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IT Crafts HR – Fareen Shaikh from acework

IT Crafts HR – Fareen Shaikh from acework

Maks talks to Fareen Shaikh, Director of Talent at acework, about how to communicate the employer brand and how to make it more appealing to people who apply for an open position. She touches upon an interesting difference between sourcing for on-site and remote positions, and how to deal with too many applications. Based on her experience in nonprofit organizations in Berlin, she also gives advice to job seekers that are applying for remote work opportunities on how to prove they are fully ready for it during a screening process. Listen to the podcast and learn that even a small team can achieve a lot when the company is open to remote work.


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A photo of Maks Majer, the host of IT Crafts HR podcast

Maks Majer

Podcast Host

Maks Majer is a software engineer, co-founder, and CEO of ITCraftship, a company that helps both talented developers get a dream job at tech companies all over the world, and companies hire remote software developer superstars. He’s also a remote work advocate and helps startup businesses embrace the remote work culture. Maks is passionate about solving pains and removing obstacles by focusing on good software design and user experience practices. In his free time, he broadens his knowledge of business development as well as focuses on a healthy lifestyle that gives him the energy to get the most of a 24 hour day. You can catch him on LinkedIn.

A photo of Fareen Shaikh, the guest of IT Crafts HR podcast

Fareen Shaikh

Director of Talent at acework

Fareen is a Human Resource professional who puts her passion for people and 10 years of experience in HR practices to help people do what they love to do. Then, it could be any of the hats she happens to juggle – an HR Consultant, a Talent Hunter, or a Career Advisor.

As the “Senior Human Resource Manager”, and now, “Consultant” working remotely at Endurance International Group, Fareen has learned to value and work in close collaboration with senior management to achieve strategic HR goals. Her areas of expertise include Talent Acquisition, HR Policies & Procedures, Organizational Structuring, Employee Engagement, and Stakeholder Management. Her Team Management experience has allowed her to develop the skill set needed to fuel the functioning of high performing teams.

As a “Director of Talent” at acework, Fareen engages herself in Career Exploration and the Development of pedigreed professionals. Fareen leverages her constant drive towards finding & hiring talent that she believes will help shape the “Culture of Remote Working” in the coming future.  With experience in skill testing, culture and value screening, she makes sure to onboard the right candidate and matches them with opportunities within acework’s network.

When Fareen is not a “recruitment ninja or HR consultant, you’ll find her coaching job seekers at NGO’s in Berlin. Through coaching chats at Imagine (joinimagine.me), she evaluates resumés, LinkedIn profiles and advises job seekers through behavioral interviews on ways to find an ideal placement in Berlin.

Something that you wish you have known earlier

Fareen: Honestly, at this point of time, I feel like companies should definitely promote remote work. (...) I've been productive at work when I was back in India, but this feels a lot more liberating to just know that there is another way of working. I feel that it's important that companies at least give that a try because I have been able to manage my India team from here. (..) It's not that you need to be an individual contributor, but you can be a manager as well, managing teams. I think companies should definitely look into it because it's extremely cost-effective and it opens up a whole new talent pool to hire from (...).

Transcript

Maks

Hello, today, my special guest is Fareen Shaikh who is the Director of Talent at acework. It’s great to have you here, Fareen.

Fareen

Thank you so much, Maks, for this opportunity. I really appreciate it.

Maks

Yeah, it’s really great to have you here. I will just dive straight into some of the questions that I prepared for our interview today. I wanted to ask you to tell us something about yourself and describe your current position and the responsibilities so that our listeners have some background on your experience.

Fareen

Sure. Thanks, Maks, again. Just a little bit about myself: I actually possess about 10 years of experience in human resources. Most part of my experience is based out of India. I actually started off my career with an organization called Directi, in 2009. It was a startup at that point, and I joined them as a recruiter where I used to source candidates laterally as well as through universities.

Through my experience with Directi, I eventually was leading the campus recruitment team, and then I had moved to a much larger organization called Endurance International Group. They are actually based out of Burlington and have acquired some of Directi’s businesses. So, one of the reasons that I moved at that point of time was that Endurance was offering a much larger role – I was given the opportunity to work on different verticals in the HR space.

