“Personally, it’s been an experience, many a times, and this is also the space of DEI comes as a passion to me, because many a times having worked with tech all along in my life, I have found myself to be the only woman in the room or after moving to Europe for sure, the only person of color in the room as well. So when that happens, I would want another person of color in the room and that’s when I’d love to lead in and question status quo wherever possible or make those connections wherever possible as well.”   Manjuri Sinha

Show Summary

In this episode of Stories from the Field, we welcome Manjuri Sinha, the current Global Director of Talent Acquisition for OLX. Throughout the episode, Manjuri shares her insights on the key predictions for talent strategies in 2023, drawing from her own experience and published reports. We also explore the common misconceptions in tech hiring and debunk myths surrounding tech hiring. Additionally, we discuss critical factors for success, the ideal qualities of a best-in-class team, and strategies to prepare for future talent needs. We hope you can take a listen and hear about Manjuri’s own journey and advice for folks looking to break into the tech industry.

Learning Highlights from this Episode:

  • Her experience as a Global Director of Talent Acquisition and what the future of talent acquisition looks like in 2023 and beyond.
  • The significance of skills, experiences, challenges overcome, and mentorship for achieving success.
  • Insights on how to prepare for future talent needs in the next 3-5 years.
  • Her advice and best practices for early-stage founders/leaders looking to prioritize DEI from day one

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About Manjuri Sinha

Manjuri Sinha is an HR professional with over 20 years of international experience, specializing in Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, DEI, and HR Business Partnering. With a diverse background spanning industries such as IT Consulting, Ecommerce, Business Process Outsourcing, and manufacturing, she brings a wealth of knowledge to her role. Currently, Manjuri serves as the Global Head of Talent Acquisition Strategy and Team at OLX, a Prosus Naspers company, overseeing operations across Europe, Turkey, India, Indonesia, North America, and Latin America.

Prior to joining OLX, Manjuri held senior leadership positions in HR and Talent Acquisition at notable companies such as Zalando GmBH, Accenture, and MphasiS (formerly HP Company). She is recognized as a renowned thought leader in the industry and has shared her expertise as a keynote speaker, panelist, and presenter at conferences including Unleash World Paris, HR Core Lab Barcelona, SOSU Amsterdam, HR Vision Amsterdam, Tec Rec Berlin, and others. Her insights have also been featured in prominent publications such as Business of Fashion, New York, and HR Tech Outlook. Additionally, she co-authored the book “The Builders Guide to the Tech Galaxy.”

Beyond her role at OLX, Manjuri provides advisory services on TA Talent architecture to other companies within the Prosus group worldwide. Having lived and worked in various countries, including India, Sweden, and the Czech Republic, she now calls Berlin her home. In her free time, she indulges her passion for travel and enjoys exploring new cuisines.

Resources & Links

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/manjurisinha/

Full Transcript

Jason Rebello: Welcome, Manjuri. Thank you so much for agreeing to speak with us today. I always like to allow people to introduce themselves to our audience because you can do much more justice than anybody else. So, go ahead and introduce yourself to our listeners, and we’ll get started with my first few questions.

Manjuri Sinha: All right. Thank you, Jason. And I’m superbly excited to be here. I’m completely honored for the invite, and I’m looking forward to our conversation today. About me? So, I am Manjuri Sinha. I prefer to go with the pronouns she, her and hers. I spent around 20 plus years, my god, it makes me sound so old, by the way. All right, so 20 plus years in the industry with international experience in different facets of HR with expertise in talent acquisition, talent management, talent development, DEI and HR business partnering across a plethora of industries like consulting, IT consulting, e-commerce, business process outsourcing and manufacturing. And currently, I head talent acquisition globally, the strategy and the team for OLX, which is a classified platform and a part of the Prosus Naspers group. And our coverage is across the world, across Europe, Turkey, India, Indonesia, North America and Latin America. This is where I have my teams, as well, based out of. So you can imagine it’s a very diverse set of people, nationalities and expertise that we work with.

