HOW’D I BECOME AN EXECUTIVE RECRUITER IN THE COMPUTER INDUSTRY?
The answer to the question is very simple, purely by accident. GMA had decided to close down their original music department and I was laid off. I had worked for every major agency in the Midwest and had no desire to move to Chicago, NYC, or LA..
I was getting unemployment as I was figuring out what to do and as part of getting your unemployment you had to apply for jobs. I saw an ad that said make $50K your first year, become an executive recruiter, so I sent in a resume, got an interview and received an offer.
During the interview when he found out I had about 15 years of career development as well as being on the phone doing it, he made me an immediate offer. I said I had to go home to talk to my wife, and he said “here’s the phone, call her”. I said I needed to think about it, he pulled out his W9 and he had paid more in taxes than I had ever made and said, “come with me kid and I’ll teach you how to make a lot of money”. I decided if I wanted to give it a shot, I’d do it with him, so I accepted a position as a recruiter with Paver and Gaynor.
It was a great place to learn the industry and I appreciated the opportunity but John Paver was a little too pushy and aggressive for me, so it was a great education into recruiting, but I’d have a conflict with their business philosophy.
He would want to close our placements with a double close. What that means is if you got an offer for a candidate, he’d want to have the candidate come to the office to sign their offer letter in person, but he'd assist. So it may be your candidate, or another recruiter’s candidate, but he’d assist with closing out the candidate's offer. Being blunt, if needed, he’d do a hard sell on the candidate just like he did with me, and for the most part I refused to participate in that philosophy. My opinion is, and has always been, if it is a good offer, and is really a good move for the candidate, it does not need a hard sell, the opportunity will sell itself.
In sales there is a methodology called the Ben Franklin close which is very simple.
Add up what advantages the opportunity has to offer, and then add up the disadvantages it brings, and the answer is usually simple, one column will outweigh the other. When it is really close, then it is a matter of people’s comfort level with the risk/reward ratio and where they are in their career and personal life.
John was all about the money, get as much as you can, as quick as you can, and move on to the next. For me career development does not work that way. I can not try to talk someone into a job that I do not think is the right move for them. As a rule of thumb, as an agent, manager, or recruiter, I will not recommend anything for my clients that I would not do myself.
Even when you have done your due diligence it sometimes does not work out. Simply put, everyone can give a good interview on both sides. An experienced person can tell the company what they want to hear and vice versa. But it is not till you are working with the company and the people that you have been hired to join that you get to look under the hood and see what you have just gotten yourself into, and as we know, appearances can be deceiving, and things are not always as presented, but by then it is usually too late, as it will take you 6 months to get a grasp of the reality.
It did not take me long to get comfortable as a recruiter because it is what I had always been doing, career development and talent representation, I was just representing a different kind of talent.
After being in the industry for a while I came to find out that math, music, and computers were all based on the same logic principals so I found myself recruiting a lot of mathematicians or musicians or both and came to find very little difference between a very prolific songwriter and prolific software engineer. They all lead a bit with the ego, are esoteric, and highly creative. This would be further reinforced when I made the move into the computer games industry, but I’d spend 10 years in the IT and software engineering industry first.
It was a new environment for me and my first exposure to the corporate world. I was asked to cut my hair, not wear my earrings on client calls, and not to wear flashy jewelry, and to put on a suit and tie.
I was working in the IT, and Software Engineering world dealing in the banking, defense, insurance, health care, medical, manufacturing and retail industries. I came to realize that many major companies all had their corporate headquarters in Minneapolis because they appreciated the Midwest work ethic, and moral integrity.
I was dealing with people like Bank of America, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, CDC, Dayton Hudson, FMC, Norwest Bank, Mayo Clinic, Target, 3M, and United Health Care to mention a few.
I am one of the least technical people you will meet,I do not have the personality to be a good programmer, I do not have the patience, I hate math, and I do not have their kind of analytical mind which has to do with my lack of patience, but I came to be very successful, because I’m a good listener, and I can understand them and what they do even though it is not something I’d ever want to do.
