting to know that person better.

Make it in Ukraine: How are you judging and perceiving soft skills and what type of indicators are there, and on the flip side, what type of red flags are there that you're looking out for during that initial hiring process?

Talkable, Kate: It depends on a case by case, candidate by candidate. I don't have any magic questions which I ask, and then I realize this is the right answer, this is a super match. I always discuss the person's experience. All the situations people have, firmly and in detail. How people react or how people do this or that depending on their managers, attitude, their manager's manner of management, their relations with their co-workers, some difficult situations. 

This is all about just a dialogue. Like we are two friends or two people who know each other, and we're just talking about work. And, I also tend to have direct communication and close communication with candidates. Sometimes candidates are amazed that I want to have a video conversation after each step and discuss details of what they think. Until the end of the hiring process, we are super close to each other, and I can see lots of points that help me decide whether we are moving forward for the candidate.

There is one thing that I look at. For example, some people tend to do their work only in the circle of their responsibilities. They're doing their work according to the job description. These people will never succeed in Talkable because here we are wearing multiple hats. For example, I work as a part of operations, sometimes sales, sometimes marketing teams, and because we are not hiring right now and, I try to help as much as I can and do whatever is needed for the company and our own goal. Not my responsibility and my personal goals matter, like company goals always matters, more than yours.

Make it in Ukraine: How are you so aligned with the company goals? Is it just such an ethical culture that you want it to succeed? Have they aligned it monetarily or fiscally? Why'd you feel so indebted, and why'd you feel like a lot of your talent wants to work and do multiple things and take this initiative?

Talkable, Stacey: I believe that starts when we set those goals for the company, and we have such passionate people on the team starting from our CEO, and then following all the department leads. So it's like a contagious theme that you just catch and you can't let go. Everybody is so passionate about bringing the company to the next level, and we're doing everything we can for that. It's not even about achieving some numbers or specific points. It's more of thinking about the bigger perspective, thinking about the future. That's the difference from other companies.

Make it in Ukraine: You might want to check out Self-determination theory. That says there're three parts of motivation: autonomy, complexity, and relatedness. It sounds like you're installing these principles. Usually, when companies do this, they get this kind of inherent a "Ride or Die Attitude." 

Make it in Ukraine: Next question. Is it essential for you to know which country the candidate is from?

Talkable, Kate: We don't have specific reasons why we hire from one or another country. We may have such rights for sales because sales are working in the time zone of our customers. It's much easier due to the language barrier and the experience of working with the customer suite. So it's easier to hire sales in the US.

We have the reason for hiring developers here in Ukraine because it started in Ukraine 10 years ago, and then we built the team here. The main reason: candidate skills should match our requirements perfectly.

Talkable, Stacey: We have a part of the sales team in Ukraine and part of customer success like my department.

Make it in Ukraine: Ukrainian Marketers tend to be very good at paid ads or media buying. Potentially they'll outsource back to the US the copywriting or something like this how you handle your on-page copy on your websites and marketing materials.

Talkable, Stacey: We're currently working with an agency in the US, which helps us with the language on the site when it comes to working with our clients. The campaign management team based in Ukraine is responsible for that. We're coming up with all the ideas we could run in campaigns, copy, A/B tests, experiments, etc.

Make it in Ukraine: What do you think of the general situation with Ukrainian marketers and their reputation on the world stage?

Talkable, Stacey: Even in Kyiv, most of the products are related either to gambling or some kind of online games or dating or like, this product in " a grey area. The marketers here are also focused on acquiring new customers via affiliate marketing, paid ads, SEO, and so on. I am sure there are lots of professionals who are experienced and great marketers who work with more "white" products. Also, there is a demand in the market for traffic buyers.

Make it in Ukraine: In terms of developers, do you feel like there's a specific pattern of experience that gives you the best developers? For example, as you may know, many developers thought that a career in Ciklum or iTech, in these big machine farms. And they might go work for an agency. Is there a specific pattern of experience that you see that leads you to a more successful candidate?

Talkable, Kate: The better fit for us are developers who used to work in a product company with high standards for code. Unfortunately for the outsourcing and outstaffing companies, there is a pattern that developers are writing code for quantity, not quality. They feel far removed from the team. 

I often hear from engineers why they want to join the product company. Because they are tired when their managers say, like, when the project just will be finished, we will give it to the customer and then forget about it. And it doesn't matter how it works. The developers feel demotivated by these low standards. We think technical interviews with the developers from outsourcing or outstaffing companies: they miss this quality code or solve questions quickly with the different views.

Make it in Ukraine: Is there an average age of the developers that you're taking or just talent in general?

Talkable, Kate: Sometimes, people who have less experience, who just finished their university or are studying right now, are quick learners. They tend to learn more quickly than some Seniors, for example, who have their habits and how to write code or their ways.

They always know and may argue that team should do something or shouldn't do something. Juniors are more open to any decision, anyways of writing the code or solving the problems connected to the system.

Talkable Interview
Source: DOU

Make it in Ukraine: What does the interview process look like?

Talkable, Kate: At first, I make an HR screen and HR interview. After that, there is a long technical interview which lasts for 3-4 hours. And after that, we make a decision, so there are no other steps. (Make it in Ukraine Note: It's a rapid turn around, 1-2 days for decision)

Make it in Ukraine: How do you currently attract talent? For example, do you use any incentives such as gym memberships, healthcare, learning expenses, and so on? How you're competing with these outsourcing companies?

Talkable, Kate: If we are talking about developers, their job is very difficult, and their solving problems are severe. They need to like the product and want to work with the team. We have healthcare, and we did travel in the past when everyone was going. It's more about finding the perfect match for the candidate and us. It should be from both sides.

I think our candidates who want to work at Talkable, they are not about these packages.

Because they're amazed:

  • What attitudes do we have for our products?
  • What culture do we have?
  • What's the quality of the code we have.
  • What's the level seniority and the experience of the people they will be working with.
  • And the level they can make in the company and how they can influence the business, even by working as a developer.

Make it in Ukraine: What are your plans for the next three to six months?

Talkable, Stacey: We are focused mostly on retaining our existing customers and looking for new ones. We have a pretty compelling sales team at the moment. As the company, we're focused on keeping customers but also looking for new ones. There were some hesitation and pause for everybody in March. Now we're seeing that people are open again for those options like referral marketing.

We're working from home till September 1st. We're waiting for how the situation develops and that's in terms of the office staff. In terms of goals:

  • The main focus is on retaining system customers.
  • Looking for new customers, who we can help with our product at this moment.
  • Building new products. Our product team is working, and we hope we will deliver new products by the end of summer.

Shad Paterson
About author
Shad's been a digital nomad since he was 16, living and working remotely. After working in marketing and selling crap to people constantly, he decided to change his life and do something good. Now he helps other people transform their lives, by landing them high-paying jobs across the world.
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