Prior to joining OLX, I was working in the HR and TA space in different forms of senior leadership positions across companies like Zalando, which is the biggest fashion platform for Europe and based in Germany in Berlin, Accenture, and prior to that I was with Mphasis, which is a Hewlett-Packard company. So, that’s my day job. And apart from that, things that really give me a lot of energy, something that I’m doing right now with all of you, is the other life and the other hat that I wear as a keynote speaker, panelist and generally just sharing and learning from others at different conferences such as Unleash World Paris, HR Core Lab Barcelona, SOSU Amsterdam, HR Vision Amsterdam, et cetera.

So a couple of those. And have also been published in some news articles and some magazines like Business of Fashion, New York, HR Tech Outlook and co-authored a book called The Builders Guide to the Tech Galaxy, which is basically used by Techstars to coach and guide startup founders and startup entrepreneurs. What else? I love pandas. I am obsessed with pandas. You’ll find them on my speaking pages, you’ll find them on my talks, you’ll find some references otherwise. And lived across different countries. Born and brought up in India, lived in Sweden, Czech Republic and call Berlin home. Love figuring out different cuisines, different cultures, and traveling across the world with my partner in crime, my husband. So that’s pretty much me in a super short form.

Jason Rebello: Wow, what an incredible just breadth of experience and expertise that you’re bringing to the table. We’re so honored again to be able to have this conversation with you. And jumping right into the first question, for those of us in this space, it is officially reporting season, whether it’s McKinsey, whether it’s Pearson, whether it’s LinkedIn, everyone’s coming out with their predictions for what are the top strategies for talent acquisition in this year or in the next few years. And I’m curious, given again your experience and your role as a global director of TA, what do you believe is the future of talent acquisition? Part one. And then part two would be specifically around the goals of recruiting diverse teams and having high performing diverse teams like that.

Manjuri Sinha: So Jason, it’s very interesting. Let me start with the controversial topic that everybody keeps on saying that robots will come and take jobs from all the recruiters, that will not happen. So I can say that clearly. So robots would want to but they will not be able to. And that is the interesting bit. Talking about talent acquisition, I think it’s got a very great future. We are looking at reports from LinkedIn from recent report that the release on the state of employment, as well as [inaudible 00:04:32] latest report on trends and talent acquisition as such, will hold its ground and actually expand even with its overlap with talent development and go towards a more end-to-end kind of an approach.

Couple of things that will really really matter in the coming months and even probably a year. And after the last two years I’ve stopped thinking beyond that because there’s usually no point of doing that. The world is moving and changing so fast that you cannot make five-year plans anymore. But some of the strategies that will really work and stay with us and we’ll have to double down on will be number one, is the entire flexibility around work. Hybrid work as we see is here to stay. The answer is not in the black or the white, to saying that do we bring everybody back to office or do we all 100% work from home remotely? We’ve seen certain researchers that say that people who are in the earlier part of their career or early talent, they need the mentorship, they need the coaching from seniors, they need to learn, really feel the culture and need to be in office for some time.

On the other side, the same research says that if you have everybody in office altogether, these seniors are not productive altogether because they have to contribute the entire time supporting juniors as well. So the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. To look at different personas, to look at different parts of the parts of the organization and job families and then curate something which is super inclusive and gives that flexible aspect. For example, somebody who has probably in Germany, we called it as a kindergarten. So somebody who has a child who has to be picked up from the kindergarten at 4:00 PM can definitely look at, okay, I plan my day, these are the full working hours, and then after 4:00 PM I pick up the my kid, bring the person home, bring the kid home, provides a little bit of dinner, and then if that person feels like it, go back to a call or go back to a meeting, go back to the emails or not, or plan the day earlier on.

But that may not be the same for me. I would have some other plans I might want to start later on because I’m covering another location and want to end the day later. So I think hybrid work and the new work, as I would love to call it, is something that is here to stay. And this will impact talent acquisition because this is also something that we’ll have to double down on when we are looking at candidate propositions, how are we hiring? How are we making that promise? What are we selling and who are we bringing into the organization as well?