You learn pretty quickly that the best technical people can usually take the most technical question and explain it in layman's terms, which is needed when talking between non technical management or end users and trying to implement their wishes.
You may be surprised to find out later what my specialties in both the software engineering and computer games industry would be.
I became a Sr. Recruiter and became responsible for training new recruiters, specifically their technical training. I can not program but I can explain operating systems, programming languages, databases and how they work together and why you use different languages for different applications.
John was right about making more money than I had ever made, and that kind of simple math I can understand.
You book a $2,000 date on a band, you either get 10-20% so the company makes either a $200-$400 commission to the agency and a good agent will get 40-50% of what you bring in, so your $2,000 date will put $80-$200 in your pocket. Keep in mind that you are also booking a lot of $400-$1,000 dates.
You place a software engineer who is making $80K and get a 20% commission. The company just earned a $16K fee, and your recruiter % is about the same, so you just made a $6,400-$8,000 commission. Yup just a little difference, so yes, I appreciated the earning potential of the industry I had just become a part of.
While at Paver and Gaynor I became good friends with Randy Herman and after a year and a half we were offered an opportunity to move together to a higher level Search Firm called Sathe and Associates
Mark Sathe was an incredible boss and honorable individual who was highly respected in the industry.
Search firms have multiple revenue streams so we had recruiters working in the banking, insurance, legal, IT/Software Engineering and Property Management.
Randy and I had a very good two to two and half years with Mark but it too would come to an end.
All industries have ups and downs. Randy and I were in charge of the IT/Software Engineering department and our industry suffered a downturn and we were no longer able to bring in the money needed to pay for ourselves and Mark closed the division as well as one or two more.
That is one of the pitfalls of working in a commission based world. When you get to a point where you can command the salary you want, you have to earn it and when you can not, you risk losing your job.
Mark allowed me to also stay involved in the music business by booking and managing a few local artists, which makes it worse because if you are not paying for yourself by doing what you were hired for, you have created a problem.
Keep in mind that if you want to make $50K, you have to do somewhere between $100-$150K in business to earn that, so doing $60-$80K does not cut it.
I would make the decision to return to the music industry full time and accept a position at Artist Representation and Management (ARM) which would lead to a divorce from my first wife and Randy would leave the industry and get into computer products sales that would lead him to form his own cable and fiber optics company and later sell it and become a multi millionaire.
Randy would always tell me that a man who rides two horses falls between, but to me, it has always only been one horse: career development and talent representation.
I would also see the merger of the mediums and would later be vindicated when the music game genre with “Guitar Hero” would become the highest selling genre of games of all time, and that Music For Video Games Live would sell out the Hollywood Bowl, but it would be many years yet to come.
Randy is still the one who is the multimillionaire, but I’ve enjoyed my adventure.
I’d return one more time to recruiting while in Minneapolis after I’d leave ARM.
I worked for the LCW Group and another boss that I loved.
I’d resume my role as a Sr. Recruiter and Technology Trainer and would spend about 2 ½ years with LCW Group till the industry suffered another downturn and I would be laid off again.
At LCW I got into several things. My first exposure to the 3D Graphics world but in the Defense and Medical Industries with people like CDC, FMC, Cardiac Pace Makers, Medtronics, Dimensional Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Univac/Sperry, and 3M.
I also started to specialize in two of the most sought after people in the industry, System Programmers who are the lowest level of programmers and closest to the hardware, and Database Administrators who were the people who installed and tuned the databases as well as handling all of the capacity planning for the databases.
My manager got heavily into a new world called Data Administration and Data Architects, who were the high level top down database designers and strategic planners. We would also work together as a team after we left LCW and formed our own companies. She’d recruit the DA’s and I’d recruit all of the technical people, the DBAs and System Programmers who’d implement their plans.
After my departure from LCW, I started the original version of the Paramour Group and did both music and recruitment.
Then I made a smart ass comment and the man who brought me to Minneapolis brought me to Hollywood.
