Andrew Heywood: "I’ve been doing this over ten years now, and you don’t do it because it’s easy."

December 19th, 2016
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“I’ve been doing this over ten years now, and you don’t do it because it’s easy.”
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Talking to Andrew is a little bit like being dropped into Silicon Valley and wishing you were a tech genius. He’s passionate about virtual reality, intelligent, and very easily reels you into his world. If you’re ever lucky enough to sit down with him, be careful. You’ll find yourself wanting to give up your job and start coding in a heartbeat.

You’re working for a company creating augmented reality smart helmets. That’s SO cool.

Yeah it’s going really well. This year is our year of launch and our helmets are going to market so things are busy. We just acquired a new hologram company from the UK that’s focused on the automotive industry. We hope those two technologies form into the helmet long term, but we’ll be setting up an automotive arm of the business. It’s our year of huge growth.

How did you get into augmented reality and holograms? (I try not to geek out too much on the poor guy).

It’s funny actually because I had never heard about augmented reality before the engineering director here randomly messaged me one day and told me to come check out what they were doing. I was totally blown away by it all.

Instantly sold.

It’s just funny because previously, I had never thought about this industry before, but I saw what was going on here, put on the helmet and was amazed. That was it from that point.

The power of the helmet.

Absolutely! The minute we put it on our candidates they’re sold too.

That’s a great closing tool.

It really is.

How are you guys disrupting things?

I think our industry is at a really interesting inflection point where it’s attracting people with various forms of tech, but at the same time, people aren’t sure what’s happening. There’s a lot of storytelling that needs to happen as part of disruption.

From a talent perspective, there’s a huge opportunity to do some ground breaking work and things that will help careers, as well as things that have never been done before.

We’re also trying to do things right now that mimic good brands to attract great talent, with things like events and strategic sourcing strategies, but at the same time, we are disrupting our space, and we’re also trying to attract the top talent coming from hot startups and brands in the valley to come and work on this.

How do you compete with the good brands?

Well we’re at an exciting stage of our company, but we’re not a Google, a Fecbook or a Twitter. We’re in a realm of really cool, sexy technology in a mid level startup, also in the enterprise realm, so there is a variety of challenges for us when attracting talent. But a big thing is building a great candidate experience, and that’s what the good brands do. That’s huge for us. We need to make sure we’re the best at courting candidates. For example, we’ve just hired someone we’ve been ‘dating’ for two years.

I would assume that with a really cool product, like virtual reality helmets, that does a lot of the recruiting for you? People want to be part of the future. But even with that do you find it difficult to attract talent?

I think in Silicon Valley it’s challenging. It’s such a hotbed of different startups always popping up with really cool products. There’s a lot of hot brands here and it’s hard getting people to move or leave their colleagues.

For you personally, what’s been the hardest person you’ve ever recruited?

When I came back from Japan and started working for Google. I had to build a Japan focused team in the Valley. Back then Google had an exceptionally high bar to entry. It does now, but I would argue that back in 2005 it was even higher. I hired a Japanese individual who had dropped out of college, a startup guy really well known in the tech world. I dated him for about a year. Getting him through the Google process was really tough. It was a strict process and unheard of to hire anyone who didn’t go to an elite or top tier school, let alone one who had dropped out.

Did you ever have any moments you thought, forget it, I don’t want to do this anymore?

Sure, every recruiter does. It’s a normal thing. A real love, hate relationship. I’ve been doing this over ten years now, and you don’t do it because it’s easy. I gravitate towards opportunities that aren’t easy because I like challenges.

So basically, you take the hard road?

[Laughs] Basically yeah. I like the hard road right now. I like the self inflicted pain.

That’s a big sadistic?

Yeah but it’s really rewarding.

What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt?

There’s been loads, but when you jump into circumstances, there’s always instances you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Which has happened more often than I can think. I’ve learnt that to pivot quickly is key, and to learn quickly from things is essential.

I’ve also learnt that my initial personality is to take ownership of everything and do everything, but I’ve learnt that’s not scalable. You need the team. And to grow, you need to grow with the team not as an individual. You can’t do everything by yourself all the time.

If you could go back to the beginning of your career and tell your younger self something, what would it be?

Don’t take things too personally, get the chip off your shoulder and grow from certain circumstances. I would tell myself to fake it until I make it. Don’t get too worried when things are not working out. But overall, be patient, work really hard, and jump into every opportunity.

What does The Movement mean to you?

It’s trying to shed light on what true recruiting is really like. Why it’s an industry that’s always growing despite it’s negative light. I like that Chris is bringing this truth and positive aspect to it. It’s about uncovering the noise and showcasing what a recruitment professional does, how they should do it, and what’s best practice.

Do you think the industry is at a stage that it needs someone to shine that light?

I think so. Regardless of brands and other companies who hire great people, recruitment really needs an overhaul on it’s own brand. To this day, my family doesn’t really understand what I do. It’s an industry that’s mysterious for people at times and people fear the unknown. People don’t really get it. They think it’s finding a CV and passing it to someone. The reality is the challenges, the matchmaking, the business strategy, analyzing data, candidate experience and client facing. Every day is totally different.

It’s an industry that teaches patience and perseverance. You’re hustling all the time. You’re constantly learning to be onto of your game and they’re always great attributes to have. Let’s shout about that!

Do you think recruitment taught you those attributes, or did you have them already?

It’s definitely enhanced them. I learnt a lot about myself becoming a recruiter. It wasn’t until I started in this business that I was like oh yeah, I have this in me.

What’s the biggest thing recruitment has taught you about yourself?

That I’m really stubborn. I don’t like to give up. I never give up on candidates.

I realized I like working hard too. It’s similar to the sports environments I come from when I was training. The adrenaline you get when you place people in perfect positions.

 By the time I’d finished chatting with Andrew, I walked away from our meeting ridiculously happy. Some people really infuse you with happiness through their own positive nature. Andrew is that guy. He’s happy (all the time), humble and filled with humility and pride for the work he’s doing. There’s no bravado and not a hint of ego about the guy. Just pure happiness and joy for the work he does every day, and that is infectious to be around.

Would you like to work in recruitment in London?