The theme of Seattle SourceCon may have been mistakes made and lessons learned, but the impact on attendees was something more unexpected. Over the past year, there have been all kinds of fear, hype, and obsession with A.I. in sourcing and recruiting. What was refreshing about the speakers in Seattle was how much focus was brought back to humanizing our industry. In a roundabout way, the theme of making mistakes and learning provoked a lot of inward reflection of ourselves. Of course, there were plenty of cool new tools and sourcing methods learned from the breakout sessions, but I wasn’t expecting to be so moved emotionally by the speakers.
Glen Cathey’s keynote opened everyone’s eyes about what it indeed takes to be a world-class sourcer. Perhaps the most poignant statement was that so many of us don’t go to work every day to get better at our jobs. Most of us go to work, go through the motions and go home without the intent to make the most of the challenges we face every day. To be genuinely world class, it’s not necessarily talent, but more so, grit and mental fortitude.
It was inspiring in the way that it made many of us realize that we don’t have to be the smartest, or the strongest to be world class, we have to commit to pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. In sourcing, it can be easy to make excuses for why all of our conventional methods aren’t working. Rather than making excuses, we can ask ourselves the difficult questions, reflect, and accept continuous feedback. Sure, some of the roles we source for are more difficult than others. Maybe the culture at your company sucks. In the face of every seemingly impossible situation, there will always be someone out there who will find value in what you have to offer. As Glen conveyed to us, there are still more people out there, but most skim the surface. You must ask yourself what you can do that other Sourcers and recruiters are not. As someone who has currently been facing enormous challenges at my job and feeling as though I keep running out of ideas, this was the speech I truly needed to hear.
When it came to discussions about diversity, the focus was not on superficial initiatives to hire more minorities, LGBTQ, etc. to make your company appear inclusive. They were essential messages because they focused on how we treat each other, and how we can do better starting with ourselves. Sarah Goldberg helped us to reflect on unexpected ways could be leaving others behind when implementing our diversity strategies. Diversity is not a straightforward issue that is easy to address.
We consistently must increase our awareness of the experience and perspective of others to understand how to create an inclusive environment for all truly. She presented the idea of adding pronouns to your Linkedin profile to indicate that you’re welcoming and mindful of other’s gender identities. What was the most heartwarming was how I immediately saw many attendees add their pronouns within hours of this speech. To me, that was a signal that as a community, we are willing and fiercely committed to foster inclusion. We’re eager to continue learning and understanding the perspective of those that are often overlooked.
Finally, Vanessa Raath delivered an unforgettable perspective on diversity issues from the lens of growing up in South Africa from apartheid to the end of institutionalized racial segregation and the aftermath. She detailed the transformation of the country through her school pictures from grade school to college, and they reflected a rapid and dramatic shift in the opportunities afforded to the nonwhite majority. When diversity in the workplace became law in South Africa, it presented something especially challenging. How do you recruit women of color when the effects of institutional discrimination? Growing up they were likely denied the education and opportunities afforded to the white minority.
Vanessa left us with the arguably the most powerful lesson of the conference. “judging a person does not define who they are; it defines who you are.” It also caused a lot of reflection and realization that in this country, we still have a long way to go in acknowledging and correcting the effects of our past racial transgressions. Many of us were moved to tears, and Vanessa earned a well-deserved standing ovation.
I went into Seattle SourceCon expecting to have several days of intensive skill building, new tools and methods. What I got was far more inspiring. It was a rare experience that transforms the way you see yourself and others, and I left with a commitment to be more aware and empathetic to others. It is not enough to say that you’re tolerant of those who are not like you. We must show by adopting a mindset to connect on a personal level and listen continually.