Dom Farnan

Founder & CEO, DotConnect

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

I was fortunate enough to have had amazing teachers my whole life. My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Rounce is one that stands out as one of my favorites. Mrs. Rounce was married to a commercial pilot who worked for FedEx. They lived all around the world. She would tell us stories about her life and I would imagine what it would be like to have a nomadic life and be a student of the world. She wore this gold necklace from the time she spent in Egypt, which she would describe as the best time of her life.

Mrs. Rounce would reward the top students in her class with special activities or experiences of their choice. I found her stories so fascinating that for a while, I had my heart set on becoming a pilot. The idea of being a modern day Amelia Earhardt was what I had my 6th grade heart set on.

I remember being “rewarded” for some academic achievement and I just “wanted to fly a plane”. As it turned out, Mrs. Rounce’s husband had a small plane, a piper cub. So there I was, in 6th grade, flying a plane with my teacher’s husband. I’ll never forget that day.

Even after I moved on from Elementary School, I did drop back in to see Mrs. Rounce. I was sad to hear that her husband was diagnosed with cancer and passed away after a short battle with the disease. I often think of her and have tried to find out where she is now, how she is doing, and would love nothing more than to tell her what an impact her and her husband have had on my life.

2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?

Graduating high school early and getting a ‘real job’. I ditched the Pizza Place for a “corporate job”. I was hungry to learn anything I could and embark on adulting from a very young age. My neighbor worked for a corporate job, so I asked him if he needed an intern since I was done with school early. He took me up on my offer and I was the “marketing intern” for $10/hr. After a few months, his budget ran out. He sent me “down to HR” to see what (if anything) they could keep me doing. As luck would have it, the new VP of HR was building out an internal recruiting team. I met with a few people from the team and the rest was history. He cut me a deal, I had to be in the office every day, with the team, and I had to maintain my college courses at the same time. So that’s what I did!

Little did I know that my first recruiting job at the age of 17 would be what ended up being my profession.

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

Journaling in the morning. Only last year, did I start my writing practice every morning. After I finished the altMBA, I felt inspired to write again, every day. My journaling practice is a way for me to ease into my day, clear my thoughts, and set intentions for the day. I find that actually writing down how I intend on feeling, allows for me to remind myself throughout the day when things start to go awry, to pause, check my intentions and get my shit back on track.

4. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it and what led you to change your view?

Growth, change, evolution as it relates to your own personal journey. The more I grow, evolve, and learn about myself, the more I want to continue that path. I was always told, (I think most of us are told), that as adults, we just are the way we are. We can’t change, and whatever bad habits exist, cannot change. Recognizing my own growth this past year has changed my mind. Last summer, I completed Seth Godin’s altMBA and was forever changed. This one month learning experience with a cohort of 150 people around the world, left me feeling seen. For nearly 20 years, I believed I could not be changed and all the baggage I carried from my life, I just had to keep trudging through. That is absolutely not true. If you want to change, you can. If you’re willing to put in the work, and face the things you might have buried for a while, you can change. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t because you’re an adult.

“If you want to change, you can”

5. What’s one misconception people generally have about you?

That I’m “intense” because I’m direct. I communicate directly. To some that may be interpreted as “intense”. I’ve been working on softening my communication to come across as intended. Part of me wonders if me entering the corporate world at such a young age has led to me communicating directly. I remember when I was never taken seriously in my corporate role. I was always viewed as the “kid” in the room. Because I quite literally was from 17-21. I had to do a lot of development to articulate my point of view and communicate clearly with clients, candidates, executives. I often felt like I had to work overtime to be heard, respected, and treated as a partner.

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

EQ. I have a strong EQ and tend to connect with people deeply and understand the unspoken.

7. In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for alarm? In the last few days, what news has given you most cause for celebration?

Most cause for alarm – a reorganization at a client of mine that left me feeling very unsettled and recognizing that even when things feel permanent they really aren’t. Business is business and nothing lasts forever. Most cause of celebration – my business growing into a “company”, and a “brand”. Beyond just myself. I was solopreuneuring for nearly 18 years, before I had a wild idea to grow a team, show them my approach to recruiting, and hope that someday it would become something. Since 2019, I’ve been riding the waves that one does when growing an idea into something more. Now I am at a point where I am feeling aligned with my higher purpose. My higher purpose is to teach. That is why I’m here. Leaving my zone of performance (recruiting) with my team, and elevating into my next phase of life and career. Trusting my team to continue to show up for each other, our clients, and our candidates, allowing me to focus on the next phase of our growth as a company and my personal growth as a human.

8. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Can you explain?

My son Baxter with a cardboard space helmet he made this morning. He’s been really into creating things lately. Note to parents, don’t buy toys! Just use cardboard boxes. Best toys for kids are boxes!

9. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?

A jacuzzi for the house. If we can’t travel and feel like we are on vacation, we might as well bring something relaxing to our house. Living in Central New Jersey, there is nothing to do during winter. A jacuzzi warms us up and relaxes us.

10. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?

I don’t remember who told me this… or maybe it wasn’t even a person, it’s just something I’ve always said to myself and to others: It’s not forever, it’s just for now. (Essentially, the hard things won’t last forever, they’re temporary and you will get through them).

11. What's a skill that isn’t on your resume, but your former bosses would recognize as one of the reasons you are successful?

Big frustrating problems and big frustrating companies (or even little frustrating companies) don’t scare me. I am motivated by challenging and untangling knots that other people don’t want to untangle.

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

I am often the first one to talk, the lead. I like to keep things moving forward. I am generally a quick study and have a rolodex of anecdotes to draw from, so I often get to “current state→ ideal state” pretty quickly in my head. Now having a leadership team, I am learning to ask more questions vs. telling the solutions. It’s hard to stay quiet but it’s necessary when leading leaders.

13. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?

Shadowing and reverse shadowing. When I started recruiting, I sat next to 10 senior level recruiters for 5 years. I shadowed everything they did and they shadowed me back.
Ensure you clearly articulate the good, the bad and the ugly of any role.

14. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?

That people are people. We are complex. No training can truly solve the fact that people have layers, things are complicated, humans have emotions (lots of them), and we are all just trying to do the best we can. One thing that’s really helped ground me is the idea of sonder.

15. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?

The thought that “anyone can be a recruiter”. Sure, that is true. Just like anyone can be anything they want, but to be effective in our industry, you have to want to show up, learn, and truly care about people. If you don’t care about the humans you serve, you won’t be happy in our industry.

16. Who will be the winners & losers in our industry in the post-Covid19 world?

Winners will be companies that stay true and lead with their values. The companies that understand the trauma that this pandemic has brought. The companies that invest in understanding their employees psychologically and emotionally. This pandemic has pushed everyone to their breaking points. The companies who are trying to operate, “business as usual” will be the losers.

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

My big tip: give a shit. I care about my work. I care about the people I connect with. I care about my clients, my candidates, my team, how it all ties together. I care. The process I follow is thorough and intentional by design. I don’t have to care as much as I do, but I choose to. That choice is felt by others. People know that I care. They know they can depend on me, or my team, and that we aren’t just telling them we care, we are showing them by living our values.

18. Aside from your parents, name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn from that person?

Diana Pritchard- One of my first bosses. She believed in me, she trusted me, she poured into me. I learned politics and polish from Di.

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

What keeps you going even when things are challenging and you don’t feel like showing up?

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

For questions 20, I nominate my friend Michael Case.

Thank you to Dom Farnan for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune.

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