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Big Data. Big Difference. Big Purpose.

A conversation with Brad Cook, Global Vice President Talent Acquisition, Informatica

 
 Brad Cook, Global Vice President Talent Acquisition, InformaticaBrad Cook

The recruiting buzz last year was social media and mobile. This year? It's Big Data.

Joining us to discuss the importance of Big Date to business, is Brad Cook, Global Vice President Talent Acquisition, Informatica

Here's what Dave Mendoza wrote to me about Brad ... "There are few who can answer with substantive evidence - that '...when all is said and done, what did you accomplish?' Brad can say he made ideas reality. He is someone rarely satisfied with yesterday's achievements, because he is too busy planning tomorrow and the year after - but in between he never overlooks the individuals involved and the required collaboration. It is a rare type of leadership from someone who charted a very independent course for their own career and found capabilities inherent wherein years of academics could just as rarely match his own hands-on immersion and substantive expertise. He is in all things a student who masters the subject and it is this formulation in totality that make Brad distinctive in Talent Acquisition Management - a passionate advocate for the new, the inventive and sets a bold."

According to Brad, "Informatica is on the wave of three big industry megatrends - social media, mobile media and Cloud computing. We know there is hidden intelligence in that data and our products tie these trends together then unlock their combined intelligence to unleash something greater than the sum of these trending parts could offer alone. Big Data is big opportunity."

Brad is" focused on the design and implementation of cutting edge recruitment (talent acquisition and attraction) strategies, methodologies, processes and tools that connect talent with opportunity on a global scale. My overall objective is to evolve individuals, teams and organizations to reach their highest level of excellence while developing and leading global talent acquisition strategies that find the exemplary talent to not only achieve company-staffing goals, but to enable the expansion that is critical for business growth."

Brad Cook, TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

Welcome to TotalPicture Radio, the source for career advancement, leadership development, business trends and innovation. We produce broadcast quality interviews that will link your company to your customers, prospects, employees and passive candidates. Working with press credentials, TotalPicture Radio covers many leadership, HR, innovation and recruiting conferences and events. Through our unique, highly targeted interviews, TotalPicture Radio can extend the conference, continue the conversation and provide valuable content and information for your sponsors.

Coming up, sponsorship opportunities for the ERE Expo 2012 Spring in San Diego, March 28th and the SHRM 2012 Talent Management Conference and Expo in Washington D.C., April 30-May 2. To receive a free media kit and for more information, please call 203-292-0012 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The recruiting buzz last year was social media and mobile. This year, it's big data. According to our special guest, Brad Cook, global vice president, Talent Acquisition for Informatica, his company is on the wave of 3 big industry megatrends: social media, mobile media and cloud computing. Here is the headline from Brad's LinkedIn profile: "Big data is big opportunity". Brad is focused on the design and implementation of cutting-edge recruitment, talent acquisition and attraction strategies, methodologies, processes and tools that connect talent with opportunity on a global scale.

Brad, thanks for joining us here on TotalPicture Radio.

Brad: Thank you. Thanks for letting me join in.

Peter: I want to return to your LinkedIn profile. Informatica is on the wave of three big industry megatrends: social medial, mobile media and cloud computing. If you would provide us with some background on this statement and connect the dots for us a little bit.

Brad: People would have heard the term cloud computing for quite a few years. It's where people are taking IT infrastructure and moving it to the cloud so it's available everywhere. But with the influx of iPhones and Android, the explosion of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we're really seeing three inflection points and all of those technologies are coming together.

With mobile media, everybody has access to some sort of PDA today. They get access to their phone banking, Facebook or whatever applications they use on their mobile device is also providing lots and lots of data. So Informatica is really in those three industries.

The social media industry of leveraging the data, the mobile media industry of using the data that's within those mobile platforms, and then we're a cloud company as well. Informatica is the #1 data integrator that helps you, as a customer, pull all of that information to make it usable. It's really about getting a return on the investment of the data that you have within your company.

Peter: Brad, unless you work in IT, the term unstructured data may not mean much. Why is this so important and how is your company going about solving this problem?