The second interesting thing is all around mental health. This will take a forefront, and again something when we talk about positive mental health, but awareness on this aspect as well. How do we ensure that we have a space which is inclusive where people can talk about their mental health? And this again starts from the beginning when we are looking at attraction, branding, talking, sharing stories as well. And this is a part of talent acquisition when we come to the topic of branding.

Talent mix will be interesting and this is where we talk about diverse talent. So we are not just looking at this, it’ll be very intentional. We need to have different seniority, whether it be early talent. We also need to have talent, which is probably maybe we can go into contract hiring. There was this one trend that [inaudible 00:07:54] talked about. A lot of organizations are looking at even temporary roles at executive level. For a year, come in, have a transformation exercise and then you can move on. And in this perspective we can actually look at maybe people who have retired, want to come into the space for a couple of days in a week, but not for a full-time commitment, et cetera. And then we can actually take in their knowledge, so have a good talent mix around things.

It is interesting that when we are looking at talent strategies, one topic to consider in the next years for sure would be looking at what we can grow within the organization. So this is internal mobility. What we can also look at, what are we going to buy? So what do we probably outsource for a short term? And very interesting, what are the bots that we can automate? So which part of work should we also look at automating? And this is the talent mix strategy that the talent acquisition team will be looking into.

Last but not the least, very important, and this is something a lot of the trends and organizations are focusing on. Most of us in the tech space have gone through a share of headcount reductions in the past couple of months, from big tech to mid-level to even small companies. And somewhere we’ve lost the trust of employees as well and also trust of candidates as such. And this needs to be factored in. We need to be able to look at what is that USP of our organizations. And this is, I’m talking about most of the organizations that have gone through this exercise. So EVP as such, the Employer Value Proposition, will again take a forefront and this has to be tied in with diversity, equity and inclusion plus sustainability. These are the two things that candidates and employees want to see up and about from an organizational agenda. So all, if I have to really summarize it, these would be the key topics to focus on for the talent acquisition team.

Jason Rebello: I love that because without making it specifically about diversity, equity and inclusion, taking in flexibility and nuance and approach of hybrid learning, bringing in conversations around mental health and being able to talk about them, focusing equally as much on internal mobility, as in bringing in new people and then regaining trust. I think all those things are across the board so important based on what you said and in of themselves will really help drive a more diverse, equitable and inclusive work environment in and of itself. Love that. Thank you.

Manjuri Sinha: Absolutely Jason. And that’s also something I believe that you shouldn’t have DEI sitting somewhere in the corner like a lonely child, but it should be completely embedded into the people processes and more importantly also business processes. So if you have this, okay, takes some memos, pass it by this person, no, that’s not how it works. You have to live it in each moment that matters for the employee.

Oana Amaria: Yeah, I think that’s one of the big fights Jason and I have in our industry with Firefly is to move towards this place of adaptive leadership and DEI as a part of your ecosystem, and moving away from this idea that it lives in your talent lifecycle. It’s so much more than that and it shows up in equity and design and that could be with systems, not just products. It could be the way that you come up with policy et cetera. Something that I thought was really cool, so when all the tech layoffs started happening, I live here in Seattle, so a lot happens in Seattle because we have so many companies, so it’s constantly around me. And you mentioned, I remember at one point it’s like yeah, big tech is doing lots of layoffs but FinTech is thriving. So there’s always industries that I think dominate the conversation.

And my question to you is what is a misconception that you’ve encountered that you would love to debunk when it comes to tech hiring? Because I think again, in the context of DEI, people talk about diverse slate approach and all this other stuff and there’s a lot that works and doesn’t work with that. So what would you like to debunk?