At this point of time, I continue to work for them remotely and I also lead the People Operations Team, the Campus Recruitment Team, and External Branding Team. Besides that, I also work as an HR Business partner for one of our largest business brands in the region.

This is pretty much the kind of work experience that I do in India. I recently moved to Berlin in December 2018, and that’s when I had the opportunity to meet Angelina. She’s the founder of acework, and I was almost immediately sold on acework’s vision of uniquely matching the world’s top talent to remote opportunities.

I joined them as the Director of Talent in March, and since then, it’s been a great journey. I work very closely with a colleague of mine, Renee, who is the Director of Candidate Experience, and we’ve currently designed a vetting process to ensure that we’re onboarding candidates on to a platform who are remote-ready and have the right competencies to be successful at a remote job.

Maks

That sounds really great and I can see that your experience spans across different sizes of companies like startups but also far bigger companies, so I expect that you have a different set of challenges in each of these positions and I’d love to hear more about that. 

Sourcing is one of the biggest challenges that recruiters face currently, especially in tech. I’m sure that across your experience, you’ve learned some ways of dealing with that. Can you tell me how do you do that?

Fareen

I think these challenges that come with sourcing are super exciting to me. Actually, I think times before LinkedIn we definitely felt that sourcing would be a challenge. I think with the platform, you can do so much more in terms of reaching out to people, not only for jobs but to kind of grow personally as well as professionally because you can talk to professionals about your interests in your industry or any other industry altogether.

Amazingly enough, I’ve actually had a lot of people reach out to me to know more about remote work and acework, so that way, it’s been great as a tool, but at the same time, I think one of the challenges that recruiters face is the number of applications they receive for an open position. It’s huge, they don’t really have the time to go through all of them, so I feel that’s where we step in, platforms like acework as well as ITCraftship. I think we can add value there by making it a lot easier for them.

We can just – actually, cut off the noise for them and send them profiles that are relevant to a particular job position. I think it’s great with technology evolving and even remote work being the future, and people being able to identify that. I think sourcing would get a lot more easier since the talent pool will get a lot more larger to actually source from.

Maks

I think you’ve touched upon an interesting difference between sourcing for on-site positions and sourcing for remote positions. You mentioned that there is a different challenge of basically getting through all the many applications that you are receiving. Do you see that this is quite a big difference from on-site positions when you actually start sourcing for remote positions?

Fareen

Yes, and that’s what we have actually created. In terms of our process on acework, when we are actually onboarding candidates. We vet them against core competencies that are required to do a remote job, because it’s a very different ballgame, right? Like you need to be 100% sure before you take up a remote opportunity, you need to know that you are self-aware, you are self-motivated, you are flexible, you have some experience in working remotely. It could be full-time or part-time.

Also, at the same time, to make sure that you’re able to communicate well, so if you’ve been using communication tools or project management tools to make sure that you are successful at your job. I think some of these are the skill sets that are required for every remote worker who’s applying for jobs, I think it’s important to be able to highlight them both in your resume as well as through interviews.

Maks

Amazing, and with getting the relevant application I’ve seen that it’s very important to actually position yourself as a great employer. I wanted to ask you about communicating your employer brand. How to do that effectively? Do you have any tips and ideas on how to make it more appealing to people who apply for an open position?

Fareen

Sure, employer branding, I love it. Okay, so I’ve done this for the most part of my professional experience. So, for remote companies what I would suggest is to kind of replicate ideally what companies would do in terms of hosting Meetups. But for remote companies, I would say that you can probably have the sessions through webinars or you could have live chats with people or rather experts within your organization, where people who are interested or could be your potential employees come and ask you questions.

You can connect people from different time zones or different cultures conduct a session and communicate with the audience. I feel that is a great way to make sure that you are also projecting yourself as diverse culture. At the same time, once you do have all of these plans in place it’s extremely important to of leverage social media as a channel where you actually run campaigns, where you are posting pre-event, during the event, and postevent campaigns to make people aware of webinars or live chats that you have, keeping all of these things in mind.

At acework, from an employer branding standpoint, we take the initiative of actually sharing company details, like the value, the mission, the vision with our candidates. Besides all the regular salary details and job descriptions, we actually make sure that we share all information with candidates to make it interesting by working with employers to also make sure that we have all of these details before we begin the whole job matching process.