Brad: The term unstructured data is really an offshoot of the old relational database. When you have a structure database, it was easy to pull information out. But with things like spreadsheets, Excel files, Word documents that just don't sit within a database platform, companies still want to have access to that information. We probably have thousands and thousands of files on our PCs within a PDF format. There's probably lots of rich data there that customers can actually use. So with our technologies, you're able to not just pull information from a structured database, but you can also pull it from Excel files, different types of spreadsheets, PDF files, Word documents so you can start to get that true return on your data.

Peter: Are you able to connect disparate database systems. That's one of the biggest complaints I hear from HR professionals, is that they've got stuff all over the place and doesn't integrate.

Brad: That's exactly what Informatica does and they've been doing that since 2003 and we do a lot more than that. That's the basic extract, transfer and load technology that's really taken us were we need to go. That's really about, how do you pull data. I've got an example today where we have an ATS that we're struggling to get data out of that's a usable reporting system. I have internal tools that link me through Informatica. We've actually extracted all of the data that we need from our ATS into a universe of data, like a cube of data, and then I'm attaching a reporting system, like a MicroStrategy to that and I can actually start to generate dashboard information from that.

My next step is I'm in the process of launching a CRM tool and what they're looking to doing there is pulling the data from the CRM from the ATS into one single entry. Then I can report all the way from true prospecting, all the way through to hire from within one platform, and that's because we're able to leverage our existing tools.

Peter: So your company's sole focus is on data integration, is that correct?

Brad: That's correct. How we integrate data from one platform to another, from one customer to another or from one industry to another.

Peter: You have offices globally. How many employees does Informatica have?

Brad: So we're clipping close to about 2800 globally in 27 locations.

Peter: Tell us about the Informatica community that I discovered on your LinkedIn profile.

Brad: The talent community per se is really a crowd-sourcing model. Leveraging the jobs to our platform, I wanted an organization where I can have a platform to bring everybody together. Once I have everybody crowd-sourced, I can now start to segment them into their focus areas: sales, R&D, finance marketing.

Informatica, as we've been around for a long time, have a lot of great PR stories and that's a way for me to share information not just about the company, but about the industry. The big data industry is going to become like the cloud industry, the next big wave of activity that's out there in the IP market. The talent community is a way for me to (1), attract my candidates that may not be ready to buy today, but they still want to know more about the industry or job opportunities within Informatica, and then when the time is right, we can have a dialogue with them and then hopefully they come and join us.

Peter: Your company was the winner in 2011 of the ERE Recruiting Excellence Awards for Most Strategic Use of Technology. Can you tell us a little bit about the technology you're using for recruiting and what makes it stand out?

Brad: That was just one of the awards we actually won last year, but that was about market mapping and market intelligence. Having Dave Mendoza on the team has been a huge benefit for us in that he's been able to build some very detailed search strings, to the point where we actually blew up Google from a character perspective. A search engine only has 256 characters and we blew that up because of the detailed search strings he was doing. But with understanding what you're looking for, where you're looking for, the companies you may be looking for, the skills you may be looking for, he's actually built for every strategic role that we have, like a hyperlink. We can just click on one link, URL and it will automatically pull up all the people in the industry using Google Search or Bing, or whatever we want to use and pull back market mapping or market intelligence of those candidates. From there, we import them straight into our CRM which now we have a huge store of probably 50,000 records. The CRM project that we're implementing at the moment is probably one of my biggest game changers for this year.

Peter: That's fantastic. Can you share with us some of the innovative ways you're able to attract the talent you're looking for? It's great that you're able to pull all those data in and find all these people. On the reverse side, how do you get them interested in Informatica?

Brad: I think there's two parts of that question; (1) is knowing where they are and knowing who they are, and (2) is about how do we actually attract them to us.

A lot of the work that we're doing and we're ready to go live in around the May timeframe with a new website and a whole lot of new branding activities that we've been doing, and the big thing that we're really doing is driving awareness of both the industry, Informatica as a company, as a culture. For people on the inside, we get the culture. We get what it's like here. It's really easy to do work here. There's lots of exciting innovating things going on, but to the outside world, they don't know what it's about. So a lot of the new branding activities we're doing is about attracting people to the emotive feelings of why they would want to come and work for Informatica.

There's some pretty exciting things to come over the next couple of months, which would be good to have everybody start to view.

