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Patty Smith on Perfect Job Candidates, Harvard MBA Mentorship & Nurturing Human Potential

· Show Notes,Founder,Women,Harvard

"... the best type of leadership I see is empowering every single person in the organization to become that leader. It's not about top-down dictating what needs to get done. It's about providing the structure and framework to encourage each individual contributor, each middle manager and each person to be able to actually execute on their own human potential and know how their passions connect to the work they do, that connect to the broader company mission." - Patty Smith

Patty Smith is the CEO and Co-founder of Managerie, a platform connecting hiring managers to professionals looking to advance their careers on the basis of their professional growth goals and aligned company mission, setting up potential connections for a future hire. Managerie has attracted over 400+ candidates to support the delicate construction of high-performing teams, which balances a genuine human connection with a laser focus on dynamic professional growth. Managerie is advised by Dr. Frances Frei [HBS Professor and Uber, WeWork culture-fixer], Jared Erondu [Head of Design at Lattice], and Alex Roetter [ex-SVP of Engineering at Twitter].

Before founding Managerie, Patty built the Analytics function at Lattice from scratch. During her tenure, she owned all source-of-truth company data while the company grew from $3M to $20M in ARR and supported Series B and Series C fundraises. Lattice supports over 3,670+ People leaders to create processes of continuous performance management through their suite of People Management tools.

Prior to working in HR tech, Patty worked in Operations at Apple and in Marketing at Lumosity. She graduated from Harvard Business School in 2016 and Harvard College in 2011 studying Applied Math with a minor in Psychology. In her free time [pre-COVID], Patty enjoys acting in a parody-driven Backyard Theater Troupe in San Francisco, rock climbing, and leading weekly morning workouts.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:08] Good to see you, Patty.

Patty Smith: [00:02:10] Likewise, Jeremy. Thank you so much for hosting me today.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:14] Yeah, it's good to reconnect after our time overlapping at Harvard Business School and recently reconnecting over the panel at Harvard on leading new ventures through a pandemic. That was one heck of a discussion.

Patty Smith: [00:02:28] I felt like I was back in the HBS classroom.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:31] Except all of us were clueless about the future this time around with no one answer to tell us at the end.

Patty Smith: [00:02:36] Exactly. The only thing that was missing was our name placards, but Zoom did a decent job.

Jeremy Au: [00:02:43] Yeah. I mean, I think so many people are just having a tough time and so many people are kind of going through job transitions and a terrible economy. I really admired what you were sharing about how people are thinking about their careers and how you are working to support them through these transitions at Managerie. And so I knew that you had to come on the show and share a little bit. for those who don't know you, how would you introduce yourself?

Patty Smith: [00:03:10] I am the CEO of Managerie. We're a company that connects candidates and employers on the axis of professional growth. Seeing that so much of hiring has usually been faced around a backward facing resume, we're providing an opportunity for candidates to be seen for where they're going and where they're looking to grow in their careers. And realizing that that is actually the most important data for an employer to see when they're looking at a new person to hire or network with into their company.

I'm happy to share more about my background as well. I started way back in college at Harvard, have been grappling with this dynamic tension between data and human beings. When I was an undergrad, I knew I wanted to study applied math and I actually surprised myself when I also almost emergently turned into a psychology minor. That was because I took a couple of classes that I was super interested in and just kept taking more classes that were on psychology and human behavior and that turned into a minor very easily, without much effort on my own end.

From that point on, I knew that there's something. There's something between people and data that had to be a part of my life. My very first job out of college, I was working in finance and I distinctly remember the hiring manager, as I was coming in, I had a finance internship. It was actually very math oriented, I was working in Matlab and programming most of the summer, quite honestly. I came in and the hiring manager's like, "So what are you interested in here?" And I'm like, "Well, I really like doing the financial analyst work and I want to find a way to be in front of people." And he goes, "Great. You're going to join as an analyst and you're going to become a client facing analyst."