I was helping him fill some dates in the Midwest on a reggae band named Black Uhuru and I said, “Why the hell don’t you bring me out there to do this”, two days later I was invited out to represent the firm at the National College Convention in Anaheim and spend the week in the office.
I then got an offer and had 2 weeks to close up shop in Minneapolis and move to Hollywood.
It would be the worst job I ever had in my life as I was fine with my friend, but I did not get along with his girlfriend at all who was his partner.
My daughter who had been living with me in Mpls was with her mom in Texas while I figured out what Hollywood was like. She wanted to come join me in LA, but my boss knew he was paying me barely enough for me to survive and knew I could not afford it, and said if you bring her here, I’ll fire you. I brought here to LA and he fired me. He had never been a parent and did not know that you do what you have to do for your children.
So now I’m a single parent in LA with a teenage daughter who was either going into 10h, or 11th grade. I believe she was starting her sophomore or Junior year of high school. (She’s the one editing this and adds that she was just starting high school and was a freshman)
So now what?
The major agencies want to take you out of college and grow you in their image from scratch by putting you in the mail room and having you work your way up the ladder, and I did not have the time to look for a job at a major management company, so I went back to recruiting.
I tried what everyone said at the time was the smart move and got into contract recruiting, or recruiting for contract positions. It was a high volume business and I was not a good fit. It was the shortest job I have ever had, and my boss loved me, but I was the wrong fit because I wanted too much information.
I had 4 people bringing me requests for certain positions and I’d match those openings with available candidates in a huge database.
But in my opinion they brought me improper job orders or requests.
As an example, I’d get a request for someone to do a 6 month contract and the language was written in C++.
I’d want to know what the application was being worked on as it kind of makes a difference if it is manufacturing, inventory, accounts payable/receiveable, banking, insurance, health care and the like, which could all be written in C++, but that was too much knowledge. I was just supposed to call people and say “I have a contract for 6 months written in C++, are you available, yes or no, next” Simple, yes, but I knew what the candidates next questions were going to be and I wanted to be prepared.
Wow two jobs in less than a year, that’s a record, so what to do now?
Before taking the contract recruiter job I had done multiple interviews and received multiple offers. I turned down one for a permanent placement recruiter for the contract recruiter job and I went back to him with a great reference from my recent boss who he knew, and he made me another offer. But this time he said, “I just started a new division that is focusing on computer gaming that I think you may like. I quickly fell in love and had another passion.
This time I found the connection between math, music and computers even deeper and discovered that there was no difference between my musicians and my game programmers. They all want to be rockstars and have gold and platinum cds on their walls.
I had seen the merger of the mediums and for the last 25 years have watched it unfold before my eyes as technology has expanded over the years.
Those 25 years have seen the world evolve from a PC to platform, to online, to mobile to free to play, to VR/MR/AR and has seen music based games like “Guitar Hero” become the biggest selling genre of games in history the Music of Video Games Live would come to sell out the Hollywood Bowl, and EA would create a music label to promote the baby bands they were singing by putting them in their MM titles. Now we have eSports which is attracting millions of fans for online tournaments and can also sell out a 60,000 capacity arena for a live competition.
So yes it has been a hell of adventure and quite a ride and we are still evolving.
As to my previous comment on what I represent now, and what have I specialized in in the games industry?
The same thing I always have but a different flavor.
My specialty is 3d Graphics programmers, more specifically engine programmers, the people who are still the closest to the hardware. They are the people who create the technology that everyone uses and who without you’d have nothing.
They build the engines and the tools and technology that everything else is plugged into and they fine tune it an optimize it.
In 35 years I’ve worked with all kinds of programmers. In games it is things like AI, Animation, Graphics, Physics, Network, Multi-player, Gameplay, User Interface, and on and on, but my specialty has been 3d graphics, tools/technology/r&d, and engine programmers.
Like in the music industry I have had the honor and pleasure of representing some incredibly talented people who helped to create and define the games industry by the franchises, technology, and music that they helped to create that have sold millions of games.