Manjuri Sinha: Yeah, this is a very hiring manager perspective and across companies and yeah, it’s not all hiring managers, but definitely from a tech hiring perspective, the moment the words diversity, inclusion, equity are used, there is something like a red flag or a signal coming up which says not merit based or less qualified. And even without poking or nudging, the moment you say DEI or the moment you say we are going to look at a diverse talent pool for this position or role, the feedback is, I would not compromise on quality. And that is a major, major misconception. That is just, where did you hear me say that you’re compromising on quality? I didn’t say that at all. You’re in fact widening your talent pool and probably increasing the quality as well. In a couple of engagement surveys, it’s been, in researchers as well, we’ve seen that teams which are led by women managers tend to be more resilient and more happy, or engaged, maybe happiness is a bigger word, engaged than the teams which are led by male managers. But in that forum, I mean it’s not reducing the qualifications of what you’re looking for.

So I think this is a major, major misconception to debunk for in the space of tech hiring. The other one is that we don’t have enough talent. I think this is a two edge sword. Yes, there are some areas where you look at real seniority or if you’re looking at very niche, for example, you’re looking at a site reliability engineering skill, which is very niche and then you’re looking at a very senior role holder, maybe a principal level person, et cetera, et cetera. Yes, the talent pool really goes down. Again, if you’re not looking at hybrid, you’re not looking at remote, but there are always trade offs. And I think this is the second misconception because if you stick to those 16 aspects and say, these are mandatory. If you don’t look at hiring for potential and say that these are the things that I absolutely need and then I can train. If you don’t look at the trade-offs of maybe going remote or maybe going hybrid, then of course you cannot widen the talent pool.

So that’s the misconception that people have that you don’t have talent. There is talent. It’s something that we tested out recently. So we ran a proof of concept with Udacity. We partnered up with Udacity and OLX and they, out of superbly intentionally went out and built two cohorts, one for site reliability engineers and one for senior front end engineers in two countries, India and Spain. And the idea was to bring people on board and train them on certain nano degrees so they’re qualified at the end of it and they can go through an interviewing process for these positions.

The misconception that was debunked through the processes, we actually took on targets of 25% of our cohort being women. It was interesting and thanks to also support from Udacity, the targeting was very, very well done. We ended up with a 43% cohort being women. So you can imagine, and we had asked for some baseline experience, so they were not completely green in their experience. They had baseline experience in site reliability, in senior front end technologies as well. But we added on what was needed and then we had a very qualified cohort of engineers. So it’s just that effort to figure out the gap. And that’s where if we can debunk that and understand, okay, what is the trade-off that we can do? Invest in the trade-off, we’ll immediately tap those talent pools. If we don’t do that, then we live in our la-la land and still go for the same kind of hires we would’ve made earlier.

Oana Amaria: Yeah. It’s so funny you say that. I remember in one of our prototyping inclusion sessions, you have the spectrum in those sessions as you know because you’ve participated. And I’ll never forget there was a leader that was a true champion, woman. And at the end of the session we ask people like, what will you give yourself permission to do right? And I’ll never forget, she said, “I think we’re just going to have to lower the bar.” And I sat there and I was like, oh my god, after all of this, this is what you took away from? And in that moment I said, “You know, so-and-so, I don’t think what you…” And I was like, “Well, what do you mean lower the bar? Do you mean change process or maybe expand the hiring window?” There’s all these things that we can do to help get out of that urgency mindset.

And they were like, “No, I think we’re just going to have to hire eights.” And I was like, no, no, no, you’re hiring fives right now and you don’t even know it. That’s the issue. That’s the issue of the bias or the familiarity, hiring for what I know, versus hiring for what is there. And this is coming out of someone I know in my heart believes in this work and it blew my mind. And I was like, wow, you don’t understand that. You don’t understand what just happened in that moment. But I was so grateful that they said it because I guarantee you everybody else was thinking it.

Manjuri Sinha: Yep, absolutely. And one of the other thing that I see is, so even hiring managers and people expect that the starting point for everyone is the same into the hiring processes. So when we talk about attraction, when we talk about referrals, et cetera, when we talk about reaching out and applying to positions, researchers have shown that that’s not true. Even if we just limit to binary gender, we know that women do not ask for employee referrals. Even if they know that they’re matching the profile, they will not ask for employee referrals. Whereas it’s found that 20 cases, 28% lesser women will ask for referrals than men. So we know those behaviors are different and hence we’ll have to be intentional and do those additional steps in the process to make it happen. Otherwise we will never open up our talent pools there. And that’s also a misconception that the starting point is the same. They can see the same job description, they’re getting the same invites, then why aren’t they applying? It’s their problem, not our problem, it is our problem because behaviors are different. So that’s another awareness point for people.

