Vanessa Raath

Sourcer & Trainer at The Talent Hunter

1. 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 happiest memories as a child was always when I was surrounded by loads of people. There are only four people in my immediate family but we are part of a big extended family. My fondest memories are of big family gatherings, where children spent the day playing in the swimming pool while the adults chilled with a few drinks and a good Braai (South African for BBQ). I have always loved being around people and have always taken a ‘more the merrier’ attitude to any social gathering.
I also have incredibly happy and fond memories of my school days. Being an extroverted child, I loved going to school, mainly to see my friends! Some of my favourite memories are from the sports field. Whether it be playing Softball, Netball, Volleyball or Squash, I loved playing school sports and the best thing was that I always seemed to be part of winning teams!

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

Most people become an adult at 18 but I was a ‘late bloomer’. I only realised what it was like to stand on my ‘own two feet’ and to support myself when I moved to London at the age of 22. I had finished my studies, had my teaching degree in my backpack and off I went to explore the world. It was here that I was very quickly forced to grow up. For the first time ever, I had to deal with things like rent, bills and having to cook meals for myself. Coming from a privileged South African upbringing – these were all quite a shock for me!

I soon got into the groove of this thing called work, paying taxes and managed to realise that the more you saved, the more you could do when it came to school holidays. I had an absolute ball living in London for seven years. I made some of my best friends, travelled the world and I realised that being an adult was not as difficult as most people make it out to be!

3. Name a well-known person you admire and explain why you hold them high esteem?

I have always been a massive fan of Tata Madiba, or Nelson Mandela, as most non-South Africans will know him. I am amazed that someone who was imprisoned for 27 years, (yes, 27!) and made to perform menial tasks – like chipping away at limestone on Robben Island, off Cape Town’s coast, was not a much angrier man when he left prison. However, when Nelson was released from his imprisonment, by the white South African government there was no hatred or war. In fact, our white President at the time, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela were both awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for the peaceful transition that there was from a white to a black government.

South Africa was the only African country to not endure a Civil War when the government changed from the colonial powers to an African ruled system. For this I thank Mister Mandela as my life, and the lives of those around me, would look very different if we had gone through a civil war.

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

Well, to be honest, the Coronavirus has forced me to change my view on several things lately!

I always thought that it was important to have a clear plan as to what I took ‘to market’. Let me explain this further. So pre-global pandemic, I was a global sourcer or a sourcing trainer. These were great but when the pandemic hit I realised that I needed to diversify my service offering or else I would have a whole heap of time on my hands to be watching Netflix and chilling! (something I never want to do!)

I started listening more to my clients and what I was hearing was that they had problems that I couldn’t fix by either sourcing, or training them to source more effectively, but I could still help them! I learnt that if I could really get to grips with what they needed help with, I could probably help them, and get paid to do it. So, during these strange times I have done things like providing a LinkedIn audit of Executive Teams to help improve the company’s online presence and their brand, for example. I learnt that we do not need to be so rigid in our value offering and instead by listening better, we can provide much more than what we think we can!

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

I think a lot of people think that I have loads of confidence – especially when it comes to Public Speaking. Don’t get me wrong, I love Public Speaking, or Keynoting, or Emceeing or being a Guest on a Webinar but it doesn’t mean that every time I do one of these things, I am a not a jabbering idiot as my nerves can honestly have me quaking in my trainers.

The truth is, I love doing these type of things because they challenge me. They get me out of my comfort zone and force me to put myself ‘out there’. I get incredibly nervous before I do any major presentation and I think it is because I suffer from chronic Imposter Syndrome. I often wonder why I get asked to present when I know that there are so many people out there who are so much better at these topics than what I am!

6. What is your untrainable superpower?

Without a doubt, this has to be my ADHD. I have always been very open about this disorder that I have suffered from all my life – thanks Dad! I know my brain works and thinks differently to other peoples. I used to get embarrassed about some of the things that used to unexpectedly pop out of my mouth before I learnt to ‘filter’ my thoughts. But I know that as a Sourcer – you have to think differently! What box are people referring to when they tell us to ‘think outside the box’? For me there was no box in the first place so do what you need to do to find and connect with the best candidates. End of.
My ADHD also allows me to have very few inhibitions in life and it also allows me to never take ‘no’ for answer because there is always something that can be done to turn that no into a yes.

7. On what topic would you never make a joke?

For me, this would definitely be GBV. Sadly, this is such a common practice in South Africa that it even has its own acronym – Gender Based Violence. I absolutely cannot handle any violence against women (and do not get me started on ‘bullying’ in general). So, one thing that I would never joke about would be any form of GBV or rape. End of discussion. Neither of these two issues can ever be used in a funny context and no one should ever try to do so, well not around me anyway.

8. What do you think is acceptable today but will become taboo tomorrow?

I think there a lot of people ‘getting away’ with treating others badly, and they have done for a long time. I often see this in the Recruitment Industry where people treat candidates like cattle and not the individuals that they are. I think people are growing less and less tolerant of this sort of behaviour. I think in the future, people will want to be approached by someone who has loads of empathy and a very good EQ – not a mediocre Recruiter or heaven forbid a robot! The Recruiters and Sourcers who can form strong and lasting relationships with their candidates are going to come out stronger in the future.

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

My desktop backgrounds are always the latest photos from our forays into the South African Bushveld. I love taking photos of the amazing wildlife that we have here in Africa. One day, when I am big, I would like to focus solely on my photography but at the moment, it is just a side hustle. So, I always have photos from the Bush rotating at half an hour intervals so that I never get bored, or miss the bush too much!

