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An interview with Damien Hamilton Wood, Talent Acquisition Partner at ANYbotics

An interview with Damien Hamilton Wood, Talent Acquisition Partner at ANYbotics

This is an edited transcript of an interview with Damien Hamilton Wood, Talent Acquisition Partner at ANYbotics.

Hi Damien, can you quickly introduce yourself and give a background to your career?

I started my Swiss career in 2008 as a waiter to learn the language and then landed a job at an English consulting recruitment company to do resourcing. I had already built companies in the past focused on comparison websites, learning php and lampstacks to get it to work. I'd already been quite entrepreneurial and interested in the tech world, but I never had any formal training. The combination of recruitment experience and tech caught the attention of Google who hired me to do sourcing. That’s where my love of tech really grew.

After Google, I moved to Pepsi and worked in FMCG for a bit. Being in one of the top corporate companies in the world was interesting because it was completely different- different setup and different culture but still a lot of drive and a lot of innovation. I then had an opportunity to move to health tech. I visited a friend that worked here and there was so much chemistry that I just couldn't hold back (fact, my dad interviewed here too, and we started at the same time!) I decided to make a change. I realised I needed to do something where my heart was and that is in deep tech. I’ve taken it from software and web to hardware, electrical engineering, design for manufacturing and industrialization.

 

Was this love something that you discovered when you walked through the door at ANYbotics or did you love playing with mechanical things as a little boy?

That's a good question. It’s one they asked in the interview process here! When I was eleven, my father purchased an Olivetti computer, which cost him three months salary. He came back from work one day and I had taken apart the entire computer. I’d laid out every piece on the floor with little labels to say what everything was. I was super proud, but he obviously thought I destroyed the computer. We managed to put it back together, but his heart definitely missed a beat or two that day! That got me interested in how components can be put together to make something from nothing.

 

Could you tell us a bit about your current role now?

I'm the talent person. My work involves exciting people about the robotics industry and in ANYbotics. Once they're interested, we need interview processes, recruitment policies and hiring managers that are trained and have the right processes in place to ensure a good hire and a good candidate experience, regardless of whether the candidate is successful or not. I help the leadership team figure out what the people needs are and equip them to get those people as quickly as possible in the best way possible.

 

If someone told you they wanted to start a career in tech, what is the number one piece of advice you’d give?

Firstly, ask yourself whether you want to make products that get sold ordo you want to push the boundaries of what tech can do. Those are two fundamentally different mindsets. For the latter, go into academia or find research labs where you will be equipped with everything that you need to go down this route. If the former, ask yourself what the technology of tomorrow is and make sure you’re not investing in something that will be obsolete very soon. Constantly listen and read about what's going on. Really be connected because it's moving so quickly. Listen to discussions from thought leaders in your specific area to help understand future trends. Understand what the universities are teaching and what’s in the latest publications. I’d also recommend getting a mentor, someone that is a few steps ahead of you career wise that can offer advice and guidance.

 

You've hired in one of the biggest software companies, one of the biggest FMCG companies and now in a cutting-edge robotics company. Is the hiring different in these different contexts?

Mindset is one of the biggest factors in hiring in all three companies. In ANYbotics for example, being entrepreneurial, innovative, and able to be outspoken are key. We value people that are not afraid to put up their hand and make a suggestion to the CEO, who can wear many hats and frequently pivot and reprioritize constantly. However, in Pepsi if you behaved like that you would be having some seriously difficult meetings with some of the managers who have carved out their space and their team.

In a scaling company like ANYbotics, it’s all about being a strong team to win and all going towards the same goal. Whereas in a company like PepsiCo with hundreds of thousands of employees with so many different cultures and divisions, it's impossible to be one team. It’s more about making your team perform following the guidelines or using the framework rather than stepping outside of it.

I would rather hire somebody that has the right mindset, but requires six months of handholding to get up to speed with a specific tool or product than somebody who's a great coder, but doesn’t have the required mindset.

 

What do you believe the biggest myth or misconception is about building a successful career in tech?

There's a myth in software engineering, that you can get a job in the top companies very easily. I think that boat has sailed. There are so many talented people out there and remote working has opened it up even further.

On the flip side, I have noticed in all the companies that I’ve hired for, that engineers undersell themselves a lot. They sometime feel like a company is too good for them. That's just perception. You need to bet on yourself. Go for it and make them aware that you would love feedback.

 

Are there any books, podcasts, articles, communities, or any other learning resource you would recommend?

I’ve been listening to the Swisspreneurs podcast which is a great way to keep a finger on the pulse on what’s going on with VCs and startups.

I also go to the Founders meetups including one called Fuck Up Nights, where founders explain what didn’t work. I'm a big fan of the Lex Freeman podcast. He talks to interesting people including founders of influential companies. And anything by Chris Voss and his advice on negotiation is worth a read.

 

Is there one piece of advice that you've received that has really stood out and helped in your career?

Be clear when you’re working on strategy and when you’re working on execution. You must have a different mindset for each and to think differently in each mode.

And for those with a specific interest in recruitment and hiring, do you automate a lot of the hiring process a as a tech company?

Automation is great for some things but there are some activities in which it isn’t great, like communication with the candidates. My focus is on training the hiring managers to make sure that they're following the processes and being themselves at the same time. Ultimately, the candidate wants to speak to them, not to me or to a machine.

How do you think hiring is going to change in the future?

It's an interesting crossroads right now with AI coming in and doing a lot of the heavy lifting. I think more video is going to be incorporated into the process. I think the job description as is, is gone. They need to be more attractive, more like advertisements.

I think the role of the hiring manager will continue to grow. Ultimately the candidate wants to speak to the hiring manager, not HR. It’s just one of many reasons why our strategy is to work with hiring managers to take on recruitment responsibility. It’s also scalable and helps to transfer and embed culture. It’s HR’s role to facilitate and enable the hiring managers to do this as well as possible to get the business where it needs to be. If a company genuinely believes that people are their biggest asset, then the hiring manager who is responsible for hiring and developing those people plays a massive role in driving the success of the business and that element cannot be automated.