Mathilde Kurzawa

Talent Acquisition Manager, Ultra.io

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

When I was in Junior High school, my English teacher would start every lesson with a 10 minutes free discussion about any topic we wanted to discuss, provided it was in English. Everytime we asked for vocabulary, she’d write the word on the board and we knew we had to learn it for the next lesson. The US elections were the occasion to learn the words donkey, ballot, primary. Harry Potter taught us about spells, broomsticks, wizards. It was a great way to learn, as the words we were taught could be used on the spot in the conversation. Looking back at it, I think besides a lot of vocabulary, it taught me to take every possible opportunity to learn new things!

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

When I was 17, I decided to pass the exam to become a youth camp leader. I saw it as a way to get a student job and help me pay for my studies. It was a great experience that taught me organisation and responsibility, and I really enjoyed it. And after a few years working with the same organisation, they called me and said “Hey, you know every youth leader we work with, every camp we operate. Do you want a job at the head offices to recruit and train our next leaders?” So I said yes, I moved to Paris and started my first job as a recruiter!

3. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you
know?

I feel I became an adult around the age of 27. That’s late, I know, and I’m still not a full-time adult. I don’t know what happened, but I realised I was getting more and more in charge of my life. I started calling the bank or the insurance company to discuss my plans. I started signing up for longer projects, when before I thought “I don’t know where I’ll be in 1 year time, we’ll see then”. I also stopped going out on week nights because I know I couldn’t be as efficient as I wanted at work the next day!

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

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

It will make you travel to another land and time, and you’ll close the book with deep thoughts about what remains of people, after they’re gone.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Tina Fey is in my opinion one of the most brilliant comedy writers, with her BFF Amy Poehler of course. In this book, she tells all about being a successful woman in a made-dominated industry and recalls hilarious anecdotes. And if you haven’t watched it yet, don’t miss 30 Rock.

Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen

Sarah writes and draws the typical struggles in the life of a millennial introverted cat-lover. I relate.

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

Definitely to go straight to the point. I don’t understand subtext very well, so telling me things straight up will save both of us a lot of time and trouble.

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

That I am a very serious person! I have dry humour and not everyone gets it. When I’m working, of course I am focused. But it doesn’t keep me from having a little bit of eccentricity in me!

7. Name a well-known person you admire. Why you hold them high esteem?

I have endless admiration for Simone Giertz.

She’s a self-taught robotics engineer, TV host, writer and also runs a successful Youtube Channel. She’s incredibly smart, funny, and creative. She is also a very humble person and has been openly discussing her brain tumor treatment with her audience in the hope of normalising cancer patients experience.

8. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?

Probably my tendency to tell things like they are. I have been raised to be quite straightforward and not beat around the bush. To me, it is the polite thing to do, to make sure things are clear and no one loses time. But sometimes, some people feel rushed or think I am too blunt, which was definitely not my objective. Even though it comes from a good place, I’m currently learning to tone my communication down a bit, and I realise sometimes it’s better to use a softer approach.

9. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you
have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?

I have always had the same ideas, but lately I have become more vocal, and probably even more opinionated. For a long time I thought I was not interested in politics, but I realised recently how much everything we do and say, is political. My point in pushing D&I issues in recruitment: that’s political. That may not be driven by a party, or a politician to vote for, but it’s a public statement of how I believe society could – and should – be, so that’s political. For a long time I thought this must be kept private and not interfere with my “professional” life, that being professional meant being neutral. It’s actually the contrary: being professional means speaking up when you think something is not right.

10. 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?

As I’m writing these lines, we are in September 2020. It’s hard to pick one single subject! We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Leaders around the world seem clueless and corrupt, and would do anything to keep their power. The environment, which should be our priority, is totally forgotten. Inequalities are deeper than ever, while some individuals have more economic power than entire countries. People are scared and some turn to conspiracy theories or hateful ideologies. These are frightening times, and I am thankful for every little moment of joy, like when a few days ago I hung out with my baby nephew Leo. He’s so smart and kind, he gives me hope for the future.