Maks

Okay, you mentioned organizing events that sound very interesting to me, but I wonder if you have that kind of experience with a remote company where you try to host like a Meetup or a webinar, and how did that work? What kind of results were you seeing with these kinds of events?

Fareen

I actually haven’t done that for remote organizations, but I’ve done that for my Indian employer when I was working back on-site at Endurance. I was in charge of external branding which took care of conferences and basically hosting sessions, Meetups in the office to build communities, by inviting potential candidates to your office and show them around, etc., but I feel like if companies that are actually looking to brand themselves in a remote setup. It can be easily replicated, it can be done through live chats and webinars. I’m sure companies are doing that out there, but I’ve honestly not had the opportunity to arrange for an event of this sort.

Maks

I think it’s a really great idea, but for me, it’s actually the first time that I have heard about the employer organizing that kind of event. I’ve seen like remote and nomad events where people would present or exchange experience, but I haven’t seen an actual employer do that which sounds like a really, really great idea and I hope that some of our listeners will catch to that and try to organize an event like this.

I want to ask you some more questions about acework. I know that is a platform that helps people find remote work, and you have a pretty small team, but you are responsible for matching remote talent from all over the world to your clients. Can you tell me what positions do you cover and where do these candidates come from?

Fareen

Sure. So, yes, you are completely right. We are a small team and since we are promoting remote culture, we also work as a distributed team, so I have my colleagues who work out of  the United States, I have Angelina who works with me here in Berlin, but besides that, I also work with my colleagues in India, Thailand, Philippines, Russia, and it’s great. We are diverse in nature and it’s been a good experience so far.

In terms of companies, we actually work with companies either that work as distributed teams or who understand the benefits of remote work, awe also kind of help them, if they’re looking to hire remote employees for the first time, we kind of make sure to guide them through our process accurately, and work with them on the entire transition from an office environment to hiring a remote employee onboard. So, the roles have differed. There have been technical as well as non-technical roles, and what’s the most exciting about this role for me at this point of time is the opportunity to speak to candidates from all over the world.

I’ve literally spoken to people from almost every country in Europe, the United States, India, Nairobi, Iran, Iraq, so that’s really exciting, and the fact that individuals are slowly coming to understand the future of work as remote makes it even more interesting. So, it’s been a mixed bag, to be honest, and we’ve seen people coming in through different mediums because I think we are out there and people know of us, so it’s mostly been organic in nature.

Maks

You mentioned that these benefit of working in a distributed team and also working with potential remote employees gives you this diversity of many different people talking to you, and I wanted to ask you about your preferences. Because with remote work, I’ve seen some challenges also coming from isolation, not being in contact with people, so I wanted to see what is your preference in terms of working from home or from a coffee shop, or from a co-working space and why do you prefer one over the other?

Fareen

Yeah, I think you’re right in terms of isolation and feeling lonely, but I think you understand it since you are self-aware. But if you are self-motivated, it’s not so much of a problem. So, for me, what ideally works is that I plan my day in such a way that if it’s a day heavy on meetings or calls, I usually take them from home.

I have a beautiful home office set up, so that’s where I work on days like that, but if it is an easy day and there’s not a lot of interaction that’s required from me, I would just work out of a co-working space or a café, put on some music and just get on with my day.

Maks

And I’ve also heard that you’re helping jobseekers at nonprofit organizations in Berlin. Could you tell me a little bit more about this activity?

Fareen

Yeah, sure. I actually am an aspiring career coach, so I felt that there’s no better way to kind of get my feet on the ground, so when I moved to Berlin, that’s one of the first things that I did. I kind of found myself well-versed with how the NGOs worked here and if I could add value, and it’s been an interesting choice. I’ve learned a lot. I have started working with an NGO already. They are based in Berlin and they were launching their career coaching program for the first time.

I had the opportunity to work with an Indian student who is looking for internships in Berlin, and at this point of time, I’m also in the process of being associated with another NGO called “Imagine Me”, where they actually work with developers who are looking for jobs, either in Germany or all over the world. So, my main role there is to kind of work with them, I closely advise them on their resumes, their LinkedIn profiles, if they have interviews, just being able to get them prepared for an interview – mostly on the behavioral aspects.

