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Why Austin Digital Jobs started and where we are today

Austin Digital Jobs started as a tiny love letter to Austin and has become synonymous with opportunities in Austin tech, blossoming to over 40K members.

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When Twitter launched at SXSW in 2006, it was an instant hit, and everyone with a nerd pulse hopped on board. That turned out to be around 20 people in Austin, and we all got to know each other pretty well, eventually gathering for a BBQ in 2008 (which grew into our monthly networking event, BASHH). It was the dawn of the social media era and those of us in tech became the shepherds that ushered in a cultural shift – we were all asked to speak at conferences, we were tapped for guidance and consulting, we became the first nodes in a growing network.

By 2011, my husband and I were personally asked on a daily basis who we knew that was job hunting, and who was hiring. Daily.

Simultaneously, several of our friends (who were senior level tech folks) were moving out of Austin for cities like Boston and NYC. Most people are more apt to complain about it than take action, but we knew we had to do something. We searched for a community to send people to, but none existed.

Thus, the Austin Digital Jobs Facebook Group was born on February 11, 2011 and initially was comprised of a handful of our tech friends, which quickly bloomed to a few dozen, and within a month, several hundred.

We launched the group as a gathering place, but immediately learned that several trends made the group so critical – (1) adoption of HR tools that were designed to improve the process but really turned into another black hole for resumes, (2) endless job posting sites that offered subpar jobs and subpar candidates, (3) there was literally no community in existence that catered to both job seekers and employers.

Because of these three trends, creating a safe place for all parties to connect was important, and throw in the fact that you have to use a personal Facebook account when engaging in groups, and genuine connections that were once a rarity became the norm in our little corner of the internet.

In 2013, members begged for us to start offering offline events, but it was a huge ask because ADJ at the time was still a passion project that we did at our own expense on the side as a love letter to the city of Austin.

It was also a challenge because sterile job fairs already exist, so we had to put a lot of research, and put a lot of thought into how we could put together something meaningful, sizable, approachable, and casual enough to match the culture we all created together in the group.

We opted to host our first event in 2014 in a bar. A handful of employers came out to our pilot event – they were active ADJ members, and each sent one to two recruiters out to mingle, and later wished they had sent more – the room was packed, and the atmosphere was so enthusiastic. Enthusiastic yet calm. It’s hard to explain, but it was oh so Austin tech.

For the next year, we tweaked the event, and quickly needed larger and larger venues, ultimately ending up in one of the largest in the city. Today, the event requires multiple venues. We’ve added professional headshots. We’ve tossed in free resume reviews and career coaching sessions. And we still limit the number of employers so that it never feels like a job fair in a high school gym.

Quarterly Austin Digital Jobs Recruiting Mixers have become a well-oiled machine attracting the highest quality employers in Austin.

The Facebook Group has also become a well-oiled machine, and like the events, it never feels overly polished (although trust me, it takes constant care to make this massive ship stay afloat), it never feels too corporate, and remains approachable and snarky, just as is the tradition in Austin tech.

We always have a post pinned in the “Announcements” section where employers can find high quality talent introducing themselves, we have a featured member every month, roundups of candidates in a specific role, roundups of helpful links, a weekly emailer that has quickly become a popular resource, video pep talks, anonymous questions that the community pours helpful opinions into, and more. All of this programmatic activity, and it still feels like the break room at work.

And that’s the secret sauce, the reason that over half of our members are employed – they hang around long after they’ve gotten a job. “Boaties” as they are nicknamed (long story) are loyal and eager to remain involved. The secret sauce is that we’ve always allowed our members to drive the culture, and we give them all of the credit for growing to be so big so quickly!

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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ADJ

ADJ AMA: Ask the Recruiter Anything [replay]

If you missed the live session last week, the ADJ AMA was bonkers – we learned so much and our guest debunked a LOT of “common knowledge!”

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If you weren’t able to make the live event, there’s good news – we recorded it for you!

Michele Olivier is a partner at O&H Consulting which offers recruiting and career coaching services. She’s a vetted badass and blew my mind in so many ways during the hour and a half we spent together.

Apparently a lot of what I’ve been told is wrong, which means a lot of what you have been told is also wrong!

We chat about the application robots, recruiters, how it all works, and how it has all changed. Get up to speed by listening to the AMA (Ask Me Anything), but beware – there are curse words, so maybe listen with headsphones on!

Pro tip: Michele’s bio and social media links are all listed below the video!