11. What’s your desktop/mobile screensaver? Take a screenshot and attach it to your answer!

This is my work computer screensaver. It’s the logo for the Chaos Monkey software, designed by Netflix to cause random unexpected failures in their production environment to test the efficiency of the recovery procedures. It takes a lot of courage to intentionally set your own system up for failures so you can learn from the experience. I love the idea of accepting that errors and breakdowns are bound to happen, so you must not only be ready to fix them on the spot, but also anticipate and design with them in mind.

12. Chocolate or Cheese?

It’s hard to choose, but I’d have to say cheese, as I would have it absolutely any time of the day or night. With a glass of nice red wine!

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

As a recruiter, our job is literally to keep as many balls as possible in the air, while riding a rollercoaster. We’re under enormous pressure. This is a very stressful job, and it used to literally consume me until one of my managers told me: “remember whatever you do, no one’s going to die”. And he was right. The anxiety is not helping me do my job better. And I’m not a brain surgeon. So I give 100% and I stay focused, but I try not to burn myself out with anxiety.

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

That’s a great question to ask them actually! I’m thinking maybe my ability to multi-task. This is actually something I really enjoy being a fullstack recruiter: the tasks are very different and you never get bored. You plan a 2 hours sourcing session, then answer some candidates’ emails. Then you have an interview and at the end of your day you meet with the hiring manager to define the next position we’ll be opening. All this while juggling with the Slack pings and the emails, and ensuring great candidate experience. Well it’s either this, or my taste in internet memes, but you know…

13. 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?

Frida Kahlo

She’s my favourite artist. She was fierce and honest and I’d love to hear what it was like to live in Mexico at the start of the 20th century.

Alan Turing

His work and life fascinate me. I’d like to have his advice on the latest developments in computer engineering, and his take on the ethical questions the modern technology raises.

Serena Williams

She is one of the most incredible – and underrated – athletes in history, while being a very hard-working and smart person. I am also sure she’d be a great friend to laugh with.

16. Who is the best co-workers or collaborator you’ve ever worked with?

I am lucky and thankful to have had the opportunity to work with the most amazing people at almost every step of my career. But a bunch I will never forget is the 2019 Heetch hiring team: Damien Hié-Coloby, Clément Pergaud, Laurence Roletto, Muriel Malric, Julien Simoes, Morgane Dalbergue, Hayden Evans, Laetitia Bordier. We still call each other “fam” and message almost every day. They really showed me what a team of very talented sourcers and recruiters, and great human beings, can be. The support, the energy, the expertise we brought to each other was incredible and I love them to bits.

17. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?

As a recruiter in tech startups, I help brilliant engineering teams in their hiring so I very regularly feel that I’m the weakest member of a group. So I try to remember I’m bringing my expertise in sourcing and recruitment to them, and some other skills that they sometimes didn’t even know we needed. No one is “weak” in a team, everyone brings their own skills and experience, you just have to acknowledge and maximise them!

18. What changes to our industry would you like to see post-Covid19? What
changes do you think we will see?

I’d like to see the rise of remote working, and in general, of more flexible ways of working. We’ve seen a start of this trend with several startups and big tech before the crisis, but I hope the lockdown will really accelerate this shift for positions who don’t actually need a physical presence. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that is what’s going to happen, even though at first sight, it looks like as soon as lockdown ended, employers went back to working in the office without employees having a say in this! I’ve worked remotely for more than a year now, and it’s important to say remote work must be a real company choice, that must be organised and well thought out. It has its negative sides that have to be taken into account and planned for, to make sure everyone is comfortable and the work can be done efficiently. It must not be a case of “here’s your company laptop, goodbye now”.

19. What’s the one question that we should’ve asked you, but wasn’t on this list?

“Mathilde, please tell us what you’re preparing for us next”

To which I would reply: “Well, Hung, thanks for asking. I am currently working on my website, which I’m building myself and should release in October. I am also putting the finishing touches on the next articles I’m writing with Caroline Chavier, as part of a series about Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace.And as always, you can find me on Twitter @Mathilde_Kzw”

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

I would like to hear David Sankar’s take on this interview. He turned to recruitment after being a Philosophy teacher, and is now the Recruitment Manager at SmartAd. With David’s wisdom and his sense of humor, I’m sure it would be a great read!

Thank you to Mathilde Kurzawa for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune

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