Maks

Okay, that sounds like a really great activity and it’s very nice of you to participate in that kind of activities.

Fareen

Thank you.

Maks

I also wanted to ask, from your quite long experience, quite extensive experience in HR, what do you wish to have known earlier? Do you have any tips for HR departments from different companies that could improve their work?

Fareen

Honestly, at this point of time, I feel like companies should definitely promote remote work. This also comes from a space that I have identified or I have known myself so much better professionally, and I have been the most productive, I feel like, I’ve definitely been productive at work when I was back in India, but this feels a lot more liberating to just know that there is another way of working, so I feel that it’s important that companies at least give that a try because I have been able to manage my India team from here.

Even at acework, I have someone who works with me very closely who is based out of the Philippines, and it’s possible. It’s not that you need to be an individual contributor, but you can be a manager as well managing teams, and I think companies should definitely, like I said, look into it because I feel like it’s extremely cost-effective and it opens up a whole new talent pool to hire from, but when they do go ahead with something like that as a decision, what’s important is to make sure that you have your guidelines, your policies, your benefits, tools in place which actually make sure that both companies and employees benefit from it.

Maks

Okay, that’s really good advice, and I also feel that the remote employers’ market is growing and companies who get in early into that trend. They have an opportunity to get access to more talent earlier, but they also have an opportunity to learn how the organization can benefit from that. They can get ready for this trend earlier on, and they won’t kind of be forced into that later on where more and more employees will actually demand that kind of workstyle.

I think that the sooner you can get into remote and start to get ready for this revolution, I’d say the better for a company because you won’t find yourself in a situation in the future where you can’t find a great talent just because you are not ready for remote and you’re not productive when working remotely, and that you don’t have the right processes that they like, the frameworks, the tools that help you be productive, and that’s what companies who aren’t trying and experimenting with remote work right now can eventually miss out on, right?

Fareen

Yeah, I 100% agree, and going back to the fact that I’ve had the opportunity to speak to people around the world, and it’s a mixed bag, again – there are people who work remotely and they love it and enjoy it, and have identified that they are more productive working remotely. At the same time, I also had the opportunity to speak to people who have the right mindset and the core competencies of being a remote worker exist, but they just never had the opportunity to do that, so I think as much as the candidate pool is increasing, I feel like companies should definitely look at that as an option and get everything in place, and be a part of the revolution.

Maks

Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree with you. Is there any advice that you would like to give to job seekers that are applying for remote work opportunities?

Fareen

Yeah, sure. I think I mentioned earlier in the conversation, it’s extremely important to be able to translate who you are as a person and what are your skills that you possess, both resumes or LinkedIn profiles, or even in your interviews. What is extremely important is that you are able to give situations that are quantifiable, so if you work on a team, you can talk about that, you can talk about how you have actually done different projects using project management tools that you have created, and impact not only for your team immediately, but the organization as well.

So, I think it’s about how you project yourself, I think it’s extremely important to prepare yourself for a remote interview as much as you would do for any other interview, but just don’t say that you’re great at certain skills, but just be able to always give examples about how you have done certain tasks to make sure that you ideally project yourself as a top candidate amongst the rest of the individuals that have been interviewed for a process.

Maks

That’s right, and you mentioned that you should prepare yourself, like for a normal interview, also get to know the company and the environment, get to know the place you want to work at, and I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that because at acework you are testing for specific skills of remote employees.

I wonder, is there any additional advice that you would give to people before they start looking for remote opportunities before they apply for the jobs? How do you think they can make themselves ready for this kind of opportunity so that they can be productive and they can prove to you during your screening process that they have the right skills for remote opportunities?

Fareen

Yeah, sure. I think if someone who doesn’t have – obviously, someone who has remote work experience, it comes naturally to them to talk about their regular day at work. It just comes out really clear about how they go about and about the projects that they’ve handled, but for someone who doesn’t really have remote work experience and would want to try that out, what I would suggest is that as an individual, either try to create opportunities in your current organization to maybe probably work remotely for a day in a week or just try working on weekends remotely.

