Brad Rutkowski’s experience as head of many high-performing teams is a big reason why he’s been chosen to head up Hamlyn Williams’ team in Dallas. From being one of the founding members of the direct hire team for one of the US’ largest I.T. staffing firms to creating their training content and building teams with over 100% year-on-year growth, it’s easy to see why.
But talking to him about his career, and getting his thoughts on what makes a great leader, and great teams – there’s one thing that keeps coming up as a driver throughout his career – and that’s being a teacher.
Back in 2003, he started teaching high school kids English in the American Southwest, the 1st part of 12 years spent as an educator. From there – he became a course leader and helped to build curriculums to benefit 100s of teachers. But how do we get from teaching grammar in the valleys of Arizona to searching for software engineers, and now building an amazing team in Dallas for Hamlyn Williams?
Chatting to Brad, it’s obvious that his desire to share knowledge is part of the reason why. Working in a field where there can be so much focus on personal KPIs and a pressure on hacks to up your productivity, hearing from someone talking about teaching, focusing on others and imparting knowledge shows just why he’s been so successful.
“I worked as a teacher for 12 years and loved every minute of it. That didn’t just switch off when I moved away from working in schools. I naturally have a tendency to want to train people."
Whilst in his 1st recruiting role, his day to day job was running the 360 desk, focusing on building relationships with technology candidates, finding out about Tech businesses’ hiring demands and trying to make placements – he still found himself pulled towards training others.
“After a while, I was in a position where I was helping people learn to do the job - and from there, before I knew it really, I ended up creating all our training content. That’s something I loved doing, and still do. That feeling of building something you know will impart knowledge because you’ve been through it is great.
From there, I was building a program for our team – creating something that we were able to roll out across the company, and at scale. I worked on what our standard practices were for our team with the leadership and I'm proud that on the back of the program we built, our year-on-year growth was up to 123% in 2021.”
One of the things Brad talks about that seems key to how he built such a great recruitment team, is the focus on the personal, not the transactional. Whilst recruitment historically has an (well-founded in places) reputation of having a focus on racking up cold calls, unsolicited emails and consultants who aren’t that consultative – to Brad, that’s not what it’s about;
“The major differentiator for me and why I love this job is - you’re not selling an animate object. You’re literally changing people’s lives as a recruiter. Finding the right person, who’s going to fit with a company’s vision, help their team scale and deliver on projects – isn't easy. Nor should it be – to me, if you focus on the transaction and getting people in the door, then you’re just going to end up finding people who don’t fit, who can’t do the job, or want to quit after a few months.
We've got to be good at relationships to be good at placing talent. Having the right process for training a great recruiter shouldn’t be about a focus on billing. It should be a focus on our customers – asking the right questions to uncover the information that is incredibly important for them and building authentic relationships around how we can really help them.”
It’s obvious that recruitment is personal for Brad too – and that finding how to make it personal for his team is part of how he builds a great culture.
“Finding ways to intrinsically motivate your team is nearly impossible without helping them identify their “why”.
Why did they come to this job – what gets them to pick up that next call with a client? For me, having those moments when you have a candidate crying with happiness down the phone to you because they have a job for the first time in months and it’s paying better than they had before – it's special. I think these relationships are a big reason why successful recruiters love & stay in this business. And the more you can harness that and focus on the why every day, the more excited you are to pick up that phone and build new relationships with people. Finding the time as a leader to help your team understand their motivation on a deeper level is an amazing way to push your team forward.”
When I ask what Brad looks for when putting together an ideal team, his answer is again informed by his desire to teach;
“I like learn-it-alls, not know-it-alls. The individual who comes in and feels like they know everything, they already have success and don’t want to take direction, the people who don't necessarily want to have the work ethic - all those people don't end up being that successful in a team long-term.
The most important component of a successful team is having people who are committed, have a strong work ethic and a big desire to learn.”
Finding amazing, committed people isn’t the start and the end though – Brad speaks excitedly about how this enthusiasm has to be matched by leaders - “recruiting is about relationships and good ones take time. If as a leader I'm not spending time on my relationships with my team – and with customers, how can I expect them to do it?”. It’s also part of the reason he joined Hamlyn Williams;
“I have been so impressed by the leaders in the business. People I worked with before told me that Brian (Van Aken, Hamlyn Williams CEO) would be the best CEO I'd ever work under, and the chats I had with Harry (Sliufko, US Managing Director) have been so exciting. Working with such fantastic leaders who really get what’s best about recruiting is a big part of what sold Hamlyn Williams to me.”
As Brad gets to the job of finding those people to add to a growing Hamlyn Williams team in Dallas, he’s excited to see what they can build;
"I've been brought in to help build out our Dallas office and build a team that can be even better at helping customers where we work – especially in Technology - Cyber Security & Software Development. Our goal is to expand our headcount around 3 times what it is right now, and beyond that even more. I'm excited to give a growing team direction and a structure & training that I know is going to give them success but also develop them as people.
I’ve always wanted to be someone who helps others, and just never realized that recruiting was a viable career path until later in my career. I love recruiting because it really allows people to get to their ‘why’ faster, and if I can do that, I think we’ll have an amazing team.
Modern careers demand so many different skills at different points; leaders are not chosen due to technical ability, but have to show emotional intelligence, planning & commercial strategy. So there are so many places where people can stand out by committing themselves to learning. Whether that’s studying the market & learning about businesses' pain points & needs, to developing people skills and improving your processes – great leaders have so many ways to improve their teams."
That means Brad touches on why it’s important to build training that is agile – that can be adapted to the person learning, but also to changing market conditions.
"One of the hardest parts with building out training programs is that there shouldn’t be a one size fits all training. People that have been doing a job for 20-30 years may face something tomorrow that they've never seen before. All businesses have to deal with market change, for example in recruitment, it’s possible that in the coming years we see things shift from being a candidate led market, to a client one. Teams need to be agile and have the transferable skills that work in multiple situations and the ability to be proactive."
Whatever your role, your industry or career goals, you can benefit from Brad's ethos of being a teacher who builds teams filled with learn-it-alls. Even if you are only starting out, by taking opportunities to share your knowledge with others in an informal setting, you can progress your knowledge and begin to build a reputation for yourself.
By building upon this to create a training strategy that understands the personalities of your team and the commercial requirements that are expected of them, you can nurture a culture of growth that will be the envy of any business.