Now, unfortunately, little did either of us know client facing, basically for me in my mind, means sales and is not really what I wanted to build my career around. But that was something I learned, and that was part of the first step of my journey of figuring out what is that right thing. Soon after I moved to Lumosity, which is, for those of you who don't know, is a brain training tech startup in San Francisco. I joined as a user acquisition marketer, which early in career, that sounds like a total career shift. But actually for me, again, it was another time I got to grapple with data and human beings. And this time it's the human being psychology around marketing and how do people respond to that? And how do you find opportunities to use data to know when someone's responding well and someone's not responding well.

That was so fun. I loved that role and I loved being able to work in an environment where people were so concerned about how to unlock human potential in the brain. That led to a number of other smaller startups I've worked for, but part of my journey involved going to business school, which Jeremy and I share. For me, that journey was mostly centered around understanding that every organization has something to offer in its own way. There's a structure of how human beings fit together. There's a lot of commonalities and a lot of really interesting differences and I went to business school to learn about that, and to learn how leadership plays a role. Coming out of that, I worked at Apple. I was realizing that actually my passions lie in HR, in technology around HR and in how organization construction can be empowered by data.

I joined Lattice early 2018 as their first data person, their first analytics employee, so here I am finally, sniffing my way into a true data role coming from a business background and it was fascinating. I got to spend my time working across all sides of the business. I was working on our revenue data. I was working on our product data. And quite honestly over my head most of the time, but learned so, so much about what it takes both to build businesses and to build companies that serve people and are about empowering people at work.

But from there, I got a lot of inspiration to start Managerie, which is all about understanding professional growth, which Lattice has in droves, is how do you get somebody professional development data to empower teams? And for me, I see that as applying much further back in the process when you're actually constructing teams and building teams, and more namely as that applies to hiring. That led me to start Managerie at the beginning of this year, January, 2020, to empower candidates in the job process to become their best, most professionally fulfilled self, as they're looking for the next role and as they're finding their dream career.

Jeremy Au: [00:07:55] What an incredible journey, nurturing human potential, not just from an individual level, but also from a systemic level as well. I'm impressed by the fact that yeah, just from working yourself at Harvard, to Lumosity, to [Brain], to Lattice at an organizational level, and now your own. What an interesting journey. How did you first get interested in nurturing human potential?

Patty Smith: [00:08:20] Yeah, that's a great question and I think it has something to do with my own reflections of my career and understanding... I don't know if this was guidance someone told me when I was young, but someone told me the best way to know where your passions and where your potential lie is within following the things that you find most interesting. And that in the job world, it unlocks a lot of doors if you really, truly break down what is expected of you, versus what you want to do. I think that's kind of the core to the answer of that.

Jeremy Au: [00:09:01] You must've seen quite a few different types of leadership models, right? From Apple to Lumosity, to Lattice and now on your own, how would you say you've seen that leadership styles differ and also be the same?

Patty Smith: [00:09:19] I think that's a great question. Some of it comes to how organizations are set up, which is why I am so passionate about learning and building organizations quite literally from the people that make them up. I think that the best type of leadership I've seen, and people exhibit this in different ways, but the best type of leadership I see is empowering every single person in the organization to become that leader. It's not about top-down dictating what needs to get done. It's about providing the structure and framework to encourage each individual contributor, each middle manager and each person to be able to actually execute on their own human potential and know how their passions connect to the work they do, that connect to the broader company mission.

Talking about differences in style, some people do that by being extremely, I guess, structured. From my perspective, I tend to take more of this angle where I'll say, "Okay, this is literally the structure of how we're going to go about tackling this problem," either between my own tiny startup versus a larger team or an organization, or as the analytics function at Lattice, "This is the structure of how I'm going to do it. Here's everything that needs to happen there." There are some people that take a much more open approach and actually solicit how other people's own opinions fit into that. And they actually build that mosaic in the backend, so it's this style of how an individual would want to show up at work.

