Alla Pavlova

Interim Tech Recruiter, Miro

1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?

My favourite one was a teacher of Physics. He had a funny surname “Cherpakov” – the root of the word means “ladle” in English. It was fascinating to see a real scientist at work. He taught me the value of experimenting. Despite me often failing with tasks he kept coming up with something new to keep the excitement. I’m still grateful to this passionate teacher for making me believe that there is always something else to try and get something out of it.

2. Do you remember a time when you were happiest as a child? Where were you, who were you with and what were you doing?

My first flight 🙂 I was 7 and I was with my dad on my way to my grandparents. The plane and the view from the plane window blew my mind. The feeling that the sky is endless and we are not limited to the Earth opened a Pandora’s box with all the questions to my father during the flight, I couldn’t shut up. Since then I’ve been very keen on space exploration and I was lucky to get to the festival called “Starmus” where I met Buzz Aldrin, Yuri Baturin, Charlie Duke, Chris Hadfield, Martin Rees, Gennady Padalka and many many other incredible people.

3. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to others? Why?

The Emotion Machine: Commonsense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind by Marvin Misky.

If you are interested to learn how our brain works and the emotional aspect of it then this could be an interesting read for you. In this book Marvin Minsky argues persuasively that emotions, intuitions, and feelings are not distinct things, but different ways of thinking.

Smart & gets things done by Joel Spoelsky.

What is the best way of learning how to hire engineers? Of course, from the engineer and founder of StackOverflow. It is a must read if you are in IT recruitment. I promise, you will find an answer to the most important questions like how to find and hire tech talents.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

It is a story of a modern society that is told with humour and cynicism when it comes to the universe’s randomness and absurdity.

4. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?

That will be walk & talk meetings. With WFH and lockdown I constantly feel that I’m not exercising enough and doing like what? 1000 steps/day between the kitchen and desk?! So I started to plan some meetings that could be done outside while walking. Or if it’s not possible then I reserve 40-60 minutes in my agenda and go out just for a quick walk. It has become one of my favourite routines during the pandemic time

5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?

Be honest and empathic. You can bribe me with coffee and chocolates, haha. And if you are a gamer (not just a FIFA player, sorry) then we can talk for hours about which runes to buy for Lulu and how hard it is to wait for FFVII remake part 2 🙂

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

I’m good at remembering faces. If I saw someone in person or in a video I will definitely remember the face. Actually this superpower was discovered by my colleagues. I was coaching a small team of sourcers and they heard a lot of phrases like: “We already have this person in ATS” or “We spoke with this person 3 months ago” from me. So we all got curious and decided to run an experiment. I was shown profiles on LinkedIn and needed to say if this person was in our ATS or not. I was 100% accurate. Not sure how I can use this superpower but maybe with time it will transform into something even more valuable

7. What is that thing which is OK to ask you about, but which other people are wary to do so?

Some people are struggling to ask me about the origins of my name. It is a typical Russian name that I’ve got from my grandmother. Here is some history behind it.

8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?

A DnB festival. I guess I’m too old to sleep in a tent. But on a serious note, I once had a chance to work in a big corporate company that was too sales driven and stuffed with so many layers of managers. There I realized that I am not good at politics at all and I don’t want to master it. I certainly understood what are the things that I don’t want to be part of. Things like many useless approvals, too many managers and too little freedom to actually do your job. Knowing the areas I’m not good at and what I don’t want to do helps me to only work with things that bring me joy.

9. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?

The most precious possessions are handwritten poems of my grandfather. He was a very talented engineer and a bookworm with a brilliant sense of humor. And I do have another prized possession that has recently arrived. I’ve received a couple of small paintings from a talented artist who didn’t get a job but still decided to send me his works in appreciation. I will never forget it!

10. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?

Garage Band, multi-track audio recording program for music and podcasts. It’s fun but the editing part is quite challenging since I “hmm” and “erm” so much, omg.

11. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?

If I need to pick one it will be HAL 9000. It uses its intelligence as a weapon. I’ve always believed that intelligence is the most powerful instrument you could master to get where you’d like to be.

12. Aside from family & friends, if you could invite any 3 people - living or dead - to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?

Yuri Gagarin (Cosmonaut)  – the first human in space. Because of him all Soviet kids were dreaming to become cosmonauts and a new era of space exploration was ahead of us. So I’d love to hear all his stories and thoughts he had during his flight.

Steven Hawking (Scientist) – I wish he could have finished his last book.

Henry Cavill (Actor) – so we can have a good run before the end of the world and maybe he can actually stop it:-)

13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?

My parents taught me: “Always look into a person’s potential”. They were probably giving me advice on how to choose my future husband (worked out great) but it actually turned out to be a great tip on always searching for person’s talents. Especially in recruitment when instead of rejecting a candidate you can try to figure out if they can quickly acquire new skills and if that can work out well for a hiring team.

14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?

It was a while ago but still one of the most valuable lessons. I was a fresh graduate. It was a developers conference with workshops so I joined one of them. Everyone was with their laptops and the guy in front of the room was presenting some coding exercises that the rest were implementing. And a couple of other developers were walking between the rows and looking at everyone’s laptops to help if something wasn’t working. I failed on step 2 but I didn’t want to show it so I pretended I was all good and continued. When someone came up to me and looked at my screen I froze. My face became red, hands – sweaty and I wished the ground swallowed me up. Lesson learned. Knowing that people are shy to admit they are not following and they need help, I try to create a supportive atmosphere at all my events.

15. What role do you find yourself playing when you join a newly formed team? Can you explain why this happens?

Being an interim/consultant puts me in a position when joining new teams or newly formed teams happens often. I always start with learning about what roles already exist in the team and I’m trying to complete the team with skills and values it’s lacking. I would always like to become a person who the team feels comfortable to turn to when they need help or advice.

16. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Any time I meet with a new hiring manager or receive a new role to work on I start shadowing the manager and the team. I join their Slack channels, ask for some confluence pages to read priorities, plans and anything that could help me learn more about the responsibilities and why working in this particular team could be interesting for the candidate.

I join demo and cross-team meetings and sometimes engineers even mention things like: “btw, it could be interesting for candidates”. Also listening to the interviews done by the hiring manager gives me a lot of insights. But if it is not possible then I will ask what questions they are usually asking at their interviews that will also help me learn the focus this manager has.

17. Do you have a secret tip, tool or trick that’s contributed to your success?

Active listening. I practice it every day at work and at home. It is a trainable and valuable skill that is crucial in professional and personal life.

18. Name one person from your professional life who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

Enrico Heidelberg, my business partner in crime, the most thoughtful and empathic recruiter. He truly cares, he is always calm and has 2 or 3 scenarios how to change things around. He is never in the recruitment business to “fill in a seat” but to connect the right person to the right opportunity.

I’m still impressed how he manages tough hiring managers and how genuinely curious he is when talking to the candidates.
If you have a chance to work with him you will learn how to create personalised reach-outs, manage everyone’s expectations and automate routine. Person with a big heart and passion for what he does.

19. If you could add a question to this selection for the next person to answer, what would it be?

How did you get to the place where you are right now?

20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?

Catia Sousa, she is curious, hardworking and very kind.

Thank you to Alla Pavlova for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Alla on LinkedIn

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