Ludmila Straskova – Head of HR at Datavard who brought on board over half of the company. She explains why she used to ask candidates about the weight of the office building in Bratislava, reveals her ABAP skills and shares some stats about women working in IT.
Why would you ask an IT geek about the weight of the building during a job interview?
In fact, we never expect to hear an actual number. For us it’s important to check not only their coding skills, but also problem solving abilities and logical thinking.
Do you need technical knowledge for recruiting in IT?
Yes! It is absolutely necessary if you want to hold a proper conversation with people applying for techie positions. I wanted to grasp at least the basics so I could feel more confident during interviews and be more involved in the technical part of the conversation. I even went through a bootcamp where I was learning ABAP – to be honest I failed that part. Luckily, I have IT folks in my family so IT was pretty close to me my whole life, but not this area specifically – not SAP, not programming… So at the start I was talking a lot with my colleagues, asking them about technical details, about what we do as a company and what is the impact of it in real life. We even sat together and created tasks which we gave to students on their interviews.
You started at Datavard 8 years ago. Do you remember your first day at work?
I was the only woman at the company at the time and I remember it was a bit stressful for me, but from the first day I felt that the atmosphere, the culture and the people were extraordinary and I was confident that it would work out for me. I was hired in the role of Executive Assistant, but I applied for it because it involved a lot of HR tasks, and this was the area I aimed for after graduation.
I’m a people person, I’ve always enjoyed working with others – it’s my strength so I knew HR would be the area I would be good at and that I would enjoy it.
How many people did you hire?
When I joined it was roughly 20 people at the company, now it’s close to 200. I’m proud to say that I brought more than 100 on board, and now the recruitment process is in the hands of my trusted team.
You joined Datavard when it was still a garage company, did you imagine it would grow like this?
Honestly speaking, I thought from the beginning that we were developing really cool things that could get us far. But the whole journey turned out to be even better than what I imagined.
IT business is still a more of a man’s world. Is it also the case at Datavard?
It’s true that IT industry has still a long way ahead of it, but I’m happy to say that we are above the industry’s average. Each year we are onboarding more and more women who want to pursue their career in tech with us. From the start the plan was to build a multinational working environment with both men and women of different cultural backgrounds that would keep a vibrant atmosphere in the company.
Infographics on percentage of women working in selected IT companies. Source: CNET
Who would you say is more stressed during the interviews, men or women?
I guess both! The biggest difference is visible between senior and junior roles. Students and fresh graduates don’t have that much experience with job hunting, so they sometimes come in unprepared. What I like most is that they give you very direct, honest answers – they simply say what they think and feel. They also tend to be more stressed, but I believe you must be stressed a little if you care about getting the job and if your future career matters to you. To make it easier, I always try to make candidates feel more comfortable – crack a joke, talk about every-day things, so that they relax more and enjoy the experience. With senior roles, on the other hand, you need to deepen the conversations much more to get personal answers. We believe that personality traits are more important than the experience itself – in the end, you hire a person with their attitude and the rest can be learned.
What’s the favourite part of your job?
I’d say I there isn’t anything I don’t like, maybe except for heavy admin workload, but that’s no one’s favourite. The best thing about it is that now I have the resources to start new HR projects, build the HR strategy and implement it into the general strategy of the company. I also enjoy meeting new people and introducing them to our company.
Working closely with people can often put you in funny situation. Do you recall any?
Once I had to arrange interview for 3 times. First time the candidate showed up a day before the actual interview so unfortunately I had to send him back home. On the next day the lady at the reception desk sent him away claiming there was no such company in the building. Third time we finally met, and he got the job. Today, he is one of our most successful consultants.
What are your biggest challenges at your job?
When it comes to recruiting, the biggest challenge to find the right fitting people. We are looking not only for a set of hard skills but also for passionate people who can keep up the good spirits. My personal benchmark is that if you enjoy coming back to work after vacation, then it means that you are working at the right place.
What are your future plans for HR?
In 2016, we grew a lot – we opened 4 new locations and hired over 65 people globally. With this in mind, we want to strengthen our company internally. We are to implement stable and clear processes that will improve employees’ experience – offer trainings and workshops, design career paths with talent management, launch intranet, install new HR system… There are many great changes to come this year, and a lot of work, but I’m already looking forward to it.