Oana Amaria: I love that. Thank you.

Jason Rebello: Manjuri, I’d love to dive into your own personal growth journey. When you mentioned just how long you’ve been in the space and all the different hats and levels that you’ve been at, when you look back at your career, what do you believe was a critical part of your own success? Whether it was specific experiences or challenges or mentors, I’d love for our audience to really hear what were some of the key things to your success across your journey?

Manjuri Sinha: Yeah, Jason, thanks. I think that question definitely makes me think and really go back in the journey. I think something that really stands out for me is looking at opportunities, I guess. So a lot of opportunities that have come my way, I’ve always grabbed them, trying to expand, even if it was not something that was a forte. I’ve tried to learn on things and build on things, et cetera. So any doors that I see, I knock on them and ensure that I live through the opportunity. So that’s definitely one.

Second is mentors. So I latch onto them and even if it is a coach or a mentor or somebody who can sponsor me or support me and I can learn from, probably I’ve been bugging them in my life, but I ensure that I reach out to them, pass things by run, things by, et cetera. So the people that I would trust, I would definitely lean on them and share what I’m doing and what I would want to do and take their help when needed. So that’s the second part.

Third is asking for help as such, not just from mentors, but even in the organization. If there’s something that I don’t know, if there’s something that I have any doubts about, I would reach out to people and blatantly or blankly ask for help. And sometimes, and actually it’s not sometimes, so not really taking the status quo as is. I think that’s one of the bigger factors that’s been a motto of my life as well. I think that questioning the status quo, it comes from within. Maybe I’ve not stopped being a teenager at heart and I’ll always rebel when needed.

And fourth is, it’s not just for, yes, it has helped me and it has helped me grow as a person as well, but whenever I’ve been able to hold someone’s hand and lean in, I’ve tried and done my best as well there. Personally, it’s been an experience, many a times, and this is also the space of DEI comes as a passion to me, because many a times having worked with tech all along in my life, I have found myself to be the only woman in the room or after moving to Europe for sure, the only person of color in the room as well. So when that happens, I would want another person of color in the room and that’s when I’d love to lead in and question status quo wherever possible or make those connections wherever possible as well. And yes, it has helped other people, but I think more than that, it has helped me as well to gain that confidence.

Oana Amaria: I’m so glad you brought that up, because it must be quite an experience going from a place where you are not a underrepresented identity in any way, coming from India and India is complicated in itself. And then going to Europe and oftentimes we do a ton with Europe and people will say, oh, that’s a US problem. Racism is a US problem, which does not exist. Not to mention colorism as the underlayer of experiences. I feel like that in itself could be a whole other podcast, so we’ll have to…

Manjuri Sinha: Absolutely.

Oana Amaria: We’ll have to book you for that one. I’m curious, when you think about when we first met, we were surviving COVID together, and we talked about all the tools and the skills needed just to get past the pandemic. And now, to your point, we’re thinking in these little bite size strategy or visions at this point, what would you say are the skills or the tools that you absolutely need on your team to prepare for the future? What did you call it? The future of work or work now, the new work.

Manjuri Sinha: Yeah.

Oana Amaria: I think even at minimum with what we’re expecting from Gen Z and all the memes and the TikToks out there about how Gen Z is different, than I send my whole team, I think there’s so much to prepare for and being a good leader is about seeing around corners. So what would you say are the top skills that is a must have on a TA team?