Just to see if that works for you, and that experience by itself will help you learn so much about yourself as well as whether you are fit for remote work, so when you do talk about it, either to me or to anybody who is interviewing you for a remote opportunity, you would be able to be very transparent about that experience. I think that will also show your interest in applying for remote roles and what you have learned from that experience that you have done.

So, as much as I feel that remote work does sound extremely easy of sorts because it brings in flexibility, it brings in a lot of other things and benefits on board, but I think it’s also important to be able to understand whether you are ready for it, and I think you should try a little bit of that before you actually speak to a recruiter or speak to anybody who you would like to put yourself out to say that you’re interested in remote opportunities.

Maks

That was very, very useful and I’m sure that people listening who want to try themselves out at remote work are going to find a lot of value in what you just shared. So, I also wanted to ask you about some sources of inspiration. Can you share any HR materials, blogs, podcasts that helped you shape the professional that you are right now?

Fareen

Sure. In terms of inspiration, I think I’ve actually been inspired mostly by the people that I work with. It’s been managers, it’s been peers, it’s been leaders with 10 years of experience in organizations that I have been growing acquisitions, all of it. I’ve actually had the opportunity to work with different kind of people, so I think that’s been an inspiration because everyone has something to offer at the end of the day, so I think it’s important to be able to identify their strengths and kind of leverage that in your working style.

I think people have always been an inspiration – I think my team, to be honest. I have about six years of team management skills and they have always inspired me, like the whole process of actually mentoring them, I’ve learned so much from them, so I think that’s also helped me grow professionally.

In terms of articles, I’ve always kind of kept myself updated through my reading “Harvard Business Review” articles, best practices, and I’m actually almost on LinkedIn each time, so it’s amazing how people actually write a lot about the work that they do and what are their best practices, so I think that has been interesting for me, LinkedIn’s work in multiple ways to just in terms of exposure.

Maks

Yeah, absolutely, and you mentioned that one of the sources of your inspiration comes from people. Do you have any specific people that you look up to that other people could also follow or learn from?

Fareen

Not specifically, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to take names of people because I wouldn’t want the others to be disappointed, but like I said, the people that I’ve actually interacted with and with the leaders more so, even my managers for that matter, they’ve been extremely inspiring, and because I’ve had the opportunity to move within different verticals in the HR space, each of them had a different kind of impression and impact on me.

Even peers that have helped me over a period of time because they come either with knowledge from other companies that they then adapt towards your current organization’s culture. So, it’s just been a learning process. I think I just go always with an open mind that there is a lot more to learn, not only if you’re working with someone but also through conversations. I think it’s extremely interesting that there’s so much that you can take away from people in their lives both personally and professionally.

Maks

Yeah, so, we are coming close to an end and I wanted to ask you what’s upcoming acework?

Fareen

Yes. We are actually in a very, very exciting phase right now, keeping both companies’ and candidates’ experiences in mind, we are actually moving from manually matching candidates to remote opportunities with companies in our network. We are also making sure that it’s easier for candidates to find the right match with companies and vice versa.

At the same time, we are also working with onboarding a lot of platforms. We actually believe that we should also cater to our acework members’ needs, so we have partners on board who basically are from the co-working space, education sponsorship space, we are building a lot on that as well. So, that’s pretty much what’s coming up. We are looking to kind of go live in September and we are super excited about that.

Maks

Well, it definitely sounds very exciting. Can you tell me where we can find you online and where we can find acework?

Fareen

Yeah, sure. You can find acework at www.acework.io. You can reach me on LinkedIn, as you introduced me earlier, it’s Fareen Shaikh, and if you want to email me on my Acework ID, it’s fareen@acework.io.

Maks

Awesome. That’s all the questions that I have for you. I enjoyed our conversation a lot. I want to thank you for joining me for this interview. It was a great pleasure and a lot of interesting information. So, it was great having you here.

Fareen

Thank you so much, Maks, I really appreciate this opportunity and I really thank you so much for spending some time and talking to me about remote work.

Maks

Yes, thanks again. It was great. I hope to speak to you again soon.

 

Want to listen more? Check out the IT Crafts HR podcast episode with Kaylie Boogaerts, People & Culture Manager at LaterPay.

Craving for more recruitment tips? Read our article Hiring a remote developer while scaling up a company – 5 must know facts.