People help people: Ikigai, helpful VCs and Talent Branches🌿
It’s been a while since I have noticed that the recruitment field in tech is as uneven as it is today. Engineers are in high demand and nearly all engineers I know have multiple LinkedIn messages on a daily/weekly basis offering them yet another job with a substantial price tag. This holds true, even now, despite the economic downturn. As a “business profile”, I have indeed been approached but never with as much frequency as my engineering friends.
To add to this perspective, as a VC and a community builder, I also found it quite surprising that the number 1 ask from my founder network has always been, can you help me find great engineers? Thus, it seemed like a natural thought that most engineers who love the field must have found their ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese word for a concept related to finding the intersection between “what you love”, “what the world needs”, “what you can be paid for”, and “what you are good at”. Here is a graphic visualization of what that wonderful ikigai looks like:
Ironically, most engineers do not find ikigai, as can be inferred by data points such as:
- The average turnover of an engineer is 1.1 year. People who find their ikigai don’t usually switch as fast.
- There are several talks about the great resignation continuing, despite the economic downturn.
I guess in a way having too many options can bring up other types of challenges. In the same way in which one can go to the supermarket and find multiple types of pasta. You probably wouldn’t have much of a problem choosing between penne and spaghetti, but if you suddenly have penne, spaghetti, maccheroni, farfalle, cannelloni, etc…, then you end up like me and try to optimize using two variables (what you know and what is price-effective).
Pasta analogy aside, it is a bit mind-blowing to me that the more choices people have the more likely they end up optimizing through a few variables like:
- Optimize for money
- Optimize for brand
Now, let’s bring this to a real-life experience of mine, only with fictional names.
Last year, one of my good friends, Tom, who I catch up with regularly, mentioned he was not happy with his job: he didn’t align with the company’s mission and his growth potential had been exhausted. Since Tom is a developer, I figured he’d have an easy time finding his next job. He could just go through one of the many LinkedIn requests he got and pick out his next gig. To my surprise, he mentioned that he was considering joining the ZYX company.
ZYX company was a company with questionable reputation, and I care about my friends, so I immediately expressed my concerns and said if there was anything else available, he’d be better off with something else. Tom mentioned he didn’t really have enough time to check all the companies and he was optimizing for money and availability. Knowing how valuable Tom could be to the right company, I offered to help and said: “I will personally find you a job! You are a gem and you should be working on something that makes you feel excited about going to work every day.”
Having previously been a VC, I know one of the biggest desires for a VC is to be helpful to their founders. As can be seen here:
Unfortunately, VC desires do not always match reality.
I reached out to one of my friends Ana at VC ABC and mentioned I had a gem to position. Ana is one of the most helpful people I know and after receiving Tom’s CV, she forwarded it to the hiring managers of her portfolio companies. The response of the portfolio companies was immediate, and the next week Tom had two interviews arranged with company XYZ. Long story short, Tom got the job at company XYZ which meant that: he would get fair compensation, and a manager that cared about his development. Thus, Tom joined XYZ, a company with a vibrant culture that makes him excited about building and solving problems. I must have told this story to at least 10 friends, because I truly believe, if possible, people should work on things that spark joy for them.
In this real-world example, Tom was happy because he found something that can resemble Ikigai for now, Ana was happy because she helped her portfolio company, the company was happy because finding the committed talent is extremely difficult, and I was happy because my friends are happy. If we were to look at this in karma terms, I won a lot of good karma and hopefully a cool dinner with Tom someday. Tom if you are reading this, I am still looking forward to that dinner.
Experiences like this led me to join TechTree. The day I met Pawel while he was pitching TechTree as an investment, it immediately made sense to me. I believe that TechTree has the potential to help people find their ikigai, compensate the ones who go out of their way to help others and is building a sustainable business out of it. Here is a longer version of TechTree’s vision atm, in case you are interested.
Ultimately, that specific example resonated highly with me because I believe people help people. Back in my MBA days, I remember attending a lecture by one of my favorite professors, on negotiation skills for women and he mentioned that women are more likely to do things when the beneficiary is someone other than themselves. I believe that this in a way applies to many of us; we have the urge to help people and just knowing that you’ve contributed to making someone’s life a little better can be an extremely satisfying feeling.
Putting all these reflections to some use, it feels wonderfully odd to say that we have productized the example from a friend and today we are launching it through Talent Branches. Talent Branches are basically talent pools by VCs or individuals with strong networks. This means that my people can become available to my network or a curated network of leading portfolio companies from VCs (see which VCs are our partners) without me having to shout it on LinkedIn like this or this.
In a nutshell, there is a before and after Talent Branches, here is a short explanation:
Before Talent Branches
- I know a friend looking for a role
- I offer to help by connecting them to my network
- I figure out that I don’t know who in my network is looking for people, so I have to spend a lot of effort introducing or I forget about it
- Unfortunately, my chances of making the best match for my friend are very low
After Talent Branches
- I know a friend looking for a role
- I refer him to a VC talent branch, or he joins my talent branch
- The VC portfolio companies or people in my network who are looking for someone like my friend can reach out to him directly
- My friend can accept / reject the reach outs he is getting and decide whether this is the right match
I have had this article on the back of my head for a while, but I figured it is the right time to put it out there. Specially as we navigate this economic downterm that has led so many companies to let go of their people. Whether you’d like to use my product to help your people, or you just needed a reminder, I’d love to see more people helping people 😊