Manjuri Sinha: That is an excellent question Oana, and I love to call this with the two words that Peter Hinssen uses, that’s never normal. So if I have to prepare and it’s not an if, I have to prepare my team for the never normal, the top most skill that is needed today would be resilience. Resilience to the uncertain resilience to change. Along with it comes adaptability and agility as well. Be it functional. Functional in a sense that yes, your hiring requirements, your skills and capabilities that you’re looking at and working on, those aspects could change. So your talent pipeline could change, so your sourcing could change and it could reboot. That’s a functional aspect. The emotional aspect as well, you’re working for an organization, your organization can go through a restructure as well. How do you deal with such a restructure? In our team, we have to deal with candidates, we have to deal with hiring managers, et cetera. How do you ensure that you can handle your stakeholders and take them through this uncertain journey as well?

And they have to build resilience also to the external environment because in our profession, we’ve seen talent acquisition being a profession which has been disproportionately impacted by layoffs in the industry, be it US or Europe, India, everywhere. And in the next, at least three to six months, we don’t foresee that the tables will turn. It could happen in the next year or end of this year. That’s what we see the trends are indicating towards. But till that happens, there’s an external world as well where you see your folks in your network, your trends also going through such scenarios. I think resilience, adaptability, agility, these are the three big things.

On the functional side, I guess that’s the fourth one, which is becoming aware. And as I said, I don’t foresee AI taking the jobs. So generative AI and for that matter, even ChatGPT taking jobs from recruiters. But recruiters would need to be adept and aware of what generative AI can do, how they can leverage generative AI and how they can use these in different tools, especially for sourcing, for talent market intelligence activities. So they can tell better stories to the hiring managers, bring better information to the hiring manager. So this would be on the functional side as well. These would be the key skills that I foresee that talent teams would need in the future.

Oana Amaria: And really using AI tools is not new to TA. There’s so many from the way it scrubs JDs to the tools we use to be able to make sure that we don’t use gendered language. It’s not new. So it’s just continuing to grow with the market and the tools available to you. So I love that. So resilience, adaptability, and-

Manjuri Sinha: Carry on, sorry. I interrupted you. No, no, go on.

Oana Amaria: That’s okay. No, I was just recapping, because I really like that. Go ahead.

Manjuri Sinha: Yeah, I was just adding onto to what you said on the AI front. Yes, absolutely. TA teams have been using augmented writing for job descriptions, for inclusive language, for scheduling, machine learning, AI based, where we can match calendars, et cetera. Our ATSs sometimes also are powered by AI. What is interesting and where I see the awareness is needed, this is something that was recently also highlighted by the guru of AI, the gentleman, Mr. Hinton, who left Google, who also said that we need to be aware of certain downsides of AI as well. So it’s not necessarily just taking jobs or overcoming human intelligence, but the challenge with AI, because we don’t see what’s behind an algorithm, that is where fails comes.

So if you’re using, for example, a lot of the TA tech products say that we will match CVs and then we’ll give you a ranking. We don’t use that in our organization. And I personally am apprehensive about this tool because what are you picking up to match those CVs? We know that certain sections of the population do not even write good CVs. So if you’re matching it with certain words, you may not find those words and deselect those CVs. So what is behind that algorithm? And recruiters and TA professionals can only start questioning them when they’re aware of what the world of AI is and hence this awareness is very important today. There’s a lot of things to unravel in this space. Will it be regulated? Will it not be regulated? If you come back with content will you know whether this content is being plagiarized or not from a book or somebody’s copyrighted someone’s intellectual property. All that aside, I think when we are dealing with people and ensuring that we don’t exclude unintentionally, I think that’s super important and that’s the awareness for teams on AI.

Jason Rebello: Now, it’s something we mention oftentimes in our trainings around AI is we mention the case study of Amazon’s AI teaching itself to hate women for certain positions within the organization. You’ve mentioned something that struck a chord me. You mentioned your work with Techstars and the Builders Guide. I’m a Techstars alum and one of the things that Firefly I think we’re very interested in doing is really supporting this next generation of founders, particularly in the midst of running around trying to get product market fit, building their MVPs, high growth. This conversation of how do we help them approach embedding DEI into the foundations of the organization? As opposed to it being this, as you mentioned earlier, this thing that’s on the side that might not get dealt with or talked about or have any time and attention on until much, much later, kick the can down the road.

