Skytap’s new VP of Talent has fascinating stories to tell and some outstanding advice for landing a job in one of the most competitive software development markets in the world—Seattle. Jill brings a wealth of experience to Skytap and will play a key role in our search for top talent looking to make a real impact in the world of cloud computing. We sat down with Jill to welcome her to the team, to learn about her career path, and to hear her advice for those who are ready to make the next step in their own careers.
Noel: Hello, Jill! Will you take a minute to introduce yourself, and tell us where you’ve worked before joining us?
Jill: I was really enjoying HR and recruiting as a profession and after a couple of years I was ready for a new role. I was intrigued by what was going on in high-tech in Seattle, and I was introduced to the HR leader at Visio. I walked through the doors of Visio and thought to myself “I have to be a part of this!” I loved the energy, the people, the passion, and creativity you could just see and feel.
I have stayed in high-tech ever since and have had the most amazing opportunities from roles as an individual contributor to eventually management and leadership in a variety of areas of HR, including: Recruiting, HR Generalist, Organizational Design, Coaching, Consulting and Mergers & Acquisitions.
Over the past 20 years (which have flown by!) I have been fortunate, both from my HR and M&A experience, to work in and with a variety of companies at different stages, from start-up, emerging, to large companies, including – Visio, Microsoft, Google, iStart Ventures, Skype, and a variety of others.
I always tell people I had one of the coolest jobs in the industry – leading the MS Venture Integration (M&A) HR Team. The final deal I worked on before I left my full-time role in 2012 was the Skype acquisition and integration. What a ride and an experience that I’ll never forget. I was the HR Integration lead on the deal, as well as acting HR leader for an interim period, before my family and I moved out of Seattle for and new adventure as part of our family owned business.
However, when I moved, I knew I would be back and didn’t get too far from tech. I continued an independent consulting practice which allowed me some flexibility when I needed it and to stay connected to the industry trends and my profession, but also the chance to work with some leaders I had worked with in the past and in some incredible companies in Seattle, including Skytap!
Noel: You were actually here as a consultant over the last 9 months, what did you see or learn during that time that made you feel like you needed to join the team full time?
Jill: I knew pretty quickly, that if it could work out some day, I’d really like to be a part of this company for a long time! Skytap’s current stage is one of my favorites: emerging. Not too small, not too big, but growing aggressively. It reminds me a lot of when I joined Visio, and Skytap has about the same size and growth track. I instantly could feel the energy and passion, see the success happening with the product and the team, not to mention I was very impressed by the synergy amongst the leadership team, which is something that is so critical to me.
Being in M&A for a long time I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of teams and leaders. I believe I have developed a very solid understanding of what makes a company successful, including the product, focus on customer experience, culture, leadership team and direction. Skytap is an incredible company, with incredible talent at an incredible phase. I am so excited to be a part of this and to help drive the continued success.
I keep saying “we are the best kept secret in Seattle right now” and one aspect of my job is to make sure we change this. I can’t wait to tell everyone about Skytap, what we have going on, what we are hiring for, and the opportunity for impact you can find here!
Noel: I was going to try to delay asking about this until later in the interview, but it’s just too cool. You and your husband also own a winery! I would imagine that’s both incredibly fun, and also very hard work.
Jill: Yes – you nailed it. It is fun and extremely difficult work! I often joke that it sounds much more romantic than it is! We have had a commercial winery in Ballard for over 6 years. We are the typical boutique winery story – started with a barrel in the basement and all of the sudden we have hundreds!
I remember a few years back getting off of the plane from Europe, coming home from an acquisition related trip, and having to drop my bags and get to the winery as the bottling truck was showing up. I figured that is an example of “work life blend”.
In 2011 we decided to jump into the vineyard side and we purchased an established vineyard in Prosser, WA, and eventually we decided to move to the vineyard to focus on that aspect and for a change of pace. I have gained a much greater appreciation for farmers now and my tractor driving skills have much improved.
I am a big believer if you have other things outside of work, whatever it may be, you use your brain in different ways, and you can bring this energy and creativity back into your work or other aspects of life. So for me, starting a business on our own, being a part of the process of helping make the wine (my husband is the wine maker) and all of the incredible people we have the chance to meet in industry and in the Tasting Room in Ballard is something that I believe makes me better at my “day” job. Or, maybe it is people are just hoping I will pour them a glass of vino when they come to my office!