Jeremy Au: [00:10:56] What's interesting is that it's not just examples of leadership you've seen on an individual level, you've also seen that in action at a macro level, right? Watching thousands of company using the Lattice performance review system and their tools, and you leading the analytics, analysis of that. What were some key trends and insights you took away from that time?

Patty Smith: [00:11:20] I'll talk a little bit about Lattice and my respect for how that company was founded and how it was built. The founders, Jack and Eric, say time and again, and talk time and again about their vision and about the goals of where Lattice is going as a company. This is something that is constantly reverberating throughout the organization is, "We care about people. We care about organizations growing and leading teams from an HR function," which is not even a modern term. What they have instilled and what they've built in Lattice is not just where the company is going, but it's where the company needs to be today to execute on the broad vision.

So to put more specifics around that, the future of Lattice is around continuous improvement, people development through feedback that not only happens in a performance review, but happens over time and enables quick action. This is a cultural shift that is, most organizations from, if you think back to 1980s, an organization is, if they do a performance review, it might be once a year. And Lattice sees a world where we're actually tying in. They actually just launched a platform called Lattice Grow and they're tying in professional development into feedback, into promotion cycles. And that could not have been possible five years ago. That was maybe possible three years ago, but Lattice had deliberately built a product that plugged in first into, okay, where are we today and what does this organization need?

That today might be a performance review cycle. Great, here's one of our first products, which is reviews. And from there, Lattice started to build out, all right, now there's feedback, now there's goal setting. And it turned into a suite of performance management tools that are now empowering the HR leader, who we also now call people leaders, into being actually the organizational pilots for the organization that they want to build, and Lattice is giving them those tools. Now the beauty of that is that actually the vision and the future of what Lattice is wanting, it's not actually just running reviews, it's building this much more growth, human centric journey for an employee that needs to start somewhere and where they're starting is where people are today. They're actually leading that change in a really meaningful way.

Jeremy Au: [00:13:57] Could you share more about your role there? Because you led the whole analytics vertical, so what did that mean on a day-to-day basis in terms of what you built?

Patty Smith: [00:14:07] Absolutely. Yeah, on a day-to-day basis, man, I mean analytics is data and being one person in what started as a 30 person organization, and when I left, it was around a hundred people. There's a lot of high level strategizing and very low level programming that was balanced across the organization. I'd say at the end of the day strategic management of counterparties was probably my most important role. But it was figuring out how to empower the revenue teams with the data they needed to know exactly who to target, how to bring in the specific deals that they were looking for on the product side. What are the things that we need to know from our customers in terms of how they're using the product and what they might be interested in actually, and how that data tells that story?

I'd say the best thing that I learned from being in that role was how actually it's... I call a revenue and product are separate things because I mean, quite literally the data warehouses live in different functions. But every single piece interacts, it's sort of the coming back to the more organizational journey of how businesses grow, every single piece of the product is related to even the type of customers that you'd bring on. So Lattice had we work as a customer, and we'd be looking at some of the product data and we'd be like, "Oh my goodness, why are some of the reviews numbers blowing up in this certain way because someone's using the product in this way?" Well, it turns out we had this big customer that happened to have a very particular way that they were running their review cycle and that shows up in product data, which is very much related to revenue data.

 

I think my job there, and the most interesting part of my job was weaving that story in a way that both empowered the product and the revenue side of the business.

Jeremy Au: [00:16:06] What's interesting is that you were working in operations and strategy analytics, and then you went to HBS and then you used that time to really deepen your focus on people, right? What was it like going in with that shift? Was it something you knew going to the MBA that you want to do more of it? Or was it something that's a moment of epiphany during the MBA? What was it like?

Patty Smith: [00:16:32] Yeah, actually I don't know if it was epiphany. I feel like epiphany's are, especially for myself, not something that happen often. It usually tends to be something that is a slow realization over time. But at HBS, I saw that as the moment where I realized quite literally how important people are to organizations, right? I'll describe to you the jobs prior to HBS were all about how to, in my own career, engage with people and engage with data.

