We interviewed Nekosi Nelson for the first episode of OctoTalks
For the first episode of Octobot’s new podcast OctoTalks, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nekosi Nelson, a hiring and team management professional passionate about maximizing opportunities, complex problem-solving, and fostering value. We want to share an overview of the conversation, highlighting what he learned from his time at large organizations such as Google, where he revolutionized the hiring process, specifically its reach to talented people from underrepresented communities, making a positive impact on their lives. At the same time, the organization gained new perspectives and increased their diversity and inclusion.
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How was your experience at Google? What was it like working there?
My goal when I joined Google was to democratize Google hiring. When I first started working there, less than 10% of hires were generated from online recruiting. It was very difficult to get a job there if you didn’t have connections, no matter how talented you were; this was an obstacle preventing a lot of skilled people from joining the organization. To improve those numbers, my team and I created a two-sided marketplace for Google careers, matching supply and demand with innovative practices, and blending program management, project management, and service delivery to optimize user experience. The results were incredible; Google’s online hires increased to 53% and the company was able to scale processes to make the experience better for everyone involved and increase success numbers.
Do you have any tips for people management?
If you’re working with big numbers of people, my best advice is to never forget that every number is a person – each data point represents an individual. It’s easy to lose that perception when you’re working on a big scale, but it’s a key part. It will allow you to balance standardization and individual relevance.
Here at Octobot, our mission is to deliver the best products to improve people’s lives. Something we ask during each podcast is: how do you think that your work at Google transformed people’s lives?
The best achievement was creating a hiring process where talent was more important than connections. The platform aimed to explore if Google was the right fit for people, regardless of their network. The focus was always on the applicants, and the main goal was to help people from all backgrounds land a job at Google. We provided opportunities for those who were developing their skills on the side to prove their abilities through technical interviews. We were intentional about understanding the demographics of applicants and encouraging everyone to believe they could see themselves in a role at Google. These efforts had a profound impact on changing the trajectory of people’s lives and their families; the focus on diversity and the recognition of the value of different backgrounds were integral to our approach.
How was the shift for you from non-profit organizations to a more corporate world?
Taking time for team engagement and development, and clearly defining expectations are good practices within the corporate world as well as in the non-profit sector. Though, there are some benefits and struggles within each area: motivating individuals is easier in the non-profit sector due to shared values and missions, while stakeholder management can be more complex. In the corporate world, things are kind of the opposite; understanding the needs of stakeholders, users, and clients is essential to succeed. Five key aspects emerge equally for both sides and contribute to better management: growing people, scaling best practices, fostering positive experiences, building partnerships, and embracing data-driven decision-making.
Can you share any valuable lessons that you learned from your own leaders in the past?
There’s a lot to learn from good and bad leaders. Some of the most significant things I’ve learned over time are:
–Recognizing when I don’t have the answer to a problem. It’s okay to admit you don’t know something and enable your team members to do the same. It’s a sign of authenticity
–Personalizing conversations; individual interactions are crucial to achieve a great team dynamic
–Taking the time to analyze metrics. Keeping an eye on performance numbers is super helpful in order to make decisions and find the right way to go to achieve your goals.
Think about your younger self. What advice would you give him or to other people starting their careers?
Fear holds you back. Imposter syndrome, anxiety, overworking, and perfectionism are all rooted in fear. Don’t be afraid to embrace your greatness and stop hiding it to make others comfortable. Another important piece of advice is about planning; we often overestimate what we can achieve in a year but underestimate what we can accomplish in 10. Start now, invest, plan, and commit to your goals. Give it 10 years, and you’ll be amazed by what you can achieve.
We loved Nekosi’s views on his career and his advice for professionals in team management. You can listen to the whole conversation on Spotify, and take a look at our podcast episodes here.