Noel: Now to put you on the spot a bit. A VP of Talent is a pretty unique position, and not one that everyone is lucky enough to have, or perhaps even knows they need. Why did Skytap need a VP of Talent in 2015?
Jill: I feel fortunate to be joining Skytap now and as the VP of Talent. Often time this role title may be VP of “HR”, but to me “Talent” speaks more to what I believe this role is all about. It is focused on all of the talent, not just recruiting, but employee engagement, retention, culture, connection and communication. We are all talented in our own way. It is important to figure out how we foster the talent to continue to build and grow an incredibly strong company, and culture, which of course feeds into successful products and customer experience.
With this type of growth comes the need to be focused on the aggressive hiring goals in a very competitive market, but also being able to manage the change and growth happening internally when you grow aggressively. It is easy to get laser focused on hiring, but you cannot lose site of your current team. Are they engaged, happy, do they see their impact, are they stretched in their roles, getting the information they need to do their job, do they have the appropriate management, and feel connected to the strategy and goals? Are we designed in the most effective way to meet our goals, and are we having fun?
Noel: Seattle has been accurately nicknamed “Cloud City” in recent years, due to the presence of Amazon AWS, Google, Microsoft, now Oracle is opening an office here, Apple is coming in – it’s remarkable, really. The competition for hiring talent has got to be off the charts. Obviously we’re all different companies, but what do you think makes Skytap not just unique, but ultimately desirable for hard-working, bright, creative, and industry-passionate individuals?
Jill: You are right. Seattle is so exciting right now! It is part of the reason I made the decision to move back and jump back in to a full-time role. I don’t want to miss out!
People have options now all over this town with great companies, and I am not sure of too many tech companies that are not looking for the same thing – smart, passionate, creative people. So… we of course need to differentiate ourselves, but as I said, I think we are the “best kept secret” – we are not a start-up, we are not a large company, we are emerging, successful and growing.
You can come in and instantly see the impact you could have by working with some really smart and extremely passionate people. I also love the fact that we develop a product for Engineers. So, what better – than to work with engineers working on a product for engineers! The passion bleeds through. I recently read somewhere the top 3 trends of retention – which are Flexibility (Do I have flexibility in my work and my day?), Impact (Can I have an impact?), and Compensation (am I paid fairly in the market?)
I can look at all those 3 things and know you will find these at Skytap! In addition, you work with smart and creative people, with a very strong leadership team, and can join at one of the most exciting times of Skytap history. We will have an impact in the industry. We have already and it will only keep growing. I am confident in this.
Noel: Someone is looking at Skytap as a potential employer. They check out our website, maybe our Twitter or LinkedIn page, they read some reviews of current and past employees. As someone with more than 20 years (!) in the recruitment and HR world, what can you suggest candidates do to really differentiate themselves, and feel like they’ve really put themselves in front of the right people at Skytap.
Jill: We review resumes and LinkedIn information closely, whether you have directly applied, or we found you. So, if you are strong, you will definitely get the attention of our recruiters and hiring managers. Our hiring managers are heavily engaged in our hiring.
I encourage candidates to apply for the jobs you really want. Don’t just blast apply. If you really want it – then show this in your marketing of yourself. Your LinkedIn profile may need to be a bit more broad as everyone is looking at it, but when you submit a resume – customize it to the job you are applying for. What did we not see on your LinkedIn profile that you really want to call out for this job?
Also, network, network, network. We love employee referrals (just like our competitors), so if you know someone or find someone at Skytap – do not hesitate to reach out. We are very open to informal meetings, to show you around, and see if there is a fit now or maybe in the future.
Noel: Lastly, that same person described above, they land an interview (perhaps after following your advice!) they can go online and read job interview tips for weeks and never get through them all, but what’s your favorite interviewing tip for nailing a Skytap interview?
Jill: I am a big believer in being genuine and authentic. So be yourself, but make sure to show your confidence in your experience and ability. We need people who know their strengths and will act upon them, problem solvers who will take the lead and communicate effectively.
Does Skytap sound like the right fit for you and your goals? We encourage you to learn more about us at our website and social media channels listed above, or check out our career page to view our current openings!