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Michele Olivier offers a unique perspective on career development and job searching, with an impressive record of accomplishment on both sides of the desk. She combines over 20 years of experience in HR and recruitment with certifications in career guidance and counseling, and she knows how to meet the needs of both applicants and organizations when it comes to matching talented people with top jobs. As a regular contributor to trusted sources for industry knowledge including the New York Times, Recruitment.com, and Refinery29 Michele is a dynamic thought leader and instrument of change in the Talent Acquisition field.

With global expertise and a list of clients including Big 4, Big Tech, and F50 companies, Michele has recruited at all levels from entry retail through executive. Not only has she filled roles for household names like Microsoft, EA Games, Facebook, and the YMCA, she has worked individually with established professionals to land positions at places from Goldman Sachs to the American Red Cross.

The scope of Michele’s experience spans multiple industries, every career level, and organizations of all sizes. Through this, she has honed a no-nonsense approach when it comes to communicating with clients about the realities of the job market and how to stay competitive. She has even developed and implemented curricula to help both job seekers find work and employers identify talent, which was rolled out internationally and recognized by the British Parliament for excellence. As Principal Consultant with O&H Consulting, Michele and her colleagues channel their expertise into customized resume and career coaching support that helps clients soar above the crowd.

Find Michele online:

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ADJ

Coming up – an AMA all about making a career change!

ADJ is hosting an AMA for anyone thinking about making a career change, especially into the technology sector!

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We get questions alllll the time about how to make a career change. Folks are worried they’re too young, they’re too old, they’re too experienced, too inexperienced.

They’re worried they can’t transition from the military to civilian life, from being a teacher to tech, from owning a business to working for someone else again.

Others have questions about moving from individual contributor to manager, and others want to know how to break through to the next level.

Bring your questions and join us on August 31st at 7:00pm cst (snacks, drinks, and pets are welcomed)!

Register now to snag the Zoom link!

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ADJ

Rooftop Slushie sells employee referrals (aka bribes), and we hate it

At last, the sharing economy is addressing the issue of nepotistic hiring practices in tech… by making it worse. And adding a bit of immorality. We suspect that Rooftop Slushie is a fast way for you to land in hot water.

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Introducing Rooftop Slushie, a website that emerged last year and has gained popularity in the absence of face-to-face networking events brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The company sells recommendations on behalf of those seeking jobs at major tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft. As of now, Rooftop Slushie proudly claims on their website to have referred over 13,000 candidates.

Here’s how it works: users pay between $20-$50 to upload resumes and indicate their desired position. Anonymous tech employees evaluate them, then decide whether or not to refer candidates based on their listed credentials. They also offer resume reviews and career advice.

It is a recent venture from the enigmatic creators of Blind, an anonymous online forum of vaguely described “verified professionals.” (How someone can be both verified and anonymous is beyond me, but I digress.)

While Rooftop Slushie asks their employee network to only recommend candidates who are genuinely qualified for their desired positions, the site has no apparent measures to ensure that this happens, other than there being no guarantee that any given applicant will succeed.

It is true that Rooftop is providing a unique service. Nobody else is doing what they do, because what they do is wrong. It would be questionable even if there was no money exchanged. As it is, this is akin to bribery.

The keyholders of these prestigious tech job references are taking advantage of their status within large companies for profit, as well as any additional incentives to refer candidates that their employer may offer. It’s friggin’ corrupt, plain and simple.

Now, I’d like to address those who would consider using this service to land their dream job.

I understand that impulse, especially in this economically desperate moment. But ethics aside, think about the personal consequences you could face.

What if word gets out that you bought your way into your coveted new position?

You and your reference would probably be canned immediately. You could lose trust with your friends and associates, business or otherwise, who hear the news as well.

This is not a hypothetical question. Amazon has already started cracking down on paid referrals, and others are sure to follow suit. Good luck explaining that at your next interview.

It is also incredibly unfair to those of us who can’t gamble 50 bucks to get a foot in the door with Google.

We have to do it the old fashioned way (like some kind of peasant, I suppose). And look, the ”old fashioned way” is obviously flawed. There is a LOT to criticize about preferential and biased hiring practices in the tech industry. This attempt to solve it is still very misguided.

Blind claims to be a “platform for change,” and suggests that Rooftop opens up opportunities to people who don’t have insider connections, thus (supposedly) leveling the playing field.

But cheating only worsens the problems they describe. The hiring process should not be pay-to-win. Jobs aren’t commodities.

Whether or not the act of selling professional recommendations breaks an employee’s contract, it’s certainly a gross violation of the social contract.

If you believe you’re qualified for a particular position, but the company won’t give you the time of day, don’t cheat. Be persistent. Or, better yet, why not seek out an employer who recognizes your talents?

And if you can’t manage to do that… maybe it’s time to reevaluate your actual level of expertise.

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