HBS is the moment or the two years moment of me understanding that actually it's the people side of businesses that make businesses, and that make organizations work. Directly after HBS, I moved into a role at Apple and that was in an operations capacity for their services business, which to me was the absolute epitome of how businesses work together, because that's how operations exhibits itself in an organization. And from there, the rest is history.

Jeremy Au: [00:17:38] It's interesting because we both went to HBS via MBA and we saw all our peers use that time in different ways, right? To explore new geography, new careers, new insights. I, myself also shifted from a consultant at Bain to focusing much more the entrepreneurship journey after having a taste of it. So I'm curious about you, how did you spend your time at HBS?

Patty Smith: [00:18:05] Totally, great question, Jeremy. I'll be honest, I loved learning in the classroom at HBS and I spent a lot of my time off HBS campus. I was actually a resident tutor for the undergrads. I was in Dunster House and I held the role of... well, many roles... but one of my core roles was to be the business tutor for the whole 400 student house. What that meant is I was designing programs that helped students get resume reviewed, get coached on interviews and get set up for success in the job market, surprise, surprise.

For me, that was incredibly meaningful. I still keep in touch with a lot of the students that I worked with. I had a two hour call with someone this weekend who was one of my students and was just needing some advice on how he was navigating grad school during COVID. I just get so much joy and fulfillment out of being able to have those interactions. And quite honestly, I mean, being a tutor in Dunster House is not easy. If you're someone considering going to HBS and you want to be a resident tutor, it's really rewarding. It's not easy. You have a job. And I will tell you, it was a one of my favorite jobs that I've had.

Jeremy Au: [00:19:28] Amazing. I think your passion for developing people just shines through, right? I mean, other people are partying. I was in the Harvard Innovation Lab slaving away on a startup and you were just out there paying it forward. Especially because I think you were an undergrad there, right? Was there someone who was a coach to you as a undergrad? Was there a grad student or something?

Patty Smith: [00:19:50] In some ways I wish Jeremy, I wish that I had more time. When I became a tutor, I realized how much some of my peers probably were accessing the tutor network more than I was. I had a literal coach. I was playing varsity water polo during my undergrad. And I mean, there's a whole other set of stories there, but that was where I sought a lot of, I mean, obviously a lot of time and a lot of leadership support and coaching. And understanding how to deal with being a Harvard water polo player, which I'll tell you if you know anything about this sport is, we're in the division one, but we go play against a team like Stanford that has four Olympians on it and we score three goals to their 20. But it was such a rewarding experience doing that too.

Jeremy Au: [00:20:40] It's interesting that you have a theme of giving back and coaching so many people, were there any mentors of yours that you respected at HBS or that you looked up to at different parts of your career?

Patty Smith: [00:20:55] You bring that up. The first person that comes to mind, maybe this is like the HBS water polo overlap. So as an undergrad on the water polo team, we had the deep, deep pleasure of welcoming Ellen Estes, who's a, I think two time Olympian gold medalist. She was at HBS at the time and she spent two of her years at HBS being an assistant coach to our team. Now she was incredible. I learned so much from her, both in the water. She would be practicing with us and coaching from in the water, but she taught us so much about resilience. That was for me, something. I still remember her, she had a couple little quippy things. I mean, other people say them, but it's the fake it till you make it type of mentality.

Which actually, reflecting on that, that doesn't apply to every situation. You should not fake your story and who you are until you make it. But faking your attitude if you're not feeling up for it a certain day, but you just need to keep showing up every single day and bringing that consistency of literally attendance if that's all you can muster for the day, is something I think about often. And yeah, just incredibly grateful for her. She always used to say, "There's a spiral up of knowing that there is no one path to how we get somewhere, but we might be spiraling to make incremental progress along the way, even though it feels like you're just going in a circle." So very much have a lot of respect for Ellen and what she brought to me in those moments.

