No one can predict what’s coming next, especially during this unprecedented and volatile time. But you can be better prepared for what’s next if you take the time now to revisit your hiring strategies and organizational dynamics. Once you do, you’ll be ready to pivot when the economy — or at least your particular industry — begins to rebound.   

In my career, I’ve done a fair amount of pivoting myself. I’m currently the vice president of global talent attraction here at Indeed, but I started out as a software engineer, and later became manager of an engineering department. Going from engineer to TA leader may seem like a stretch, but my unconventional career path provided me with valuable lessons I’d like to share — on organizational dynamics, scaling hiring initiatives, and being agile so you’re ready to pivot when the time comes. 

Boosting organizational dynamics — the ‘aha’ moment

There’s a joke among tech people that at the start of your career, that every challenge looks like a programming language problem. Over time, everything becomes a framework problem, and then, it’s an architecture problem. Eventually, you get to the truth: Every problem is really a people problem. 

That “aha” moment was transformative, and led me to focus more on organizational dynamics. Instead of trying to solve technology challenges directly, I was more interested in making sure my team had the right skill sets and mindsets to solve those problems as they evolved. My job was then to remove any roadblocks standing in their way.

Here’s one example of how I put it into practice. Early in my career, when I was an engineer with a (very) well-known Silicon Valley company, I was one of three people working on a specific project. Each of us owned one part of the code we were writing. Our responsibilities and goals were clear, and we were in constant communication with each other. 

Over time, the team grew to about 10 people, and we became noticeably less focused and productive. By then I was a manager, and decided to reorganize my reports into three teams of three — a return to what had worked so well before. Each group focused on one specific area, and had its own technical lead overseeing the work. Almost immediately, this changed our organizational dynamics, and everyone became much more productive and successful in their roles. My job then became to work with the three technical leads to set goals, establish priorities and — once again — remove blockers. 

It’s a simple but strong example of an organizational dynamic principle: Making just a small change can help people reorient their perspectives, which in turn helps them to become more engaged and productive. (If you haven’t read Patrick Lencioni’s books on organizational dynamics, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” and “The Advantage,” I highly recommend them.)   

Scaling hiring initiatives 

Another lesson learned: When facing an ambitious hiring initiative, you may need to take an unconventional approach. 

Through a few twists and turns after my experience with the aforementioned Silicon Valley company, I found myself running the entire engineering department at a software company for e-commerce brands. My first project was something they’d never attempted before: grow the engineering team from 25 to 150 people in about 15 months.

To meet that goal, I decided to embed myself deeply in the company’s three-person recruiting team. By this point in my career, I’d developed a strong perspective on how to assess tech talent, and I wanted to work closely with the team to pass along what I’d learned. 

I moved my office to sit beside them. During my first few weeks, we’d spend several hours every day reviewing resumes together. I’d walk them through each one, telling them the positive and negative things that stood out for me. After six weeks, I was confident that if they put a resume in front of me, it was one I’d want to see. I interviewed five or more people a day, and often did 30 interviews a week. And, I involved both the recruiting and engineering teams in the debrief process, to both socialize and instill this perspective into everyone involved with recruiting.

My belief was that engineering and recruiting — though they’re very different disciplines — had a mutual problem, and I was simply there to help them solve it. To do that, I needed a deep understanding of what they needed to succeed, and what was getting in their way. It was an unusual move for an engineering head to “move in” with the recruiting team, for sure. But when you’re faced with a big problem — like quickly scaling your hiring to levels never attempted before — you should take big steps to solve it

And through that close working relationship, I helped the team become better able to assess candidates for technology roles without me — which made their jobs and mine easier in the long run. 

Continuing to learn

I’m still learning and adapting every day. But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned so far in my career is to identify an unfilled gap — and then find a way to fill it. To accomplish this, you must be observant. Don’t just look at what your tasks are. Look at what you’re doing, and how it connects to the organization’s broader goals. 

When you identify and work to fill gaps — whether your role is TA leader, an engineering team member or something else entirely — you’re exposed to new experiences. You connect with people you wouldn’t have met otherwise, explore new ideas for fixing old problems, and open up fresh opportunities. 

In other words: You’ll be ready to pivot when the time is right.