Peter: How have you gone about building your global recruiting team? Tell us a little bit about how you've structured this. Are you using RPOs or third-party recruiters?

Brad: That's an interesting question. When I started in November 2010, I had 8 people on the team. As of last week, we're hitting 39. I inherited a Greenfield site. There was really not much that we could leverage, so we really had to build from scratch. The first thing we did was actually remove the full lifecycle recruiting model that we had in place here then. I just don't believe personally that you can have a skill set for someone that's really strong in recruiting, sourcing and coordination, admin and all that stuff. So we split it out. We have dedicated recruiters, we have dedicated sourcers, we have dedicated candidate experience managers and then we've actually just built a new team based out of India which is doing a lot of global research for us. So a lot of the name gen and the lead gen and that's starting to become very fruitful for us because we can actually have people that have very strong skills in certain areas. That's starting to produce a lot of good results for us.

Peter: How do you go about recruiting in different cultures like in India or perhaps in Japan? Do you have local recruiters based in those areas?

Brad: We do. We have recruiters across the world. Asia Pac is a little bit of a different model. We're looking at an RPO model there at the moment.

Japan, for example, is somewhere where the culture is very, very strong. The volume that we would do in Japan, we really use agencies there and that's really one of the only countries that we use a lot of agencies - there and Korea are the two areas.

When you start looking at places like India, a lot of the US models still work in India, but it's very much a family-based approach to selection. We do things like family days, where families of candidates can come in and see our campuses and meet the higher managers. We have walk-in events which I don't know anywhere else in the world where you can really do a walk-in event. We've actually hired from very, very talented software engineers from a walk-in event. We have a sign at the front of the building and they will walk in, go through some interviews, receive an offer and they'll start in a couple of weeks time.

Peter: That's amazing.

Brad: It really is about deciding how and what is the best way to go to market in your region. I think the US is very much a mature market. If you look outside of the US, Europe and Asia, I think it's still locked in the job board era, and I think that era is going away very, very quickly with things like SEO and companies like Indeed and pay-per-click types of services. I think they will start to have to move away from job boards, and I think a lot of companies will have to start looking at how do they leverage corporate recruiting type functions if they have the volume and the ROI to achieve that.

Peter: That's really interesting that you bring that up, Brad, because I just interviewed Gerry Crispin. He was talking about the fact that, especially for large companies with well-known brands, the use of SEO can pretty soon disintermediate the job boards. You're not going to need it anymore, right?

Brad: I think Gerry is absolutely right. If there's any one thing that I've learned from Dave Mendoza, was SEO is one of the most important technologies or methodologies I had to grasp. I've been trying to educate the teams and different people over the year, and it is quite complex because there's lots of moving pieces to it. I think he is absolutely spot on with that.

The thing that people need to remember is you can't just turn SEO on and expect it to work the next day. It takes a good 6 or 8 months for the data that you're using to actually create that search engine optimization, to actually give you some business benefit. So you have to have a lot of foresight to do that. But it's simple things like the way you write your job descriptions, the way you write your titles. I'm not an HR professional, I'm a sales guy so I look at everything through a sales lens and a business development lens. Part of that is reverse engineering. I reverse engineer a lot of things. If I was a candidate looking for a job, what would I do? I would go to Google or if I was in the US, I would go to Indeed or I'd go to Glassdoor and I would search on what I'm looking for - software engineer, account manager or whatever that may be. Search engine optimization allows me to be front and center.

When I first started in November 2010, if you would do a search on Informatica jobs, we appeared on page 10 of the Google search. We had Indeed, Simply Hired, a lot of partners who are actually advertising Informatica type of jobs in the industry as well. We appeared on page 10. Putting in the SEO platform, reconfiguring the way we do our job titles and job descriptions and so forth, we now appear on page 1 and usually on position 1. I can achieve that by doing some pay-per-click types of services to move me around. I would like to be on page 1 or page 2 on any search that anybody does.

The other thing we've done is we've done a lot of SEO within LinkedIn. So now if you're an engineer looking for Hadoop type of skill set, which is the technology for big data, then my recruiters appear on page 1 when someone does a search within LinkedIn. That's something that we haven't gone to market with yet, but that was the reason we won the second award through ONREC in October of last year just for using SEO in every single place we can think of, to reverse engineer, looking from the outside in, versus the inside out.

