The Best I Ever Worked With …by Gui Lozano

Talent Acquisition Manager, UpCloud

Lena Castellón
Editor-in-Chief, Meio&Mensagem, São Paulo (2011)

This is a story I had never told anyone.

Most people don’t know, but I studied journalism and I my passion was to tell stories. That’s how I met Lena. Lena is precise, intelligent, outspoken. She can talk about pretty much anything – marketing, politics, football. The journalist I would like to have been. She was the maestro of our newsroom – if you’ve been to a newsroom, you know it needs a maestro. It is loud and messy, and deadlines are tight. This is the kind of place that is packed with brilliance and talent, but with that persistent touch of ego and arrogance that can make it hard to control. It is a weird combination, capable of producing outstanding work, but in a somewhat tense (maybe a little toxic?) environment.

Lena is short, yet she was the most respected person in the room. When she spoke, everybody listened. She never raised her voice. A very tough woman without ever having to show how tough she was.

I was just an intern and I went mostly unnoticed. It was my first job, working on a 1-year contract. Interns in Brazil are treated as junior employees and you are expected to deliver as much as everybody else. As an intern, you don’t just shadow others – you are expected to get things done. I was going through a somewhat hard period of my life and was suffering from mental health issues but going to work helped me. I genuinely liked what I was doing. 6 months into my contract I had a mental breakdown that led me to consider harming myself in a, let’s say, more permanent way. As these thoughts grew on me, I decided I wouldn’t need to go to work anymore (obviously…) and one day I just decided not to show up at the office anymore. My mother advised me to at least offer my resignation letter in person. Reluctantly, I showed up at Lena’s desk – she immediately recognised something was off and took me to a separate room, where I broke down. I told her I didn’t understand what was happening to me and that I needed some time to figure it out.

“You don’t have to quit, do you? Take two weeks off and come back when you feel better”. But as an intern I am not entitled to holidays, I thought out loud. “Well, now you are. Paid ones. Go and come back when you are better. You are good at this. I need you back”.

That was so important for me to hear that today I am here writing this text.

Arnaud Saintemarie
Recruitment Manager, Krakow (2014)

Arnaud is not like any corporate manager I have ever had. He dresses the way he wants, he speaks his mind, and in a sense, he was very laid back. It was almost like he couldn’t care less about what was going on. But that would be a mistake to refer to Arnaud in that way. In fact, he was just able to understand the game so well that he could afford to take things at his own pace.

We started working for that company on the same day. It was my first job as a recruiter and he was responsible for a very junior team, myself included – we had so much potential, but we had a bit of a rebel attitude and we loved fucking things up. It was the period of my career that I learned the most and that I had the most amount of fun, but I am sure that we did cause Arnaud a bit (a lot?) of trouble.

He would openly encourage me to make mistakes. Maybe this is a common thing out there, but for me, at that point of my life, that was a complete revolution in my way of working. In my previous jobs or at university I always felt pushed to strive for perfection in every situation – and then comes this dude, full of tattoos, wearing yellow socks and going to work on a skateboard, and tells me that making mistakes is not only alright, but desirable? Eye opener.

Another great quality in Arnaud is that he had time for me and my bullshit. I felt invited to come to his desk every time I had an issue because he would just make time for me. Another great guy I used to work with – Daniele Filippini – told me once that there’s always time for absolutely everything. It depends on how much you care about it. It is a matter of priority. That did make me a bit spoilt and I had to re-learn how to cooperate with people above my ranking after that. “Would you like to have a meeting? Check my calendar and no back-to-back please”. Two weeks later and I had already forgotten what it was about.

I felt that I really was Arnaud’s priority and that single quality made him the most important leader I have ever worked with in recruitment.

Tomasz Drabik
Sourcing Trainer, Alexander Mann Solutions, Krakow (2014)

There is no other way to put it. Drabik is a machine.

He was already fascinated by sourcing back in the beginning of 2014. Sourcing exploded in the past few years, with so many new tools, techniques, and dedicated events, but those were times where nobody cared about it. I remember new joiners at AMS rushing to get promoted to “Resource Specialists” because nobody wanted to have “Sourcing Specialist” as a job title. It was something to be avoided. And, to be honest, it was the same with me. I hated spending hours going through endless databases of candidates in Taleo or BrassRing (how is it possible that companies still use those?) or spamming those poor souls we were trying to convert to candidates on Linkedin. That was until Drabik showed me what real sourcing was about.

I won’t exactly be talking about sourcing here because my best sourcing days are definitely gone, but what I learned from him was what kept me in recruitment for the past 7 years – it sparked that passion in me that kept pushing for new ways to get creative and find those candidates that nobody else could. Not that I was the best. No, I never was. But he taught me how to think sourcing, how to plan and be creative about it – and as we are all different, our creativity will always lead us to different paths and results. Different interactions and conversations. Suddenly, sourcing wasn’t just about keywords anymore.