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

My most prized possessions are two pieces of jewelry that you will always see me wearing. One of them is my wedding ring. It is a prized possession because of what it symbolizes to me – a promise that I made to my husband on our wedding day, such a special day! It is also prized as I know that it has South African diamonds in it and these are also very special to me knowing that they come from the country of my birth. I also love it as it is very bright and sparkly! I wanted it to be ‘blingy’ as I know that this will be the only piece of bling that I will ever wear. 😊

The second piece of jewelry that I always wear is a butterfly pendant. Not many people know that Vanessa means ‘butterfly’ – if you ask my parents, I was meant to be a Prima Ballerina! My mom bought me this pendant and she had the ‘cut out butterfly’ which she keeps in her wallet. I have a great relationship with my mom and I love that I can also call her my best friend.

11. If you were to own a bar, and you could design it how you wanted, what would it look like?

Well, first of all – it would have to be an outdoors bar as I cannot handle dark and smokey bars! It would either be in the South African Bushveld or on a beautiful Mozambican beach. No matter where the bar was situated, it would have to have an amazing view. If it were a Bush Bar, it would overlook a Waterhole so that people could sit and sip on their Gin and Tonics while watching wild animals come for their evening drink too. If it were on the beach, it would be super chilled, beach sand on the floor and cocktails flowing all day while people chilled under umbrellas with mates or a good book!

12. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever been given?

I was once told by a wise manager of mine, to always keep focused on the end goal. Aim for that and that alone. Do not get bogged down but any small hurdles along the way. I have taken this advice to heart as it really doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you achieve what you set out to achieve, that’s the main thing.

13. Can you give a work example of a lesson you had to learn the hard way?

A few to be honest! 😊

The most painful lesson that I learnt was about opening my own business. I did not take the best financial advice from the outset and you really don’t know what you don’t know right? (my financial acumen was not great but it is getting better.) So when I launched my own business last year I was still registered in an incorrect tax bracket. My first tax bill was so revolting that I nearly puked on my shoes! This was a hard lesson to learn and I quickly employed the services of an awesome company who helped me get my business registered, set up my tax correctly and things have been a lot easier since then. My best advice is to get the best financial advice, from a variety of sources, before you start doing your own thing!

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

I have certainly felt like the weakest member of a team before! I was an internal Recruiter for a very successful IT consulting company here in Johannesburg for many years. I often felt intimidated with all of the tech talk (endless acronyms) and vast amounts of knowledge that my ‘bosses’ had. I felt like the weakest member of the team on several occasions. But then I realised that they had no clue about recruitment and I had to do a lot of work to educate them about TA processes, sourcing scarce skills etc. I think they thought that there was a tree full of BI Developers at the bottom of the garden where I just used to pick candidates off!
So, the education was a two-way street. I got them to explain the IT world to me in non-tech speak. I also explained the difference between a passive candidate and an applicant to them. By the time I finished my awesome tenure with them, I know that we had both learnt a lot from each other.

15. Who is the best co-workers or collaborator you’ve ever worked with? Now is the moment to give them a shout out - who were they and why were they so good?

As a ‘one woman’ business, I unfortunately do not have any co-workers to mention here. I do collaborate with a few wonderful people when the need arises which I really enjoy. Locally, I always like to collaborate with Jane Moors as our training business compliment each other’s very well. She works closely with Recruiters to train them to be better, and do better, in their roles. I know that I can rely on her 100% to deliver the best quality of work so I am not afraid to recommend her services to anyone! Internationally, I collaborate with as many people as possible! I have done some Sourcing Training with Mike Cohen and hopefully we can do this again in the future. I am also working with Balazs Paroczay on putting together an exciting Diversity Workshop in the next few months – watch this space!

16. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?

What scares me the most about the South African Tech industry at the moment, is that I fear that we are going to lose more of our top tech talent to remote overseas opportunities. There are a lot of really good developers in this country but we have lost a lot of them to immigration due to the political instability in our country. However, post-Covid, I can see more developers, perhaps those who did not want to leave, staying in South Africa and working remotely for global companies.
This scares me as we have a lot of local companies that rely heavily on this tech talent in order to keep their doors open. But the lure of living in South Africa and earning foreign currency is very appealing to the best developers.

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

I think that with the Recruitment Industry having such a low barrier to entry, we are always going to have ‘fly by night’ companies. This is certainly the case here in South Africa. We have a handful of strong career recruiters but we also have a quite a few ‘chancers’. It is these people who will continue to give the recruitment industry a bad name. South African Recruiters are not held in the highest regard like I see that they are in other countries. It is going to be a massive task but I think until we get an effective consortium of people to better police this industry, there are going to be too many people exploiting others in a perverted version of modern day slavery.

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

Yes, absolutely – it’s not a fancy Chrome Extension but it is a life skill that I feel has always, and will always, stand me in good stead. My secret tip is to always stay positive. There is always a positive that comes from a negative – it has too or else the universe would be unbalanced! Take this Coronavirus for example, the silver lining for me is that I have managed to take my business global very quickly. I am now delivering Talent Sourcing Training all over the world which is incredible. I am sure that not everyone would have been as open to online learning, pre-pandemic as they are now.

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

Never feel comfortable and always embrace a huge dose of humility that you can learn and adapt until someone puts you in a box. As a tip, challenge yourself to think of being in competition with your mirror image out there who is indeed doing the things you should be in terms of learning and adapting. Whilst you sit around they race on and become more relevant.

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

So many people – how about Mike Cohen aka Batman – he has a great story to share 😊

Thank you to Vanessa Raath for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Contact Vanessa for international sourcing & recruiter training

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