Peter: Looks to me, Brad, like your company has had a rather serious growth trajectory. Is your leadership providing you with the resources you need to keep up with your hiring needs?

Brad: I think going from 8 to 39 people in a bit over 18 months is true indication that we have massive support from the organization. One of the beauties of working for Informatica, which I haven't had at previous companies is we're actually one of the 8 top priorities for the company. Talent is so important for our continued growth and it is invested as such. Also by reporting to the CFOs, you can always go and ask dad for some more money. ☺

Peter: Have you guys been able to solve the candidate experience conundrum? You brought up earlier that you have people who are just specializing in the candidate experience.

Brad: Do I think we've solved it? No. Are we on the way towards it? Absolutely. I think for me, the biggest challenge is more on the ATS side of things, to drive candidate experience anywhere I can outside of the ATS. We do a lot of work there.

As an example, I'm not going to mention names because I don't want anybody approaching my people, but we have a candidate experience team, which is a group of coordinators that interface with both the recruiters, the hire managers, but more importantly with the candidates. When I was interviewing for Informatica 8 months ago, I had the best experience I ever had in 30 years looking at a company. I knew exactly where I needed to be. I knew the buyers of every single executive I was meeting. I knew how to get to the office, what the hotel, flight details were. Everything I needed to know, I never needed to think anything other than the interviews I was going into. I think that's a huge plus for a candidate coming into the company. Once they're in, it doesn't stop. We have a lot of other things that we do for on boarding as a company and I think that's part of the candidate experience.

We're certainly doing a lot of work on the ATS side, making it easier to come through and part of the data that we really look at regularly through the Jobs2Web platform is to know where people are coming from and then seeing what our conversion rates are from people that come to our website, join the talent community, apply for a job and then how do they flow up into my ATS.

Peter: A lot of what I've been hearing over the last 6 to 8 months from recruiters, and especially corporate recruiters, is it's one thing to be able to attract candidates to your organization. But if you don't have that position for them today, but they're a great fit for your organization, you want to be able to continue a conversation with them and stay in touch with them. A lot of companies are struggling with exactly how to go about doing that.

Brad: It's an industry problem because the tools that have been generally available for us for years are a funnel. It's about filling the top of the funnel, filtering them down to some smaller amount and putting in sort of your selection process and spitting them out at the other end. I used to call them like the bridesmaids or silver and gold medallists. I want to know who the silver and gold medallist was so I can then funnel them back through into the other end. I think that's where the CRM platforms of today are going to start to come in. I think I start to see a lot of the CRMs will become ATSs because it's about the cycle.

I have a perfect example, years ago, of a college grad that we tried to hire at a previous company. He said no. He went to another organization. Two or three years later, he saw an opportunity back at the company but he didn't want to reach out because he had already declined a role. That would have been a perfect opportunity for us to keep in touch with him. I know there's a few other - the big professional services group that are doing that now. Anybody they touched three years ago, they go back and start to ping. I think the CRM, when you think of the whole talent cycle as purely a cycle - that it never, ever ends. If someone had come out of graduate school today, I want to go and know who they are in three years time because now they've got three years of experience that is even more valuable to me than it was three years prior.

I think the market is going to change. The tools are going to have to change, the way people look at their processes internally I think will have to change. It may take us a while to get there, but it's certainly a place that I'm trying to get to.

Peter: Brad, have you been able to foster any innovation in campus recruiting?

Brad: We have in certain areas. I've just hired a new senior manager to head at my global recruiting or global campus function. She doesn't start for another couple of months but we've done some things. We've had a little bit of a dabble in the US. We only hire between 15 and 20 college grads in the US a year.

In India, we've done a great job I think with a lot of the campuses out there. The campus marketing in India is very, very different to the rest of the world. It's very, very competitive so you really have to stand out above the crowd and there's certain different things you can do there.

I think the other thing we've been doing is in Russia that's pretty exciting. In Saint Petersburg, we have a partnership or an alliance with one of the universities up there. We actually have not just internships, but work experience, coming in and actually working side by side experienced engineers, working on real life problems in the whole big data space. So at the end of that student's cycle through school, they'll actually come out with some real world experience. We'll know how good they were and then there'll be opportunities for them to come and join the company and then grow from there.

