Connie Chiasson, Executive Vice President, East Region, MDI Group
Years in staffing: 18
Fun fact: Over holiday drinks in 1997, a Ryder Transportation Services colleague of Connie’s asked her: “Are you tired of the transportation industry yet? Because if you are, I’ve got a great place for you to consider!” He wrote down the name of the person to connect with on a cocktail napkin – which Connie might still have! That company was Norrell Services, which later became Spherion, then Randstad. Three months later, Connie joined the staffing industry and is now approaching the two decade mark.
Pam Gates, Executive Vice President, West Region, MDI Group
Years in staffing: 17
Fun fact: After graduating with an IT degree, Pam was offered many programming opportunities at great companies. But the jobs didn’t seem like a fit. After meeting with a technical recruiter during her search, they offered Pam the chance to join their team as a technical recruiter and user her tech knowledge in a different way! Pam immediately fell in love with talking to people about their career goals and helping companies find the right person for their open positions.
Ella Koscik, Chairperson, MDI Group
Years in staffing: 28
Fun fact: Ella found her way into staffing after being fired from several administrative positions, ranging from receptionist to switchboard operator. Her employers all provided great recommendations, however, in the end one candid boss told her “you have too much energy to answer the phones or handle the filing.” After reconnecting with the placement agency that she’d been working with, they asked about her ideal job and she answered, “doing what you do.” She was hired within the hour and started the next day!
I’m excited to kick off 2016 with a feature of three industry veterans that have all held many roles within the industry on the path to their current roles as Chairperson of the board and EVPs. As reflected in the responses below, they’re still passionate about launching new efforts and solving new challenges decades later. Hopefully their passion and positivity inspires you as you start the New Year!
What was your proudest career moment of 2015?
Connie: Developing and launching an Inside Sales and Research team to support our front line sales staff. Not many organizations have pursued this path in our industry, but given our specific market demographic and focus, it makes sense. The goal is to improve the volume and quality of lead generation to the front line sales folks that will ultimately contribute to shorter sales cycles and increased results. Having good quality information has helped our sales staff spend more time on crafting a differentiated message instead of spending the time researching and doing front end discovery activities.
Pam: One of my goals heading into 2015 was to get more involved and identify ways that I could give back while growing at the same time. I had the opportunity to support and work with local CIOs in Dallas on programs to prepare future IT leaders which was very rewarding given my own background in this space. I was also fortunate to attend several industry conferences to enhance my professional development, participate in several women’s leadership events and even serve as a panelist on a Google Hangout about staffing trends (which was definitely not on my radar heading into the year)!
Ella: This was the second year that our board has been at full force and I’m proud of how well the group is functioning as a team to positively impact the business. We’ve always done strategic planning at MDI, and it was exciting to get the board’s input this year to truly evaluate the company and vision long-term. Partnering with the leadership team, we’re now rolling out several strategic initiatives to create additional opportunities for the great internal team at MDI that will translate into more value for our clients and consultants.
If you could give advice to your rookie self in staffing, what would it be?
Connie: I have a natural inclination toward sales, so I would say that it’s important to remember that it’s a three- sided people business – the candidate, the client and your internal team. You have to find balance across all three in order to create client and consultant loyalty and enable your staff and peers to feel success through delivering quality results.
Pam: Keep your eyes open and re-evaluate often. Sometimes you can have blinders on and you don’t see opportunities for change, creative ways to solve problems and new ways to work with your team. Take the time to step back and evaluate. Are you enjoying yourself, are you challenged, are you impacting others positively, are you improving? Make adjustments and commit to change.
My second piece of advice would be: people bring opportunity! There are so many unique individuals you reach in this industry, each with their own talents, awesome ideas, challenges and struggles. Be present. Take time to listen. It’s amazing what you can learn and how the relationships you build can enhance your personal and professional development. Seek the next moment with the people around you.
Ella: I don’t know if I’d tell myself anything! Some of my best life lessons have come from experiences I’ve had during my career. I’ve made so many mistakes along the way. A lot of those mistakes were painful, but if I didn’t have those experiences, I wouldn’t have learned. Not knowing has always forced me to ask more questions. When I became an owner, it was important for me to set the same expectations that it’s okay to make mistakes and learn from your failures. I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned along the way.
What keeps you excited about the staffing industry?
Connie: It’s always changing! It looks nothing like it did in 1998 and I anticipate that it will not look the same as it does today, in the future. It’s fun to be in a leadership position and working with a company that is always seeking a way to stay ahead of the curve.
Pam: Well, there is never a dull moment in this business but the excitement always peaks when I see someone achieving a goal! It’s a great day when you see someone ring the bell, high-five their neighbor, land the perfect job, or find the perfect talent match.
I’m also excited to be so close to technology and see how it’s changing our world. In IT staffing, you have an opportunity to learn the business of your client: how they create a product, service a customer, deal with changes, regulations, etc. It’s like a puzzle that is constantly changing and it is part of my job to keep the pieces together.
Ella: It’s IT! The growing demands of the market on both the client, consultant and employee are constant in this space. They force you to continue to learn and grow along with the business. It’s been exciting to watch businesses shift to increase investments and measure the impact of technology. The staffing industry also experienced a shift along the way, going from educating clients about what we do, to now partnering with clients to achieve their goals. Among all this change, you need to maintain your core values. Know your strengths and weaknesses, where you want to play, how you’re going to proceed and attack it!
Are you an industry veteran that’s excited to share your lessons with the next generation of staffing leaders? Share your insights as part of this #womenINstaffing Wednesday series. Contact me to learn more.
Confused on the hashtag (#) in the title of this series? Let me know if you’d like to join a virtual roundtable with a few other female staffing execs to discuss the power of Twitter to build your personal brand.