Jeremy Au: [00:22:32] I can imagine many undergrads today who feel the same way about you, to be honest.

Patty Smith: [00:22:41] I would only hope that they walk away, maybe it's not anything I said specifically, but walk away with a lighter step and a clearer head.

Jeremy Au: [00:22:51] One thing I remember as well is that you had the opportunity and privilege of going to Professor Clayton Christensen's last course that he taught at HBS. For those who don't know, he's the guy who coined the term and researched how disruption happens with the buzzword of today's startup world. And personally for me, I remember him as the guy who wrote the book, How Will You Measure Your Life, and I think that was actually the first book I read that inspired me. I think the same way your water polo mentor was a moment for you, I remember that book being a big part of my life way before I even knew that he coined the word disruption. And everybody talks about is if we know what it means, but I liked his stories and his audiobook as well. So what was it like going to his final course with him?

Patty Smith: [00:23:40] He was an incredible man. Honestly his presence, his ability to hold every single individual intellectually accountable for their thoughts and their actions humbles me every single day when I think about, again, as much as any mentor a teacher will be to every student of theirs, I take many of his lessons with me every day. When I think about Clay Christensen saying the best businesses actually take a small innovative arm and make it very separate from the rest of the company and say, "Go disrupt our own business." They essentially make a startup within a startup.

I imagine any company that is actually doing those things and has been doing those things leading into COVID, is in a much better spot because they know how to respond to the continuous change that's going on at the most rapid pace I think any of us have ever seen. In some ways being the founder of a startup, I feel lucky that I'm not bound by an organizational behemoth behind me, but it is fascinating to think and to see how businesses have had to operate. I really truly hope that other leaders out there are listening to Clay still, and his words of wisdom.

Jeremy Au: [00:25:02] Is there anything else you want me to cover in our time? Specifically you want me to cover?

Patty Smith: [00:25:06] Yeah. I mean, my brain right now is spending like 98% of its time thinking about the hiring world and what's so difficult about it. I had a conversation with someone yesterday. It's a woman who's just graduated her MBA from Booth. She goes, "Why is it so hard for me to get an interview? I go to a company, I get an interview with the HR person. I get sent to the next person and then they turn me down because I actually didn't have a certain experience on my resume." I hear that and I'm like, that to me, when I pull that back to Lattice, is exactly the future that I want to change. And how do I plug into her story of what is a perfect candidate, and change the narrative around what is a perfect candidate for a job. Actually the way that we've set ourselves up is very much so to think of a perfect candidate for a job as a series of bullet points on a resume.

The fallacy that her recruiter has fallen into is they'll say something like, "It's okay that they don't have XYZ specific experience. I'm of course open to this job or this person being the exact person for this job if they have some other ethereal thing I can't really describe to you, that's a match." Where I see the problem is when that ethereal thing can't be described and they get sent on to the next person, then actually they're going to be set up to fail. They're not going to say like, "Oh, you failed because you didn't have the curiosity I was hoping for." No one has that self-awareness. No one's being held accountable to have that self-awareness.

They'll say, "Oh, you failed because, well I guess you didn't have this background piece that we had said we needed for this role. So thanks so much, see you later," and no one is learning that process and everyone is wasting their time. That is the problem that I'm trying to solve and help both companies and candidates figure out, quite honestly.

Jeremy Au: [00:27:13] Why does that problem exist? I mean, is it because companies don't care about the cost involved in the process? I mean, they do care about the cost, but maybe it's like human cost in terms of time? Why does this problem still exist?

Patty Smith: [00:27:27] I think it's because a few things. One, we are just not sophisticated enough as human beings, both to have the self-awareness and have the tools that actually encourage our self-awareness along those axes. And the other side is that the incentives just quite frankly, aren't lined up. So the candidate comes in and the candidate actually, when you're applying to a job, you are trying really hard to be the person that you think that job wants you to be, not what you actually want.