I would love to hear your thoughts or what your guidance is to new founders that are building their companies about how to embed these dynamics into their core strategy as a differentiator and as something that’s going to help them grow fast and maybe even potentially be acquired by OLX in the future.

Manjuri Sinha: That was, again, a great question Jason and now that you say that, I think there’s an opportunity of an abridged version of that book to add this section there. I don’t think the people section actually covers this. Should be under the business section not the people section. So I have an ex-colleague of mine, Sarah Cordivano, she’s written a book and published it recently on this, tackling the impossible job of a DEI professional. So I would recommend that to read for a longer answer to this question. She has has been a DI practitioner for a long time and her recommendation, when we look at the basics, first of all, when we look at organizations, I think any organizations that I’ve worked with, even with Zalando, with OLX and previously, if we had started with our efforts and design on the first day along with our business strategy and goals, I think would’ve been in a very different place as an industry altogether. So that’s the learning, and that’s something to remember.

The aspect for what works for a 3000 people organization will not work for a 50 people organization. So you need to start small. You wouldn’t have as much resources. As I think one I was mentioning earlier, you put it in your process and design, you put it in your system and design, and you look at the five strategies, the goals for your, even if it is a 50 people set up for that year, put those in everybody’s goals, OKRs and measurements. What could it be? If you are talking about you come together, I’m sure there’s a product that you’re working on, and looking at the product, how could you make it more inclusive for customers as such? So that could be the first thing. You’re looking at basic, it sounds very… It doesn’t sound as fancy or really stylish, but you’re looking at an office space for yourself. Maybe you’re moving from 100 people to 300 people and moving out of a co-working space. Is your office space inclusive? Is it friendly for folks coming in with any kind of disability, et cetera?

It’s interesting, a lot of our organizations, and this is a very interesting part of Berlin, and I was pleasantly, or probably I can’t say pleasantly, but I was surprised when I realized that a lot of office buildings in Berlin in Germany, are not friendly for disabled people. And this was an eyeopener for me because I was coming from the developing world to the developed world and I thought that is a given. When I interviewed, I remember I was interviewing someone and this gentleman made me aware that he sits on a different wheelchair, it’s a longer wheelchair, it’s not a regular wheelchair because of his spinal part. And he gave me all the details and he said, I would require a door, which is probably this size to enter the building, et cetera, so please do keep it in mind.

And I was really happy that he shared all those details with me. Then I called up our facilities, the security, and then realized the building that we were functioning in with my previous company, we actually didn’t have a space where his wheelchair could fit. And then I realized it didn’t even have a washroom that is friendly. Thankfully that company had different buildings in the city so we could access another building and he had given me information on a prior basis so I could inform him and plan the interview somewhere else. But just imagine if he would’ve appeared that day. It could be so embarrassing for all of us as such and definitely not respectful to the candidate.

And this was an eye-opener. So even a small aspect of looking at these things when you’re planning for your team can be a starting point for an organization. And you’re building out your team in what better place if you are planning for the next jump up of a 2X and 3X drive in the strategy of looking at a diverse talent pool, hiring for a diverse talent pool, it’s easier to start off with interns when you’re looking at the first cohort of interns, start with targeting, being intentional. Go to those universities, actually put an internal percentage for yourself and say that, hey, I want this many from different countries, nationalities, whatever sections you want to target. But I think these are the smaller bits, which sound small, but they make a big difference in the longer term.

Jason Rebello: I love that and I love your guidance and when you get around to writing an abridged version or that updated version to the Builders Guide to include these things, give us a call. I would love to just hear or even share some of our own stories from the field working with early stage tech companies and some of the challenges, but thank you so much for sharing.

Oana Amaria: Yeah. One of the things that we often talk about, I think the number is eight, the snowball starts at your first eight employees or the founding team. To your point, it’s like the snowball of good intentions and intentionality and putting in the right bones in place will save you down the line. And the reason I say this is we come in and we do a lot of fixing, not so much with Firefly anymore. We do a lot of building too. We’re trying to balance the efforts, but it’s amazing what you can do. And that’s so much more rewarding to be honest with you, to work with the smaller groups because there’s so much sincerity in what they want to build and they understand. And I think there’s a lot of hope for the stuff that is coming through in the pipeline these days. What is something that you are really excited about that you’re working on right now? I know you have your day job and then you have your speaker and brand building operation, but what’s something that’s really exciting that you’d like to share?

