The cool San Francisco office no longer matters when it comes to hiring. So what?


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Jason Alderman stood outside as he used his phone in a Washington, DC park, his head imperfectly shielded by an umbrella as a downpour rose on a dreary fall day. The communications chief of San Francisco tech firm Fast was on the East Coast to interview a job candidate, a talent scout trip that likely wouldn’t have happened until the pandemic changed the way businesses such as Fast find people to work for them and persuade them to stay.

It’s a new way of working for Alderman.

Before the company was completely moved away early last year, applicants, mostly living in the Bay Area, climbed into Fast’s airy, loft-based open office, often snuggling up with other engineers. to get an overview of the company’s code and products while being introduced to Fast and its people. This experience was essential in persuading people to get on board, so much so that the CEO of the company, Domm Holland, changed the couch where the candidates sat three or four times, just to put them in the easy.

“The world hasn’t changed in a week or two,” said Peter Grassi, senior director of talent management at the company. “It was like a night.”

For Grassi and the rest of the Fast team who unearth top tech talent, it has meant whole new ways to recruit engineers, marketers, salespeople, and a host of jobs other than a growing startup. want to hire. It also means that employees congregate across the country, not in a central office.

About this series: The Chronicle spent time with Fast, a San Francisco startup, to explore the changing dynamics of the workplace during the COVID-19 era. Chase DiFeliciantonio reported on how Fast goes from a desktop-centric business to a business with employees all over the map.

What aspects of the work experience would you like to read? Send your questions or suggestions to Chase DiFeliciantonio at chase.difeliciantonio@sfchronicle.com.


Now, like much of the world, many of these one-off in-person meetings take place on Zoom, making applicants feel at home by hosting discussions with their future boss, people from other departments and even them. founders of the company.

Questions that come up frequently in interviews these days focus on immigration as well as how remote working in all time zones will work and if it’s really here to stay.

“To reassure applicants, we have just talked about the examples that have already happened and the employees who have worked for us around the world over the past year,” Grassi said, noting that the company had completely gone. away less than two months. in the pandemic. “Anyone who comes and joins the company now is not innovating. “

When concerns are expressed about the viability of long-term remote working and across time zones, Grassi said the company indicates more than a year of growth using the model during the pandemic.

The company has employees located in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia with business entities on three continents. Where once an office space with all the comforts of home was most appealing, now flexibility and permanent remote working have become the next frontier, especially in technology, to attract new employees and hire them into positions. places where this was simply not possible before.

Quick software engineers Jiankai Dang (left) chat with Jesse Collins in a boardroom at WeWork South Lake Union in Seattle.

Jovelle Tamayo / The Chronicle Special

The company has made flexibility a central part of its pitch to candidates, especially as many large companies in tech and industries, especially finance, are considering and implementing a more permanent return to offices for at least a few days. per week.

For John Torris, Fast’s new executive director of sports partnerships, the ability to bring his family back to his home state of Colorado and spend more time together took him away from a ten-year career in professional sports. . Prior to joining Fast in August, they lived in Los Angeles where he was vice president of ticket sales and service for the Los Angeles Chargers football team. The change would not have been possible at his old concert.

“I never thought I would do that,” Torris said of his new role in tech, where he’s working with sports teams, leagues and venues to integrate them with one-click payments technology. the company. His career in professional sports included working with five different teams, but his integration with Fast showed how Silicon Valley companies looked further for the right people while using the flexibility of long-term remote work as an attraction.

Sitting in his home office one afternoon on Zoom, he explained how his wife took their eldest daughter to jujitsu while the rest of his family were at home with him in the other room.

“It gives me the opportunity to be a better father and husband,” Torris said.

This mix of professional and family life for the foreseeable future is an advantage in attracting talent.

“Companies that offer remote or hybrid work, or the fact that you can work from home indefinitely, have the advantage,” said Casey Caldwell, regional manager of Silicon Valley recruiting and staffing firm Robert Half.

About three-quarters of American workers want to work remotely some of the time, while just under 80% of companies are open to hiring outside their geographic area, according to a Robert Half survey. About 36% of Bay Area workers want fully remote work, according to the company.

To bring people in and keep them, Caldwell said that in addition to offering more sign-in and time off bonuses, Silicon Valley small and medium-sized businesses are offering more competitive stock options as well as referral bonus to help find the right people in a faraway world.

Communications Director Jason Alderman works in Fast's San Francisco office.

Director of Communications Jason Alderman works in the Fast office in San Francisco.

Constanza Hevia H./Special The Chronicle

Torris said he joined Fast because he felt it was a place where he could grow up and apply his skills, but said, “Fairness was in my head.” This includes a seven-year period after someone leaves the company to exercise their granted stock options, longer than in many other startups.

Fast has an office in San Francisco and recently opened another in Tampa, Florida. The company has also moved to a coworking space in New York City, as part of the effort to meet employee needs. where groups arise naturally.

Grassi, the director of talent for Fast, pointed to a group of employees who met in Seattle during the pandemic and are using the company’s unlimited WeWork pass to meet in person when it makes sense.

Justin Abel is a member of the company’s Pacific Northwest cohort. The senior director of payment operations and risk returned to his native Seattle earlier this year after living in the Bay Area. He said he was at odds over the move early on because he wanted to be close to the company’s headquarters.

“I wanted to be in person and build these relationships,” Abel said. Once back in Seattle, he created a Slack messaging channel for workers in the Pacific Northwest and quickly found people had jumped at the idea of ​​showing up in person. “It happened pretty instantly,” he said, “Things started with this notion that people wanted to be together.”

Although Abel’s team is located entirely elsewhere, he said he always comes around once a week when he sees on Slack that people will be there. “It breaks down barriers between teams,” he said, adding that up to half of the region’s dozen employees could show up on any given day.

Long-term, permanent remote work involves certain risks.

Some researchers report potential communication and connectivity issues that could result from a lack of regular, planned work days in person.

“When the rubber hits the road, I think companies will ask people to come for a few days,” said Nicholas Bloom, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, speaking in general and not specifically on Fast.

Bloom said her research has shown that businesses work and communicate better when they can count on seeing other people in person on certain days of the week.

Software engineer Jiankai Dang works with colleagues in a conference room at WeWork South Lake Union in Seattle.

Software engineer Jiankai Dang works with colleagues in a conference room at WeWork South Lake Union in Seattle.

Jovelle Tamayo / The Chronicle Special

Bloom surveyed hundreds of managers in different industries and found that while small meetings work best in person, those of 10 or more people are less effective. “There is no point in entering (the office) if both of the people you work with are at home,” he said.

To combat this, Fast regularly sends work teams to locations in the United States to meet for a few days and connect on a personal level. In October, Grassi said the engineering team met in New York to discuss the future of the company’s products, but also to move away from the demands of Slack notifications and meetings, and to get away from it all. connect in person.

Fast has considered some of the long-term effects of remote working, but is also committed to giving people the flexibility they want, said Jason Alderman, corporate communications director.

“People will always have the option to work remotely,” Alderman said. “We are also committed to providing a physical space where people can enter,” he added, noting the company’s ongoing office expansions.

“That’s the right thing to do. As a positive differentiator for us to attract talent, that’s the icing on the cake.

Chase DiFeliciantonio is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: chase.difelicantonio@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @ChaseDiFelice


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