Once Drabik was hosting a sourcing workshop at AMS. We were going through advanced sourcing techniques and it was probably the first time I heard names like Martin Lee, Glen Cathey and Irina Shamaeva. At some point, Drabik said he was going to teach us how to interact (allow me to call it ‘hack’) with a voicemail box and gain access to a company’s phone directory, tricking the system into giving the phone numbers and email addresses of people working there. I was like

I was like ‘Jesus Christ, I wanna learn how to hack stuff”

Unfortunately, that didn’t work as he expected. As people left the room for the coffee break a little disappointed, I approached him with a question about what he had just shown and he told me “it is not about if it works or not. It is about trying something different and opening your mind to new stuff”. I spent my next days trying to ‘hack’ into different voicemail boxes and phone directories. I recruited zero people using that method. I learned a lot from it. That kind of mindset is what led me to hire the next person on this list.

One of my career goals is to work with Drabik again.

Lucas Farris
Software Developer/Data Scientist, Opstalent, Wroclaw (2018-2019)

Lucas comes from the same country as me. Same state, neighbouring cities. Pure coincidence. We didn’t know each other until 2015 or 2016, when I wrote something like this in Google (ios OR android) (developer OR engineer) (“eu citizen” OR “eu passport” OR “european citizen” OR “european passport”)
(Just waiting for someone to start with “parentheses are not recognised by Google anymore” or “you forgot this and that in the string”. Just don’t. You got the idea and I am sure you are a much better sourcer than I am).

Lucas, just like me, was a European citizen living in Latin America and I was proud that I found him that way. During the recruitment process he passed all the interviews with ease. Then I moved to Opstalent and presented him there as a candidate. Again, he passed effortlessly – in fact, he was hired after a 30min talk. It took me a while to understand that he was a rare type of developer. One that isn’t just technically gifted, but that can communicate very well with technical and non-technical people, and with clients as well.

I liked working with him so much that I invited him to try some crazy ideas that were lingering in my head for a while – we tried developing two products, one of them being a series of technical workshops for IT recruiters. He created something so cool that over 60 people appeared to watch him talk over three different events. Our idea was to turn that into a business and looking at how many trainings are available today on this topic I am sure we could have done it – but we probably weren’t passionate enough. I still remember the day that he told me “man, shall we kill it? I had enough”. Yeah, me too. We had a laugh about how lazy we were and we celebrated the death of our first and only “business endeavour” over some absinthe.

Lucas taught me how to approach conversations with technical and non-technical people at work. He taught me how to use active listening, lead workshops and some technical knowledge here and there. He probably has no idea that I learned these from him, but I even caught myself more than once copying a phrase that he said or a gesture that he made. Mirroring happens when you admire someone.

More than all that, he’s become a real friend – something definitely rare for me in a work environment.

Aleksandra (Ola) Nawrot
Recruiter @ Opstalent, Wroclaw (2017-2019)

I don’t think I learned so much from anyone else.

I ended up in Opstalent at the beginning of 2017. I was just after my experience as a regular recruiter with EY and, at the peak of my 3 years of experience, I was sure I was ready to build recruitment departments, manage clients, decide how things should be done, where money should be spent. In my head, I was CEO material. On one hand, it gives me cringe feelings to admit how arrogant I was, but on the other one I am proud of the ambition that came hand in hand with that act of arrogance. That gave me my first chance to oversee a team – and Ola alone was my very first team.

Funny thing, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. When I first met Ola, she was a very energetic and outgoing type of person. For those who don’t know me – that is the opposite of who I am. Naturally, we had a clash or two at the beginning, but we soon learned how to work together.

One thing that bothered me in her was how much effort she would put into hiding all the potential she had. Let me explain myself – Ola had some issues understanding how good she was, so sometimes she would give up even without trying. However, I was lucky to work with her long enough to see an enormous change of attitude towards herself. She allowed all that raw talent to come out and she became a solid recruiter who takes on new challenges, who is in control of her career and who will never accept someone telling her what she can or can’t achieve. It was a change that came from within and that inspired me deeply.

Ola is honest, authentic and has the biggest heart I have ever seen in a corporate environment. She is confident managing

the communication with candidates, business, and clients alike and, most importantly, she delivers. With her, things will get done. It was so interesting to work with Ola because our careers got entangled with each other – hers as a recruiter, mine as a manager. Full of bumps and successes, helping each other to learn and improve on the way. I was not a great leader, but the more we worked together, the more I learned what my role really was. I could see firsthand what impact I was having at her work and how she was impacting mine as well. I was fascinated by that experience.
Arnaud told me once that his biggest challenge as a manager was to make a difference at people’s lives, even if a small one. Ola was not my manager, nor did she know Arnaud, but she did make a difference in mine and I can say that I am better in what I do because I met her in 2017.

Thank you to Gui Lozano for sharing The Best I Ever Worked With with the Brainfood Tribune.

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