I think there's still more to come for us from a college perspective.

Peter: I would guess that the kinds of candidates you are trying to recruit, it's a very highly competitive market globally, is it not?

Brad: It is very much so.

Peter: In the US, are you recruiting experienced hires? Who are you looking to attract for your company here?

Brad: Informatica is really across the board. We have two large development areas, one in the US and one in India. If you look at my hiring throughout the US, it's predominantly enterprise salespeople, or developers or people that have had the data integration side of things. We have right across the board, finance, marketing, HR, everything there.

When you look at our development side of it, we really compete with the big guns - the Facebook, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn, Zynga. The thing that we're doing is we're starting to promote and we're starting to brand ourselves. It's really about the foundations of everything that those other players work on. Call us plumbing, call us whatever you like, we do what's behind the scene.

So for some people, it may not look sexy but the other platforms above us can't work because they need access to their data and they need to use that data. I think if someone's looking at a career move and they're looking for the next big wave of opportunity, it's going to be big data. The cloud was the big wave many, many years ago. Networking was a big wave 20 years ago. I got into networking because it was the next big wave, and I actually joined Informatica because I saw cloud and big data was where the industry is going. We compete with those players, but at the end of the day, I think we have a lot to offer internally that the others don't.

Peter: I'm really interested in this perspective because last year in HR and recruiting, everybody was talking about social networks and mobile. This year, everyone is talking about big data. So you were right on the cusp of the next big thing, I guess.

Brad: It is. An example, we actually ran last night or the last couple of days, a new hire orientation. We had about 50 people come through the 2-day program and we have a cocktail party at the end of it. There were 11 people that we called boomerangs. They worked with the company, they saw the grass is greener on the other side, and guess what? They're back. They've gone to some of our competitors and they realize that the grass is not greener on the other side. We have between a 10 and 15% return rate. I think that that shows the strength of the culture, the strength of the company and why it is such a great place to work.

Peter: What are you working on today that has you really excited?

Brad: The branding work, the new website that we're building, it is certainly cutting-edge. No one has seen a website like we've built from a recruiting perspective, so I'm really, really excited about that.

The CRM, as I said before, putting Avature in, we have so much information today, so much data that's sitting in spreadsheets, and it really makes it difficult for a researcher or a sourcer to use. We have 18,000 people in our talent community, all with phone numbers, all with personal email addresses and all with contact details; I need an easy way to put all of my sourcers and recruiters to use that globally, and the CRM is going to provide that.

I think a game changer for me is the branding aspect, which is outside, externally facing. The CRM for me is very internally facing and process-driven. So I think between those two things, 2012 is going to be an exciting year for us. We've got a lot of things coming up at ERE this year so hopefully, we can win a few more prizes or recognitions down there with all the work that the team's been doing.

Peter: I look forward to seeing you at ERE and I know you're speaking at the Recruiting Innovations Summit this May. Can you give us a quick overview of your presentation there?

Brad: A lot of things we sort of covered today, I can't give too much away of what I'm asked to say, but it's really about driving operational excellence. I believe that there's so many technologies out there and you can really locked down in technology overload. So it's really deciding what are the technologies that you must have and making them work together. I think that's one of the biggest things that I would say people need to focus on and really knowing what the critical success factors are for your industry and recruiting world, whether that be dedicated recruiting, sourcing, whatever.

Also, I'll be talking a lot about SEO and how you can actually walk away with some usable things that someone can actually come back to an organization and implement and drive an improvement to their business. A lot of what we've covered today, I'll be covering at that event as well.

Peter: One last question, is there anything that we haven't discussed that you'd like to share with the audience today?

Brad: The stuff that Dave has been doing, the innovation that Dave has been doing with the CRM, the market mapping and those sort of things is really helping us take it to the next level.

Peter: Great.

Brad: I think I owe him a lot.

Peter: Great. Brad, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio.

Brad: Peter, thanks for the opportunity.

Brad Cook is global vice president, talent acquisition for Informatica. You'll find this interview, along with resource links in the Talent Acquisition channel of TotalPicture Radio's new completely redesigned and mobile-optimized website at totalpicture.com. Thanks for listening.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.

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