 

It's actually the same exact thing on the company side, when they like you enough, they'll still do the same thing where they'll say, "Oh, Patty, you seem great. I'm now going to convince myself that you are the right person for this role," and not every time, but a lot of times even that person still gets hired. And then you find out, it might not even be a month in, it could be six months in, a year in, that's not the right match. And actually that's extremely expensive for both parties, both in terms of the person's career and the company's bottom line, quite frankly. But it's just a very long learning cycle and we're all encouraging ourselves to be the versions of ourselves that somebody else wants, and not the version that we want.

Jeremy Au: [00:28:46] So what you're saying is that the interviewers are lying to themselves, the interviewees are lying to themselves. The interviewees are lying to interviewers and interviewers are lying to the interviewees. So as a result, there's a massive amount of opaqueness and people don't realize that until it's too late? So how do we unwind that cluster mess?

Patty Smith: [00:29:09] Yeah, a hundred percent, and that's actually the whole premise behind Managerie is, is we're trying to build the company that helps people at least, even if we're chipping away at a very small piece of it, get the self-awareness around the truth from a candidate perspective, behind what you actually want. One way to do that is actually... It's why marketplace and just marketplace solutions are extremely powerful. Is that we're not connecting. You're not just saying, "Here is a candidate, here is a company," or, "Here is the X and Y." You're enabling each party to be incredibly open to where they would be going. But as a result of that, they must be incredibly truthful about what they want and how that might plug in, because otherwise they're actually harming themselves. That's where the incentives are extremely important to consider there.

Jeremy Au: [00:30:06] What advice would you give to people who are looking for a job in today's pandemic market?

Patty Smith: [00:30:12] That's a great question. What I want to say to everyone, but I know that this is really tough, is if you have the privilege and the financial bandwidth to be extremely picky and be yourself in every single interview, ruthlessly, knowing that the people on the other side might actually turn you down, know that someone who's turning you down for being yourself is actually the right move. That takes a lot of confidence and a lot of personal conviction. I know that it's really hard, but that will get you the right result.

Now, given the pandemic context and given just generally interviewing, that I know is a really hard ask. And I'd say that the second best thing to do is again, given the privilege of being able to be selective and being able to talk to people and find your way into a role... particularly I work a lot in startups... I'd say the best possible way to find your role at a startup is to find the startup and find the people that are really aligned with what change you want to make in the world, and then ask them, "How can I help? How can I use my talents to actually serve you?"

And there might not be a role on the other side, but at least you're having a good conversation. And if there's something, maybe there is a direct thing you're applying to, that's amazing. But at the end of the day, what you're doing is you're putting your dreams out there and someone might actually need what you're working on. It might not be advertised and you might actually have a role that, somehow a job description later on pops up and it's totally tailored around you, because you've actually defined that with the leadership of that startup. So I'd say if there's any way to do that, do it.

Jeremy Au: [00:32:00] Awesome. Last question is if you could go back 10 years in time, what advice would you give yourself?

Patty Smith: [00:32:08] It's a great question. 10 years ago I was graduating undergrad and it's a big world. There's a lot of different things. I know my career is still going to take a thousand different twists and turns and I'd say the biggest thing that I would guide is to minimize anxiety by trusting in my own process and in my own one foot in front of the other. Because quite honestly, it's like when you're in a water polo game, when I'm a rock climber, when you're on the wall, you can't think about three moves ahead before thinking about the very next move. The advice I would say is, "Patty, trust in the next move and you will find your way three moves ahead where you want to go." So it's more, "Don't worry too much about long-term when the short-term feels right."

Jeremy Au: [00:33:03] Amazing. Thank you so much, Patty, for sharing your advice and counseling for everybody here.

Patty Smith: [00:33:09] Of course, Jeremy. Thank you so much for the opportunity. This was a pleasure.

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