Manjuri Sinha: What am I excited about? Well, I’m excited about some in-person events still that those two years of not networking in person, I think that has taken a toll. I’m really, really excited about the C04 UNLEASH that happens. Definitely excited. We are hosting some events in our space here in Berlin office, so allowing that space, also getting, providing the space to folks who are impacted to getting impacted with layoff, getting together, learning from each other, sharing in the TA space especially. So definitely excited about that. Also, I think with the sessions and forums that I’m attending, the thing that I’m trying to take forward is this whole aspect on talent acquisition and end-to-end talent being strategic. And that’s something of that we are trying to build in, even in OLX right now, bringing talent acquisition and talent development together and closer so that we can have a talent strategy end-to-end, and that’s the excitement that I have on the day job side of things to marry everything from employer branding to talent development. So that’s something that is exciting and upcoming for us in OLX as well.

So exciting. Another exciting factor is that recently I was added into the lead program with LinkedIn, which only has 500 talent leaders across the world. It’s very niche, and I’m looking forward to the first event that we’ll have this year meeting people that will be during the LinkedIn Connect conference that happens in New York in November. So I’m looking forward, hopefully Oana, you can also join us there. John, I think John is also Seattle based, if I’m not wrong. John Vlastelica, he will, he’s one of the regular speakers there. So yeah, looking forward to that, definitely this year.

Oana Amaria: That’s amazing. Yeah, we’d love to see you. We’ll find a way. We’ll meet you on the East Coast.

Manjuri Sinha: Yeah.

Jason Rebello: I love that. And congratulations again on the lead program and I totally, I think given the work that we do, we so oftentimes see the opportunity, the missed opportunity, having talent acquisition and employee development being again, these separate things, the more they can come together as a cohesive strategy, just makes so much sense on so many different levels. And it’s something we definitely advocate for more and more. And again, you have shared so much with us over this last 40 or so, 50 or so minutes. I would love to actually pour back in by asking you a question of what would your parting request be for inclusion champions, practitioners in this space? What can we be doing better differently to again, continue to grow the momentum around all the different things that we’ve talked about today? What would your ask be of our community?

Manjuri Sinha: If I had one ask Jason, I would say to every practitioner in the space, whether you are a chief diversity officer or you don’t have that chief title as well, make it a business problem, make it somebody’s pain in the nice place in the business and ensure that everybody carries those measured goals for DEI. Without that, we will never see real impact happening.

Jason Rebello: Cheers to that.

Manjuri Sinha: And you can edit the pain in the nice space if you want to.

Oana Amaria: No, no. We’re going to leave that one in. That’s going to be an audiogram to introduce this podcast. I love it. I love it. Yeah, I mean, there’s so much to chat about that, and I think that’s the benefit of the work we do at Firefly is we get to say no to the check the box efforts because we’re in it for the long haul and that’s not going to help anybody. That’s not going to help your business, that’s not going to help your leaders, that’s not going to help your talent. So we are so grateful to have you on and there’s so many hashtag moments and all of this. I kept pinging Jackie with all the different pieces and wisdom that you’ve shared with us. Thank you so much for being a part of the conversation.

Manjuri Sinha: Thank you.

Jason Rebello: Yeah, no, Manjuri, thank you so much again for taking the time to have this incredible dialogue with us today. There’s so many amazing moments and great tips, both just for people that are trying to again, embed this type of work into the organizations. And for myself, even as a practitioner of things that I’m going to carry forward with me. So gratitude and appreciation for your time and for sharing as much as you much have today.

Manjuri Sinha: Thank you so much. Thank you, Jason. Thank you, Oana. I really loved the conversation and I’m sure we can keep at it for hours on a topic that we all love. But yeah, for now, thank you.


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