October 16, 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, looking at their competencies, not experience. For example, if we want to hire a middle-level developer or a middle-level Campaign Manager, we never limit ourselves with years of experience. We are open for communication with those candidates who have even one year of experience, two or more. Often we meet the perfect match, but this person doesn’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.

Talkable, Stacey: This type of thing happened to me a couple of times. It’s those situations when you find yourself in a place when it seems like everybody in the room is smarter than you. If everybody has this tremendous experience or expertise and you don’t have that. I didn't work at that Fortune 500 company, or I don't know that technology, or I haven't got any experience with domain 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, growing day by day and doing something better every day.

Interview with Talkable
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 issues. Maybe because we never felt separated between two continents and it's one of the things I love the most about Talkable. We are one big company, and it doesn't matter in which time zone you are. 

Talkable, Stacey: We communicate every day with our US colleagues. It's crucial to have excellent communication and reduce misunderstandings. It still happens, of course, but the first thing you need to do is to ensure you are feeling like one team. That could be achieved through regular team connects team building together, travel to each other offices. In our case, the US team travels to Kyiv for a week, and the Ukrainian team visits the US office 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 an anomaly. It's the best company I have worked at in terms of culture and people and everything. Do you know that feeling when you love to go to work every day 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 working 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 joining the new company and you see that most people are working three, four, five, seven years, you start to feel the company’s culture clearly, its values and why it's about long-term relations. Culture itself flies in the air, but no one can open the document and read the values. We now have the company values written out. The transparency amazes me the most at Talkable. This is the first and only company I know that communicates everything that's happening in it. For example: "How much money do we have in the bank accounts? What will we do with this money?" It amazes. Every person is able and is welcomed to ask any questions, what they're interested in. If someone doesn't understand why something has been done or why this decision has been made, they can go directly to the CEO or to the Founder, or to their Manager and ask those questions. And these questions will be answered.

Interview with Talkable
Source: talkable.com

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

Talkable, Stacey: I can describe how it’s done in my team. We start the first day with onboarding with the operations manager and Kate herself. The first few weeks are planned with introductory meetings about the company, each department and how they work together. I typically start my intro to a new colleague and tell them about the company. I would explain how the company works, dive into the flow for the customer, what each department is responsible for, what is the person's role in the company, what they could influence in the process, with whom they will collaborate and so on. The next step for new employees is to have a meeting with all the key members of the teams with whom they will be working in the future. For example, with QA, with engineers, with product and marketing. That's a very important process to have in the beginning of one’s life at the company. We share the docs, which a new team member can always look at any time, so they don’t feel lost or overwhelmed with the information which was shared in the first two weeks. We ensure that the information is given in a structured way, and our new teammates have different perspectives and views from different departments, and they get to know the team in their first weeks.

We are doing this one small ritual in our team: once somebody joins, we're going out for lunch or dinner together the same day and try not to talk about work. We chat about real-life things, like what they like to do, what their hobbies are. It's about getting to know that person better on a more personal level.

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 to understand if it’s the right fit. I always discuss a person's experience. All the work situations people have had in the past, firmly and in details. 

 The interview is built as a dialogue, as we are two people who know each other, and we're just talking about work. I always tend to have a direct and open communication with candidates. Sometimes candidates are amazed when I want to have a video conversation after each step and discuss their and ours feedback. 

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 to all the department leads. So it's like a contagious theme and initiative 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 picture, a broad 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." 

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 preferences for the Sales department because Account Executives should work in the same time zone as our customers. It's also much easier due to the language barrier, which might become an issue if we hire AEs in Ukraine.

Talkable, Stacey: We have a part of the sales team, SDRs in Ukraine, and apart from 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 such things as paid ads and content on the site. When it comes to working with our clients, the campaign management team based in Ukraine is responsible for that. We help clients to manage their referral programs by coming up with ideas for their 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, with its rich tech scene, most of the products are related either to gambling, some kind of online games or dating. 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 top-level marketers with expertise in other tech industries, such as e-commerce, SaaS, EoT, From what I could tell when working in marketing in Ukraine, there is always a higher demand for specialists who are focused on user acquisition for gambling/dating projects.

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. 

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 the 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.

Interview with Talkable
Source: DOU

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

Talkable, Kate: At first, I make an HR phone screen and HR interview. After that, there is a long technical interview which lasts for 2-3 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 traveling. 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.

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 strong sales team at the moment to help us with that. We also started building new products which we hope to deliver by the end of 2020. March was very slow in terms of new sales, which is understandable, due to the fact that companies need to adapt to new rules of the game, re-focus their resources and build a sustain strategy. Though now we're seeing that brands are more open again to more engaging acquisition channels like referral marketing.

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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